Have you ever caught your naughty little rabbit digging the carpet, chewing toys or scratching your furniture? You may see these as “bad habits” but the truth is that these are just a rabbit’s natural behaviour.
In the wild, rabbits are naturally sociable creatures and they spend a lot of time digging burrows, searching and digging for food and exploring. However, our pet rabbits are unable to take part in these activities, and you see their natural behaviour as a “bad habit”.
They are sociable animals, so they do enjoy having a companion or two. Remember, they are prey to many animals (i.e. they will be killed and eaten) so are always alert and aware of their surroundings.
If you let your rabbit display these natural behaviours, it helps them both reduce their stress levels and improve their health, especially their bones, muscles, gut function and their mental health.
Your rabbit’s living environment should be as enriched as possible, as this allows them to express their natural behaviours. Their cage should be high enough so that the rabbit can sit upright without its ears touching the top of the cage. Remember, in the wild they sit on the hind legs with their ears pricked to look around them.
In the wild, rabbits like to jump to different levels of height if they can. This lets them see what is going on in their surroundings. You can mimic this in your household simply by placing a box in the cage. When rabbits are exposed to open area without anywhere to hide they can become extremely stressed. The box also serves as both as a hiding place and an escape route from danger, meaning your rabbit will feel more secure and comfortable.
In their natural environment, rabbits will chew sticks and dig burrows. In our home environment, you can encourage these behaviours simply by providing them with chewable toys and a digging box.
Daily free roaming can also give them plenty of exercise. You could build a playground of tunnels for them, or simply let them out of the cage. This can make a great difference to your pet’s happiness.
Encourage their natural foraging behaviour by making them work for their food. In the wild they need to search for their food, and they feel rewarded when they find it.
Encourage foraging by:
- Filling a toilet/kitchen paper roll with hay
- Poke pieces of vegetable high up in their cage so they have to stretch to reach it.
- Scatter pellets around when they are out having their free roaming exercise.
- Create a forage box by filling a cardboard box with hay, and hiding pieces of vegetables inside it.
Providing an enriched environment for your rabbits is lots of fun for both you and your pets!