Why does my rabbit like to hide?
Rabbits are a prey species and therefore it is important to their welfare that they are able to hide should they feel threatened by potential prey species such as foxes and cats. Rabbits tend to hide if they are feeling afraid, unwell, stressed or wanting time away from social contact with other rabbits or humans. Providing your rabbits with constant access to suitable hiding places is very important to your rabbit’s’ health and happiness. The ability to escape and hide is an essential element in your rabbit’s’ environment and should be quiet and out of direct sunlight. Rabbits tend to hide if feeling afraid, stressed, unwell or wanting to withdraw from social contact (with rabbits and/or people).
Creating a rabbit-friendly hiding place
Providing constant access to hiding places within their home allows rabbits to escape and hide (natural behaviour), helping them feel safe and reassured. They should be provided in addition to rabbits' main shelter (e.g. hutch, cage, shed).
Position hiding places in areas free from the sights and smells of potential predators, e.g. foxes, cats, dogs, ferrets, birds of prey and/or people. Locate them away from draughts, out of direct sunlight and in a quiet area.
Hiding places should be high enough for rabbits to rapidly move underneath but low enough to give a feeling of security. If rabbits can jump onto them, they function as platforms.
To ensure hiding places are effective and feel safe, never trap or remove rabbits from them.
For multiple-housed rabbits:
- provide at least one hiding place per rabbit, with preferably an additional one, so all can hide simultaneously,
- ensure hiding places have two entrances/exits, preventing dominant rabbits becoming territorial or aggressive to subordinates inside,
- provide at least one hiding place large enough for all rabbits to rest together.
If you keep different sized rabbits together, ensure at least one hiding place has an entrance large enough for the smaller rabbit, but too small for the larger rabbit, to enter. This ensures smaller rabbits can escape from their larger companion.
If rabbits use hiding places regularly, hiding for lots of time, ask your vet for advice - they may be unwell, stressed and/or frightened. Your vet will rule out illness and injury that could cause the behaviour problem. They may refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist.
More information: guidance for using enrichment.