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Rabbits/Rabbit has started screaming when she is picked up


You have helped and encouraged me so much in the past that I am asking for your help again.

First I would like to provide some background information for you.  I have 3 rabbits, 2 females and 1 male, all are neutered but none of them are bonded.  The two females are young rescue bunnies which I adopted last spring.  They both came with fears and troubles which I suppose must be related to their past.  I thought I was making great progress in gaining their trust until about a month ago when one of them started to scream when I tried to pick her up. I can't remember many things that have shocked me more than that cry. After I put her down she didn't seem to be very upset at all. Since then I am so afraid of upsetting her again that I am actually nervous and I know she is aware of that.

Yesterday I took the 2 girls to the Vet. Clinic to have their nails trimmed and she started screaming when they tried to take her out of her cage.  The staff are very good with rabbits and managed to calm her and trim her nails.  She came home and went into her room to eat as if nothing had happened.  

This rabbit has to be handled because her front teeth are not straight and she needs to visit the Vet regularly.  I know it is very hard on her to get so upset but it is also extremely upsetting for the other rabbits.

Can you suggest anything I could do to help with this fear of being handled.  She likes to be brushed and loves nose rubs. She is very playful and enjoys it when I play with her.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Dear Jeanette

Rabbits scream only when they are extremely frightened and upset.  Your bunny is likely associating being handled with unpleasant things like nail trims and vet visits.  No easy way to teach her that this isn't always the case.  

It's also possible that since you did put her down when she started screaming, she's learned a clever way to get you to put her down when she doesn't want to be held.  :)  Rabbits are very smart.

If you think it's anxiety, though, ask the vet about getting a small dose of Ativan or other mild sedative to give her about an hour before she has to get in the car.  That should keep her from screaming and feeling threatened.  After a few times, she might even learn that the screaming isn't necessary.

In the meantime, you could try picking her up and NOT putting her down if she screams.  Instead, give her gentle cuddles and loves and stroke her until she stops, and THEN put her down.  She should associate NOT screaming with being released after a while.  

I hope this helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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