Environmental enrichment for rabbits in captivity

ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT FOR RABBITS

How can we improve the lives of our rabbits?

Environmental enrichment is defined as the modification of the environment of an animal that lives in captivity. The goal is to provide entertainment and dynamism to our rabbits, while avoiding behavioral and mental health problems. The latter is as important as the basic care of our animal.

What do we want to stimulate with environmental enrichment?

The natural behaviors of, in this case, our rabbits, which would be what they would do in their natural habitat: burrowing, foraging, socializing, etc.

The first need rabbits have at home is to move. In their natural environment they spend most of their day looking for forage to graze, so it is not good that they live locked in a cage. Its cage must have the function of shelter, latrine and, if we want, a trough. The rest of the time, they are more comfortable exploring and walking around the house.

If we have a garden or patio at home, we can take them out for a while with a park (but be careful with animals that can enter to harm them, such as cats). If we don’t have a chance for the animal to be on the loose, it will need some time to get out and loosen up. Shelters and tunnels are also good options.

The second most time-consuming thing in rabbits’ lives is to eat. For this we have almost infinite options, from hiding food for them to look for, to home or commercial dispensers that keep them entertained for a long time.

To stimulate foraging behavior, we can plant hay or grass in a flat, wide tray and give it to eat (always taking care not to use chemicals that can be ingested with the grass).

On the other hand, rabbits are gregarious beings, so they need company. Ideally, they should have a male or female companion (always castrated both), and they even get along well with guinea pigs.

If we do not have the option of getting animal company, the ideal is that we spend time with him: games, caresses, or simply pay attention to them and feel our company.

Natural behaviors of rabbits

Rabbits live in burrows, so one of their most common behaviors is to dig. If we drop them in the garden it is possible that they make a couple of holes. If this bothers us or we want to stimulate this behavior, there are both commercial options (special litter boxes for them) and homemade options, such as filling a cardboard box with paper balls (never with ink, like a newspaper, as they could ingest it) , hay and some hidden prize for them to dig for it.

Finally, there are many toys in stores that you may like. If we don’t want to spend money we can make it ourselves. Most of them usually serve to be gnawed or thrown into the air. The only thing we must take care of, whether we buy them or manufacture them, is that they do not contain dangerous materials (chemicals, wood that splinters, components that can be swallowed, etc.) and that they cannot be a source of accidents such as falls from height or sharp parts.

If you have any questions about caring for rabbits, contact us.

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About the Author: Catherine Rose

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