People tend to worry about their outdoor bunnies more in cold weather, but in fact very hot weather is a greater threat to pet rabbits.
Domestic rabbits are resilient to cold and cope well with winters outdoors in many parts of the world. But they are very susceptible to heat stroke in temperatures over 85F (29C)
Many bunny owners are simply not used to protecting their pets in these conditions but there are things you can do right now, to keep your bunny safe when those very hot temperatures move in.
Top 10 tips for keeping bunnies cool
Top Tip 1: Shade and moving hutches
If your rabbit hutch gets full sun on it during any part of the heat of the day, now is the time to move it. Remember that the temperature weather forecasters give us, is the temperature in the shade. It gets much hotter than that in direct sunlight.
If you don’t have a suitable tree or wall with good shade, consider taking the hutch into a cool shed or garage (check the temperature inside any outbuildings before making the decision), or even bringing the rabbit indoors into a cool room.
Rabbits can die from overheating in hot hutches. So if you cannot move your hutch out of the sun, you’ll need to rig up some kind of temporary shade for it.
Top Tip 2: Cooling containers
Rabbits will lie against cold surfaces to try to keep themselves cool, and you can take advantage of this. Grab some large empty plastic bottles that have contained soft drinks or milk. Fill them 3/4 full with water with the cap loose and put them in the freezer.
Once they are frozen, tighten the cap and place them on their side in your rabbit’s hutch or pen. Rabbits will then lie against the cold bottle to keep cool.
Check the bottle in an hour or two for melting and leaks, and if necessary replace with another one from your freezer.
Top Tip 3: Ceramic tiles
Do you have any old ceramic floor tiles left over from that kitchen or bathroom refurbishment? Those can go in the freezer too, and when they are nice and cold, place them in the hutch for your rabbit to lie down on
Top Tip 4: Plant mist spray
That spray bottle you use for misting your plant leaves will come in handy now. Fill it up and gently mist your rabbit’s ears to make them damp.
Your rabbit’s ears act like radiators, dispersing heat from their bodies. As the water on their ears evaporates this will help them cool down faster.
If you don’t have a plant spray, wet your hands and stroke your rabbits ears and belly to make them damp.
Top Tip 5: Dampen the pen
If your rabbit has an outdoor pen, put some fabric or cardboard over one end to create shade and soak the ground there with water from a watering can or hose. Your rabbit will lie on the damp ground to cool themselves.
Top Tip 6: Fan and towel
Hang a wet towel near the front of your rabbit’s hutch or pen. If you can, stand a fan nearby and direct the airflow at the wet towel so that the cooler damp air blows across the rabbit
Top Tip 7: Ice that bottle
Drop ice cubes into your rabbit’s water bottle to chill the water. Or make up a bowl of iced water and strain it into your rabbit’s bowl.
Some people like to put ice cubes directly into a rabbit’s water bowl. Others say that rabbits chew on these and it may upset their tummies.
Be careful with ice packs designed for the freezer, some contain harmful liquids and rabbits love to chew through plastic containers
Top Tip 8: Change the water
Rabbits like really fresh water. They’ll often take a long drink when you refill their water, even though they had water available before.
And they drink more of it if the water is in a crock rather than in a bottle. So if your rabbit only has a bottle, give them a bowl as well until the heatwave passes and change the water in that bowl as often as possible.
In temperatures over 100 degrees, getting your rabbit to drink more by putting fresh chilled water in their bowl every couple of hours could save the rabbit’s life.
Top Tip 9: Dress that salad!
Water is the only salad dressing you need for bunnies. If you feed your rabbit fresh greens each day, start soaking the leaves in water before serving them.
The extra liquid coating the leaves will help keep your rabbit hydrated.
If you rabbit is not used to greens, don’t suddenly introduce large quantities, as that could upset their digestion. Check out our article on feeding rabbits for more information
Top Top 10: Low stress activities
Even well socialized rabbits will find petting and stroking a little stressful. What you want your rabbit to do during the heat of the day, is relax, eat, and sleep.
So make sure the kids aren’t trying to get the rabbit to play during a heatwave. Cuddles can wait until temperatures are back to normal.
What if my rabbit gets too hot?
If your rabbit seems disorientated, or lethargic, or distressed. Or stops eating or drinking in this hot weather, don’t delay in contacting your veterinarian for advice. Your bunny may be suffering from heat stroke.
While you are waiting for help, keep your rabbit in the shade and keep cooling your rabbit’s ears with wet hands or a wet cloth. You can find out more about the signs of heatstroke in rabbits on the medivet site listed below
Why don’t rabbits cope well with heat?
Domestic rabbits are all descendants of the European wild rabbit and are designed to survive cold weather conditions found throughout the winter in much of Europe.
They have thick coats, and are unable to pant through an open mouth, or sweat. So losing heat is difficult for them and in hot weather they become very uncomfortable, very quickly.
Top tips for cooling hot bunnies
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to over-heating. But if your efforts fail, remember that rabbits that become dangerously hot need medical attention.
I hope you found these tips helpful, do tell us about your bunny, and share any tips of your own in the comments below.
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