Doing What Comes Naturally

By Suzanne Denk, Dip. FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist

We all want our pets to have the very best quality of life. Even if we don’t know it, what we really want is for them to fulfill their species-typical behaviors. In other words, let your rabbit be a rabbit and do what comes naturally and is enriching for them! But sometimes doing what comes naturally – like chewing – doesn’t happen in the most ideal way when you find a damaged chair leg or cord. Providing opportunities for your rabbit to engage in their natural behaviors just takes some creative thinking!

Natural behaviors for rabbits include chewing, shredding and foraging, digging and burrowing and throwing and bunching. Enrichment toys and activities can help your rabbit engage safely in these activities without sacrificing your favorite chair! And, many activities can fulfill multiple needs at once.

For bunnies who like to chew, you can purchase chew sticks at a pet store or use one of these common items which can be even more inviting and stimulating:

  • Pine cones
  • Cardboard toys
  • Plastic baby toys
  • Hay in a cardboard tube or box

Cardboard toys are a fun do-it-yourself project and you can create your own toys with corrugated cardboard, loofah, untreated pine blocks, wooden buttons, sisal rope, raffia and hay.

Shredding and Foraging
A phone book is the classic choice for rabbits with the urge to shred. If your rabbit doesn’t like the phone book or you don’t have one on hand, try a grass mat, straw broom or a cardboard toy. Hiding a treat or a portion of their daily pellets in a cardboard tube or box of hay can be appealing for foraging and shredding.

Digging and Burrowing
Provide a hiding place for burrowing. Shredded paper in a box or hay in a cardboard tunnel can fulfill many needs. Your rabbit can dig, burrow and shred, all they want!

Throwing and Bunching
Offer your rabbit a large piece of fleece or a washcloth to push around, bunch and toss. Hiding treats in the folds of a towel can provide a foraging opportunity as well.

Watch your rabbit to determine which behaviors they seem to enjoy the most. Choose toys and activities to help them focus on those natural behaviors that meet their needs. Always remember to supervise your rabbit with new items to ensure that they can play safely and to rotate toys every couple of days to keep them new and exciting.

It is completely up to you how interesting, fun and enriching your rabbit’s life can be – the only limits are your imagination. Enjoy the process of meeting your rabbit’s species-typical behaviors!

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