Rabbit health and wellbeing

In the wild, rabbits spend hours grazing on open areas of grass and reaching up to forage along native hedgerows.

Rabbits naturally live underground, so they will also be busy digging and exploring suitable burrow options. Wild rabbits will always choose to be close to at least two to three boltholes they can escape to if they feel threatened.

When creating your rabbits’ environment, try to choose items that will encourage and support this natural behaviour. This will keep them active and mentally stimulate them so they remain healthy and happy.

Keep your rabbits happy and occupied

A suitable, neutered rabbit companion is very important. A lone rabbit or one with an unsuitable companion will often remain very nervous and reluctant to come out and explore. In some cases, a single rabbit may become aggressive towards you.

Rabbits feel safe when they have plenty of areas to run into or hide. Provide your rabbits with several shelters – plastic tables and chairs, card boxes, card or plastic tunnels and even plastic cat carriers lined with newspaper and hay. Fruit tree or willow logs make great look out towers. Rabbits love to jump on them and survey their territory.

Rabbits love litter trays

  • Dig trays are a rabbit’s favourite things. Fill large cat litter trays or large tray bases from indoor cages with play sand or organic soil – your rabbits will dig to their hearts’ content
  • Cat litter trays lined with newspaper and filled with hay are really important – have at least three of these in corners for them to use as a toilet. Rabbits like to nibble on hay whilst using their toilet, so clean them daily so they don’t eat dirty hay
  • For rabbits living indoors or on concrete, fill plant pots and large litter trays with safe plants and growing grass. Place these in their enclosure for them to nibble at their leisure

Food can be fun too

  • Hay kebabs and forage trees. Simply take two cardboard toilet rolls and stuff one end with their favourite hay, add some dried or fresh forage into the centre and enclose with more hay. Take a willow stick and pass through the middle of the rolls. Place several of these into an empty cardboard box to make a forage tree
  • Forage bags. Half fill a paper bag with hay or dried grass, mix in some dried or fresh forage and give the whole bag to your rabbits – make sure you tear off the handle first. No rabbit can resist a rustling paper bag!
  • Stick bundles. Take 10 – 12 willow or apple sticks and tie tightly around the middle. Hang them from the sides of the run for your rabbits to reach up and enjoy
  • Plant pots. Mix some hay and dried or fresh forage into a plant pot and turn it upside down. Watch as your rabbits have fun trying to get to the treats
  • Herb planters. Grow herbs such as mint or lemon balm in a plant pot and attach an upturned hanging basket over the top. Your rabbits will nibble the herbs while they are growing but not destroy the plant’s roots
  • Mock hedges. These are garden hanging baskets or magazine racks completely stuffed with hay to avoid legs getting trapped. You can hang them up in the run to encourage your rabbit to reach up and browse
  • Gnawing twigs. Rabbits need to be able to gnaw on items to keep their teeth in good shape. Often, rabbits do not enjoy wooden chew toys as the tasty bark has been removed. Try offering apple tree or willow twigs as they love to chew all the bark off, plus it’s great for their digestive system!

Choosing the right bedding for your rabbits

The wrong bedding for your rabbits can have a negative effect on their health. Wood shavings, sawdust and straw can often contain fur mites, and can give you an allergic reaction too!

Instead, line your rabbits’ enclosure with a thick layer of newspaper and completely cover it with a good layer of fresh, sweet-smelling green hay.

It’s often more cost-effective to purchase hay from a local farm or equine shop by the bale. You can then pick a nice, green bale and reduce the risk of it being old stock and possibly contaminated or filled with sharp thistles. Using hay as bedding also means your rabbits are free to naturally graze on the most important part of their diet at all times.

How to clean out your rabbits

Your rabbits’ litter trays will need daily cleaning and refreshing with clean paper and hay.

Carry out a full clean at least once a week, although this may need to be done more often throughout the winter when they are choosing to stay indoors for longer. Remove the rabbits, fully sweep out and wipe down the enclosure and all plastic items with pet-friendly disinfectant.

Line hutches and shed floors with vinyl for an easy-to-clean and wipe surface under your rabbits’ bedding.

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