How should I exercise my rabbits?
They might look small, but our rabbits still need to keep active! There’s lost you can do to help your four-legged friends exercise to keep fit, healthy and happy.
In the wild, rabbits spend their days foraging and digging around fields as large as football fields, which means they spend a lot of time on the move! Just because our pet rabbits live in hutches, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be active.
Your rabbits will need lots of exercise to keep them and healthy. Being able to run about, play and dig like they would in the wild will mean your rabbits are happy and stop them from getting bored.
Our vets have pulled together some of the basic all owners need to know about exercising rabbits.
How much exercise do rabbits need?
Exercise plays an important role in stopping rabbits from getting bored and gaining a lot of weight, which can cause all sorts of medical problems. As a general rule, your rabbit should be spending as much time as possible during the day in a large, secure outdoor run. At a minimum, this should be three hours, but the more the better!
Remember to make sure your rabbits’ outdoor run is safe from predators, safe from escape attempts and has shade on sunny days. Ideally, the run should be attached to their cage so they can go in and out as they choose, especially during the day. If you need more advice, take a look at our guide on the perfect set-up for your bunnies.
How do rabbits exercise?
In the wild, a lot of a rabbit’s time is spent looking for food. As our pets, rabbits don’t really need to worry all that much about where their food is coming from. This doesn’t mean that they can’t still be rabbits, though!
There are loads of ways you can help your rabbits get their daily exercise, including:
- Digging. Rabbits love to dig! In the wild they live in burrows, which they dig themselves, but our pet rabbits also have the same need to dig. If you’d rather your rabbits didn’t start digging up your lawn or you’d just like to give them something fun to do, you can give them a shallow planter filled with soil to dig around in.
- Foraging. A big part of a rabbit’s day would usually be foraging for food. As we’re the ones who provide their food, you might think there’s not much for them to forage for. Actually, you can make forage trays for your rabbits to keep them occupied at home. Hide their food in amongst scrunched up newspaper or grass (you can pull grass from the ground yourself but don’t use lawn mower clippings as these can upset your rabbit’s stomach!). You might also want to try scatter feeding instead of using a bowl – simply spread their normal food around a clean area of hutch or in a cardboard box filled with hay.
- Exploring. Rabbits love to explore! While they’re in our gardens, they can’t really explore new places, so make sure you give them lots of rabbit-safe toys they can have a look at. You can also cut holes in a cardboard box for them to run through and explore or get them a rabbit-safe tunnel. Check out our homemade rabbit toy ideas.
- Jumping. Along with running and digging, rabbits like to jump! Give them different levels in their run by putting in boxes or upturned containers for them to climb and jump on.
- Gnawing. Rabbits love to gnaw on things and it helps them to keep their teeth a good length (as their teeth are always growing!). Try giving them small branches (or buy them from a pet shop) to gnaw on – safe trees include apple, maple, birch and willow.
Can I play with my rabbits?
Our rabbits can be a little nervous around us. They’re naturally prey animals, which usually means they might be unsure of anything bigger than them!
The first rule of playtime with your rabbits is always keep it on their level. Don’t pick your rabbits up or try to make them sit on your lap, especially at the start, as this can scare them and will put them off playing with you.
It’s best to let your rabbits come to you for attention and playtime. Try sitting in a secure area with them where they have places they can hide if they feel worried. Wait for them to come over to you – maybe hide some tasty treats around so they can forage around you.
Some rabbits will enjoy different games. Some might like to chase a ball – you can start this game by rolling a ball gently in front of you (but not towards them!) and let them come over and explore in their own time. Others might like to throw their toys in the air – try fetching for them and placing them back near your rabbit so they can continue playing. As your rabbits feel more confident they’ll start to come up to you for a sniff, most rabbits are naturally inquisitive so don’t be surprised if one day they decide to jump onto your lap!
There are lots of ways you can keep your bunnies occupied to keep them happy and healthy. Along with a healthy diet, it should help them keep in shape.