EXERCISE & ENRICHMENT
Every bunny needs time & room to run to stay fit & toys to stimulate their mind!
The beach bunnies get lots of exercise running around outside, but indoor bunnies can get lots of good exercise too! Living in a safe environment doesn't mean run time has to be sacrificed!
Read on to learn ideas for keeping bunnies healthy, happy, and active.
Photo Credit: Chelsea Lincoln
Bunnies need exercise for lots of reasons!
Make sure if they are not free range, that they get at least 5 hours of exercise per day; ideally more than that. If your home is adequately bunny-proofed, you might want to get in the habit of just opening their pen whenever you are home!
Here are some reasons why it is important for rabbits to have run (& hop!) time:
Exercise is important to stay healthy!
Exercise prevents obesity, which can lead to other health problems.
Lack of exercise can weaken the heart, predisposing bunnies to risk of heart attack when stressed, and increase anesthetic risk.
Bunnies who spend most or all of their time confined may develop pododermatitis AKA "sore hocks," a condition in which the bottoms of the hind feet become infected and sore from the pressure of sitting in one place for long periods. Risk is highest in wire-floor cages, and when bunnies are sitting or standing on urine-soiled bedding.
Lack of exercise causes the GI tract to slow down, increasing risk of rise of bad bacteria levels and/or stasis.
Lack of exercise can also cause the urinary tract to slow down, decreasing the strength of bladder contraction, which is important to keep any extra calcium flushed out in the urine.
Running and jumping and stretching all help to build strong, healthy muscles. This is especially important for bunnies, as they have delicate skeletal systems. Strong muscles help to stabilize and protect their bones.
Exercise improves attitude!
Can you imagine how you would feel if you were trapped in a small room or a closet day after day, hours on end? Daily exercise relieves stress, frustration, and boredom for bunnies.
Some bunnies who are kept in cages (which we do NOT recommend - please see our section on pen enclosures!) become very defensive of their territory as that small space is all they really know. Providing a nice, big living space and regular run time is a great way to improve your bunny's mental health.
Exercise is fun!
Bunnies do enjoy just running and jumping around, but consider adding things like tunnels, toys, and various boxes to run through, hop over and play with to add enrichment.
Running about is more mentally stimulating than sitting bored in a pen.
Some bunnies enjoy participating in bunny agility! Teaching your bunny to follow a path, up and down ramps, through tunnels, and over hurdles, is a great way to bond with them while they have fun exercising! Agility can be done at home or in a social setting.
Playing with toys is not only fun for bunnies. It provides them much needed mental stimulation, which can keep them occupied, so they will be less likely to engage in destructive chewing behaviors.
Finding the right toys for your bunny will depend on the type of play they like to engage in.
*MAKE SURE ALL TOYS ARE NOT TREATED WITH ANYTHING THAT WOULD BE TOXIC THEM!
Some bunnies like to pick things up with their teeth and toss them around. Favorite toys include:
Plastic baby keys (Just make sure they don't ingest any plastic!)
Most bunnies enjoy chewing naturally. Chew toys offer them an appropriate way to exhibit this behavior!
Whicker toys & balls*
Some bunnies like to dispel their energy by tearing something apart!
Whicker balls & toys*
Some single bunnies will bond with a stuffed animal. If bonding with another bunny is not feasible, a plush animal can offer them some comfort and companionship. Some will even snuggle with and groom it! Just make sure the toy does not have any plastic eyes or other parts that could be chewed off and swallowed. Also, make sure bunny is not destroying and ingesting their new friend.
Digging is a very natural behavior for rabbits! Abandoned bunnies sometimes dig burrows to survive, but digging can be a fun way for bunnies to play and get exercise!
Dirt in the yard: Allowing a bunny to run (supervised) in a safely-enclosed yard may allow some fun digging opportunities. (See below for pros & cons of outdoor playtime.)
Dig box: A large plastic bin filled with shredded paper and/or toys, with a door cut into it can be a really fun way for indoor bunnies to get their dig on! Click here for a video on one type of dig box.
Stuff a cardboard tube (like from paper towels or toilet paper) with hay
Stuff an empty facial tissue box with hay
Crumple up paper into a ball
Offer a *Yellow Pages book to chew up
Whether or not it's a good idea to let your bunny outside to play
is a topic of debate amongst rabbit-lovers.
Some believe they can't be happy without it, while others
believe it is unnecessary and not worth the risk.
Here at CBBR, we do not take a hard stance on the issue.
Feel free to read through the pros and cons below and come to your
own decision about what's right for your bunny.
PROS & CONS
Photo Credit: Michael Hauser
Lots of room to run about!
Get to enjoy the sun
Get to enjoy the wind in their ears
Lots of enrichment (different areas and plants to explore)
Yummy grass and dandelions (make sure no pesticides!)
Quality time in the garden with family
Exposure to ectoparasites (like fleas & mites!)
Exposure to endoparasites (like worms!)
Risk of escape (Make sure there is NO WHERE your bunny could slip under, hop over, or dig under any part of your yard's perimeter!)
Predator risk (Birds of prey can snatch them up!)