Environmental Enrichment for Rabbits
How Can We Improve the Lives of Our Rabbits?
Environmental enrichment is defined as the modification of the environment of a captive animal. The goal is to provide entertainment and dynamism to our rabbits while preventing behavioral problems and maintaining their mental health. This is as important as the basic care of our animals.
What Do We Want to Stimulate with Environmental Enrichment?
We want to stimulate the natural behaviors of our rabbits that they would exhibit in their natural habitat: digging burrows, foraging, socializing, etc.
The first thing rabbits need at home is space to move around. In their natural environment, they spend most of their day searching for forage to graze, so it’s not good for them to live confined in a cage. Their cage should serve as a shelter, litter box, and, if necessary, a feeding area. The rest of the time, they are more comfortable exploring and roaming around the house.
If you have a garden or yard at home, you can let them out for a while in a rabbit playpen (but be cautious of animals like cats that could harm them). If you can’t allow your rabbit to roam freely, they will need some time to get out and stretch their legs. Refuges and tunnels are also good options.
The second most time-consuming activity in a rabbit’s life is eating. There are countless options for this, from hiding their food for them to find to using homemade or commercial food dispensers that can keep them entertained for a while.
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To stimulate foraging behavior, you can sow hay or grass in a flat, wide tray and give it to them to eat (always ensuring that you don’t use any chemicals that could be ingested with the grass).
Rabbits are social animals, so they need companionship. Ideally, they should have a companion of the same species (both spayed or neutered), and they also get along well with guinea pigs.
If you can’t provide them with animal companionship, it’s important to spend time with them, engaging in games, petting, or simply keeping them company so they feel your presence.
Natural Behaviors of Rabbits
Rabbits live in burrows, so one of their most common behaviors is digging. If you allow them to roam in the garden, they might dig a couple of holes. If this bothers you or you want to encourage this behavior, there are options, both commercial (sandboxes designed for them) and homemade, such as filling a cardboard box with paper balls (never use ink, like a newspaper, as they could ingest it), hay, and some hidden treats for them to dig for.
Lastly, there are many toys available in stores that rabbits might enjoy. If you prefer not to spend money, you can make toys at home. Most of them are designed for rabbits to chew on or toss in the air. Whether you buy them or make them, make sure they don’t contain dangerous materials (chemicals, splintering woods, components that can be swallowed, etc.) and that they can’t cause accidents like falls from heights or sharp parts.
If you have any doubts about rabbit care, please contact us.