While it is common knowledge that dogs require and enjoy going out for walks, less is known about a bunny’s needs in this regard.
With the increasing availability of leashes and harnesses designed for rabbits, much debate and discussion has surfaced. Is it necessary for our bunnies to head outdoors and are these contraptions safe to use?
There is no doubt that there are benefits that come with engaging one’s pet rabbit in activity. “Mobility assists in gastrointestinal tract movement. This, in turn, improves digestion and bowel movement, reducing the risk of constipation and bloat,” explains Dr Kenneth Tong from Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic.
Not only does exercise improve Thumper’s well-being, the exposure to sunlight that comes together with heading outdoors also helps the synthesis of vitamin D, adds Dr Tong. However, this must be done in a controlled environment, as there are risks present in an external environment that could stress rabbits unnecessarily.
According to the House Rabbit Society of Singapore (HRSS), apart from environmental risks like dirty grass and pavements where rabbits can easily catch fur mites and viruses; there is also the risk of stress from external factors. Other pet dog and cats may seem like predators to the rabbit. Bunnies are generally unable to handle stress well, and may fall sick from it.
That said, each individual rabbit is different and reacts to the outside environment differently. It is important for owners to be patient in introducing any new activity – such as heading out for walks – into Thumper’s life slowly.
This allows bunny owners to gain better insight into their preferences, and discern whether their rabbit will take to the outdoors. “Some rabbits can become accustomed to heading outdoors, and some do look forward to interaction and socialisation with their owner,” says Dr Tong.
He warns though, against walking with a rabbit on hot, humid, or dusty days for fear of heatstroke. If you do decide to bring your bunny out, there are several options available.
The more common ones being a walking harness or leash – although care must be taken to ensure that they are properly attached and used. HRSS advocates against the use of these devices due to the rabbit’s very fragile and delicate body structure.
Improper usage, coupled with sudden body movements, could lead to serious injuries.
For furry ones that get stressed by the great outdoors, there are alternative activities that can be carried out to engage and stimulate them in a safer and more controlled indoor environment.
According to HRSS, a rabbit run offers almost similar benefits to walking outside and will be sufficient in providing physical and mental stimulation for your rabbit.
Dr Tong also suggests feeding your bun in a contraption that makes the little fella work for his food. Simple interaction between rabbits or between a rabbit and its owner also works as a form of stimulation.
*This article was updated on 9 May 2021.