Do Rabbits Like Water? The Complete Guide

Rabbit on edge of pond

A rabbit swimming may well be something you have never seen or even imagined. And do they even like the water at all, in any way?

While some pet rabbits will love getting into water, others will be a bit more hesitant. All rabbits have the ability to swim, but whether they actually enjoy the process, or even want to touch water will vary from pet to pet. For those that do enjoy it, water can help them cool down, and provide a stimulating source of play.

Of course, that then opens up the question as to what makes some love it, and others hate it. So, why is that the case?

Well, we can explore what goes on in order to get to the bottom of that particular question. There’s actually more to cover with all of this than you would expect. But then, that’s why we are offering the complete guide to the relationship between your rabbit and water.

So, we are going to cover things such as –

  • How to identify if they like water
  • How to deal with any accidents
  • The signs that all is not well
  • How to get them used to water

By the end, you will be well-equipped for any eventuality, so let’s get into it.

We Aren’t Talking About Drinking Water

Clearly, we aren’t talking about drinking water. Rabbits love to drink water as it keeps them alive. You must always provide them with a fresh, clean source of drinking water for them to sip on whenever they want.

Nope, in this instance, we are talking about bathing, them going swimming, and even if they could go into your bathtub in your home. Let’s face it, rabbits can be nosy, so you can never completely rule that out.

Rabbits Can Swim

Before you start to worry about your rabbit and the potential for them drowning if you have a pond or other water source in your garden, then don’t stress. Rabbits are able to swim. [Source] It’s something that comes naturally to them, and they are a lot better at swimming than people perhaps expect.

Some rabbits love this activity. They probably feel that it helps if they have some aches and pains in much the same way as we humans do when it comes to water therapy. Actually, if you discover that your rabbit loves water, then this form of therapy may be prescribed by a vet in order to help them.

However, don’t think that because your rabbit can swim that they will automatically want to do this. Don’t force them into it. If they see water and feel like having a swim, then they will get in all on their own. Trust us when we say they will not require any persuasion if they like it.

If you force them into water, then yes they will swim, but you will also scare them and make them anxious. Something that could have been quite a pleasant activity for them will then be ruined simply because of your actions.

Also, while they can actually swim or keep themselves afloat, they can only do so for a certain period of time. It’s a natural thing, as they are prey animals, so there are times when they would be forced into swimming in order to get away from a predator.

In saying that, it’s certainly not their favorite hobby.

They Do Like to Splash

If you have a kids paddling pool in your garden, and the sun is out, then letting your rabbit have a splash around in some water can be a great idea.

Your rabbit does not sweat, so it has difficulty cooling down on those hot days, so letting them get into some shallow water and throw water over themselves can be wonderful for them.

Of course, with this you need to make sure the water isn’t that deep. Yes, we did just say that your rabbit can swim, but it’s not their favorite hobby or form of exercise. Allowing them to walk into some shallow water is perfect.

However, as you will see later on, there are certain steps you should perhaps work through with your rabbit in order to determine not only if they like water, but the extent to which they enjoy it.

But How Do You Know If They Like Swimming Or Splashing?

Knowing if your rabbit likes swimming or splashing around is a whole lot easier than you think. Remember that your rabbit is already pretty good at letting you know their feelings via their own way of communicating with you.

But we will look at things in a different way. This is about more than deciding if they like swimming, but rather their entire reaction to water.

It’s a big step from them splashing in a few drops of water to swimming or paddling. You cannot expect your rabbit to literally jump into the deep end straight away.

So, here are the key steps you need to take.

Step 1: Take a Softly-Softly Approach

The first thing is that you need to take the softly-softly approach. Like we said earlier, never just throw them into water knowing they will swim. You could give your rabbit a heart attack if you do this.

Consider misting their hutch to see how they react. This will give some insight into what they think about water that’s not immediately attached to their water source. Also, don’t soak their hutch when doing this. You can do a little bit, and then see what happens.

The theory here is that, if they hate the mist, then they are certainly not going to enjoy water or swimming at all. If you are concerned about moving too fast to the next step, try the misting approach again, but this time do more of it.

