Rabbits should not be left cooped up in a cage all day long. Rabbits’ bodies were built to run, and they need space to hop around and exercise. If your rabbit is new, you will probably need to supervise them pretty closely while they explore at first. But eventually, you’ll be able to relax and let your rabbit out whenever you are home and within hearing distance.
Rabbits should have 4 to 5 hours outside of their cage or enclosure for exercise every day. Ideally, this will be in the morning and evening since that’s when rabbits are most active. This time will help your rabbit stay happy and healthy, while also giving them the opportunity to socialize.
Four hours is just the minimum amount of time rabbits should be given. It may seem like a lot, but once you take the time to do some basic rabbit proofing, you don’t need to supervise your rabbit as closely. You can let them out while you watch TV, cook, do some exercises, or get ready for work in the morning.
You can always give your rabbit more time or even allow them to have free roam of your home (or a room in your home) too. If you do this, you no longer need to worry about letting your rabbit out of their cage or enclosure.
How often should you let a rabbit out of its hutch or pen?
It’s best to let your rabbit out of its cage or enclosure at least twice a day for exercise and socialization. If rabbits are regularly cooped up for more than 12 hours at a time, there is an increased risk that they will develop health problems (such as GI Stasis) or become depressed and lonely.
Try to let your rabbit out for playtime for a few hours in the morning and at least a few hours in the evening every day. This keeps them from being cooped up in their cage or enclosure for too long and will give them time to exercise when rabbits are most active (around dawn and dusk). Combined, you should aim to make sure your rabbit gets four to five hours of exercise per day. Of course, if you can give them more time, that’s always better.
Why do pet rabbits need so much time to exercise?
Four hours a day may seem like a lot of time, but it is important for a rabbit. Exercise keeps their digestion moving, and keeps your rabbit happy. It doesn’t need to feel like such a crazy endeavor either. After all, no one complains about how much time cats have to roam around the house and ‘exercise.’ Rabbits can be treated very similarly. Simply allowing your rabbit to live as a companion alongside you is all they really need. It doesn’t take as much time as bringing a dog out to walk for exercise.
- Aids in digestion and health. Rabbit digestion is very sensitive and it’s an integral part of a rabbit’s health. If their digestive tract stops working properly, that can lead to very serious illness in rabbits. Regular exercise is very important for keeping their digestion going smoothly and keeping your rabbit overall healthy.
- Helps prevent obesity. Obesity is a very dangerous condition for rabbits. It’s a risk factor for many serious illnesses, such as GI Stasis and flystrike, and also makes it difficult for rabbits to keep themselves clean. Obesity can also cause sores on the bottom of rabbit feet, and it can cause arthritis.
- Prevents depression. Rabbits were built to run. Without space to zoom around as nature intended, it’s a lot more likely that the rabbit will become subdued or even aggressive due to frustration and depression.
- Rabbits are sprinters. I always say rabbits are sprinters, not long-distance runners. They need a lot of exercise time because they will not be running around for the entire four to five hours. Instead, you’ll notice your rabbit hop around for a while, then lay down for a bit. Then they’ll get up and explore some more, and so on. If you only let your rabbit out for an hour every day, they would only get 15-30 minutes of actual exercise.
- It gives rabbits time to socialize. Rabbits are also a highly social species of animal. If left alone all day they will become lonely and depressed. By letting your rabbit out for longer periods of time, you give them the option to come up to you and hang out with other people, getting the socialization they need to stay happy.
What to do if you can’t supervise your rabbit for that long?
As you may have figured out already, rabbits can be little troublemakers if they want to be. They have a knack for chewing on everything and getting into places they shouldn’t be. It can feel like you have to carefully supervise your rabbit whenever they are out and about. If you’re like most people, there are things you need to get done and there is no way you have time to just sit and watch your rabbit for five hours every day.
To make sure your rabbit has a happy life with plenty of freedom while also not sucking up all of your time, you will need to rabbit-proof any area where your bunny is regularly allowed to play. This includes things like covering wires with tubing, blocking baseboards so rabbits can chew on them, and getting anything dangerous out of your rabbit’s reach (luckily rabbits can’t reach counters like cats can).
Once you’ve covered the basics of rabbit-proofing, you won’t need to supervise your rabbit quite as closely. It’s a good idea to stay within hearing distance until you start to understand your rabbit’s personality better. You’ll be able to hear if they get into anything new or knock anything over, but also be able to cook dinner or take care of business in another room over.
