Rabbits need lots of stimulation to keep their body and mind active. In the wild, their constant search for food and look out for predators keeps them pretty busy, but our pet bunnies feel far more secure at home and tend to have regular meal times. This can lead to them becoming a bit lazy, bored and overweight. There are so many things you can do to help enrich your rabbits area.
Make Them Stretch
Rabbits can stretch up really tall and often don’t get the chance to do this enough if they are stuck in a small cage or hutch. Make sure their enclosure is at least 2.5 feet tall to allow them to stand up on their back legs. To encourage them to do this, you can make a fun washing line and peg out their food! Use some natural sisal string and create a washing line. You will have to judge the height as each rabbit is different, but they should be standing comfortably on their back legs and their nose easily reaching the bottom of the food. You can use natural wooden pegs to hang up fresh herbs, apple branches and veg. You can even hang some of the stuffed toilet roll tubes off the line too! (Read further down for instructions how to make these).
1. Photo by Sophia Woodings
Ditch The Bowl
Most owners will go and buy some cute, pretty patterned food bowl for their beloved bunnies – but this is making them lazy! They are natural foragers and should be working and searching for their food. This keeps them more active and makes them work for their food a bit more. You can scatter feed their daily portion of pellets by either just throwing them into their enclosure, by creating a hay box (a large cardboard box or underbed storage tray filled with hay) and scatter the pellets inside, or use a treat dispensing toy. If using a treat toy then make sure you supervise them with it to ensure they are not eating any hard plastic / rubber parts and remove it from their enclosure as soon as they have finished all the pellets. There are various types of treat feeders available and these are some of the most popular:
1) The Little Friends Treat Dispenser. http://amzn.to/28IuK5j
Get Creative With Cardboard
Enrichment doesn’t have to be expensive. Cardboard can create hours of fun and you can often pick up empty boxes etc from your local shops. Make sure it’s plain brown, non printed and with no staples or tape. You can make everything from a simple den (turn the box upside down and cut a bunny sized door hole) to a meandering maze (lots of different size boxes linked together) or get really creative and make castles, cars and tanks! You can get the kids involved too and let them use non toxic crayons or pencils to decorate the outside of the boxes. Cardboard is safe for bunnies to chew and they can eat a little with no problem, however, the amount they are eating should always be monitored and the toy removed if they are eating lots of it.
There are also lots of cardboard toys available to buy if you are not the artistic type. Here are a few of my favourites:
1) Cat House. http://amzn.to/28IvkQP
2) Fire Engine. http://amzn.to/28Ivyan
3) Smartbedz Castle. http://amzn.to/1rExaHG
Save Your Empty Toilet Rolls
Not only are they free…they are great fun for bunnies! You can put some of their daily pellet portion or a treat inside and then stuff with hay and watch your bunny throw them around trying to get to the treat inside. You can also stuff fresh and dried herbs inside them along with hay too. This can be a great way of making your own, safe and healthy advent calendar for your rabbit’s. They should never eat any dairy or egg products so don’t buy any of the shop bought advent calendars as these are not healthy – and of course, human chocolate is toxic to pets so keep those out of reach too!
Keep an eye out for part 2 of this enrichment series, coming soon!