How much exercise do rabbits need?
The simple answer to this is, as much as they want or can! The ideal scenario would be that your rabbit can “free roam” (never be locked in their cage) that way they can get exercise whenever they like. This is what I have done with all of my pet rabbits but I know for some individuals this scenario is not possible due to kids, other pets, current living situation etc.… If this is the case for you, then it is recommended that you try to achieve at least 4 hours of exercise a day for your rabbit.
Related: How to litter train your rabbit
When should my rabbit exercise?
Rabbits are at their best, most alert and active early in the morning and evening, think between 4AM-8AM and 6PM-11PM. Rabbits are not nocturnal! As mentioned above it is best to allow your rabbit at least 4 hours of exercise a day so if you do not have the luxury of allowing your rabbit to free roam it would be best to split their 4 hours of exercise into 2 sessions. Preferably early in the morning and later in evening, as they are generally asleep for most of the day. You can also split their exercise into more than 2 sessions if you like.
Why do rabbits need exercise?
Well, pet rabbits unlike wild rabbits do not need to find their own food, and under most circumstances they do not need to escape any danger therefore they do not have much motivation to exercise. Although they may be lacking the motivation to exercise, I can assure you they still need it and will likely enjoy it! Ensuring your rabbit is getting enough exercise encourages life longevity, happiness and keeps their joints/muscles in active, working shape. One the other hand if your rabbit does not get enough exercise, it can have some detrimental repercussions. For example:
- Weight gain – Rabbits that do not get enough exercise can become overweight. This puts some unnecessary strain on their heart, bones, and joints. Being overweight as a rabbit can also lead to insulin resistance.
- Behavioral issues – Rabbits that do not get enough exercise usually don’t spend much time with their human family either. This can cause them to become aggressive with their owners and possibly destructive. They may start ripping at their cage, carpet or even themselves.
- Self-harm – Rabbits who do not get enough time outside of their cage become stressed, unhappy, and bored. This can lead to self-mutilating. They do this by ripping out their own fur, chewing on their limbs or gnawing on their nails. They do this out of boredom and/or a lack of exertion and it can be quite harmful to their physiological well being. A rabbit ripping out their own fur is a strong possibility when a rabbit is not getting enough exercise. This habit is hard to watch and even harder to break so you want to prevent it at all costs.
How to encourage exercise
There are many ways to encourage exercise while also having fun.
Playing games with your rabbit is a great way to prevent boredom and encourage exercise. A common game we play with Mr. Bunny is waving a sock in or around his face, he loves to bat at it and pull it out of our hands. He will run around and binky until he needs to catch his breath which translates into great exercise for him!
You can build play areas for your rabbit out of cardboard boxes, wood, and tunnels. We have a play area set up for Mr. Bunny under our king size bed. He loves to chew and rip at the cardboard. We often hear him running laps through his tunnels as well. You can also attach a large caged play area that is attached to your rabbits cage.
The more space you have the better, some domestic rabbits are not comfortable being outside but if you have a big yard that is enclosed and your rabbit is comfortable being outside then this is the optimal option for your rabbit getting a ton of exercise. Mr. Bunny does not enjoy being outside, but he still enjoys running laps in our living room. He has learned to navigate our furniture and likes to kick off of the wall.
These are hollowed out (usually plastic or wooden) balls that you can hide treats inside of. Your rabbit must push the ball around to get the treats to come out. Mr. Bunny’s favorite treat is Oxbow simple rewards veggie treats but anything smaller than a quarter should fit inside the treat ball. A few raisins or any sort of small rabbit treat will do (we recommend Oxbow brand as a healthy treat for your rabbit and they offer a ton of varieties/flavors.)
Small, rabbit friendly, toys like hay carrots, wood blocks or apple sticks can encourage exercise by playing a more delicate version of fetch by placing the toy in a particular location to attract your rabbit to those areas of the room or house to encourage running/jumping.
Although rabbits love to run, binky and hop they do get tired quickly so if you rabbit stops to catch his or her breath just give them a few minutes to rest.
How to rabbit-proof a room so they can exercise
If you, like many other rabbit owners are confined to providing indoor exercise for your rabbit then you will want to be sure your home or the area that your rabbit will be getting exercise in is rabbit proof. Rabbit proofing is important for your rabbit’s safety. It is also important in preventing your possessions from being destroyed. Here are some ways you can make a room safe for rabbits:
- Keep all cables and cords out of your rabbit’s reach. Rabbits like to chew cables, as they remind them of things outdoors that they would naturally chew on like, sticks and roots. I also think Mr. Bunny, my current pet bunny, likes the way the rubber feels. If you cannot keep the cords off of the floor, then plastic piping works well for keeping cords chew-free or these cord guards.
- Keep house plants and flowers high up and completely out of reach of your rabbit. Many common plants are toxic to rabbits, including aloe, holly, milkweed, and many different types of ivy.
- Put some sort of protection in front of the furniture you want to protect, like a gate or fencing of some sort. Rabbits like to chew wooden furniture/baseboards. Another option would be to put a plastic mat under the furniture; most rabbits do not like to be on a hard, slippery surface like plastic. Mr. Bunny will not go into rooms that have tile floor as he slips, and it makes him feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.
- Block off any areas that you feel may be unsafe for your rabbit. For example, rooms that may contain other animals, or small children that may not know how to properly handle or approach a rabbit. Blocking off stairs is also a good idea as they can easily fall and injure themselves. We taught Mr. Bunny how to safely go up and down the stairs in our home therefore we do not block them, but you want to be absolutely sure your rabbit can comfortably do this before allowing them access.
- Cover carpeting with a plastic mat or inexpensive rug. Rabbits love to dig and chew at carpets. Mr. Bunny is no exception, although he does not do it everywhere, he has two spots in our house that he loves to rip up carpet fibers and dig at.
- Do not leave anything in your rabbit’s reach that you do not want chewed on. Rabbits are not overly picky about what they chew on. Clothes, shoes, books, tablet cases etc.… Some of Mr. Bunny’s favorite things to chew on are books, shoes and wrapping paper. You should see the barrier we have to put up on Christmas Eve to keep our daughter’s gifts from being opened by him rather than her.
- Give your rabbit things that are okay for them chew on like toys, cardboard, old towels, and rugs. Giving your rabbit his or her own things to chew on will keep them from chewing on things you do not want them to and it will make them happy. Of course, there is also the health benefit of keeping their teeth properly shaved down.
About the Author
My name is Vanessa and I love my buns. My current house rabbit is Mr. Bunny, he is a black and white Dutch that just turned 9 years old.
I believe that rabbits are a magnificent animal that make great pets for SOME people. My mission is to share what I have learned about rabbits over the past 20 years to improve the relationship between our pets and us. Please contact me or comment if you have any questions or comments.