Once you feel more comfortable with your rabbit, I recommend letting them out whenever you are home. They can explore on their own, or come up to you and socialize whenever they want to. Overall, the more freedom you can give your rabbit, the happier you will be.
- Learn more about rabbit proofing
Should you keep your rabbit in a cage at all?
There is a movement that’s now spreading through rabbit caretakers across the nation to not keep your rabbit in a cage at all. Instead, you would free-roam your rabbit similar to the way cats and dogs live as companion pets. This makes rabbits a more integral part of the family, and it means they can get exercise whenever they want.
You don’t have to give your rabbit the whole home as free-roam territory either. You can block off certain rooms, or set up one fully rabbit-proofed room that your rabbit lives in without a cage or enclosure. Having lived this way with my rabbits for many years now, I can say that it’s a really wonderful experience and has brought me a lot closer to my bunnies.
If you can’t free-roam your rabbit, I still don’t recommend getting a traditional rabbit cage for your bunny. Instead, get a pet playpen (like this one) to use as a rabbit cage or enclosure. You can put a cheap area rug on the ground underneath the pen to protect your floors. This will give your rabbit more room to sprawl out and hop around during the day so that they can still move around a little.
Cages that are marketed toward rabbits tend to be much too small and barely give enough space for the bunny to hop from one end to the other. Not enough living space can lead to a very frustrated and bored bunny.
When to consider free-roaming a rabbit
Of course, some rabbits are easier to free-roam than others. Some rabbits are very well-behaved, always using their litter box and rarely chewing on things they shouldn’t. Other rabbits make a mess everywhere and have a knack for getting around blockades and getting into trouble.
Before choosing to free-roam your rabbit, I recommend bringing a rabbit home and getting a feel for their personality. You’ll be able to figure out what kind of trouble your rabbit likes to get into and rabbit-proof any necessary area.
You also might not be able to free-roam a rabbit who is not litter-trained. Most rabbits will start using a litter box fairly quickly, but if your rabbit is stubborn and starts peeing everywhere, it’s okay to keep them in a pen while you’re away so that they don’t ruin all of your floors.
You also need to consider your living situation before free-roaming a rabbit. Rabbits who share the house with dogs might not be able to free roam. In addition, you might not want to free-roam a baseboard-biting rabbit if you live in an apartment. I do highly recommend taking the time to free-roam a pet rabbit, however, it’s also not in the cards for all rabbits and all families. If you make sure to have a large enclosure for your rabbit (such as the playpen that I mentioned earlier), you can still have a very happy bunny in your home.
- Learn more about how to free-roam your house rabbit
What time of day is best for rabbits to exercise?
If your rabbit is not free roam, the best times to let them out of their enclosure for exercise are in the morning and the evening. If you can let your rabbit out during both these times of the day, that would be ideal. That way you won’t keep your rabbit cooped up in their pen for too long.
Morning and evening exercise times are best for rabbits because that’s when they are most active. Rabbits are known as crepuscular animals, not nocturnal. This means that they tend to sleep in the middle of the day and the middle of the night, and they’ll be active for the hours around dawn and dusk.
If you let your rabbit out to exercise in the middle of the day, they might explore for a little bit. However, you’ll probably notice that they find a spot to go back to sleep fairly quickly. To maximize the amount of time your rabbit is moving around, it’s best to stick to morning and evening exercise as much as possible.
How to encourage your rabbit to exercise
If you let your rabbit out to exercise, but they don’t seem to be hopping around much, you can help encourage more movement. This is a more common behavior among rabbits who are used to just sitting around all the time. Maybe they came from a negligent situation before you adopted them and now the rabbit needs time to adjust to a healthier home with more space and time to exercise.
Try some of these tips to help encourage exercise so you can help your rabbit stay healthy:
- Give your rabbit toys. Make sure your rabbit has a variety of toys they can choose to play with. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes the best toy is a cardboard box or toilet paper tube. (how to find toys your rabbit will play with)
- Platforms and tunnels. Rabbits like to hop up onto platforms (something like a short cat tower) and go through tunnels and inside caves.
- Change up the furniture occasionally. A new room layout, even if it’s just one piece of furniture that’s moved, can be a whole new place to explore for rabbits. It will instantly excite them and get your rabbit moving.
- Foraging activities. Sprinkle your rabbit’s pellets on the ground when you feed them to encourage your rabbit to move around. You can also hide little treats around the room for your rabbit to find.
- Train your rabbit and entice them with small treats. Did you know rabbits are trainable? You can teach them how to spin in circles, give you high fives, or even jump hurdles.
- More tips to encourage your rabbit to exercise more