You may have heard the term enrichment when it comes to your pets care, but what does it actually mean and how can we use this to improve the lives of our pet rabbit’s? In the book Canine Enrichment for the Real World enrichment is defined as learning what our animal’s needs are and then structuring an environment for them that allows them, as much as is feasible, to meet those needs. To meet these needs, we need to understand rabbits as a species.
In the wild rabbits live in warrens with other rabbits and spend most of their day exploring their environment and grazing on grass. Other behaviours that you see in wild rabbits are digging and chewing on branches or chewing to clear out routes for easier access. So how can we apply this knowledge?
It is not possible to completely replicate the environment of wild rabbits. However, with some thought, you can make a great environment for your rabbit. First, by providing enough floor space, which meets the RWAF’s recommended minimum to allow your rabbit plenty of space to move around and explore. You should also provide your rabbit with plenty of places to hide and feel safe, such as multi-entrance houses or tunnels.
Next is to ensure to provide the correct diet so you can allow your rabbit to graze by providing grass (if outside) or hay in multiple trays and hay racks with a variety of leafy greens given each day. Pellets should be given in small quantities (or not at all) and either sprinkled into hay or a snuffle mat to encourage grazing whilst also stimulating the olfactory sense. You can also use puzzle toys to make your rabbit work for their pellets or use them for training to provide mental stimulation.
Allowing your rabbit to dig by providing them a place to dig such as a storage box filled with coco soil is also important. Not only will this allow your rabbit to express a natural behaviour but it will also provide good physical exercise to.
Chewing is another natural behaviour which we can provide an outlet for by providing wooden toys, branches and bark for them to chew on. This should also help to prevent your rabbit from chewing on your wallpaper or wooden furniture instead!
Next, we need to consider differences in environmental stimulation for rabbits kept indoors. Rabbits kept indoors have a much lower level of environmental stimulation than rabbits kept outdoors as the temperature is constant, ambient noise is reduced and there are no changing weather conditions. However, we can somewhat replicate this indoors by giving rabbits access to rooms of differing temperatures, playing music at low levels occasionally, allowing access to a safe outdoor area (if temperature difference is not too different from inside) or by providing access to a floor-length glass window so they can see outside and sit in the sun.
And finally companionship is very important for ensuring your rabbits social needs are met and their ability to perform natural behaviour as rabbits kept in groups have been found to exercise more, to spend more time grazing and spend more time performing grooming behaviours, marking or investigatory behaviours. Therefore, Companionship is an important part of ensuring your rabbit’s needs are met.
If you are able to implement all or most of these things then you will be providing your rabbit with the enrichment they need to have a happy and fulfilled life!