The holidays are great times for getting together with family and celebrating the year. But that doesn’t mean your rabbit will enjoy the bustling get together as much as you do. The loud noises and unfamiliar people at gatherings can end up scaring a little rabbit who’s used to a quiet household.
To keep your rabbit from feeling overwhelmed during the holidays, keep them on a daily routine in a quiet and uncrowded area. You also need to rabbit proof any poisonous or unsafe holiday decorations. Above all, you’ll want to make sure to spread some love to your rabbit during this time by giving them attention so they don’t get lonely.
Whether you are staying home or going away, there is a lot you can do to keep your rabbit safe and happy during this holiday season. Use these tips to help you prevent any catastrophic events and keep your bond with your companion rabbit strong.
1. Keep from overcrowding your rabbit
If you are having any large gatherings at your home this holiday season, it’s important to make sure you take your rabbit’s environment into consideration. While there are certainly some rabbits who are very confident and willing to spend time in a crowd, most rabbits get scared when there are too many people around.
To keep your rabbit from being overwhelmed by the number of guests in the house you’ll want to section off a room for your rabbit. This may mean that you have to temporarily move your rabbit’s enclosure to a separate room in the house that’s a little more out of the way. It’s also probably a good idea to keep a free roam rabbit in just one room of the house for the night to avoid any accidents.
You should also seriously consider whether you will allow any guests to see the rabbit while they are there. You may have an animal lover guest who insists on meeting the rabbit, but if you decide ahead of time that no one will be allowed in the rabbit room, then it will be easier to stick to your rule (unless you feel fully comfortable with the exception).
If you do allow anyone to come and spend time with the rabbit, make sure it’s only a few people at a time. This will allow the rabbit to get used to a couple new people without getting overwhelmed.
2. Keep loud noises away from the rabbit
Holidays are full of excited chatter with catchy songs, clattering dishes, and even loud holiday noisemakers. This is a whole lot of new and unusual sounds for a rabbit to hear, and many of them can be pretty scary for rabbits.
As much as possible, try to be considerate of your rabbit’s sensitive hearing. Keep the volume of music to a low and give your rabbit a quiet room to retreat from all the noise. This is another reason to give your rabbit a separate, quiet room during large gatherings. Make sure to keep the door of the rabbit room shut to mute the noises a little.
You can also consider banning any loud noisemakers from your house during a New Year’s party. While there is little you can do about fireworks outside, you can at least ask that your guests respect your little bunny companion.
3. Make sure you socialize your rabbit
As hectic as the holiday season can be, it’s important to make sure you make time for your rabbit. Rabbits are social creatures who get depressed if they don’t have enough interaction with others. With everything there is to do around the holidays, from family visits, to office parties, and last minute shopping, sometimes our pets end up getting a little less of our attention than they should.
For rabbits who live with a bonded partner, there is little need to worry, since the two rabbits will be able to socialize with each other. However, if you have a single rabbit you’ll want to make sure you continue to give them the attention that they need even with all the chaos of holiday parties and planning.
If you’ll be going away for an extended weekend or for a longer holiday, you’ll want to make sure you get someone to come in and care for your rabbit. That should include finding someone to spend time to socialize with the rabbit and care for their emotional needs.
4. Travel in short spurts
If you are traveling with your rabbit, maybe to spend the week with relatives, you’ll want to keep them comfortable during the trip. The vibration and movement of cars is incredibly uncomfortable and stressful for rabbits. We want to do what we can to keep our rabbits from being overwhelmed during a long car trip.
Short car rides are nothing to worry about, but if you have to travel in the car for more than a couple hours, you’ll want to make sure to take the trip in short spurts. Plan your travel so that you can take short breaks along the way, every hour and a half or so, to turn the car off and give your rabbit a little time to decompress. You could also use these opportunities to offer your rabbit some fresh leafy greens and encourage them to eat.
To learn more about traveling with a rabbit, check out my article going over vacation and travel options.
5. Avoid poisonous holiday plants
While most plants are not going to cause significant damage to rabbits, there are still some that it’s best to avoid. Common holiday plants that you should keep out of your rabbit’s reach include:
- Christmas azaleas
- Winter cherry
- Holly (mildly toxic, unlikely to cause major problems)
- Poinsettia (mildly toxic, unlikely to cause major problems)
Small amounts of any of these plants are unlikely to cause major health problems. You’ll want to keep an eye on your rabbit, since they might have minor gastrointestinal issues. However if your rabbit manages to eat a significant amount of your houseplant (especially the winter cherry or mistletoe), then you’ll want to give your vet a call to ask for advice and make an emergency appointment.
If you want to have any of these plants around, be sure that they are completely out of your rabbit’s reach. Keep them in rooms that your rabbit cannot access, or up on surfaces your rabbit can’t reach.
