Rabbits can be incredibly picky about what toys they want to play with. Some will refuse to play with anything at all. No matter how many toys you get them, your rabbit will always turn their back and ignore everything. When this happens, you’ll need to find alternatives to keep your rabbit mentally stimulated and happy.
If your rabbit won’t play with toys, you can help them stay mentally healthy by providing a variety of hay and treats for your rabbit to munch on. You can also make sure to give your rabbit a lot of space for exploring and plenty of socialization.
It’s normal to have difficulty finding good toys that a rabbit will want to play with. However, it’s not normal for a rabbit to sit around all day doing nothing. If your rabbit has no interest in toys, food, or their surroundings, they may be over-stressed, depressed, or sick. In these cases, you will need to help your rabbit feel safe and comfortable before they’ll start playing again.
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Why are toys important for pet rabbits
While most people think that rabbits need chew toys for their teeth, that’s not their most important function. Instead, toys are needed for mental stimulation to prevent boredom and depression. They give your rabbit a chance to use their natural bunny behaviors without being destructive around the house. Learn more about the types of toys that are best for rabbits.
Of course, wood toys can also help with keeping a rabbit’s teeth healthy, functioning to keep their incisors (front teeth) from overgrowing. But, as long as rabbits are eating a lot of hay every day, their teeth will remain healthy, so don’t worry if your rabbit refuses to play with wooden chew toys.
However, if your rabbit is refusing to play with anything, then you’ll need to use other methods to keep them occupied. Whether it be extra socialization, more chances to explore, or making feeding time into a game, you can help your rabbit stay mentally healthy even if they refuse to play with any kind of toy.
Finding toys your rabbit will like
The first step to take is to try and introduce a variety of different toys to your rabbit to find the ones that they might like to play with. Just because your rabbit didn’t like the ones you bought at the pet store doesn’t mean there are no other options. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of giving your rabbit enough variety until they find toys that they do like to play with.
Satisfy your rabbit’s instinctual behaviors with their toys
When looking for toys for your rabbit, you want to think about what kinds of toys will satisfy their natural behaviors. This way, your rabbit will have the chance to act like a rabbit and hopefully will not resort to chewing on everything and becoming destructive around your home. Instinctual behaviors to think about include:
- Foraging. Rabbits will naturally sniff around to forage for food. Find toys that can use this instinct, such as puzzle toys, where you hide treats for your rabbit to find.
- Digging. Rabbits are burrowers in the wild, which means they have natural digging instincts. Mats, boxes, and materials that your rabbit can dig can help to satisfy your rabbit’s need to dig.
- Chewing. Rabbits explore everything with their mouths and will naturally try to chew on just about anything. Give them a variety of flavors and textures to chew on, including wooden and other natural toys, such as hay-based toys and loofahs.
- Exploring. Rabbits are curious creatures who like to explore the world around them. Give them ways to explore more with hiding houses, tunnels, and platforms (such as small cat towers).
Provide a wide variety of toys
The best thing you can do, especially when you first get a rabbit, is to get a whole lot of toys for your rabbit. Offer them to your rabbit by spreading them around the room and seeing if your rabbit chooses to play with any of them. Once your rabbit picks out something the play with, you will know the type of toy to get them in the future.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Chew sticks. You can get apple sticks or willow sticks as chew toys at most pet stores. There are also plenty of wood types you can get from your backyard that are safe for rabbits. Just be sure that no dangerous chemicals or pesticides have been used.
- Hay-based toys. Woven or braided hay-based toys are excellent for rabbit teeth, and they are also super healthy for rabbits.
- Natural toys. Natural toys such as pinecones and loofahs can be fun chew toys for rabbits. Be sure to wash anything you bring in from outside and give the pinecones a few weeks to dry out before giving them to your rabbit.
- Hanging toys. Many rabbits love to tug on hanging toys, especially if there is some kind of treat on them. You can easily make your own hanging toy with toilet paper tubes, or purchase some from pet stores. My rabbits really like this toy from Small Pet Select.
- Ball toys. Wicker balls, hay balls, and plastic balls can all be a lot of fun for rabbits. They’ll roll them around, toss them and chew on them to have a good time.
- Plastic tossing toys. Hard plastics can be fun toys for rabbits to toss around. Baby toys, such as stacking cups and plastic rings, can actually be good options. You can also give your rabbit bottle caps to toss around.
