How can I enrich my rabbits' environment?
Creating an enriched environment for your rabbits can help them be happy and healthy. When introducing new items into a rabbit's environment, ensure that all materials are non-toxic with smooth, rounded edges. Regularly inspect items to ensure that they are safe and keep a close eye on your pets when you first introduce the items to see how they interact. Don't overfill your rabbits' space and allow room for your rabbit to move away and hide from any novel items or social contact. We also advise that you provide enough items for each rabbit within an environment.
To ensure rabbits get the most from enrichment, follow these guidelines:
- Ensure all materials are non-toxic with smooth, rounded edges.
- Regularly inspect items for damage/potential injury points.
- Repair/discard/replace any items that become damaged/dangerous.
- Keep a close eye on your rabbits when first giving them new items in case they make them stressed/frightened. If they appear stressed/frightened, remove the item and monitor their behaviour. If concerned about their welfare consult your vet.
- Ensure rabbits always have the opportunity to move away and hide from novel items and social contact (with other friendly rabbits/people).
- If you have multiple rabbits, ensure there are enough items for each rabbit; avoiding competition, or monopolising, favourite items.
- It's best to regularly rotate toys and objects to maintain interest and prevent boredom.
- It's important that rabbits have a predictable routine - if they get used to receiving a certain toy/item at a specific time each day, maintain this routine to avoid distressing them.
- Don't fill enclosures with so many items they can no longer exercise easily. Rabbits need to run, jump, stand fully upright on their back legs and take a sequence of continuous hops.
- Fabrics e.g. towels/blankets/'vetbeds'/rugs/carpet could cause your rabbits harm if ingested. Only provide such materials if you're sure they won't chew and ingest them, or only when you can supervise your rabbits
Ensuring enrichment is beneficial
It's also important to monitor rabbits' use of the enrichment, to check it's benefiting them and improving their welfare. Ask yourself:
- Do they use the enrichment item?
- Which types of enrichment do they prefer?
- How does the enrichment affect their behaviour (e.g. increased range and/or frequency of normal behaviour such as play/foraging)?
- How does the enrichment affect their physical health (e.g. improved weight/fitness)?
- Is my rabbit using their environment more positively (i.e. using all space available, using additional space/height provided)?
Once you've answered these questions, you can tailor enrichment to ensure it meets their individual needs.