Bringing Home a New Rabbit

Information originally obtained from Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society.

While your adoption application is being processed, now is the time to plan for your rabbit's first few days in his/her new home. When the adoption is done and it's time to head home, you will no doubt find it an exciting time. For your rabbit, this is likely to be a frightening time. His familiar surroundings are changing, and changes like that are very stressful for rabbits. However, there are some simple things that you can do to help ease the transition into your home. During this critical period, the two most important contributions you can make are:

  • Set up a friendly, safe environment
  • Let him set the pace for getting acquainted
rabbit at home with toy

The Arrival

When you arrive home with your rabbit, take the rabbit to a quiet area of your home. Keep them in a cage or small exercise area until they become more familiar with your home. Be sure to have his cage stocked with all the comforts of home - litterbox, food dish, water supply, solid place to rest, toys and a big hay pile. Provide a box or cover part of the cage with a towel to give your rabbit a feeling of additional safety.

Try to see the world from your rabbit's perspective: how do you and your household look to him? A lot of noise, movement and confusion will further frighten him. Because your rabbit is in unfamiliar territory, he will be insecure. Minimize touching or handling your new rabbit for the first day or two while he gets comfortable in his new surroundings. You will also want to keep your new rabbit separate from other pets until they have been checked by your veterinarian.

For the first few weeks, your rabbit may not be "himself" as he adjusts to the major change in his life. He may be slow to warm up to you, or overly affectionate. He may completely lose his litterbox habits, and need a refresher course after he's settled in. This is all part of adjusting and should even out with time. Be patient and don't be surprised if you continue to learn new things about your rabbit for several weeks!

Getting Acquainted

Let your rabbit explore at his own pace. If he's not ready to be petted yet, talk to him or to anyone while in his presence. Many rabbits seem to enjoy listening to their humans talk on the phone. Hang out with him in rabbit fashion, by sitting quietly on the floor. Show him that he can hop over to you, take a few get-acquainted sniffs, and then hop away again. This hands-off approach paves the way to a hands-on friendship, especially with shy or traumatized rabbits. As his fear diminishes, his curiousity increases. Place a small treat or two (a sprig of parsley or carrot-top, a sliver of apple) and a few toys on the floor next to you, to make his visit even more rewarding.

This adjustment period should be as long or as short as your rabbit wants it to be. Trying to force it along faster will actually result in delaying it further.


As you are getting to know your new rabbit, questions are bound to arise. You can always contact Indiana House Rabbit Society at 317-767-7636 or Educators are available to assist you with a variety of rabbit topics.