- Grass mats. Woven grass mats are a great digging toy for rabbits. They’ll chew and dig into the mat until it’s completely destroyed.
- Puzzle toys. Any toy where you hide a treat inside for your rabbit to find is great for their foraging mind. My rabbit’s preferred puzzle toy is actually a cat toy. It’s a food dispenser that you have to roll around to get the food and treats out of.
- Cotton or fleece material. Cotton and fleece material is safe for rabbits if they ingest a little. Old towels, T-shirts, or blankets can be good toys. Mostly this type of toy will be a digging toy for rabbits. They will shove it around or try to tunnel underneath it.
- Untreated wood toys. Wood toys are great for keeping rabbit teeth trimmed down. Just be sure the wood is untreated so you don’t risk your rabbit ingesting any dangerous chemicals.
My favorite place to get rabbit toys is an online shop called Small Pet Select. They have a variety of hay-based and natural toys (such as sticks, twig balls, and pinecones) that are highly enticing to my rabbits. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend buying one of everything and seeing if your rabbit will play with it (my rabbits love the hay toys!). You can always donate the toys your rabbit doesn’t like to an animal shelter. (You can get 15% off your first order by using the code BUNNYLADY at checkout)
Don’t overlook the cheap toys
Sometimes the toys that rabbits have the most fun with are not bought at a pet store. Cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, and shredded paper are all excellent toys for rabbits. They are also some of my go-to toys for rabbits who don’t like to play with anything else.
Cardboard boxes can either be flattened, set up as a hiding house, or turned into a digging box for your rabbit to have fun with. Newspaper or shredded paper can be a lot of fun for rabbits to chew on or dig into, and toilet paper tubes can be made into any number of DIY toys (try some of these easy-to-make toys)
Rotate your rabbit’s toys often
The other problem is that rabbits can easily become bored of the same old toys all the time. You can keep them interested in toys they love by rotating which toys your rabbit has available to play with. You can do this in two ways:
- Keep some of your rabbit’s toys hidden away in a toy box. Then every few weeks take some of those out and take some of the current toys away.
- Change where the toys are in the room. Sometimes an old toy in a new location can seem just like new for a rabbit. So switch which toys they have available in their enclosure, and simply move their toys from one end of the room to the other.
Finding alternatives to keep your rabbit happy
With most rabbits, you’ll eventually find toys that they’ll like to play with. However, sometimes your rabbit really doesn’t like to play with any of the toys you give them. They still need mental stimulation to prevent boredom. In these cases, we’ll need to get a little more creative in order to keep our curious rabbits happy.
1. Playing with your rabbit
One way to keep your rabbit happy and curious is to play with them. Sometimes rabbits won’t play with toys on their own, but if you play with them, then your rabbit will be interested. There are many ways you can play with your rabbit. If you need some help figuring out what to do, I recommend checking out my article on rabbit playtime.
Some ideas to get you started include:
- Reverse fetch. Place a toy in front of your rabbit (such as a toilet paper tube) and let your rabbit toss it away. Then pick it up and put it in front of your rabbit for them to toss away again.
- Tug-o-war. Bother your rabbit a little with a piece of cardboard so that they chew on one end. Then play a gentle tug-o-war with your rabbit while they try to pull the cardboard and toss it away.
- Blanket escape. Put a blanket over top of your rabbit and watch them try to escape from underneath. Once they get out, lift up the end of the blanket to see if they want to go back under.
- Hidden treats. Place a treat in one fist and hold both ends out to your rabbit. When they tap on one hand, open your fist. If your rabbit guessed correctly, they get the treat, if not they have to guess again.
2. Provide hay for your rabbit
Not only is hay the best way to prevent overgrown rabbit teeth, but it can also be a boredom buster for them too. Nibbling on pieces of hay is something that rabbits will do to occupy themselves at any time of day. The best part is, this behavior is extremely healthy for rabbits. Hay is essential for keeping a rabbit’s digestion healthy, and they can never eat too much, so it’s good to encourage this behavior.
Try giving your rabbit plenty of fresh hay and placing it in hay racks around the room. This will get your rabbit exploring and moving around while they munch on their healthy hay. You can also offer different types of hay, such as orchard or oat hay (avoid alfalfa hay except as an occasional treat). This will give your rabbit more variety in the flavors and make it more fun to keep munching.
