Animal Behaviour



Small rabbits are easier to pick up than large rabbits and that is why they make good pets for children. Letting the rabbit sniff your hand with familiar scents on it is an excellent way of calming him. It is a good idea to let a rabbit listen to your voice for a short time before picking him up. Talking to the rabbit helps him to recognise you in future.

To pick up a small rabbit, place one hand over his shoulders and the other under his bottom. Then scoop him up. Because rabbits wriggle and can jump down from considerable heights, it is best to sit on the floor when first picking up a strange rabbit. Give the rabbit time to settle, resting him on your chest. Stroke the rabbit’s fur down his back towards the tail. This helps to calm him. Avoid pulling his ears and digging your fingers in. To let the rabbit go after saying hello, crouch down and place him on the ground.

Handle with Care Making Friends with Animals by Paul McGreevy.

Handle with Care Making Friends with Animals by Paul McGreevy.


Never pick a rabbit up by its ears. Years ago magicians used to do this when they produced a rabbit out of a hat. This was stupid and cruel. Rabbits have sensitive ears that are not designed to carry their own weight. Rabbits do not generally like magicians.
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Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs will always try to hide from people, so when you want to pick up a guinea pig, move her into the corner of her pen. Otherwise she will keep racing around the cage and you will both just get tired. If you pick her up too quickly before she feels confident and calm, she may bite!

When the guinea pig is relaxed, hold one hand under her chest and one slightly lower, under her bottom. If her front legs are higher than her hind legs she will feel very safe, as if she is climbing some steps. Holding her the other way round—with her hind legs higher than her front legs—would make her worry about being dropped.

Remember to crouch down to place the guinea pig carefully on the ground when you’ve finished your cuddle.

Rats and mice

When catching and handling a pet rat, use the same methods as with a guinea pig. If your hands are big enough and the rat is friendly, you may be able to hold him with one hand around his chest. Be sure to avoid squeezing him too hard.

Handle with Care Making Friends with Animals by Paul McGreevy.

Handle with Care Making Friends with Animals by Paul McGreevy.

A mouse can be caught by the part of the tail that is closest to the body. This is called the tail head and is a safe part of the mouse’s body to hold. Holding the tail head between your thumb and finger, gently lift the mouse’s bottom up so that his hind legs are no longer touching the ground. To lift the mouse from the cage, slip your other hand under him and pull the little fellow onto it. Keeping hold of his tail-head you can place him on your arm so that he can have fun sniffing along it.