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Rabbit behaviour

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010


Ensure your rabbit is able to behave normally


Rabbits need:

  • Access to all the things they require (e.g. space, food, water, safe hiding places, companion rabbits, toilet areas and toys) at all times.
  • Safe toys to play with/chew and regular opportunities to play with other friendly rabbits and/or people. 
    - Rabbits are highly social, playful and inquisitive and need to interact and play with other friendly rabbits. 
    - Many enjoy interacting with people.
Rabbits with enrichment toys © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary
  • Constant access to safe hiding places so they can escape if they feel afraid. Rabbits must be able to hide from things that scare them.
    - As they are prey species, they need to be able to hide somewhere secure, away from the sight and smell of predators (e.g. foxes/cats/dogs/ferrets/birds of prey).
  • Opportunities to exercise daily to stay fit and healthy. 
    - Rabbits are active animals needing regular, frequent exercise ideally with access to a large area during their most active periods (early morning, late afternoon and overnight) when they like to graze, forage and be sociable.
  • Constant access to good quality hay; it’s important for emotional wellbeing as well as dental and digestive health.
  • Suitable materials that allow digging (e.g. sand box), and areas to mark territory with chin secretions, urine and droppings.
    - Scents are important communication methods for rabbits.
  • Rabbit with hiding places © Andrew Forsyth / RSPCA Photolibrary
    You to be observant. If your rabbit’s behaviour changes or shows signs of stress/fear, seek advice from a vet or qualified animal behaviourist - they could be distressed, bored, ill or injured.
    - Rabbit’s behaviour depends on age/personality/past experiences.
    - Rabbits that are frightened/in pain may change their behaviour/develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression/hiding. 
    - Signs a rabbit may be suffering from stress/fear can include hiding/chewing cage bars/over-grooming/altered feeding or toileting habits/over-drinking/playing with the water bottle/sitting hunched/reluctance to move/repeatedly circling the enclosure.
  • Kindness! Never shout at or punish rabbits, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous/scared. If your rabbit's behaviour becomes an ongoing problem, seek expert advice.
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