by Nancy J. LaRoche Copyright 1997 – All Rights Reserved (May be copied for free distribution)
By definition, a game should be something that is fun. But there can be some serious purposes for playing a game. When we play with our rabbits, we are increasing their bond to us, stimulating them mentally and encouraging stretching and exercising of muscles. Try some of the following:
- Hold a papaya tablet or other treat in a loosely closed fist. Hold both fists out to the rabbit. Make him use his nose to find which hand the treat is in before giving it to him.
- Hold a treat high enough above your rabbit’s head so he has to stretch to get it. He will stretch highest if he can brace himself on the side of the cage, but he’ll exercise his ability to balance if he has to stretch without that support.
- With your rabbit on a box or table (cover with a towel or something so it isn’t slippery), offer a treat below the edge of the box or table so he has to stretch his neck down to get it.
- Get a cardboard form for pouring cement pillars. Block one end with a phone book pressed against the wall. Rabbits will go in to explore and get exercise backing out. This is the same movement they would get backing out of a hole if they were digging it. Of course, letting them actually dig such a hole is even better exercise, but cave it in after you’ve removed them, so they can’t make it so long that you can’t get them when it’s time to come in.
- Use anything which will roll and that the rabbit can pick up with her teeth. Wire cat balls with bells in them are ideal. Roll the ball to the rabbit so it gently bumps her nose. Some rabbits will toss it back to you repeatedly once they’ve gotten the idea.
- Watch for a time when your rabbit is running toward you. Crawl or run away as though the rabbit is chasing you. Then turn and playfully chase her. After a few hops, turn and run away again, encouraging her to become the pursuer again. Don’t worry if your rabbit doesn’t catch on well enough for a rousing game of tag. She’ll get some exercise and enjoy being chased as she learns that it’s just a game.
- Hold your rabbit up to a window. She may find looking out to be a fascinating pastime.
- Lie quietly on your stomach until your rabbit jumps on your back. You might have someone put a bit of a treat on your back each time you do this so the bunny becomes eager to jump up. When he is at ease with being on your back, move your back muscles a little, so he gets used to the idea of the “ground” moving. Gradually, over time, you may be able to teach him to ride on your back while you crawl around. Jumping down from your back will also be good exercise.
- Jumping to a reasonable height and down again is good exercise. Sit in a chair when offering your rabbits bananas so they learn to jump into your lap to get them. Let them jump off on their own accord when they wish.
- Play peek-a-boo with a towel over your rabbit. Observe her carefully to see what she enjoys and what may worry her.
- In general, there are two ways you can develop games to play with your rabbits:
- Spend time watching what they naturally enjoy playing with and then figure out how to include yourself in the action.
- Spend time interacting with your rabbits, trying various things, observing their reactions and modifying your activities accordingly.
The keys to playing with your rabbits are to spend time and to be observant. If you’re willing to take the time, you will be richly rewarded with a deepening bond and brighter, healthier, happier rabbits.