Unfortunately, many rabbits lead a very sad existence: too small an enclosure and lack of activity.
With this combination, mental illnesses such as depression are inevitable.
So that this does not happen to your rabbits and so that your animals feel completely comfortable, we have collected in this article some opportunities that are sure to delight your rabbits and keep them entertained.
Why is an activity so important for rabbits?
Activity is essential for your rabbit’s physical and mental health. It prevents boredom, strengthens the bond with you and can prevent stress in addition to boredom.
In the wild, rabbits spend a lot of time foraging for food, finding water and making burrows and tunnels.
They can travel longer distances and overcome surprising obstacles, hopping over logs, wriggling through brush and dodging predator attacks.
As pets, they do not have this type of occupation.
Food and water are provided directly to them. They rarely have the opportunity to dig and there is hardly any space even to run.
This often has negative effects.
Due to the lack of physical exertion, the muscles are often not well developed, which makes the musculoskeletal system more susceptible to injury and disease. Because muscles have a stabilizing effect and regular exercise prevents, among other things, osteoporosis.
In addition, blood circulation is stimulated, which improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients.
The heart and lungs are trained and digestion falters less frequently.
Regular exercise has a generally positive effect on health. However, this does not only apply to the body.
Rabbits also benefit mentally or psychologically. They are constantly exposed to new stimulation and this serves to reduce stress.
This also has a positive effect, as relaxed rabbits are less susceptible to stress-related illnesses and diseases. Sport also prevents the animals from becoming overweight and can even help prevent or resolve aggression.
So there are many good reasons to offer them plenty of opportunities and motivate them to exercise more.
Benefits of keeping the rabbit mentally entertained
Regular activity should not only include exercise: rabbits also need to be mentally stimulated in order to feel completely at ease.
In the wild, they themselves are responsible for seeking and finding safe shelter. To do this, they have to find out, for example, how they can overcome obstacles, where they can find shelter and how they can keep themselves safe from other animals.
These incentives are also lacking in the domestic cage.
Unfortunately, this can have significant negative consequences. Some rabbits lose all motivation and sit in a corner in an almost apathetic manner. Others show obsessive-compulsive disorders, such as repeatedly biting the bars or the tube of a water bottle.
Scratching is frequent due to boredom, tearing out one’s own fur, or increased aggression towards other rabbits and people.
In addition, boredom can mean stress for the animals. Physical health suffers: the cardiovascular system can suffer, as can digestion and susceptibility to disease.
Providing your rabbits with sufficient entertainment alternatives will also contribute to maintaining their health and offer your animals a better quality of life.
Keeping the rabbit entertained without exposing it to risks
As important as it is for the mind and body, safety must always come first. So pay attention to the following points:
- poisonous plants
- threat from other animals
- chemicals such as detergents or medicines
- fall hazards
- risk of injury from falling objects
- sharp edges and sharp corners
- unsuitable materials that can break with sharp edges
- escape possibilities
Of course, there may be other potential hazards that you should be aware of. Therefore, always plan the items to be used with potential hazards in mind.
12 proven tips to keep your rabbit busy
Would you like to keep your rabbit meaningfully occupied, but lack ideas?
Then let these tips help to inspire you…
1. Agility/rabbit jumping
You may have already heard of agility in dogs.
The counterpart for rabbits, also known as rabbit hopping, is much less known. Your animal has to overcome several obstacles.
These are usually
- a ramp
- slalom poles
- jumping obstacle
A bunny seesaw trains the sense of balance and makes use of many muscle groups. In addition, your rabbit has to overcome unstable ground and gains self-confidence in the process.
The situation is similar to a rabbit ramp or bridge. If not used in training, the rabbit bridge can serve as a lookout when it runs free and invites you to bask in the sun in the garden.
A rabbit tunnel, on the other hand, serves as a shelter outside of training and can provide shade and a sense of security. Hoops or poles as obstacles for rabbits to jump over.
There are still slalom poles to complete the rabbits’ agility. These represent a special challenge for you and your rabbits. Because your rabbit must run around them alternately from left to right, i.e. in a slalom. Training in this way requires some patience.
Additional tip: start with a piece of equipment that is used to train for a few minutes each day. The rabbit ramp or rabbit bridge is good for this because they are simple obstacles and can be gradually overcome.
Balls are not only toys and sports equipment for dogs, cats and humans.
Rabbits also like to roll them around in their enclosure. There is also a wide variety of balls and spheres. You can choose a simple toy ball for children, use a snack ball for animals or provide a wicker ball for rabbits and other rodents.
Wicker balls have the condition that they can be gnawed by rabbits. This means that you would have to replace them more often, but it provides appropriate and healthy entertainment for the rabbit.
3. Clicker training
Another challenge for your rabbit and for you is the so-called clicker training.
In this case, the click is initially assigned positively: It serves as an announcement of a reward.
If the behavior is positive, you can use the clicker wonderfully to train the rabbit, teaching your rabbit to return to the cage at the desired time or upon hearing its name.
4. Make their environment varied
Whether in the apartment, on the balcony or in the garden, a varied design of the pen can enrich the life of your rabbit.
So change the furnishings more often.
For example, offer hutches made of twigs. Use a piece of a log as a sitting area. Constantly change the planting.
