By Rebecca Allen
A rabbit is never happier than when he is playing! While there are many toys available at pet stores, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money to entertain your rabbit. Many of the components you need to keep your bunny busy are probably already available to you at home!
Know your bunny’s play style
Most rabbits enjoy digging and chewing. These are ingrained, instinctual behaviors that are beneficial for the wild bunny. Many buns also enjoy tossing objects around. An ideal toy would engage a rabbit in at least two of these behaviors. Take some time and observe your rabbit. What are his go-to play behaviors? See if you can determine what his favorite type of play is, and tailor your toys accordingly.
Bunny-safe materials for play
Cardboard – this is a must have material for any rabbit owner! It is quite versatile, and as long as any adhesives are removed, it is a very safe material for rabbits to chew and “redecorate”. Boxes of any size will intrigue a rabbit. Cut out doors to allow your bun to hop through (make sure there are at least two entrances so your bunny feels safe). Use them as platforms and give your bunny a different perspective! Fill them with paper or hay to let your bunny dig. Put a large cardboard tube behind your couch and let your rabbit “tunnel” behind furniture without damaging your home. Stuff paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls with hay and allow your bun to pick out the best pieces, and toss the tubes with abandon.
Paper – Kraft paper or newspapers – Paper will allow your rabbit to rip something up, and dig and destroy in a safe manner. Some bunnies love to hear the sound paper makes when it gets torn! Plain Kraft paper is safe; most newspapers use soy-based inks and are also safe as play materials, provided your bun is not an avid paper eater. Fill cardboard boxes with paper to encourage burrowing and digging; crumple up paper into a ball to encourage your bun to toss it or nose it back. If your bunny tolerates it, you can even place paper over him like a tent and allow him to hide underneath and tunnel through.
Blankets/Polar fleece – Blankets are a soft material that allows your bunny to dig, dig, dig. Polar fleece is the only safe fabric for buns, because the fibers are short enough that they will not cause digestive problems. Pile these in front of your bunny and let him dig to his heart’s content. Tie knots in various parts of the blanket to give him something bigger to chew and work on. Cut a blanket up into strips and make a big fluffy ball out of it to toss to your bun. If you make it big enough he can also dig on it and bat it around with his paws. Blankets also make great filler for cardboard boxes and help your bunny feel at home. Make a nest around your bun and let him feel safe and cozy.
Phone books – Use under supervision only. Make sure the front and back covers are removed and that your rabbit does not eat the adhesive on the spine. Phone books are a fantastic outlet for digging and ripping/tossing behaviors.
Pinecones (untreated! Please use caution!) – Provided the pinecones are untreated and animal safe, bunnies love to chew them and they work well to wear down their teeth. They love to toss them around, too! If you cannot find safe ones in the wild, these can be purchased very cheaply at any pet store.
Willow baskets (untreated! Please use caution!) – small willow baskets make a great toy for a rabbit to nose around, or a good place to put treats and encourage exploration. It is also a favorite material for chewing! The texture and the sound are both pleasing for buns. You can find baskets such as these at many home décor stores or at the Ohio House Rabbit Adoption Center Hop Shop.
Repurposed toddler toys – Hard plastic teething toys are ideal for a bunny, especially teething keys. These allow for chewing and tossing by your bunny. Wooden letter blocks are great for chewing, and visual interest.
You – you are the best toy your rabbit can have. Spend time down on the floor with your bun! Interact with him. Lie down next to him and let him hop all over you! Play peek-a-boo with him on the other side of a cardboard box; pile and dig on blankets with him; gently toss him a set of toddler keys. Sometimes it takes bunnies a little while to warm up to a toy. They may even appear fearful at first, but give them a little bit of time. Leave the toy where your bun can investigate it thoroughly. Model the behavior of how to play with a toy if your rabbit doesn’t seem to understand. Talk to him, pet him, and communicate with him through play! Your relationship will deepen and your bunny will be quite content.