PDSA's Care Advice

The ideal approach to your rabbits' behaviour

As well as lots of space, rabbits need things to do so they don’t get bored. Within their living space they should have opportunities to dig, run and play on a daily basis; this can be achieved by ensuring they have the company of another rabbit and by providing things with which they can interact, e.g. planters filled with potting compost for rabbit digging, large diameter tubes and cardboard boxes. Rabbits should be handled regularly from a young age (especially during the first three to four weeks of age) so that they are used to being handled as adults. Rabbits are more intelligent than many people think and can, for example, be trained to understand commands and to use a litter tray.

Do my rabbits need toys?

Rabbits need lots of exercise and they can get this if they have a large hutch and run (please visit our pages on a suitable environment for your rabbits for further information). As well as lots of space, rabbits need things to do, so they don’t get bored. They also need places to hide because they get scared easily. Toys and hiding places for rabbits are available from pet shops and pet supermarkets, and include things like large tubes and platforms to climb onto. Cardboard boxes and safe, untreated logs are also good for rabbits to explore.

Should I give my rabbits several different toys at the same time?

It’s better to rotate your rabbits’ toys, by offering different toys in different weeks. This way, you can make sure your rabbits stay stimulated. When a particular toy isn’t being used, this also gives you a good opportunity to clean it.

How can I let my rabbits dig without them escaping?

Rabbits love digging, and a great way of letting them do this is to give them a planter filled with potting compost.

Because they like burrowing so much you should sink their run into the ground so that they can’t burrow out.

Can you train rabbits to use a litter tray?

Rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray as part of their rabbit behaviour. Put a litter tray where you want them to toilet and place some of their droppings in it. Use a non-clumping, non-toxic litter and offer a food reward, such as a small piece of a natural rabbit treat, each time your rabbit jumps into the tray and uses it.

PDSA's Findings

PDSA has produced the first ever comprehensive measure of animal wellbeing in the UK, revealing the state of our pet nation - The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

Over 11,000 pet owners were surveyed to find out how dogs, cats and rabbits are cared for - below are the findings for rabbits and their behaviour.

Overview

Rabbits need mental stimulation like any other pet. Companionship from another rabbit, as well as positive contact with their owner, are important ways of achieving this, as are providing suitable toys and other objects for them to hide in and interact with. Not enough rabbits are getting the mental stimulation they need on a daily basis.

PDSA vet with rabbit

Key findings
 

Bored bunnies – lack of mental stimulation for over 1 million rabbits.

  • Just 38% of rabbits are reported to play with toys on a daily basis, while just 24% dig, which is important natural behaviour. The reason for these low figures may be that toys are not being provided, toys are not of the right type or they are not being changed regularly (so the rabbits become bored with them).
     
  • 28% of rabbits were not handled daily when young. Daily handling at a young age helps ensure that rabbits are not scared of being handled when adult. Scared rabbits often kick and struggle when picked up. These rabbits are distressed and can become injured.
     
  • 35% of rabbits have been litter trained.
     
  • Only 23% of owners have looked for advice on aspects of their rabbits behaviour in the last four years compared to 46% of rabbit owners who have looked for advice on diet.
     

Improve one thing today ... As well as a large exercise run, give your rabbits items and objects that they can explore and interact with. Tunnels for hiding in, planters filled with potting compost for rabbit digging and cardboard boxes can all be great for providing stimulation and preventing boredom. Change them regularly so that your rabbits do not become bored.
 

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