Despite centuries of domestic breeding, rabbits have not fully shed their wild ways. And, in the wild, they spend their time digging, running, jumping, hiding, eating and socialising with other rabbits. Likewise, guinea pigs, that have been companion pets to humans for thousands of years do the same with their own kind, they live in family groups.
These social animals may have some alone time, but for a solitary pet rabbit or guinea pig to carry out their natural behaviours, they need plenty to do!
This is called enrichment – Rabbit enrichment and guinea pig enrichment.
In the wild, rabbits and guinea pigs spend 80% of their waking time foraging. So, to mimic this natural sensory enrichment for rabbits and guinea pigs, activities for our own pets should encourage similar behaviours using hay and grass!
Rabbits love to snuffle around for titbits so rather than put their food in a bowl, create an easy DIY rabbit enrichment task by putting their food around their enclosure, in their tunnels or under some hay. This encourages a rabbit’s natural urge to forage.
It keeps their minds active and will keep them busy!
Below are 4 DIY rabbit enrichment ideas that you could do at home to keep your pet rabbit, or guinea pig, occupied and prevent destructive behaviours (such as eating cables and coffee tables!).
1) D.I.Y. – Cardboard shreddable mat
Here’s how to build your own DIY rabbit enrichment mat
Step 1: Find a box with a base around the size you would like your finished mat. Be sure to remove any tape or staples to make it rabbit safe.
Step 2: Chop the walls of the box around the base using a knife or scissors. This will create a “tray” which ideally should be about 2 inches deep.
Step 3: Using the remainder of the box walls, cut strips the same length and height of the tray. An easy way to do this is to make one, test that it fits within the tray and then use this as a template. The amount you need will depend on how big your tray will be. You may even need extra cardboard to fill your tray if the tray is quite large.
Step 4: Slot the cardboard strips into the tray until it is full.
Step 5: You should now have a quiet dense cardboard shredded matt. You can add treats within the cardboard strips to get an even better toy for sensory enrichment for rabbits and guinea pigs.
2) Cardboard tube toy
Here’s how to build your own cardboard tube toy that provides sensory enrichment for rabbits and guinea pigs
Step 1: Using a toilet roll, cut it into 6 individual rings
Step 2: Push one of the rings over the top of another ring, then another over these two, overlapping them at different angles, to cover the gaps until you have a ball.
You can put little treats inside of the rings or even small, tasty strands of your bunny’s favourite hay!
3) Rabbit ball pit enrichment activity
Here’s how to build a DIY ball pit for your rabbit’s enrichment
Step 1: Using a plastic tub with a height low enough for the rabbit to jump in and out of. The tub size would need to be big enough for the rabbit to explore in. You could even use one of those kid plastic shell sand pits (These can be found at Bunnings).
Step 2: Purchase some plastic pit balls and add them to the sand pit or tub. (These can be found in the kid’s toy section of Kmart).
Step 3: Throw some food pellets, dried flowers and treats throughout the tub amongst the balls.
Step 4: Encourage your rabbit to forage and play!
Have a camera ready for this extra-adorableness
4) DIY Stick monster
Here’s how to build a stick monster for rabbit enrichment.
Step 1: Gather some edible sticks (apple sticks, pear sticks, willow sticks)
Step 2: Find a long cardboard roll (paper towel roll works really well)
Step 3: Put some holes into the paper roll, with a knife or scissors, (being careful not to hurt yourself).
Step 4: Poke sticks into the holes and then out the other side of the paper roll, through another hole.
Step 5: Either hang the paper roll up with some string, or stand it up on its end on the floor.
Step 6: Let your bunny enjoy their stick monster.
More sensory enrichment ideas for rabbits and guinea pigs
Here are some more ideas you can create from home to keep your rabbit and guinea pigs enriched and busy so they’re happy, healthy and not nibbling on things they shouldn’t be nibbling on around your house.
- Use a treat ball to feed them, they will nose it around to get the pellets out.
- Willow tunnels stuffed with hay and fresh herbs mixed in their hay are always popular.
- Willow, apple and blackberry branches are always a hit, and are a healthy treat as well as a great addition to the diet.
- Stuff paper bags with hay and herbs and your buns will wrestle their way in.
- String or twine tied across like a washing line with green leafy vegetables pegged to it for your bunny to pull down and eat.
- Get an old muffin tray, put it in the enclosure and fill each of the holes with hay and hide their pellets or a small healthy treat in each one.
- Stuff the cardboard tube from inside a toilet roll with hay for your buns to pick out their favourite bits.
- Pick some fresh grass and put it around the enclosure – it’s great for your rabbits and it’s free!
- Make a turf tray by filling a litter tray or plant potting tray with turf from a garden centre. This will allow them to eat fresh grass. It’s a good idea to have two so you can swap them in and out to allow the grass to regrow.
- Wrapping rabbit pallets in brown paper so they have to rip it open to get to the pellets
- Seagrass door mats are great for chewing up! Several mats together can be made into tunnels or different shapes. These are available from Bunnings.