How to keep your rabbit active & safe

Some of us plan our days around that all important piece of exercise and getting some fresh air, and why not? It is a great feeling to move your body, clear your mind and make everyone else envious by posting on Instagram your personal best time for that 5K!

Rabbits, in that way, are not so different from us… Okay, so posting on social media might be a challenge without opposable thumbs, but the feeling of joy experienced from being outside, unrestricted and burning off energy is very similar across the species spectrum.

But how do you provide a safe environment for your bunny to be active? Time, location and money all play a role in what resources are available to you to do so. We will hopefully give you some ideas about how to keep your rabbit entertained and advice about what to avoid.

The recommended living space for a rabbit is 10ft x 6ft with a run height of 3ft which in theory gives them enough space to move around and explore their environment. However, with rabbits you really can’t have too much space.

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The more they can ‘zoom’ around and launch into the biggest ‘binky’, the happier they will be.

But what if your rabbit doesn’t have access to a safe outside space for enrichment? It may be tempting to use a harness and lead - after all they are readily available to purchase online.

Rabbits in their natural habitat

At Beloved Rabbits, and supported by many other rabbit welfare charities and organisations, we do not recommend using a harness or lead. As a prey species rabbits are excellent at concealing any weaknesses such as stress and injury. This is because they know predators will will spot their weakness and pursue them for an easy meal. Therefore, as rabbit owners we may not be able to recognise if a rabbit wearing a harness and lead for the first time is being causing unnecessary stress.

Additionally, in the wild rabbits will not stray too far from the safety of their burrow when foraging. It is vital for them to know they have the security of being able to dive into somewhere dark and enclosed to escape any threats. Taking your rabbit out on a lead into a new, open area without it having that reassurance of knowing where to go if danger appears may lead to a highly anxious little animal.

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Rabbit movements are unpredictable

Rabbits also move and exercise in unexpected ways. They could choose to run really fast and then STOP! What was that? Sniff. Ear twitch. Everything is good. Let’s GO! ZOOOOOOOOOM. Okay, STOP!

It’s very much stop start with lots of zigzagging and leaping in the air. They don’t tend to walk linear like a dog. Movements which are not suited to wearing a harness and a lead that may get tangled.

Additionally, in the wild rabbits will not stray too far from the safety of their burrow when foraging. It is vital for them to know they have the security of being able to dive into somewhere dark and enclosed to escape any threats. Taking your rabbit out on a lead into a new, open area without it having that reassurance of knowing where to go if danger appears may lead to a highly anxious little animal.

Rabbit jumping on the grass
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Protection from disease

There is always a danger of contracting parasites or diseases such as Myxomatosis or Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD1&2) when taking your pet into a space where wild rabbits roam if they aren’t suitably vaccinated.

So, what are some ideas of what we can do to keep our rabbits fit and healthy in a safe environment? A bunny’s favourite activity besides running (and eating) has got to be digging. Providing a dig box filled with soil or shredded paper can get the same muscles working that would be used to do ‘zoomies’ around a garden.

How to exercise and entertain rabbits in their own environment

Providing toys such as willow balls to chase and nudge with their noses always go down well too. Toys can make a smaller environment a lot more interesting too. Here are some examples:

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Rabbits also love to chew. Providing chew toys or cardboard boxes means they can activate ‘destructive mode’ (their favourite mode) and break that box down into a million shredded pieces, burning energy and working the back, neck and leg muscles too.

Providing platforms for rabbits to leap on and off from also help with bone density and building muscle in their bodies. This can be done easily with sturdy boxes or upside down plant pots and your rabbit will really enjoy accessing the different levels of height. Creating obstacle courses of tunnels and platforms will not only be a joy for your bun, but also for you to watch them race around and interact with their new setup.

Space is very important for the happiness and welfare of a rabbit, but if restricted due to circumstance you can absolutely still provide a fun and loving home where your pet can fully express normal behaviour and maintain a healthy level of fitness.

If you have rabbits and are looking for ideas on how to create a more interesting environment, or if you are wondering if rabbits are the right pet for you, feel free to contact us and we would be happy to help.