Enrichment for Rabbits
What is enrichment?
Environmental enrichment is improving the area in which your rabbit lives by providing a choice of activities, housing areas, foraging opportunities and socialisation.
Environmental enrichment is aimed at improving your rabbit's quality of life; their welfare.
Environmental enrichment encompasses everything from handling and socialisation with other animals, rabbits or humans, to the provision of toys. Environmental enrichment should increase the variation in your rabbit's daily life and encourage the expression of natural behaviours. Environmental enrichment is designed to help your rabbit cope with its environment and it is especially important if you leave your bunny for long periods of the day (more than 4 hours at a time) on its own.
Why is enrichment important for rabbits?
Rabbits are active, inquisitive, social and intelligent animals. Rabbits with not enough to do can become bored and their welfare suffers. Pet rabbits are often kept confined for a large proportion of time each day. During this time they need to have some control over their environment and what they do to avoid boredom and stress.
Enrichment for rabbits
Enrichment should be tailored to suit your rabbit's environment and them. For example, if you have a small hutch/cage, you may wish to build a larger pen which you can open your hutch out onto. This will encourage your rabbit to explore and exercise. A big floor area and high ceiling allows opportunities for normal behaviours such as running, jumping, hopping and rearing up on their hind legs.
All environmental enrichment should take into consideration to the mental and the physical stimulation it may offer your rabbit. Ensure all materials used are non-toxic and have smooth, rounded edges. With all enrichment items you must regularly inspect items for damage and potential injury points and repair, discard or replace any items that become damaged or dangerous.
Below is a list of ideas for environmental enrichment for rabbits:
- Hiding places and platforms in their hutch.
- Toys and objects to manipulate, investigate, encourage play and allow digging and scent marking. Toys can be purchased from pet shops or online. It is important to have several toys that you rotate. Do not put them all in your rabbit's hutch/pen at once and just leave them there. They will become boring very quickly.
- Dietary enrichment – providing food in a way that encourages your rabbits to forage for and/or work for their food. An example might be a treat ball filled with little pieces of carrot or other treats. Another example, might be hiding leafy greens throughout their hutch/pen, particularly under hay and in hiding spots to encourage them to forage
- Positive interactions with humans – this could include playing games, grooming your rabbit and training your rabbit using positive reward-based methods such as clicker training.
If you have more than one rabbit, ensure there are enough items for all the rabbits. This will avoid fighting and one or more rabbits missing out.
Do not fill your rabbits' enclosure with so many enrichment items that they can no longer exercise easily.