6. Rabbit proof your decorations
Rabbits have a tendency to get into everything! They’ll dig and chew on any wrapped gifts you have around and have a blast destroying all your carefully placed holiday decorations. To prevent this destruction and any potentially harmful side effects to your rabbit, you’ll want to make sure you rabbit proof your holiday decorations.
Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure you keep any wires from decorations, such as tree lights, out of your rabbit’s reach. Likewise, you’ll want to be extra careful about decorations that use candles, especially when they are lit (but it’s also not a great idea to let rabbits chew on unlit candles).
Any kind of cookies, or candies that are set out should also be kept out of a rabbit’s reach. Other types of decorations might not pose as much of a hazard to a rabbit’s health, but it can still be a pain if your rabbit chews on them or knocks them over and breaks them. Take care to keep everything you don’t want your rabbit to destroy out of their reach.
7. Make sure your tree is safe to chew
If your rabbit is going to be allowed anywhere near a Christmas tree, you’ll want to make sure you get one that is safe for your rabbit to chew on. Most types of Christmas trees are fir or spruce trees, which are safe for rabbits. However you want to avoid any pine Christmas trees when you are shopping for a tree, since these are mildly poisonous to rabbits.
You’ll also want to ask to be sure the tree you get hasn’t been treated with dangerous pesticides or chemicals (such as fire-resistant chemicals), and hasn’t been painted at all in areas your rabbit would chew.
If you’re not sure if the usual place you get a tree would be safe for your rabbit, consider getting a plastic tree to reuse every year. This can save you money in the long run because you won’t have to purchase another tree every year. It would also reduce the number of trees that need to get cut down every year, making it a better choice for the environment.
8. Teach guests how to interact with rabbits
If you have guests that want to spend time with the bunny, and your rabbit is comfortable with that, then it’s a good idea to demonstrate how your rabbit likes to be petted and played with. You can also teach your guests how to understand your rabbit’s body language so they will leave the rabbit alone when the rabbit doesn’t want any attention.
This is especially important if there are going to be any children interacting with the rabbit. Young children may try to pick up and squeeze the rabbit, or grab onto their long ears and big feet. This could end up causing injury to both the rabbit and the child, so it’s important to supervise these interactions very closely.
And remember, you don’t have to let anyone into the rabbit room. Make sure you take your rabbit’s feelings into consideration first. If they are typically shy around new people, then it may be better to simply let your guests know the rabbit room is off limits.
9. Give your rabbit holiday treats (but don’t overdo it)
There are many holiday fruits and vegetables that make great treats for rabbits. Cranberry and pumpkin are two great examples of this. If you have some fresh cranberries available for making your holiday cranberry sauce, you can give a couple to your rabbit as a yummy treat. Rabbits also love dried cranberries, but be sure there is no added sugar when you purchase a bag of them.
Rabbits can also have little pieces of fresh (not cooked) pumpkin. If you have some scraps leftover after making a yummy pumpkin pie, you can offer them to your rabbit to see if they’ll like them. Rabbits can eat the fruit, the seeds and the rind of pumpkins, but of course only in moderation.
Treats should only be given to rabbits in small amounts (about 1tsp per pound your rabbit weighs), so you don’t want to give your rabbit too many of these yummy holiday treats.
10. Give your rabbit fun toys and gifts
Don’t forget to give your rabbit gifts for the holidays too! What better excuse is there to give your rabbit some new toys to have fun with. There are so many possibilities, from getting your rabbit a cat tower for hopping up and down, to getting them treat balls and mobile toys. Try looking here if you’re looking for more ideas for gifts to give your rabbit.
You could also try your hand at making some fun DIY toys for your rabbit. There is a lot you can make using cardboard boxes or little toilet paper tubes. Try making one of these 5 DIY toys, or check here if you’re looking for even more ideas.
11. Keep your rabbit on a routine
To keep your rabbit happy during a hectic holiday season, it’s important to keep them on a consistent daily routine. Rabbits will feel most comfortable and safe if they know what to expect on a day-to-day basis. This makes them feel like they have more control over their environment and will encourage them to be an overall more confident rabbit.
The main routine you’ll want to stick to is the feeding schedule. Try to make sure you feed your rabbit at approximately the same time every day. I have a routine where I feed my rabbit her hay and pellets in the morning, her leafy greens in the evening, and a treat right before bed.
It’s a good idea to also create a socialization and exercise routine. Try to spend time with your rabbit and give them time to exercise at around the same times every day.
You might give them an hour in the morning out of the enclosure and then a few more hours in the evening after you return from work. You can let your rabbit hang out with you while you watch TV, or sit on the floor with them to interact with them, making these great times for bonding with your rabbit.
- Brownie, Cecil F. DVM Ph.D. “Houseplants and Ornamentals.” Merck Veterinary Manual. June, 2016. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/poisonous-plants/houseplants-and-ornamentals.
- “Your Bunny and the Holiday.” House Rabbit Society. https://rabbit.org/care/holidays.html.