Rabbit foraging toys, enrichment and weight loss

Foraging toys provide great enrichment for bunnies and also much-need exercise (and weight loss) for these domestic pets.
By David Dickson

Ah, the holidays, a time for friends, family and mile after mile of bumper to bumper traffic. It’s also, for many, a time to add a little extra personal insulation against the chill of winter. Those chocolate chip cookies not only taste great, they’ll keep you warm until spring!

Bunny foraging for weight loss

For those who want to shed their hard-earned extra pounds before the warm weather hits, come January there are always a million and one different weight loss programs that crop up like dandelions. But honestly, there’s a better way. Just get somebody to hide your refrigerator every day. Works like magic! Further, you know all those snack items you keep in the pantry? Hire some neighborhood kid to stash them around your yard and house. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you’ll have and the weight will drop like crazy! Well, heck, it works for the rabbits at Best Friends. Ought to work for people too, right?

Bunny foraging toys

In the wild, rabbits don’t exactly wake up and find a magic bowl full of food and treats. They have to work for it. Domestic rabbits, on the other hand, more often than not have bottomless food privileges that they tend to put to good use. One great technique to help the rabbits lose weight, which also gives their brains something to puzzle on, is to introduce foraging toys as a form of enrichment.

A foraging toy is any toy that hides a little treat. But it’s something the animal has to work at. Pretend you came home from work one day only to discover your refrigerator had been outfitted with a Sudoku puzzle lock. You can’t open the door to the fridge until you first finish the puzzle and all the math checks out. (Hmmm. Now there’s an idea. …) You’ve just experienced your own foraging toy.

The concept is to give the rabbits something to work through or figure out before finding the treat. Parrots use very similar toys for the same reasons. Any animal, really, can benefit from foraging toys. And the rabbits at Best Friends just got a whole new batch of them.

A Girl Scout troop from Colorado sent a huge assortment of homemade foraging toys to the rabbits at Best Friends. Have to say, it’s been one continual scavenging hunt ever since! Some of the toys are easy, such as treats stashed in toilet paper tubes with the ends tied off. Others are more challenging. One such masterpiece involves a collection of hay cubes — favorite snacks of rabbits — wrapped in multiple layers of brown paper and then tied off with twine.

There are some toys that are easy to open, but hard to reach. Pin a foraging toy up high on a shelf, for example, and watch the calories melt away. If a rabbit has to stretch and work for the food, it’s also a lot more rewarding when he finds it. And it just happens to add exercise, too.

Staying trim and fit

All in all, foraging for food is a healthy and creative way to keep the rabbits slim, trim and sharp. Not a bad outcome for dealing with snack cravings!

Photo by Sarah Ause

Wow, our rabbits sure love their new toys. Check out the Best Friends wish list to see what other items the bunnies and other sanctuary animals are hoping for this holiday season.

Caring for Pets