Rabbit Restraint

Introduction:  Potential complications of restraint

Rabbits possess a relatively lightweight, delicate skeleton paired with extremely strong, well-developed back and leg muscles. If improper restraint allows the rabbit to struggle or kick powerfully, they are in danger of breaking their back or a leg. This risk is particularly high when the rabbit is placed on a slippery surface.

Rabbit ears are highly vascular and sensitive. Never pick up or handle a rabbit by the ears as this can cause the animal severe pain or even serious injury.

Rabbit restraint video

Video produced by Dr. M. Scott Echols and narrated by Dr. Natalie Antinoff.

Equipment needed

  • A firm, flat, non-slip surface such as an exam table covered with a large, heavy towel or an exam table pad.
  • Gather all equipment that may be needed during the examination or procedure beforehand.
  • Towel of appropriate size:  Towels should be free of loose threads that can catch on body parts.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. It is usually easiest to remove a rabbit from its cage by wrapping it in a large towel. Be sure to keep the rabbit’s haunches flush against your body while picking the rabbit up and out of the cage.
  2. Many cooperative rabbits can be lightly restrained by petting them and gently holding them, making sure they do not jump off the table.
  3. If more restraint is necessary, either wrap the rabbit in a towel or tuck the rabbit against your body with your forearm as if you are holding a football.Rabbit restraint - tucking
  4. To carry a rabbit, place one arm underneath the rabbit, gripping the rear feet from underneath for additional control. Use your other arm to apply  pressure over the rump, and nudge the rabbit’s head into the crook of your arm.
  5. When a rabbit is released head first after being restrained, its initial instinct is often to kick away powerfully. Return the rabbit to its cage with the rear end first to reduce the risk of kicking and injury.

Rabbit restraint - backing into crate

Visit Behavior Essentials:  Clinical Approach to the Rabbit for additional information on the approach to and handling of the rabbit.


Test your knowledge

Further reading

Mitchell MA, Tully TN (eds). Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis: Saunders; 2009.

Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW (eds). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. St. Louis:Saunders; 2004.