I always get my hay from Small Pet Select because it’s fresh and they have many different varieties to choose from. For starters, I recommend their second cutting timothy hay, but they also have a sampler hay box you can get to see what other types of hay your rabbit likes. (and don’t forget to use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout for 15% off your first order)
3. Let your rabbit play with their food
You can let your rabbit use their natural foraging instincts with their regular food, it doesn’t have to be reserved for toys and playtime. Some ideas for getting your rabbit more active and curious during feeding times include:
- Spread out the pellets. Instead of giving your rabbit their daily pellets in a bowl, sprinkle them around the ground for your rabbit to hop around and eat up. You could also use a treat ball (such as this cat food dispenser) that your rabbit can roll around to get the pellets out of.
- Add dried herbs to the hay pile. To make foraging through hay a little more fun, you can add some dried herbs to your rabbit’s hay pile. As your rabbit is eating the hay, they’ll be able to sniff around and come across those flavorful herbs every once in a while. Dried herbs are another product that I get from Small Pet Select, my rabbits like the Zen tranquility blend best.
- Make the greens more difficult to get. When it comes time for daily leafy greens, you can hide them or hand them from the top of the rabbit enclosure. Make it so your rabbit has to reach, pull, or search around for the greens so they can have a little more fun and mental stimulation during the process of eating.
4. Create a routine playtime for your rabbit
In addition to simply playing with your rabbit, it can be a great idea to make playtime part of a routine. For example, start playing with your rabbit at the same time every evening. Your rabbit will catch onto the routine fairly quickly and start to get excited for the socialization they’ll get during playtime.
During this time, you can even add in some training exercises to teach your rabbit how to do some fun tricks. Rabbits are pretty intelligent and can learn how to recognize their name, give you high fives, hop into your lap, and so much more. Learn more about how to train your rabbit to do some cool tricks.
5. Give your rabbit places to explore
Another way to keep your curious bunny happy is to make sure they have plenty of time and space to explore. Rabbits love to check out the room from underneath furniture or even hopping up on things, like a chair or sofa. Make as much of your home rabbit-friendly as possible, so that your bunny has plenty of space to race around and explore.
A great way to get a rabbit curious about their environment again is to occasionally rearrange the room. It doesn’t have to be a major change to the layout of the room. Just moving a couple of pieces of furniture can be a big change to a small rabbit. They will excitedly explore the new shapes and crevices made by the newly rearranged room.
6. Give your rabbit a lot of attention
Rabbits are social animals. Once they learn to trust people, they love to hang out with us. They’ll be happy to sit and watch TV with you, and absolutely love it when you can give them a massage and pet them all day long. Giving your rabbit a lot of attention on a daily basis lets them know how much you love them. It can also keep them mentally healthy by preventing depression.
If you are unable to give your rabbit a lot of attention. You may want to consider getting a second rabbit to keep them company. This way the two rabbits will be able to help each other stay healthy by providing a constant companion.
However, rabbits can be very territorial so you should not get a second rabbit and immediately place them in the first rabbit’s territory. It will take time to bond the two bunnies before they can live together, so I recommend checking out my full bonding guide if you are ready to bring home a companion rabbit.
Is your rabbit depressed, stressed or sick?
Sometimes a rabbit might be ignoring their toys because they are chronically depressed, stressed, or sick. It’s important to work with your rabbit and help treat their underlying condition if this is the case. Learn more about the symptoms of depression, or the subtle signs of illness in rabbits to know if the cause is something more serious.
Keep these points in mind when deciding if your rabbit is simply uninterested in toys, or has a more chronic health problem:
- Sudden disinterest in toys. If your rabbit used to be interested in playing with toys, but always ignores them now, you might want to check for other signs of depression or illness.
- Lack of appetite. A lack of appetite is one of the first signs of any kind of illness in rabbits. Always get them checked out by a rabbit veterinarian to be sure they are not sick. If your rabbit isn’t eating at all, this is an emergency situation and requires immediate attention.
- Lack of energy. If your rabbit never has the energy to explore around the home and tends to just sit in one place, this can be a symptom of something more serious. Remember, it’s normal for rabbits to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, but they will typically be pretty active in the morning and the evening around dawn and dusk.
Playfulness and age. Rabbits will naturally become less playful and energetic with age. So don’t worry if a middle-aged or elderly rabbit is playing with their toys less.