How to Encourage Your Rabbit to Exercise
Rabbits are cute little fluffy animals that are simply adorable. But behind all the cuteness, rabbits are complex, intelligent creatures with individual characteristic traits. It can be quite detrimental to their health if they are treated as trophy pets and their physical fitness is otherwise overlooked.
The 2018 PDSA PAW report highlighted the lack of awareness among rabbit owners regarding their pet’s obesity. While vet doctors and nurses claimed that more than 30% of the rabbits they saw were overweight, over 83% owners said that their rabbits were of ideal weight.
Like all animals, exercise is vital for rabbits. Rabbits are naturally playful and active but may sometimes need to be stimulated. They generally need 3-4 hours of exercise every day to remain healthy and active. So you have to make sure they get out of their hutch and engage in some physical activities everyday.
Tips for Getting Your Rabbit to Exercise
Rabbits with a sedentary lifestyle can acquire numerous health problems and develop obesity without you noticing. Rabbit owners often mistake overweight rabbits to be cute and cuddly and overlook their need to exercise. A study showed that 26% of rabbit owners chose a picture of an obese rabbit to be of normal weight.
Therefore, make sure your pet gets all the encouragement it needs to be active. Here are some tips you can use to help your furry friend stay entertained.
- Make Sure of Basic Health and Treatments:
Make sure your rabbit is physically fit. Domestic rabbits need a regulated environment to protect against heat exhaustion or hypothermia. A rabbit that is not well will be lethargic and will not show interest in playing.
Treat any underlying health conditions. Obesity itself can make your rabbit lethargic and less active. So make sure to provide them with a proper diet and adequate fresh drinking water.
- Give Them Personal Space
Allow your rabbit to roam free within the house if possible, provided you keep an eye on them. Make sure all hazardous items are kept well out of reach. If not, you can keep them in an enclosure when no one is around to monitor them.
Rabbits are relatively small animals and can thrive in much less space than larger animals would need to survive. That being said, the enclosure or the hutch should always be kept clean and well ventilated. Depending on the size of your rabbit, the enclosure should be at least 3-4 times larger.
There should be enough space to allow your rabbit to move about with ease. Since rabbits are most active in the mornings and evenings, you may let them out at these times. This will ensure they get as much exercise as possible without having to coax them.
- Create a Bond with Your Rabbit
Rabbits are very social creatures and live in large groups called colonies. They should never be kept all alone. A lonely rabbit may become stressed and show aggression, anger, and destructive behavior. An emotionally suffering rabbit may try to bite the bars of its enclosure or pull out its own fur.
It is advisable to keep at least a pair of rabbits together since they crave companionship. Rabbits living together will find their own ways of entertainment by playing together. If that is not possible, you will have to make sure you spend enough quality time with your pet.
Interact with your rabbit and get down on the floor at the same level as it. This way you are more accessible and approachable and being naturally inquisitive creatures, your rabbit will come to you. Once you have gained their trust, they will not see you as a threat. They will allow you to pet and groom them. Gradually, they will follow you and even play with you.
- Get Them Toys and Engage in Activities
Invest in some rabbit friendly toys or build some yourself out of non-hazardous material. Rabbits love to chew. You may buy them toys that are safe for them to chew on. You may even make inexpensive ones out of old paper bags, toilet rolls, or cardboard boxes.
They also love to explore, dig, and forage and are naturally playful. A ball with food inside it that the rabbit has to roll around to get the food to fall out of the opening is a good tool. You may also fill some hay into a cardboard box and let your rabbit dig around in it for bits of food.
Cardboard boxes attached together with different levels, compartments, and multiple entrances also make a great playing area. These resemble the natural homes of rabbits called warrens and rabbits love tunneling and hiding during playtime
- Take them outdoors
If you have a yard or garden, it would be a good idea to let your rabbit out occasionally. Make a covered enclosure in your yard for your pet to play in safely. There should be enough room for your rabbit to run around in.
Ensure that predators like large birds, foxes or dogs can’t get to your rabbit. Also, make sure there are no plants in or around the enclosure. The grass is safe but many other plants are toxic for rabbits.
Rabbits like exploring and can be trained to wear a leash. You may take them outdoors on a leash for walks with you. However, you must be extremely careful not to let them eat anything on the ground
- Teach them Tricks
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are intelligent animals. Some may argue that they may even be as intelligent as cats and dogs. It may seem repetitive but rabbits really do love to run. You can easily teach them to run after you and chase you.
Another trick is to have them run in a circle or in a figure 8 pattern. Being natural jumpers, you can even teach them to jump hoops or low hurdles by rewarding them with treats.
Every domestic animal has inherent wild characteristics that need to be taken into account. When it comes to rabbits, it means that their diet and activities have to be carefully planned. They should be fed a diet as close to what they would naturally eat in the wild.
As for activity, they should get enough exercise as they would while foraging for food or digging burrows.
Lack of adequate regular exercise can lead to various health problems in rabbits. It may affect their appetite, bones, and organs. Being inactive can lead to obesity which has its own risks affecting the heart, kidneys, digestion, and breathing. When taken care of properly, rabbits can live for 10 years or even longer.
They may even develop arthritis and pressure sores that are extremely painful and difficult to heal. Therefore it is essential to ensure that you provide your pet with enough space, time, and motivation to keep it active, healthy, and happy.