How to Massage Your Pet Rabbit

Learn how to massage your pet rabbit in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Amy Sedaris: So let's talk about massaging your bunny. Now I know that you said that they're skittish and they're afraid of quick actions and stuff, but I'm a hands on bunny. I give my rabbit massages everyday. So tell me what's the good kind of massage. They like their head and cheeks massaged right? Why is that? Mary Cotter: They do. Well, when rabbits groom each other. . . The way I learned rabbit massage is not from a human. I learned it from watching rabbits, the way they interact with each other. They will lie next to each other and reach over and they'll kind of mouth or pluck the hair right between the eyes. Look at this rabbit's eyes are closing. Amy: Yeah, they love it. Mary: Yeah, they really, really enjoy that. It feels like another rabbit. And around the base of the ears, they love to be massaged around the base of the ears. Amy: And they like the tips of their ears kissed. Mary: Yeah, it's as if you're licking their ears almost, which we do but we don't often confess to. But anyway, rabbits love to be touched around the ears and head very, very gently. Amy also does. . . Her rabbit is a senior rabbit, a 12 year old rabbit, so she has learned to help that rabbit's arthritis by giving really gentle massage all the way down the spine and her rabbit just melts when she does it. Amy: Yeah, you just kind of find the spine here and you just kind of. . . Well you taught me just to kind of rub the fingertips on one side of the spine, the other side of the spine. It really puts her just to sleep. She likes this area rubbed a little bit. She'll start licking the floor when I do that. Mary: She's licking the floor because your hand isn't available. That's the thing, you can a rabbit reflexively licking. Rabbits want to groom you back. Amy: Yeah, she does. Mary: So if you're massaging a rabbit and they're really enjoying it they'll start, they'll lick anything available. If your hand isn't available it could be the floor that they're licking. This one's really enjoying this too. Amy: Yeah, they just love it. Mary: And a lot of people are interested in T-touch, which is great to learn. Amy: What's T-touch mean? Mary: Tellington touch. It's a way of doing massage that involves small circular motions in particular body areas. Amy: Oh, right, right. Mary: And you could do that. Do you need to do it? No, you don't need to do it. You'll find ways with your own rabbit, especially with your own rabbit where you know their reactions very well, that they enjoy and that are comfortable for them. But if you want to go an additional step and learn T-touch that's great too. Amy: A little tugging on the ear. One thing you don't want to do, I don't know if this is about something else, but we'll probably do it with rabbit handling. You don't want to pick a rabbit. . . I've seen people try to grab around here and try to lift it. Mary: Absolutely not. Amy: But just you'll know if you're doing the right thing by their expression. I don't know about bellies. My rabbit likes the side of her, like right here, rubbed. Mary: Yeah, I want to show you about belly massages. Amy: Oh yeah, let's see that. Mary: One time we use belly massage, if a rabbit is having gastrointestinal pain, which can happen when they eat a weird combination of foods and vegetables and they get gas pains just like babies do, but they don't cry like babies. Instead, they kind of hunker down and they look like they're hurting. Amy: It's like they're trying to smash their belly on the floor. Mary: Yeah, they could do what's called belly pressing. They can just repeatedly push their belly against the floor. Amy: To try to work the bubble out. Mary: To try to get the gas out, yeah. And so one thing you can do is belly massage. I will show you with this bunny. She's never had belly massage before. So we'll take her out of this. Amy: Oh, she's going to be in heaven. Mary: She was in heaven, now we're moving that off the table. I'll just show you the position we use. If you're right-handed as I am, you position the bunny so that she's facing your right elbow. Just gently put your hand underneath her and you're going to lift her weight like this and you could support her butt. And if you just do this you're massaging her belly. I'm just gently using my right hand to massage her belly while supporting her hind quarters. Amy: You're kind of just moving your fingers like this. Mary: I'm not even moving them that much. I'm just kind of gently squeezing the way I'd squeeze a balloon. That squeezes her gastrointestinal tract including her cecum. Look how relaxed her legs are. They just kind of drop and she's just enjoying this. Just feels good and she's tucking her head under my arm. So you do that a little bit and then you put the bunny back down and sometimes the gas pain is relieved by a couple of sessions of massage like that. I haven't yet found a bunny who doesn't enjoy that kind of massage. Some people find it really funny because you can, I don't know if this bunny will go for it, but you can actually lift their hind quarters almost like that and they won't move away. Something feels good. I'm not a rabbit so can't vouch for that, but from the fact that they don't move away and they seem to relax in your hands we can pretty well judge that it's an enjoyable experience for them. Amy: But I spend hours massaging Dusty, hours. Mary: Yeah, Amy was just telling me yesterday that when she gets in front of a TV where there's like an 80 or 90 minute show she just kind of settles down and puts Dusty on her chest and just works her the entire time, massages her entire body into a state of total bliss. Amy: They just love it. So it's really important to find time to do that. Mary: Yeah, it is. Amy: And the longer your nails the better because they love that. Mary: Look, this bunny is presenting. She's asking for more head massage. Amy: Oh yeah they will. They'll ask for more. Mary: Yeah, I'm sorry I poked you in the eye. Sorry bunny.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.