Enrichment tips for rabbits
Rabbits are intelligent and sociable animals and require enrichment to keep them happy and healthy bunnies.
Before providing any enrichment, it is important to ensure the following:
- The enrichment is SAFE and cannot harm the rabbit in any way. This includes being non-toxic, installed correctly, and without any small parts that could be swallowed and become a choking hazard.
- Your rabbit has the option of approaching or moving away from the object.
- You rotate enrichment items so that they stay interesting to your rabbit.
- The environment isn’t overcrowded. Rabbits need to run, jump and stand fully upright.
- You supervise your rabbit with ANY new enrichment.
- You monitor the impact the enrichment has upon your rabbit’s physical and mental wellbeing and change or remove the enrichment immediately if it does not have a positive impact on your rabbit.
- You check with a vet or the SPCA before using any materials or food that you are unsure of.
Remember: All animals find different things enriching – they are all individuals.
Types of rabbit enrichment
Rabbits are ground-dwelling animals and being able to hide under something can help make them feel safe. Providing suitable enrichment they can hide in may make for a happy rabbit.
Rabbits love to hide in items such as:
- Cardboard boxes or carry cages without the door
- Untreated wicket baskets
- Paper bags (remove the handles)
- Plastic PVC pipes
Digging is natural rabbit behaviour, but it can be a problem if it might enable your rabbit to escape. Providing digging boxes or bunching materials allows your rabbit the opportunity to dig safely without this risk.
Rabbits can dig or ‘bunch’ (organising materials around themselves) using:
- Large pot plants, litter trays and, cardboard boxes filled with dirt, shredder paper or child-friendly sand.
- Towels, blankets or shower mats which your rabbit can rearrange with their feet.
In the wild, rabbits spend most of their time nibbling on food. As pets, they can become lazy and overweight because they don’t have to look as hard for food. Making your rabbit search for their favourite foods can help keep their mind and body active. Use treats your rabbit likes and always check what foods or plants are safe to feed rabbits before you offer them.
Some ideas on forage enrichment are:
- Trays or containers: filled with shredded paper, leaves, grass or unrolled cardboard rolls (e.g. the inside cardboard of toilet rolls). Hide treats among these items for your rabbit to search through.
- Scatter feed: Scatter treats around your rabbit’s enclosure for them to find.
- Play pens: Allow your rabbit to forage in different areas in the safety of a play pen but make sure they have places to hide and are safe from predators or danger.
- Fake tree: Poke favourite fresh foods onto the branches of rabbit-safe trees or bushes.
- Hanging vegetables: Attach vegetables with pegs or clips around your rabbit’s exercise area.
- Egg carton towers: Hide treats inside egg cartons for your rabbit to chew or throw around.
Run and move
Rabbits need exercise and plenty of room to hop and move around. Here are some ideas:
- Play pens: Allow exercise time in different areas in the safety of a play pen but make sure your rabbit has places to hide and is safe from predators or danger.
- Use a rabbit harness: this will help your rabbit explore safe areas. Never leave a harness on an unsupervised rabbit. If your rabbit appears stressed wearing a harness, remove it.
Some rabbits like to climb furniture. If this sounds like your rabbit you could:
- Set up a series of stabilised boxes they can climb.
- Set up ramps using materials such as straw bales and untreated wooden crates.
- Add tree stumps they can climb, making sure these are from non-toxic trees.
- Use cat scratch towers/platforms for your rabbit to perch on and jump between.
- Make a house out of wood or cardboard, with holes in the side for lookouts, ramps connecting the floors, and a sundeck on top to view the world.
Different textures are interesting for rabbits.
- Tiles, fleecy blankets or mats, newspaper or grass (or even artificial grass).
Chew and play
Rabbits love chewing and having toys to play with. Changing the toys regularly will prevent your rabbit from becoming bored with them.
Here are some ideas for toys they can chew or play with:
- Toilet paper rolls filled with hay
- Telephone directories. Remove the glossy cover. Your rabbit will love tearing out the pages
- Parcels (wrap food items in brown paper)
- Treat balls
- A mirror can provide short term entertainment when your pet sees itself
- Cardboard boxes or paper bags filled with hay or treats
Toys to throw around, such as:
- Plastic flower pots
- Cat or bird toys (e.g. balls with bells)
- Solid plastic (not rubber) baby toys (e.g. rattles, key rings)
- Bottles with pasta shapes inside
- Small boxes
Rabbits are very sociable animals and do well when housed with other rabbits.
Some ideas to help socialise your rabbit:
- Give them a rabbit friend they can bond with. Always read up on rabbit bonding and check the SPCA guide before attempting this.
- Human company is ESSENTIAL for pet rabbits if housed singly. Ideally, single bunnies should be indoors often in a rabbit-safe area.
Rabbits are territorial and like to mark their territory by rubbing their chin over objects or surfaces.
- Provide toys or structures that allow them to do this.
- Litter trays are another way that rabbits can mark their territory.