Rabbits are known for being very fast. They happily zoom around the room giving off bursts of energy and speed. Rabbits were built to run, so of course it’s important to make sure your pet bunny gets enough exercise.
However, some rabbits can get pretty lazy and not want to exercise as much as they should. Rabbits that aren’t used to having enough space or entertainment can often fall into this sedentary lifestyle.
For example, if you adopted a rabbit who used to be kept in a small cage, they won’t know what to do with all the new space. Rabbit’s that are obese or depressed will also need some encouragement to go and get some exercise every day.
Luckily there are a number of things we can do to encourage this healthy behavior in our rabbits. We can provide a fun rabbit environment, filled with many objects and activities that make a curious bunny get up and explore a little.
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Why is exercise important for rabbits?
A rabbit with no place to run and exercise faces many of the same risks as humans. They can become obese and have complications with their digestion, their heart, their breathing, and they can even develop painful arthritis or sores on the bottom of their feet. Rabbits need time and space to wander around and be curious little bunnies so that they can be healthy.
Rabbit’s who don’t get enough exercise can also become bored and depressed. Bored rabbits are more likely to be destructive. When they finally are let out, they’ll be more likely to dig into carpets and chew on things they shouldn’t.
Rabbits who are depressed can become irritable and angry. They’ll be more likely to lash out and bite, or they’ll be more prone to sitting around all day long, lacking all of the happy energy that healthy bunnies express. As loving bunny caretakers, we want to make sure we make our rabbits happy and healthy with plenty of time to exercise.
How much exercise do rabbits need every day?
Rabbits need as much time to exercise as you can give them. They are not endurance animals, and are not able to sustain continued exercise for long periods of time. Instead, rabbits express short spurts of exercise between long periods of rest. We need to work with our rabbits’ natural behaviors to help make sure they have enough time to exercise every day.
This means you need to give your rabbit to spend out of their enclosure in a larger exercise area for at least 3-4 hours a day (but longer is better).
If you only allow your rabbit out of their enclosure for an hour, then they will likely be resting for a good portion of the time. They’ll probably only end up getting 10-20 minutes of actual activity in. By giving your rabbit longer stretches of time, they will get more exercise between the periods of rest.
15 Ways to exercise your rabbit
Some rabbits are used to sitting still for most of the day. They need to be encouraged to change their behavior and get more exercise. Likely their sedentary behavior won’t change completely overnight. Over time the encouragement that you give them will help your rabbit increase their activity levels and be a health bunny.
These are some tips that you can use to help your rabbit get the exercise they need for a healthy lifestyle. Pick and choose the ideas that will work best for your rabbit and your living situation.
1. Time and space for exercise
The first thing you want to do is make sure that your rabbit has enough time and space to exercise. The exercise area that you give your rabbit should be at least 24 square feet. If you have a large rabbit, then they will need even more space to run around and get active.
The easiest way to give your rabbit enough exercise space is to allow them access to a room (or multiple rooms) in your home. You will need to rabbit-proof the rooms so that your rabbit can’t get into trouble. This will allow your rabbit plenty of space to explore and zoom around.
You could also set up a large rabbit exercise pen if you haven’t rabbit-proofed the rooms. However this actually takes more work to set up and limits the amount of interaction your rabbit will have with you while also limiting the amount of space. It’s much better to find ways to allow your rabbit to roam around the home with you.
To give your rabbit enough time to get their exercise, my advice is to let your rabbit out of their enclosure whenever you are home and awake. You can give them time to roam around while you get ready in the morning. Then let them out again after you get home in the evening.
If you are lucky enough to be home during the day, then you can allow your rabbit to roam the house and be your companion all day long! This will also help to make your rabbit a part of the family. They will be able to spend time with you the same way that a companion cat or dog would be able to.
2. Toys for rabbits
Giving your rabbit a variety of different toys can encourage them to be more active also. Try to give them as many different types of toys to choose from as you can, so they can pick their favorites. You can give your rabbit natural chew toys that are made of hay, pinecones, or bunny-safe twigs and branches.
You can purchase these toys online, or even create some of them from scratch or find them out in the yard. Make sure that anything you bring in from outside gets washed and dried thoroughly though. You don’t know what kind of pesticides or wild animal urine could be hiding on your average pinecone.
I like to get my rabbit’s toys from an online store called Small Pet Select. They have a variety bundle you can use to get a number of different kinds of toys, to figure out what your rabbit likes best. (You can get 15% off your first purchase by using the code BUNNYLADY)
There are also a variety of wooden chew toys that you can give your rabbit to toss around and wear down their teeth. You’ll be able to find a number of options for your rabbit at just about any pet store. Just make sure to use toys that are unpainted, or use vegetable-dye as coloring. You can also give them hanging toys to pull on or DIY cardboard toys to toss around. There are also puzzle toys that you can use to hide treats for your rabbit to find.
