When trying to understand your pet rabbit and what will keep him happy, it’s worth remembering how bunnies behave in the wild. A day spent foraging and burrowing is far more active and stimulating than one spent in the safety of a hutch where food is easily available. When they’re under-stimulated, rabbits can become destructive (biting electrical wires, chewing furniture), aggressive (growling or biting), depressed (showing no interest in anything), or obese due to inactivity. Tap into your pet rabbit’s natural instincts, however, and you can enjoy him being happy and healthy every day.
Finding fun with food
Foraging for food is what keeps rabbits active in the wild – they spend 80 per cent of their time this way. Encourage your pet rabbit to move around more by making it a challenge to find food. Access to fresh grass is perfect, otherwise make sure that fresh hay is always available. Put hay in hanging baskets so he has to reach up to find it, hang vegetables on strings for him to nibble, or buy a dog treat ball and put his daily ration of concentrated pellet food into it – rolling the ball around to get the food out provides mental and physical stimulation.
Rabbits are most active in the early morning and late at night, when we’re often tucked up in bed. It’s crucial that they have a safe area attached to their shelter so they can exercise and play whenever they want, either indoors as house rabbits with a ‘bunny-proofed’ area, or outdoors in a large hutch with an exercise run attached to it.
Indoors and out, rabbits love to chew and dig – it’s what they do when they’re making burrows. Pet rabbits need appropriate things to chew (apple or willow twigs, or kitchen roll inner tubes stuffed with hay – see our Carrots and cabbages article for more information), and somewhere to dig. Make a digging box by putting peat into a cardboard box and cutting a hole in the side – your bunny can dig in it, chew on it, run around it, and have all sorts of fun. Bring out your rabbit’s inquisitive nature by giving him plenty of things to climb into and on – large pipes or bits of rolled-up carpet are excellent. Places to hide like these also help bunnies feel safe.
Don’t forget that rabbits are sociable, too. Your pet will need plenty of company either from you, a bunny companion, or preferably both – a neutered male/female pair make good bunny buddies.
Finally, toys can be a big part of rabbit fun. Bunnies love to throw things around, and some will even play a form of ‘catch’ with you. There are lots of small toys available for rabbits that are perfect for being picked up in a bunny’s mouth and tossed about.
Just like children, rabbits can get bored of their toys after a while, so rotate them regularly to keep them interested – but be careful not to change everything all at once, as the sudden shift in their environment could be stressful.
Keep you bunny happy with our happy bunnies infographic.