In the wild, rabbits tend to get a lot of their daily exercise and enjoyment foraging for food. In a home set-up where food is literally handed to them in a bowl, there isn’t much opportunity for this type of physical or mental activity. Being chased by predators provides plenty of exercise in the wild too, but we don’t recommend this for pet rabbits!
Weight gain and boredom are two common problems that occur from a lack of exercise. It’s a good idea to get your rabbit checked over to make sure they’re in tip top condition before embarking on a new fitness plan for them this New Year.
So how do you exercise your pet rabbit? Alun Edwards has this advice:
7 ways to help your rabbit get their daily dose of exercise-
- POTTERING: Your rabbit should be spending 3 hours (minimum) during the day pottering about in a large, secure, outdoor run that’s safe from predators, the elements, and escape attempts. Ideally, they should be able to access this whenever they want, or at supervised times if that’s safer. In the winter months, you may want to create an exercise area indoors.
- FORAGING: Make foraging trays to keep your rabbit occupied. Hide food amongst scrunched up newspaper, cardboard toilet tubes, hay or grass (use grass pulled from the ground but never lawnmower clippings as these can make your rabbit unwell). You can also scatter feed instead of using a bowl, just spread their daily food around a clean area of the hutch or in a cardboard box filled with hay.
- EXPLORING: You probably want garden exploration to be fairly limited, so throw in some fun rabbit-safe toys to play with, and create a ‘rabbit wonderland’ out of cardboard boxes with holes in for them to run through and explore. Or, check out the range of rabbit tunnels here: https://www.amazon.co.uk
- JUMPING: Provide different levels in your rabbit’s run by putting in boxes or upturned containers for them to jump on and off. Be careful and keep levels low (or avoid) if your rabbit is old, injured, pregnant, or nursing.
- DIGGING: Rabbits live in burrows in the wild, which they dig themselves. Pet rabbits have the same need and love of digging. To protect your lawn, give them a shallow planter filled with soil to have a good old dig around in.
- GNAWING: Give your rabbit something to occupy their mind and keep their growing teeth in-check, by providing small branches (also available at some pet shops) to gnaw on. Rabbit-safe trees include apple, maple, birch & willow.
- PLAYTIME: Most rabbits can be a little nervous around their owners, mostly due to the size difference. Keep play at their level and ease into it – avoid the ‘pick-up & put on lap’ move straight away. Sit in a secure area near to your rabbit and let them come to you for attention and to play. Add some places to hide if they get worried, and try putting a tasty foraging tray near you. When your rabbit seems more confident, try gently throwing a ball – some rabbits will enjoy this and chase it, others will show you how they want to play!
If your rabbit is having trouble with any of these activities, it’s worth bringing them in for a health check to make sure they’re doing ok. Book a rabbit checkup.