3. Leash walks
Believe it or not, rabbits can be trained to wear a harness and walk on a leash. While I wouldn’t advise leash walking for a city rabbit, it can be a good option for exercise if you live in a calm and quiet neighborhood. You can take a walk around the block and let your rabbit have some fun. They can explore the grass and take in all the new sights and scents.
Before you take your rabbit out for a walk on a harness, you’ll want to practice walking around inside. This will help you make sure the rabbit can’t wiggle out of the harness. You’ll also want to practice walking around to make sure your rabbit won’t get hurt trying to dash away from you while they are on the leash.
While you are outside, make sure you only allow your rabbit to eat grass or other plants from lawns that you know have not been treated with anything poisonous to rabbits. Many fertilizers and pesticides that are used for keeping lawns looking nice are dangerous for rabbits. If you’re unsure, then just make sure you stay on your own lawn. You’ll also want to take a look at the plants that grow in your area so that you know which ones are poisonous to rabbits.
4. Bunny platforms
Rabbits really like to see a room from multiple levels. If they can, they’ll hop up onto platforms and couches or run underneath furniture to get a different vantage point. Give your rabbit options so they will be more likely to exercise by hopping up and down while they explore.
To give your rabbit some ways to have fun around the house, try to make some simple obstacle courses for them. You can use your furniture to create places for your rabbit to hop up onto, and places for them to run under and around.
I even got my rabbit a small cat tower to use as platforms to get from one place to another. Since rabbits aren’t quite as agile as cats, I would get a little worried with high cat towers, but many of the smaller towers are great for rabbit exercise. This is the one I got, and my rabbit loves it!
You can also use cardboard boxes to make a DIY bunny castle. They can have a little door cut out on the side to go inside. You can also include multiple levels of boxes so your rabbit can hop up on top of them.
5. A large outdoor rabbit run
If you have a yard, you can set up a penned-in area to let your rabbit roam around outside for some exercise. This can be a way to give your rabbits some freedom and allow them to frolic around outside. They’ll be really excited for all of the fresh scents that can come with outdoor space, making them more likely to zoom around and get their exercise.
Just like if you bring your rabbit for a walk, you want to make sure the rabbit run is free of anything that would be dangerous to a rabbit. This includes fertilizers, pesticides, and plants that are poisonous for rabbits.
You also want to make sure that the rabbit run you construct is sturdy and predator proof. Consider making a cover over top of the run, to avoid the chance of a large bird diving for your rabbit. Rabbits who are outdoors always have the possibility of being confronted by dogs, foxes, raccoons, cats, hawks, or other natural predators. You’ll want to make sure you supervise your rabbit closely when they are outside. This will keep them safe and also avoid the chance of them escaping and getting lost.
6. Train your rabbit
Training your rabbit can be a great way to bond with them as well as encourage them to get more exercise. You can train your rabbit to do anything from spin in a circle to jump over fences in a rabbit agility course. It can be a lot of fun for your rabbit too! As you teach them how to use their brain to do tricks for yummy treats.
For more exercise, pick tricks that will require your rabbit to be more active. Luring them in a circle can be a great first trick to teach your rabbit. It’s pretty easy for most rabbits to learn, and it gets them moving. After your rabbit starts to get the hang of it, you can teach them to spin multiple times in a row, or even see if you can get them to run in a figure eight. Have fun with it and see what you and your rabbit can figure out together.
7. Have an extra large enclosure
It’s also important to take the size of their enclosure into account. You want your rabbit to be able to move around and get a little bit of exercise even while you are not home and able to watch over them. This means we need to make sure our rabbits’ enclosures are adequately sized so they can still have fun during the day.
A rabbit’s enclosure should be at least 3-4 times the length of the rabbit. The actual size of the enclosure will vary a little bit depending on the size of your rabbit. On average you’ll want an enclosure that is at least 4ft by 3ft. You also want your rabbit to be able to stand all the way up on their hind legs without bumping into the top.
Unfortunately, most cages that are marketed for rabbits are actually much too small. I always recommend getting a rabbit ex-pen to use as their enclosure. You can use an area rug for flooring underneath if it’s on a slippery floor.
This will give your rabbit a lot more space to move around during the day. With this large amount of space, your rabbit will be able to play with their toys and be a lot more active than they would if they were kept in a tiny cage.
8. Free roam your rabbit
If you take the time to thoroughly rabbit-proof your house, you can free range your rabbit. A free range (or free roam) rabbit is when your pet is allowed to constantly roam the house at will. This means that the rabbit is never kept in an enclosure, having access to the house similar to the way companion cats and dogs do.
