Rabbits are different from cats and dogs. It should come as no surprise that their play styles are different, too. Understanding rabbit play can help you to build a stronger relationship with your rabbit. And you may learn some new tricks, too!
Do Rabbits Like to Play with Humans?
Yes! Rabbits are playful creatures. They love to play with one another, and they can learn to love to playtime with you, too.
The important thing, though, is learning to play with your rabbit on its own terms.
How Do You Play with Your Rabbit?
The first step is understanding how rabbits like to play. In some ways, their play is similar to that of dogs and cats. In other ways it’s different.
One of the main differences between rabbits and dogs and cats, is that dogs and cats are predators, while rabbits are prey animals.
This means that a rabbit might not understand predator games like chasing a piece of string. It also means that they will not enjoy chasing games like a dog might.
And rough puppy games like tug-o-war are right out. (On the other hand, both cats and rabbits love cardboard boxes and other toys.)
But there are plenty of games you can play with your rabbit. We’ll talk specifics in a bit.
Tips for a Successful Playtime
A little planning and consideration can help you and your rabbit to make the most of playtime.
Create a Safe Play Space
If you want to play indoors, play in a safe, rabbit-proofed area like a room, or, again, a rabbit pen.
Approach Your Bunny on Its Terms, Not Yours
Don’t approach your rabbit for play while it’s eating, sleeping, or using the litter box.
Rabbits are crepuscular. This means that they’re most active around sunrise and sunset. These could be ideal times for play.
Don’t chase your rabbit. Let your rabbit come to you. Never do anything to make your bunny feel cornered or trapped. And avoid loud play, as rabbits find loud noises frightening. It’s not fun if it’s not both considerate and safe.
Get down onto the ground or floor. Let your bunny choose its toys and activities, and let them decide when playtime is finished.
Understand What Play Means
Essentially, play is how young animals practice natural behaviours.
Natural rabbit behaviours include digging, foraging, chewing, and exploring. Rabbits also love to chase each other.
We wouldn’t recommend chasing your rabbit, as it can be terrifying for them. But your bunny may want to chase you, and that’s a completely different matter.
Think about rabbit behaviours. What kind of games could you devise around them?
The Tools of the Trade
Here are a few things to have on hand for playtime:
- Rabbit toys
- Cardboard boxes
- Cardboard tubes
- A rabbit sized ball or two
- Some plastic cups
- An activity tunnel
- Bunny treats
Your bunny may not play with all of these things at every playtime, but having plenty of toys on hand will encourage your pet to explore and interact with you.
How Do I Bond With My Bunny?
Slowly, patiently, and on your rabbit’s own terms.
Just as when you’re bonding rabbits with other rabbits, you’re building a relationship of trust.
Set aside a small amount of time each day to be with your rabbit. Sit quietly together in a safe space. Let your bunny approach you. Encourage this by having treats to hand. In time, your bunny may even want to sit in your lap.
Just be aware that rabbits don’t generally like to be picked up or held. You can teach some rabbits to enjoy it, but it very much goes against their instincts. So if your rabbit doesn’t enjoy it, don’t take it personally.
You can tell your rabbit likes you, if it:
- Runs in circles around you
- Jumps (“binkies”) when you’re around
- Flops or lies down near you
- Takes food from you
- Nudges you with its head
How Do Rabbits Say Sorry?
When rabbits fight, they make up by touching heads and then grooming each other. If your rabbit nudges you with its head, give it a gentle stroke to let it know that you’ve accepted the apology.
Where Do Rabbits Like to be Touched?
Many rabbits love to be stroked on the head, the back of the neck, and their cheeks. Some may also enjoy a gentle back massage.
5 Games You Can Play With Your Rabbit
So, you’ve set up your play area and now you’re ready to play some games with your bunny buddy. What should you do?
Bunnies love to explore. Exploring games can be fun and provide exercise and the mental stimulation that a clever rabbit needs.
You don’t have to build your rabbits an elaborate permanent structure like this one…
…but stock your play area with a box or two, activity tunnels, large-diameter cardboard tubes, and so on. Mix things up, and give them something new to explore each time.
Also consider making a cardboard box house for your bunny.
Digging is another bunny behavior that you can turn into a game. Build your bunny a dig box, and bury rabbit toys or treats for your bunny to find. This video has an idea for a simple rabbit digging box, as well as other ideas for bunny fun.
In the wild, rabbits spend a lot of time foraging for food. Pet rabbits have their food brought to them, which is convenient, but doesn’t allow them the mental stimulation of searching for their food themselves.
Set up treasure hunts for your bunnies. Assemble an obstacle course in their play area, and hide treats for them to find.
A cheeky rabbit may have fun stealing food, rabbit toys, or treats from you while you’re sitting quietly, pretending to mind your own business!
Rabbit fetch is a bit different from dog fetch.
Rabbits like to be the ones doing the throwing! They have a lot of fun picking up objects with their teeth then tossing them. Your job, human, is to bring the object back so that they can do it again!
Are You Ready to Play?
Rabbits love to play, but how they play can be a bit different than what you’re used to. Our job is to figure out our bunnies’ play style and adapt to it.
What kind of games do you like to play with your bunnies? Tell us about it!