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How to Play with Your Rabbit

How to Play with Your Rabbit
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Rabbits are fiercely independent animals, combine that with prey animal instincts that tell them to run & hide, and it’s easy to see why many people think rabbits make stand-offish, boring pets.  But the truth is, rabbits are really social animals.  They would love the opportunity to interact with you or play with toys.  Playtime with your bunnies helps build a bond between you and provides them with mental stimulation & exercise.

The two most important things to remember when playing with your rabbit are

1) do it on your rabbit’s terms

2) go slow & be patient

The more often you play, the more your rabbit will trust you!

Play on your rabbit’s terms

Take advantage of your rabbit’s most active times to schedule “play dates”.  Most rabbits are active early in the morning and at night

Let your rabbit tell you when she is ready to play.  You will know she wants to play when she is tugging at your sleeves or pants leg, circling your feet, or maybe booping your leg then running away.  Leave some toys out and let your rabbit approach them when she is ready

Get down to rabbit level.  If you are standing,  your rabbit sees you as a giant and will be less likely to approach you or let her guard down to play with toys.  Sit, or better yet, lay down on the floor and wait for your rabbit to come to you.  She needs to feel safe & comfortable before she will drop her guard.  Don’t force her to sit with you.

When your rabbit loses interest in a toy or in playing with you, let him go.

click here to read more about understanding rabbit behaviors

Go Slow & Be Patient

Be patient, especially with a new rabbit or if you are just starting to introduce play.  Don’t push it if your rabbit seems uninterested, but try again the next day or at another time.  It might take several invitations!

Rabbits are naturally timid; avoid sudden movements and loud noises.   Do not yell at your rabbit.  Unless your rabbit is already comfortable with your dog or cat, don’t let them in the room during playtime, and try to minimize dog barking.

Speak softly & happily whenever you are with your rabbit, even just to clean their cages.  Some rabbits also respond to rhythmic talking like reading aloud and singing.  My rabbits enjoy singing & music.  You want your rabbit to associate you with feeling safe

Do not try to rough house with your rabbit.  He will likely just become frightened.

Keep in mind most rabbits do not enjoy being picked up.  It is scary for them. When a much larger animal scoops them up it generally ends with them being eaten so their instincts tell them to run. They will be much more relaxed if all their feet are on the floor.  But many do enjoy cuddles on your lap or sitting next to you

Rabbit Games & Toys to Try

Spend some time observing your rabbit to see what her play personality is.  Rabbits like games that cater to their natural instincts.  Rabbits are not dogs, they don’t play games like fetch or tug.  Some rabbits like knocking things over, some like to steal things and then run off, some like shredding & digging, some like throwing things, and some enjoy figuring out puzzles

Bowling bunnies

Get a child’s plastic bowling set and set the pins up for your bunny to knock over.  You can also stand up a few toilet paper tubes or empty oatmeal cans (stuff them with hay or treats for added interest)

The bunny thief

Lay on the floor with an envelope, stick, or other small object in your hand and let her steal it. Gently take it back and repeat. Sit with an apple slice or other treat in your open palm and let your bunny take it.

Furry destroyers

Fill a shoe box with shredded paper and let her go to town. Give her a straw mat to dig at.  Let them shred a newspaper or phone book.  Set up cardboard boxes for them to hide in and chew on

Baseball bunnies

Rabbits that like to toss things will love plastic baby toys (like plastic key sets), knotted jute ropes, small blocks of wood, plastic cat toys with bells, willow balls, toilet paper tubes

Brainy bunnies

Logic games are great mental stimulation.  Hide a papaya vitamin tablet (you can find these in the vitamin section at most nutrition stores and they are great for bunny digestion) or use some other type of treat in a loosely closed fist. Hold both fists in front of your rabbit and make him choose the fist with a treat before giving it to him.    There are all kinds of logic toys for sale that have your rabbit perform various tasks to get rewards.  You can make your own by cutting a couple of holes in a toilet paper tube and putting small treats in it (make the holes larger than the treat), tape up the ends, and have your rabbit roll it around to get the treats out.

General toys bunnies like

Make a cardboard “house” for your bunny by taping a couple of boxes together and cutting out a door, she will enjoy running in and out, hiding, and chewing on the house!

Rabbits love tunnels, you can buy cat tunnels, use cardboard concrete forms or cut the bottoms out of a few large plastic pots and tape them together.

Lay down flat on the ground, either on your stomach or back, and let your rabbits climb on you, jumping up and down is great exercise for them

Want more toy inspiration?  Check out my post “Easy DIY Rabbit Toys” for easy (and free!) toy ideas!

How to Play with your Rabbit

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Rabbit Keeper

Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

That was an awesome article about playing wit rabbit. As a rabbit keeper I will try all the things that you have mentioned on this article.

Deirdre Dean

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Hello Liz, I have two rescued bunnies. Right now they are living in 'Rabbit Manor' in the barn. We live in Canada so the winters here are horrific. It's impossible to keep a huge barn heated, they do have an oil radiator that they cannot chew on the cables. We are thinking of moving them inside our home and building a new Rabbit Manor. In the barn they are able to run around outside of their home when I am with them. Not sure that we can let them out inside our home. Is this going to be detrimental to them please?


Friday 22nd of January 2021

Rabbits really need exercise to stay healthy. It's important for their digestive and mental health to get out, jump and run about every day. Is there a section of the house where you could set up a playpen type enclosure? I also have my rabbits living in my unheated barn, they have a whole horse stall with deep straw and a rabbit hutch they can come in and out of. In the winter, I wrap almost all the mesh openings on the hutch (I leave a few open for ventilation) so when they want to retreat to the hutch it is draft free. We are in Massachusetts, so it gets cold here in the winter, but not as cold as Canada. They have done just fine out there in the winters, summer heat is actually much harder for them endure. You can read more about setting up an indoor area for your rabbits here, hopefully it will help!


Sunday 6th of December 2020

Hi there Im a new bunny owner, still learning. Would like to join to learn even more..

Sam Evans

Saturday 31st of October 2020

Hi Liz, Your writing style is very awesome very informative was an article that I learned a lot about rabbits really thank you.

pamela browning

Tuesday 3rd of March 2020

I enjoyed and leaned so much from your article! Thank you for all the information! However, being a writer myself, it's important to proofread everything that you write for the public's consumption. In the very beginning I noticed that you state that rabbits need "metal stimulation". Surely you meant "mental stimulation". You state the same thing later on. This could be misunderstood. Also, you offer games to play with your rabbits, and state one game is to place a papaya tablet in your fist. What is a papaya tablet? I know what papaya is, but did you mean a papaya strip of fruit or chunk? Just always proofread your material to make sure that what you are trying to convey is very clear for readers.


Tuesday 3rd of March 2020

Thank you Pamela - you are right, I certainly meant "mental" in that first paragraph and have fixed that. I also added some clarification about papaya tablets. They are tiny pills that many people (especially with wool breed rabbits) supplement their rabbit's diet with. It helps guard against wool block in their digestive system and can be found at most nutritional stores. People who are new to rabbits or who don't keep wool rabbits may not be familiar with them so a clarification is helpful. You could certainly use chunks of actual papaya or other fruits for that game though!

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