Place small obstacles or provide the rabbit with jumping devices. A weekly change of furnishings means there is no chance of boredom.
5. Let them work hard for their food
With the feed tree and feed balls, you can serve hay, green fodder and vegetable pieces so that your animals have to exert themselves.
In addition, the feed stays clean and does not fall directly onto the bedding.
In addition, you can think of other options for hiding the food. A ceramic pot filled with vegetables and hay invites tearing and scratching. Small thin cardboard boxes are ideal for biting and tearing.
Rabbits are busy with this for a while and, just as in nature, they work purposefully to get their food.
6. Allow digging and burrowing
Digging holes and tunnels is part of rabbits’ natural repertoire.
In the cage or barn, however, they have little opportunity to do so. As a result, the animals more often scratch soft surfaces, such as towels or rugs and blankets.
If you want to do your rabbit a favor, offer special opportunities for digging.
A covered litter box with a hinged door and a high tray on the floor is very suitable for him to run freely in the apartment. Here the animal can dig to its heart’s content without the material being scattered all over the area.
Suitable digging materials are
- bark mulch
- coconut fibers
- pressed cotton flowers
Sand would be another option, but in that case, you should use special bathing sand for chinchillas and hamsters.
Caution: Cat litter is totally unsuitable. If rabbits ingest them, they can suffer from severe constipation and even intestinal obstruction.
7. Obstacle course
Did you know that in some countries there are obstacle races with rabbits?
The establishment of a free race or enclosure, which can resemble a maze. Through tubes, tunnels, various jumping obstacles and dead ends you can turn the way to the food into an adventure or hide the food directly in the maze.
It is best to offer different substrates as well.
Stone slabs with a rough surface help to keep claws short. Bark mulch invites scratching and clawing. Straw serves as a soft base when lying down.
8. Leashed walks
Running freely in the protected garden is a wonderful enrichment for rabbits.
If you do not have this option, you can walk your rabbit on a leash.
A high level of safety can be achieved with special harnesses. However, since this is an unfamiliar state for the rabbit, the harness must first be put on at home so that it is not uncomfortable or frightening for him.
If he is wearing it well, you can attach the harness to the leash and begin to slowly guide your rabbit.
As you do, pull him toward you again and again before the leash tightens. If this works well inside the apartment, that is, in a familiar, low-stimulus environment, you can take the first steps outside.
Again, look for a quiet environment.
Be careful not to frighten your rabbit. Therefore, you should avoid traffic, dogs and cats, loud noises and children playing.
Also avoid having him ingest green fodder outdoors.
In addition to exhaust fumes and pesticides, it could be contaminated by urine or feces from other animals.
Tip: If you take your rabbit outside, it should be fully vaccinated beforehand.
9. Gnawing material
A very simple and important form of employment for the teeth is to have enough suitable material to gnaw on.
Therefore, in addition to fodder such as grass and grass hay, you should offer several twigs or branches.
Ideally, these should still be leafy or have needles and bark. With different diameters and hardnesses, as well as types of wood, variety is ensured.
Twigs and branches of:
- Bamboo (not lucky bamboo)
- Thornless berry bushes
- fruit trees
If you don’t have your own garden, you can ask for branches.
You can also ask garden owners if you can pick up some branches or twigs when they trim trees or shrubs. They are often glad they don’t have to deal with green waste disposal themselves.
Even if it is “just” gnawing, it is an activity that makes your pet relaxed and pleasantly tired.
10. Cardboard rolls
Cardboard rolls of toilet paper, kitchen roll,s or wrapping paper can be easily moved and torn by rabbits and therefore can be used as rolling food caches.
A piece of fennel, or one or three blueberries can be hidden inside and “enclosed” on both sides with straw, hay or hemp bedding.
Now your rabbit should gradually pull out the material until he gets to the treat. This doesn’t keep him busy for long, but it is easy to prepare and makes a nice change.
To begin with, choose foods that have a strong odor.
Suitable are, among others:
11. Practicing tricks
Little tricks can not only be very impressive. They are also a wonderful activity for you and your rabbits to do together.
It is best to start with “Come” or “Here,” as you can train very easily with food.
At first, reward with food each time your rabbit performs the desired behavior. If it then responds reliably to “Come”, you can occasionally use petting as a reward instead of a treat.
12. Intelligent toys
Although not everyone suspects it, rabbits are very intelligent animals.
Ready-to-use rabbit smart toys are therefore an easy activity that you can also provide in the cage.
So if you don’t have time for training or if you don’t run for a day, you can still make a change.
When choosing, pay attention to the right materials that can not splinter.
Appropriate treats and rewards to use
Whether you practice tricks, encourage exercise or offer tubes, rollers and smart toys, rewards and treats should be healthy and compatible with a species-appropriate diet.
In addition, your rabbit should be able to eat them in a short time.
Therefore, very small cubes of fruit and vegetables or very thin strips of vegetables, individual berries or leaves, and small stems of herbs or flowers are suitable.
Make sure the treats contain no starch and little sugar, do not cause flatulence and are well tolerated.
That said, your rabbit should like them, of course.
Although food is very important at first to confirm the desired behavior, you can gradually use words of praise and petting as a reward.
Alternate between the different options.
If your rabbit enjoys the activity on its own, it will soon cooperate with you anyway and rewards will take a back seat.