SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Ask a behaviourist
How to stop your rabbit from scratching the children?

I recently adopted a rabbit for my kids, and she keeps scratching them. I was told she would be a good pet for children, and now I’m not so sure.

Rabbits are wonderful animals, and they can make great pets for families. But they are intelligent and social, and need more exercise, interaction and stimulation than most people realise. Rabbits also appreciate the companionship of another rabbit, so often a bonded pair is the best way to ensure your rabbit is happier and less likely to become frustrated with life in general.

It sounds like you’re already doing the right thing by interacting with her and encouraging your children to take part in her care. But you must remember that rabbits are prey species who can be fearful of many things. Kicking and scratching when being held is often a sign of her trying to escape when she feels unhappy, panicked or scared. Especially with small children whose hands may simply not be big enough to keep her comforted!

The first thing to do is to help her feel safe and secure. Teach your children how to handle her correctly while sitting on the ground. Rewarding her for coming over to be hand-fed treats and veggies, and sitting in their laps, perhaps with a towel to protect from her claws, keeps everyone happy and safe. By supervising their interactions you’ll minimise any scratching to your children, and also help prevent your rabbit getting accidentally hurt.

For more detailed tips on how to correctly handle your pet, check out the rabbit care information.

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