Rabbits need to be able to display their natural behaviours that they would display in the wild in order to be happy. Find out more below about how to provide the enrichment your rabbits need.
For rabbits to display their natural behaviours, they require some basics.
Instead of giving your rabbits their food in the same place every day, encourage foraging by hiding their food in different places or by sprinkling herbs in their hay. Provide environmental enrichment by giving your rabbits tubes to hide in and boxes to climb on. Rabbits are extremely playful so it’s important that you provide them with lots of rabbit safe toys to keep them occupied. You can buy rabbit safe toys from pet shops, but great, inexpensive options are willow balls and cardboard tubes.
Rabbits need regular, gentle handling from an early age to become comfortable around humans and ok with being handled. It is best to avoid picking rabbits up as they tend to much prefer being petted on the floor where they feel safer. When you do need to pick one of your rabbits up you should place one hand under the rabbit’s chest, the other hand under the hind legs and lift your rabbit while holding them against your body to keep them secure.
Rabbits are very friendly and enjoy interaction with humans as well as their rabbit friend(s). Therefore, it’s important that you make lots of time daily to interact with your rabbits.
Rabbits are not aggressive by nature but they can bite, scratch or kick when they feel nervous. This is most likely to happen when you’re handling them, therefore it’s important that you ensure your rabbits are used to being handled from a young age.
When rabbits who do not know each other are introduced they can be aggressive so it’s important that if you do this you do it gradually following your vet’s advice.
If one of your rabbits is behaving differently than usual or they’re showing regular signs of fear and stress, it could be that your rabbit is in pain. As prey animals, rabbits try to hide any signs of suffering or pain prevent themselves from looking weak to predators, so it can be difficult to know when they need help. If you notice these changes, be sure to take your furry friends to the vet.
Rabbits are prey animals so their natural response to danger is to find the nearest hole to hide. If your rabbit is always hiding try to see things from their perspective to identify what it is they could be perceiving as danger. This could be a loud busy road, or cats and dogs who are their natural predators.
Happy rabbits will usually be in a relaxed position, laying down with their ears slightly together and pointing forward. They could be laid with their legs tucked in or extended out, if their body isn’t tense they should be relaxed. Very happy rabbits will jump into the air, all four paws off the ground and twist mid-air before landing this is called a ‘binky’.
Worried rabbits will often lay in a crouched position, body tense, pupils dilated, with their ears wide apart and flattened. They may also be hiding away from sight. If your rabbits are showing these behaviours, they are uncomfortable and may not want you near them.
Rabbits who are angry can show a variety of different behaviours. One of these key signs is standing in a tense position and thumping their back legs on the ground. Another is standing upright with arms out in a boxing position. Finally, standing tense with their body down, open mouth and teeth visible is a clear warning sign that your rabbits want you to go away.
First of all, you should never punish or shout at your rabbits. They are unlikely to understand why this is happening, which can lead to problems becoming worse. Try to identify if there could be anything in their day to day lives that they perceive as danger, such as larger pets or loud noises and if possible move your rabbits away from these. If behaviour problems continue, contact your vet for advice.
Rabbits are incredibly sociable animals and if they don’t have the right company and lots of fun things to do they can suffer.