Pet rabbits are becoming more popular, and who can blame rabbit owners for loving them. They are simply adorable and, with the right care, can live between eight to twelve years. Unfortunately, many rabbits are living in unsuitable conditions. Following on from our blog Tips on rabbit care we thought an article on keeping your rabbit happy and entertained would be useful.
Bored rabbits aren’t healthy rabbits
Rabbits that live in small hutches with little room for exercise or space to play will quickly become bored. However, boredom isn’t the only issue. A rabbit’s health will decline. A bored rabbit will occupy himself by eating. This can leave to obesity which can result in heart problems and arthritis.
Those aren’t the only health problems a bored rabbit may face. They may over-groom themselves. This can lead to your bunny suffering from hairballs that can lead to life-threatening blockages in his digestive system
Toys for rabbits
There are many rabbit toys designed to keep rabbits happy and to improve their general health. For example, corn ‘n’ rattle manufacture rabbit toys using natural materials. Not only will they keep your bunny entertained, but they are also safe to chew helping to keep your rabbit’s teeth in good health.
You can also get creative and make toys to entertain your rabbit. You can try something as simple as stuffing a cardboard roll with hay and hanging it from your rabbit’s run. If you are a little more creative, you can turn your hand to weaving and make a willow ball. Your rabbit will love chewing and chasing it around.
Hide your rabbit’s food
For your rabbit’s health, she must have access to fresh grass and hay all of the time. If you are also feeding your rabbit pellets, they should only make up about five per cent of your rabbit’s diet. To help alleviate boredom you can hide the pellets in your rabbit’s hay. You can also put fresh herbs inside a plain paper bag or stuff hay into a toilet roll. Your rabbit will love spending time searching for her favourite treats and she is more likely to stay happy and healthy if she has to ‘work’ for her food.
Enrich your rabbit’s home
Photo credit: Rabbit Hutch UK
Your rabbit home should be spacious, provide entertainment and protection. It should also keep your rabbit secure and should prevent escape attempts.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that rabbits love to dig, given half a chance rabbits can escape their run by digging under the exterior fence. To prevent this, the wire fencing of their run should be sunk 40cm into the ground. You can encourage your rabbits to dig elsewhere by including a planter full of earth.
Providing hiding places and raised platforms will provide your rabbit with a varied living area where they can display natural behaviours such as burrowing and scent marking. Hiding places can include something as simple as a cardboard box stuffed with hay. A platform made from untreated wood can act as a hiding place or a favourite sunbathing spot.
Rabbits do better in the company of other rabbits of roughly the same age and size. If you decide to keep two or more rabbits, then it is advisable to have your rabbits spayed or neutered. A neutered brother and sister are ideal companions as they will already know each other.
If your rabbits don’t know each other, they should be kept apart and given the chance to get to know each other slowly.
Introducing your rabbits to each other
Before your rabbits meet face to face they need to be comfortable with each other. Initially, you should keep your rabbits apart and introduce the scent of the other rabbit by swapping toys and bedding between their hutches.
The next step is allowing them to see each other. Face their hutches or runs so that they can see each other. If they appear relaxed you can start bringing them closer together by feeding them on opposite sides of a barrier. If they remain relaxed you can move on to a face to face introduction.
Face to face introductions
As rabbits are territorial animals it is best to introduce them to each other in neutral territory. Your rabbits will be less likely to become protective of their area if they meet on neutral ground. There should be enough hiding places so that either rabbit can have somewhere to hide and feel safe without the other rabbit ‘guarding’ the exit.
It is normal for rabbits meeting for the first time to chase each other or to attempt to mount the other rabbit. However, if one becomes stressed or a fight breaks out, you should stop the meeting and go back to separate runs and trying the introduction again in a few days.
Once they’re happy together and show no sign of fighting they can share a living space. Bonding your rabbits can happen as quickly as a day, or it may take a couple of months. Be patient, when done correctly your rabbits should become lifelong friends.