A free roam rabbit is never limited by time in their ability to exercise. They can rest and exercise as frequently as they want to throughout the day, even when you are not home or awake to supervise.
The difficult part about free roaming a rabbit is setting up your home. You need to make sure that your rabbit can’t get into anything dangerous while you’re not watching. This means covering up all wires, and getting dangerous houseplants out of reach. It also means you’ll need to find ways to keep your rabbit from chewing on furniture, digging into carpets, or otherwise destroying your house while you’re away.
9. Let your rabbit exercise in the morning and evening
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are most active in the hours around dawn and dusk. They’ll be more likely to race around and get a lot of exercise if they have time out of their enclosure in the morning and in the evening. Whereas in the afternoon, rabbits will be more likely to be napping the day away.
If you want to encourage your rabbit to get more exercise, you can try to make sure they get time out of their enclosure during the hours that they are naturally more active. So if your schedule makes it possible, give your rabbit time to exercise while you are getting ready in the morning and then once you’ve come home in the evening.
10. Interact with your rabbit
Rabbits are social creatures and enjoy interacting with other people. In fact, rabbits who don’t get enough attention are more likely to become depressed. Without regular interaction rabbits will be more likely to just sit around all day and lose interest in the world around them. Interacting with your rabbit helps them to stay mentally healthy. This ends up allowing your rabbit to remain physically active and healthy as well.
To interact with your rabbit, you’ll want to spend time with them on their level so that you are less threatening to your rabbit. Try to spend some time every day sitting on the floor where your rabbit can come up to you if they want to. You can sit and read, or even just scroll through your phone. Your goal is to give your rabbit the option to come up to you and interact if they want to.
11. Foraging activities
Giving your rabbit some ways to forage for food and treats can help get them moving more. This forces your rabbit to get some exercise while they are eating instead of just sitting in one place. You’re also giving your rabbit a way to use their natural foraging behavior, which is a great mental enrichment activity.
This could mean creating a foraging box where you hide treats for your rabbit to find. You could also give your rabbit puzzle toys that force them to move around to get the treats out. I use a treat dispenser ball for my rabbit’s daily pellets. This way instead of just eating out of a bowl, she has to roll the ball around to get the pellets to fall out. You could also sprinkle your rabbits daily pellets on the floor instead of using a bowl.
12. Create a digging box
Digging boxes are a great way to encourage your rabbit to use their natural digging behavior in a productive way, instead of destroying the carpets in your home. You can make a digging box with any plain cardboard box that’s big enough for your rabbit to sit in. Just place it in a corner where your rabbit normally likes to dig, hide some treats in the box, and allow your rabbit to dig into it.
You can also create larger digging areas for your rabbit. Place flattened cardboard boxes on the ground for your rabbit to dig into. You can also include some plain packing paper for your rabbit to toss around and play with while they dig into the cardboard on the ground. Just make sure the replace the cardboard every once in a while so your rabbit never digs all the way through it.
13. Rearrange the room
If everything looks the same all the time, rabbits can grow bored with the landscape. If your rabbit seems to be a little less active than usual, try rearranging the furniture in the room. This will immediately make your rabbit more interested in these objects that seemed commonplace to them before.
Even just moving one piece of furniture around can be enough to excite your rabbit. They’ll go over and investigate the change with their curious bunny behavior. Adding a new piece of furniture can have the same effect, as your rabbit goes to explore everything new in their home.
14. Rotate your rabbit’s toys
Try to rotate out the toys every once in a while. This way your rabbit won’t be bored from having all of the same toys all the time. If your rabbit always has access to the same toys, they’ll eventually start to ignore them until they have new, shiny toys to play with. To keep your rabbit interested, it’s best to rotate the toys in and out so your rabbit continues to be curious about them and have fun playing.
This could also mean rotating which toys are in their enclosure and which toys they only have access to when they are out exercising. Any change in where the toys are located can also cause a rabbit to renew interest in the toy and play with it more.
15. Give your rabbit hiding places and tunnels
Rabbits love to have places to hide. This includes little houses that rabbits can huddle inside of, and it includes tunnels that rabbits can use to race through. You can place them inside your rabbit’s enclosure and in their exercise area. These hiding places can be anything from a small wooden hutch to a cardboard box, they don’t have to be an expensive addition to the rabbit’s area.
Having a place to hide can help rabbits feel more comfortable and safe. A rabbit who feels that they have someplace to run and hide when they get scared will be more likely to explore more. Since they can simply dash back to their safe spot at any sign of danger.
Tunnels can also be great places to include as digging spots for rabbits. Tunnels made out of cardboard boxes can be really fun places for rabbits to dig into as they try to burrow into the side of the tunnel.
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