Rabbits are playful, sociable and full of fun. But without enough stimulation, a bored bunny can become destructive or subdued. Find out how to stave off boredom and keep your rabbits active and engaged.
Rabbits might seem fairly low-maintenance on the surface – but any rabbit owner will tell you they actually need a lot of care and attention. From making sure they have the right food, to providing companionship and opportunities to have a little fun, here’s how to make sure your rabbits are living their best life.
What do rabbits need to be happy?
To keep your rabbits happy and healthy, you need to meet three basic requirements: forage, freedom and friends.
Foraging for food is what keeps rabbits healthy and active in the wild. In fact, they spend 80% of their time searching for their next meal. Forage is hay or grass. Your rabbits’ diet should be made up of 85% hay and grass, 10% leafy greens and 5% pellets. If your bunnies’ diet is too heavy on the pellets without enough forage or vegetables, they can have issues with overgrown teeth or become overweight.
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk – usually when you’re in bed or busy making dinner! All rabbits need a safe area attached to their shelter where they’re free to exercise and play whenever they want. This can be an indoor, bunny-proofed area, or a safe, enclosed area that they can access 24/7. At the very minimum, this area should be three metres long, two metres wide and one metre high, and include a shelter, but the more space the better!
Rabbits are social creatures and in the wild they thrive in a group setting. You should never keep a pet rabbit on their own; they should always be part of a neutered pair or a larger group. Rabbits who are kept alone are rarely happy – because they miss out on essential interaction with other bunnies. Watch rabbits together and you’ll see they eat together, play together, and even nap together! They also groom each other and simply enjoy hanging out in each other’s company.
It’s worth remembering that rabbits can be territorial. So, tread carefully when introducing a new rabbit to an existing pet or pets. Your existing bunny may initially be concerned about sharing their space with a new rabbit. Introductions should be made carefully and it’s usually advised to have a (neutered) male and female pair rather than a same-sex pair. Introducing new rabbits to each other requires time and patience, but once a pair bond is made, your rabbits will be inseparable. Some charities offer bonding advice and services to help rabbits get to know one another, so it may be worth reaching out to local shelters if you’re planning to adopt a new friend for your rabbit.
Additionally, it’s not generally advised to keep rabbits and guinea pigs together in the same space. This is because they communicate and behave very differently from each other, which can lead to disagreements. Both of these animals will get on much better in the company of their own species.
Is my rabbit bored?
Do rabbits get bored? Yes! If your rabbits aren’t getting enough mental or physical stimulation, they’ll be spending a fair amount of their day sitting around, bored. Over time, this can lead to destructive behaviours like chewing. Your rabbits might also display aggressive behaviour like growling, scratching or biting when handled. They may also become obese due to inactivity.
How to stop rabbits from getting bored
Keeping your rabbits entertained is all about finding ways to meet those three essential needs: forage, freedom, and friends. Here are a few ideas to stop your rabbits from getting bored.
Encourage your rabbits to forage for their food by making it more challenging for them to find. You can use fresh grass, hay, or a mixture of both. Place forage in hanging baskets or tucked away in little nooks and crannies (kitchen roll tubes work great), so your rabbits have to either stretch up for it or search for it. Tie vegetables from pieces of string and hang them up for your rabbits to nibble on, or buy a dog treat ball and put your rabbits’ food pellets inside. Rolling the ball around to release the food has the double benefit of being mentally and physically stimulating. Provide plenty of things for chewing, like apple branches, willow twigs and hazel branches.
Bring out the inquisitive side of your bunnies with objects to climb over, on, and under. Large pipes or pieces of rolled-up carpet are an excellent choice. These also provide ‘hidey-holes’ to help your rabbits feel safe. Create a digging area made from a cardboard box partially filled with compost, hay or top soil. Cut out a ‘burrow’-sized hole on the side and watch your bunnies disappear inside.
Rabbits also enjoy having a selection of toys. Rotating these can help keep your rabbits interested. At Christmas time, you could try amusing them with one of our homemade bunny crackers. You can even spend time with your rabbits, training them and teaching them a few tricks like coming when they’re called.
Remember that rabbits are sensitive creatures, so if you’re looking to improve their environment and add more enrichment activities, don’t do this all at once since they may become stressed. Slowly adding things over time will ensure your bunnies have lots to keep them happy and entertained, while staying calm and confident.
Have you got any tips to banish bored rabbit behaviour? Share them with us, and other rabbit owners, on social media using #PethoodStories.