Can Rabbits Swim? And More Importantly, Do They Enjoy Being In Water?
When thinking of rabbits, swimming is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Jumping, burrowing, sure, but swimming?
Can rabbits swim?
Do bunnies swim for fun?
And more importantly, is it good for them?
In this article, we’ll explore bunny swimming recommendations and cautions.
Giving you the information you need to decide if taking your rabbit swimming is fun for your floppy eared friend or just a flop.
The simple answer to the question, can rabbits swim, is technically yes.
Rabbits, whether they be little Dwarf Hotots or full-bodied Flemish Giants, are capable of swimming.
Rabbits will use both their forelimbs and hindlimbs to propel themselves through the water. They develop the ability to swim between 8 and 15 days after birth.
Rabbits In The Water
In fact, not only do rabbits swim, some rabbits have evolved to live in watery environments.
The species aquaticus are water-loving bunnies commonly known as swamp rabbits. Swamp rabbits live and thrive in low lying, densely forested wetlands and marshes.
Although their swimming speed may not be enough to out-paddle a predator, they are accomplished swimmers and thrive in a wet habitat.
But what about domestic bunnies? Can rabbits swim when they have been raised as our pets?
Provided you are not keeping a swamp rabbit as a pet, what you really need to know is can my pet bunny swim.
Again the answer is, yes. Lagomorph morphology allows for rabbits to propel themselves through water.
So the next question is . . .
Should I Take My Rabbit Swimming?
And that is a very different question.
Just because the answer to can rabbits swim is yes, doesn’t mean that they should.
As I mentioned in my article about bathing bunnies, the House Rabbit Society specifically warns that the trauma of being submerged in water may lead to shock in bunnies.
That’s pretty scary for a bunny parent. And a bunny.
Bottom line, getting your pet bunny wet is not recommended. Let’s take a look at some reasons why bunnies are best left out of the water.
Skin In The Game
Bunny skin is delicate. It does not naturally dry quickly, particularly when coated with wet fur.
When left undried, moist rabbit skin is vulnerable to tearing. Torn rabbit skin can lead quickly to infection and major discomfort for your furry friend.
The House Rabbit Society further cautions, “If a rabbit’s skin is chronically exposed to moisture, then baldness, redness, and crusting may develop, and bacterial infection may follow.”
Do Rabbits Like To Swim?
While you may have heard of rabbits that like to swim, most rabbits do not tolerate being submerged in water, and the shock of it can be deadly.
Since we’re not able to poll bunny as to her opinion of swimming, let’s try to look at it from her perspective. The majority of her life is spent in dry bedding, protected from the elements like rain or snow.
The same way you do not want to leave bunny sitting on wet bedding, you do not want her to soak in water.
Can Rabbits Swim In Swimming Pools?
If you were to take your bunny swimming, the most likely place is in your swimming pool. Video accounts of bunnies swimming in pools are almost endless and you might think, that looks like fun for bunny.
But consider that bunny may not be able to keep water out of her ears, eyes, nose or mouth. Keeping bunny’s ears dry is vital to her health. And swallowing pool water is not recommended for any living creature.
Not only can pool water easily get in bunny’s ears, eyes, nose and mouth, the water is full of harsh chemicals that can be caustic to her delicate skin.
Can Bunnies Swim In The Sea?
Because rabbits can swim in water, whether we’re talking about a river, creek, lake or ocean, rabbits are capable of swimming there.
Yet even the clearest natural water bodies are full of elements foreign to a house rabbit’s environment.
And in the sea, you are exposing bunny to any number of creatures such as fish, crabs or snakes, against which your pet bunny is not equipped to defend herself, particularly while swimming.
Also consider what you can’t see in the water such as microscopic, water-borne parasites. Any number of these can easily get in bunny’s ears, eyes, mouth or nose, to say nothing of being trapped in the fur and on the skin.
Bunny Getting Out Of The Water
Another caution for bunnies in pools or natural water bodies, is being able to get back on dry land. If your pool does not have a large stairway, bunny will have no safe egress from the water.
In natural water bodies, bunny may have a better chance of finding a riverbank or shoreline, but consider the unpredictable effects of tides and currents she will have to fight against to reach the safety of land.
Can A Bunny Swim With Me?
You absolutely do not want to force a bunny to get in water.
Aside from being cruel to force a foreign behavior on your pet, bunny can harm herself – or you – by lashing out in fear when introduced to an abnormal experience like getting wet.
Another consideration is once bunny is swimming, how will you get her out of the water? What if she swims to the deep end of a pool or lake?
If you are not able to stand and gently lift her from the water, it will be stressful for both of you. While your stress can be contained, overstressing a bunny can lead to shock and even death.
If you are still determined to let your bunny swim, under no circumstances should she be left unattended in the water. Never let her out of arm’s reach.
Aquatherapy For Rabbits
Swimming therapy, or aquatherapy, for rabbits with arthritis or other joint inflammation is the one time when swimming might be beneficial for rabbits.
If you think your bunny could benefit from aquatherapy, consult your rabbit veterinarian.
Aquatherapy introduces bunny to water in a controlled and very limited environment. This should only be considered under the supervision of rabbit veterinary professionals.
My Bunny Went Swimming
If you’ve taken your bunny swimming or she somehow got wet, there are few follow steps to ensure her health and safety.
No matter where your bunny swims, once she’s out of the water rinse her fur thoroughly with clear water.
Once she is rinsed, you need to dry her completely. Drying a fully saturated rabbit is time consuming because you must make sure no moisture is trapped against her skin.
As we’ve noted, wet bunny skin is compromised and you are setting yourself and bunny up for a very unpleasant outcome if you do not dry her skin completely.
Use towels and a dryer on low speed and low heat (not cool) to dry her completely.
If you do not have time to tend to your rabbit after she gets wet, do not take her swimming.
Better still, just don’t take your rabbit swimming.
Can Rabbits Swim?
Ultimately, although rabbits are capable of swimming, this is not a recommended activity for maintaining a healthy bunny.
For fun and exercise, you are better off setting up a fun play ring or leash training bunny and taking her for a nice, hoppy walk.
Take a look at some top tips for walking Bunny on a Leash here and enjoy life on land with your furry friend.
References and Further Reading
- Stuurman, P., (1979), “The postnatal development of swimming behavior in the rabbit”
- American Rabbit Breeders Association
- The British Rabbit Council
- House Rabbit Society
- How to Bathe a Bunny