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.
This Post Has 5 Comments
I’ve been seeing things about cardboard not being a safe toy for buns. It said something about them ingesting too much and causing digestion issues which resulted in a few bun deaths.
We have not experienced any health-related issues at the Center as a result of cardboard ingestion. Cardboard is a good material to support bunnies’ natural chewing behavior. However, when introducing any type of new toy, food, treat, etc, it’s always a good idea to monitor to make sure there no issues such as changes in appetite or digestion.
Of course it should not be the main source of food, but chewing it in small amounts is safe.
Great article! Thank you for this valuable information! After reading I realize that I need to spend more time with our mother rabbit. Also gonna be using some (or maybe even all) of the ideas for toys. Thanks again.
Our Washington State apple trees keep a steady supply of all different sized branches known to be one of the very best treats a bunny can never have too much of. I think every house in our neighborhood has at least one row of 5 or 6 apple trees in some part of the yard with as many types of apples on one tree as it has branches. And then those lucky enough to have that prized, older, giant front yard tree big enough to have its own tree fort in it. Those branches can build all kinds of bunny things. We all have our favorite apple varieties keeping our kids full of the natural sweet fruit all summer into the fall that may have too much sugar for rabbits, but that part we need to trim off at least once every year anyway that the bunnies, our own little adorable wood chippers with the best natural toys/teeth trimmers/food that they just love growing in the yard! We have so many apple trees that they are growing all wild along the side of the road and in our pastures that can have branches big enough for building edible bunny furniture! Those can be used for building a sturdy wooden rainbow-bridge you set on the ground for bun to hop across safely. Even the smaller new growth twigs can go in a dig box to nibble on and toss around! We keep a box for empty t.p. rolls to go in and will grab one and fill it with an assortment of yummy treats for bun to pull apart. Like fresh fennel stems from the garden or grocery produce department and add a few dried apricots to have a nice squishy texture inside the roll with one or two grape tomatoes and finish it off with some small apple tree twigs pushed into the rolls cross ways to hold it all in place. Timothy hay poking through the open ends even adds something to pull apart even more and you’ve got the most fun homemade toys just by pushing them through small holes pierced with scissors into the cardboard tubes and drop a few of these into a nice big box that you fill up with paper pellets, and even the mixed paper you’ve been collecting for recycling. Then last but not least, bunnies!
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