What environmental enrichment does my rabbit need?
Enrichment improves the quality of a rabbit's environment. Rabbits are active and intelligent animals and will suffer if bored. As domesticated rabbits are usually confined for most of the day, freedom and choice are important within their environment. Interesting environments that encourage physical and mental stimulation will create a happy home. Enrichment should encourage positive natural behaviours while decreasing abnormal behaviours, and maximise your pet's ability to cope with the challenges of captivity. The freedom to explore, exercise and forage as well as interact with other rabbits is vital to your pets' health and wellbeing.
In this section:
- why rabbits need interesting environments and the consequences of living in barren environments,
- information on enrichment and guidance about using enrichment and evaluating its benefits,
- practical tips to help enrich rabbits' lives, maintaining health and happiness!
What is enrichment?
- improves the quality of captive environments so animal's have greater choices of activity and some control over their spatial/social environment,
- aims to improve animals' physical and psychological wellbeing,
- can be social companionship with people/other rabbits or the provision of toys.
Enrichment should increase the frequency/diversity of positive natural behaviours, decrease occurrence of abnormal behaviour, maximise environmental usage and increase ability to cope with the challenges of captivity.
Why is enrichment important?
Rabbits are active, intelligent, social and inquisitive. Bored rabbits with not enough to do may suffer. As domestic rabbits are often confined for much of the time, they need to have some control over their environment and make choices about what they do.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, all pet owners have a legal duty to meet their their environmental and behavioural needs. Including enrichment within rabbit housing and care plans can help do this.
Whilst enclosure size is very important, what their enclosure contains is also important. Interesting environments provide both mental and physical stimulation and opportunities to perform normal behaviours, e.g. exploring/hopping/foraging, and as opportunities to play and interact with other friendly rabbits/people.
Enrichment for rabbits
Enrichment can include:
- A large enclosure with a big floor area and high ceiling allowing opportunities for normal behaviours, e.g. running/jumping/hopping/rearing up on hind legs.
- Permanently attach shelter (e.g. hutch/cage/shed/playhouse) to the enclosure (e.g. exercise run/pen). This provides greater space and choice about which section they spend time in and when, rather than having intermittent access to the exercise area.