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 you 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.
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. 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
“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, 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)
Furry bunny thief: lay on the floor with an envelope, stick, or other small object in your hand and let her steal it, 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 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 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 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!