Among the many other things you need to do to care for your rabbit, it’s important that they have regular enrichment. Like all animals, rabbits need daily activity—and not just the physical kind. Although enrichment may involve exercise, it also involves sensory and mental stimulation by prompting animals to use the natural instincts they may not always practice in captivity. For instance, at the zoo, zookeepers will often give polar bears toys that the bears will try to open in order to eat the food hidden inside. Similarly, a pet rabbit that spends most of its time in a cage needs a daily routine to stay active. But don’t worry, Fauna Care is here for all you first time bunny parents! Here are eight tips for daily enrichment with your rabbit.
One of the best (and easiest) ways to give your bunny a little environmental enrichment is just to make sure that they get some time outside of their cage. The key to enrichment is novel experience. Maybe consider setting up a pen in a new part of the house and letting your rabbit wander around for a while. Don’t be afraid to let them explore the sights and smells for a few hours. Just make sure you bunny-proof the area first!
Chew toys are a great form of enrichment for all animals, especially bunnies. They are definitely available at your local pet store, but an even cheaper version is just some good old-fashioned cardboard. Just take an old box, cut it up, and voila! Munching on some cardboard is not only good for your bunny’s teeth but also keeps them from chomping on other things in the house that you don’t necessarily want chewed up.
Like many small animals, rabbits love to burrow. And, while there are probably many tunnels for small animals available at your local pet store, it’s also very easy to make your own. You can use poster board, a cardboard box, or really anything to make your bunny its very own play pen. Besides being cheap and simple, another perk of making the tunnel yourself is that it easily doubles as a chew toy as well!
Foraging is another skill that domesticated rabbits don’t generally use. Feeding time is a great opportunity to let your pet forage. A simple method is to take the hay that you would normally feed your rabbit and put it in something, such as a toilet paper roll or paper bag. This makes your pet work for their food, relying on the senses that they would normally use in the wild. You can even mix it up by replacing your pets regular hay for some fresh veggies!
While wild rabbits dig all the time, domesticated rabbits rarely have the opportunity to. One of the main reasons for this is that it can be pretty risky to take your rabbit outside. Luckily, it is possible to bring the digging to them. You basically need to make a sandbox for your bunny, which can be any type of container filled with a bunny-friendly substance (not necessarily dirt), such as shredded newspaper. Some rabbit owners even suggest getting a large flower pot to fill with dirt, if you want the authentic foraging experience. It may get messy, but this is another crucial way for your bunny to burrow and explore.
Like all animals, rabbits often mark their territory. (But luckily it’s not as noticeable as some!) In order to mark their territory, your rabbit will likely do something called “chin marking.” Chin marking is when a rabbit rubs their chin against an object—often in their enclosure—essentially marking it with their own smell. It’s important that rabbits have a place to do this, which again can be anything from a small hutch to a cardboard box, in their living area. In fact, it’s best if rabbits have many objects and surfaces in their enclosure for marking purposes and general enrichment as well.
Rabbits are quite playful and love to be entertained with toys, much like a dog or cat. Your pet bunny is likely attracted to toys that rattle and make sound as well as ones that they can easily pick up in their mouths—some pet owners even give their rabbits bird toys to play with! And, although these toys are easily acquired at your local pet store, there are plenty of DIY options out there, many of which only require a toilet paper roll. It may take a little bit of trial and error to see what your bunny responds to, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Although they’re small animals, it’s actually very important for bunnies to have a lot of room to stretch—not just horizontally but also vertically! To allow for this, owners give their bunny something to climb on, whether it’s a rabbit hutch from your local pet store or just another cardboard box. Stretching not only serves as enrichment for the bunny but also stretches out their spine to prevent deformity. You could also consider putting their hay up high so they have to reach for it when they graze. Even a tall cage (about 3 feet) acts as a great stretching post for your furry friend!
Whichever enrichment methods you decide to use, it’s important to go with what works best for you and your bunny. Test a few out and see how it goes. There are many ways to give your pet rabbit opportunities for enrichment—we hope that these tips give you a place to get started!
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