This section will explore why rabbits need an interesting environment and the consequences of living in a barren environment. You’ll find information on the different types of enrichment and guidance about how best to use enrichment and evaluate its benefits. You’ll also find lots of practical tips to help you enrich your rabbits' lives and help keep them happy and healthy!
What is enrichment?
Environmental enrichment involves improving the quality of the captive environment so that an animal is given a greater choice of activity and some control over his/her spatial and social environment. The aim of enrichment is to improve the physical and psychological wellbeing of animals. The term enrichment can apply to everything from social companionship with people or other rabbits, to the provision of toys.
Environmental enrichment should increase the frequency and diversity of positive natural behaviours, decrease the occurrence of abnormal behaviour, maximise the use of the environment and increase an animal’s ability to cope with the challenges of captivity.
Why is enrichment important for rabbits?
Rabbits are active, intelligent, social and inquisitive animals. If a rabbit is bored and doesn’t have enough to do, he/she may suffer. As domestic rabbits are often kept confined for much of the time, they need to be able to have some control over their environment and make choices about what they do.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, all pet owners now have a legal duty to meet their animal’s welfare needs, which includes their environmental and behavioural needs. Including enrichment within your rabbits' home and care plan can help to ensure you are meeting your rabbits' needs.
Whilst the size of a rabbit’s enclosure is very important, what is in their enclosure is also important. An interesting environment should provide both mental and physical stimulation and should provide opportunities for rabbits to perform normal behaviours such as exploring, hopping and foraging, as well as providing opportunities to play and interact with other friendly rabbits and people.
Read about The problem of a barren environment for rabbits (PDF 308KB).
Enrichment for rabbits
Any provisions should provide both mental and physical stimulation and should help your rabbits to have more control over their environment and make choices about what they do. Enrichment can include providing:
- A large enclosure with a big floor area and high ceiling that allows opportunities for normal behaviours such as running, jumping, hopping and rearing up on their hind legs. An example of improving welfare in relation to your rabbits' accommodation is to permanently attach your rabbits' shelter (e.g. hutch, cage, shed, playhouse) to their enclosure (e.g. exercise run or pen). This will provide your rabbits with greater space and choice about which section they spend time in and when, rather than only having intermittent access to the exercise area. Read our Rabbit Housing Advice (pdf 638kb).
- Hiding places and Platforms.
- Toys and objects to manipulate, investigate, encourage play and to allow digging and scent marking.
- Dietary enrichment – providing food in a way that encourages your rabbits to forage for and/or work for their food. Hay is probably the best form of dietary enrichment for rabbits – it is important for their emotional wellbeing as well as their dental and digestive health.
- Positive interactions with other friendly rabbits (see Company).
- Positive interactions with humans – this could include playing games, grooming your rabbit and training your rabbit using positive reward-based methods such as clicker training (see Company).
Click on the links above or on the left-hand side of the page for tips and ideas about each type of enrichment.
To ensure the enrichment you provide is benefiting your rabbits, please read and follow our guidance for using enrichment.