How long should you spend with your rabbit? Before I owned a rabbit, I thought they were pretty solitary pets – skittish and nervous around humans. But, rabbits are actually very social animals. Like humans, they can feel lonely and sad if they don’t have enough social interaction. So, it’s vital to spend quality time bonding with your pet rabbit, particularly if you don’t have more than one rabbit to keep each other company. Some time dedicated to play and socializing is important every day, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be eager to spend as much time as possible with your bunny! In this guide, I’ll take a closer look at the best ways you can socialize and bond with your bunny to keep them happy and feeling their best.
- How long should you spend with your rabbit?
- Why do rabbits need so much attention?
- When is the best time to spend time with my rabbit?
- How can I start bonding with my bunny?
- Ideas for spending time with your rabbit
- What if I can’t spend enough time with my bunny?
- Signs that your rabbit feels lonely
How Long Should You Spend with Your Rabbit?
Rabbits are becoming an increasingly popular choice for pets. But, it’s important to meet their needs, just as you would with any other animal! And, social interaction is an important need for bunnies, since they’re naturally social animals. Most veterinarians will recommend that you keep at least two rabbits in an attempt to help fulfill this need – whether they’re kept as house rabbits or in a hutch outside.
You should spend some time with your rabbits every day. A rabbit housed alone will need more interaction from you than a rabbit living with another bunny. So, they aren’t an ideal pet for anyone that doesn’t have lots of time to dedicate. Try to spend an hour or so petting your bunny and playing with them each day. If you can dedicate more time than this, even better! The more time you can spend with your rabbit, the stronger your bond will be, and the happier they’ll generally feel.
Why Do Rabbits Require Our Attention?
In the wild, rabbits form groups that have a highly intricate social structure. Maintaining social relationships with other rabbits is essential to their daily life and biology. Pet rabbits today have the exact needs as their forefathers. They need plenty of opportunities to bond with their human or rabbit companions. Cute bunnies’ sociable nature shines through in their constant desire to make new friends.
However, when kept as pets, bunnies don’t always have other rabbits to socialize with. This isn’t always the fault of the owner. Some rabbits have traumas or health considerations that require them to live alone. Or, they may have been in a pair, but one of the bunnies sadly passed away. In these instances, you will need to fill that social need twofold – since your rabbit won’t have any other companions.
When is the Best Time to Spend Time with My Rabbit?
The morning and the evening are the times of the day when rabbits are most active. So, this is when it’s best to play with your rabbit. Some might be slightly different, so work with your rabbit’s individual preferences. But, don’t force your rabbit to wake up and socialize just to fit in with your schedule. If you don’t have the time to socialize and care for your rabbit in their natural waking hours, you might need to consider a different pet.
How Can I Start Bonding with My Bunny?
It’s important to remember that rabbits are prey animals, so lots of other creatures in the wide world are actively trying to eat them! This can mean that our domestic rabbits are naturally skittish and nervous. They won’t immediately form a strong bond with you – you’ll need to have patience and put in some real time and effort!
Getting on the ground with your rabbit is the best way to form a bond with it. In the first step, all you have to do is have some patience and wait for your bunny to come to check you out while it is roaming freely around you. Let’s take a closer look at the steps you can take.
1. Sit Down with Your Rabbit
The simplest way to ensure your rabbit receives proper engagement is to get down on their level and allow them to approach you. This could simply mean letting your bunny hop onto your lap and snuggle while you watch your favorite show on TV or read a book. The idea is to make your bunny a part of your life by spending peaceful time with it.
If you haven’t handled your rabbit yet, this is the best way to initiate things. Rabbits are curious creatures, so they’ll approach you soon enough, especially if you tempt them over with some tasty treats. Sitting down is also the best way to let kids pet bunnies, since the rabbit is at no risk of being dropped and has the opportunity to escape when they’re done interacting with you.
2. Pet Your Bunny
Most bunnies enjoy being petted by their owners, especially if you’ve taken the time to build up a high level of trust. They’ll be delighted to spend time next to you while you give them a relaxing massage. Just take some time to learn which are your rabbit’s favorite body spots to be scratched. Keep your petting gentle, and let your rabbit leave when he’s had enough.
The best places to pet rabbits are the forehead and behind the ears. Your rabbit will absolutely adore gentle scratches in those spots. I can say from personal experience that stroking the area around the rabbit’s cheeks, under the chin, or running your hand along the back of the rabbit will also give it a great deal of happiness.
3. Train Your Rabbit
Teaching your rabbit a few simple tricks can be really fun and one of the best ways to build a strong, lasting relationship between you and your pet. The time spent training your rabbit will certainly pay off in the long term. Your bunny will learn that you are great fun and it’s nice to play with you. And, above all, that it can trust you.
Rabbits are intelligent animals, and they also need mental stimulation for proper development. With the help of positive training, you will combine your rabbit’s mental activity with its proper socialization.
Training encourages the rabbit to develop new skills, gain self-confidence, and learn about its environment through positive stimulation. This way, you will also build trust between you and your rabbit, which can be very helpful in various situations in the future. Make sure to never use punishment when training your rabbit.
Make Your Bunny a Member of the Household
When adopting a rabbit, you need to know what it involves. As I mentioned, rabbits are highly social animals and need your attention and presence. To be fully socialized and happy in your home, your rabbit needs to be familiar with everyone in the household. This applies to both humans and other animals.
If you want your rabbit to become a happy, settled family member, you need to take your time and be patient. Don’t try to rush the process or make it too hasty. Just allow your rabbit to become familiar with a new environment in a stress-free interaction.
What if I Can’t Spend Enough Time with My Bunny?
We all go through busy times in our lives. It could be work or just general life issues. The most frequently recommended solution if you can’t provide enough company to a lone rabbit is to get your bunny a friend. If you have two rabbits, they can keep each other company and stimulate each other’s physical and mental activity. Because of their friendship, they will feel cheerful and happy.
This doesn’t mean that you never have to interact with your bunny. You’ll still need to spend time with them every day – and you’ll have to do so with both of them. But, that time is less than if you were your rabbit’s only source of company.
And, a new rabbit should never be left with your bunny unless an introduction plan has been finalized. Introduce them slowly if you didn’t bring them home as an already established pair. Speak to your veterinarian for more advice on how to safely introduce your bunny to a new friend.
How to Know if Your Rabbit is Lonely
Lonely rabbits may engage in a variety of behaviors to attract attention or to express their frustrations, such as:
- And destructive tendencies
Rabbits left without their owner’s company may develop depression and other mental problems. They may become anxious, aggressive, or irritable. Physical symptoms may include fatigue or a loss of appetite.
If you notice any of the above behaviors in your bunny, try to spend more time with it or consider adding a second rabbit to the household. You should always contact a veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your rabbit.
How Long Should You Spend with Your Rabbit? Final Thoughts
Rabbits are naturally friendly, so their health and happiness depend on social interactions with you and other rabbits. So spend as much time as you can with your bunny! Get down on the floor, pet, scratch, and massage your rabbit. These are all great ways to express your affection.
More Bunny Care Tips
- Is a satin rabbit right for me?
- Can rabbits overheat in the summer?
- Are strawberries good for rabbits?
- Bourne, D. ‘Physical and Psychological Needs of Rabbits: A Rabbit is Not a Cat’, The Veterinary Nurse (2011)
- Buseth, M. & Saunders, R. ‘Rabbit Behavior, Health and Care’, CABI (2014)
- Reed, N. & Christensen, A. ‘Understanding the Basics of Rabbit Care’, USU Extension Publications (2019)