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Regular exercise is very important for rabbits with a minimum of 4 hours free run a day recommended. You can encourage exercise and prevent boredom by playing games with your rabbit...


Regular exercise is very important for rabbits.  They are designed to run very fast in short bursts and dodge and twist to escape predators; this is why you often see rabbits "binkying" i.e. leaping in the air and racing around.  Exercise helps young rabbits develop a healthy bone structure and helps adult rabbits maintain a healthy physique.

Ideally, rabbits should be able to exercise whenever they want to but a minimum of 4 hours free run a day is recommended, ideally split into two exercise periods morning and evening of about 2 hours each.  Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are naturally more active at dawn and dusk.  Rabbits kept in indoor cages or outdoor hutches should be allowed access to a large exercise run or be given free run in the house or garden whilst being supervised.

Rabbits differ in their exercise needs according to age, breed and whether or not they are de-sexed.  Younger rabbits tend to be a lot more active and are more likely to exhibit destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture or the bars of their cage if they are bored.  Older rabbits usually sleep more but still need regular exercise.  Larger breeds tend to be less active than small or dwarf breeds, while neutered or spayed rabbits slow down a little and put on weight more easily.

Playing games

Playing games with your rabbit is a great way to prevent boredom, encourage exercise and get to know them a bit better.  Mornings and evenings are the best times as this is when rabbits are most active.

One of the simplest games is to sit or lie on the ground and let your rabbit approach you.  It will probably hop on and off you from every direction, investigate every bit of your clothing (watch out for nibbles!) and may even lick your face as a sign of affection.  15 minutes well spent...

You can build an obstacle course for your rabbit out of cardboard boxes, tunnels, newspapers and so on.  Many rabbits love jumping so you could even create a set of jumps.  Some rabbits like playing with footballs or basketballs, rolling them around the floor, digging at them or even running after them when you throw it.

If you have enough space, or a garden, you can play "chase" with your rabbit.  This does not mean you chasing the rabbit, although some rabbits do enjoy this and may initiate it themselves by flicking their ears and racing away from you playfully.  The general idea is that the rabbit chases you.  Run across the room or garden, calling your rabbit (see "voice commands").  A confident rabbit will soon get the idea and chase after you, perhaps adding in some jumps and twists as it runs.

Remember that rabbits tire quickly so if you rabbit flops down after a few minutes, give it a chance to rest and recover.  Never force your rabbit to play with you - they will let you know when they've had enough!

Tags: behaviour

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