Step 2: How Do They React with Bathing?

The next step is to consider how your rabbit reacts when bathing them. Do they squirm and try to get away, or make noises that show they are in distress? If so, then swimming or being in more water for a longer period of time is not going to be suitable.

If you go towards your rabbit with a washcloth, what happens? Do they come across as being anxious or stressed?

If they do react in a negative way, then it does mean they are not too happy about any kind of water, and you can then stop your testing as you have found your answer. If they don’t appear to react in a stressed way, then you can try the next step.

Step 3: Study Their Water Bowl

OK, so this may sound a bit strange, but pay attention to how they deal with their water bowl. Some rabbits will see their water bowl as some kind of toy, and they will go and put their paws in the water. Of course, this can also mean they enjoy the feeling that the water gives them, and that may be a good sign for them liking water.

However, some rabbits may do even more. They can tip over their water bowl, and that will send water everywhere. If you see your rabbit doing this and still standing in the water, then the idea of them paddling in water is not going to be too far away from this reality.

But if they try to keep as far away as possible from their water bowl and clearly use it simply for a drink, then it could be another indicator that all is not too well with your rabbit and water.

Brown rabbit on edge of pond

Step 4: Creating a Paddling Pool

Let’s say your rabbit has shown that they are not too bothered about water, and that it certainly does not make them anxious. The best thing for you to do is to then create a form of a paddling pool for them to get into and have some fun.

So, this is how you make it.

First, get a shallow bowl or dish that can act as the paddling pool. The bowl being shallow is very important as it will mean you are automatically limited to the amount of water.

Pay attention to the temperature of the water. It should be tepid, as neither too hot nor too cold is ever a good idea for your rabbit. In fact, it will upset them. [Source]

Next, make sure it is just pure water. There should be no chemicals of any kind, so make sure the dish you use is not only clean, but well-rinsed before putting any water into it. The skin of your rabbit is very sensitive to chemicals, and it will become irritated in next to no time.

Once the water is ready, place your rabbit close to the water, but let them explore it all in their own time. You might be excited to see if they react in a positive way, but they will check it out all by themselves without you pushing or prodding them.

But here’s an important point.

If your rabbit walks up to the bowl, and then turns and walks away, then remove the bowl. It does mean that your rabbit is not interested in water, and it doesn’t matter what the reason may be. You can always try again later on another day, but don’t force them back. Your rabbit has already let you know what they think about it all.

So, what do you do if your rabbit clearly likes this small bowl of water? Well, that’s when you go and start to think about using a larger container that can hold more water or cover a larger area.

Through time, and as long as they keep showing they are happy with the water, you could work your way up to an animal paddling pool. A pet store is going to stock these, and they will provide a safe option for your rabbit to play in the water whenever they want.

The only other thing we recommend is to make sure that you dry off your rabbit after they have been playing in water. They won’t appreciate having a wet body for any prolonged period of time.

Warning Signs

Your rabbit is going to display some warning signs that all is not well, and you should be aware of them before you even go ahead and check to see how they react to water.

One of the main signs is that they will flop onto their back in water. Now, they aren’t trying to do some strange swimming stroke or want to feel the water on their back. Instead, it means they are very scared, and this is the reaction to being so afraid.

If you see your rabbit doing this, then remove them from the water and don’t put them anywhere near it again. They will show signs of discomfort, and make noises that will show this to be the case.

But What About Accidents?

So, what will happen if there’s an accident and your rabbit falls into water? If that’s the case, then be aware your rabbit is going to be scared witless. They can swim, but the fear will overtake them, and they will pretty much be unable to react.

If you see your rabbit fall into water, then remove them immediately. This will help settle them down and stop them feeling so scared and anxious. After that, wrap them in a blanket and do everything you can to soothe them and make them feel safe.

You will feel their heart going crazy due to the scare they have just had, so talk softly to them and stroke their forehead to help calm them.

If the water they fell into was cold, then you need to use the blanket or some kind of heat source to help warm them up once more. One of the best options is a hot water bottle. If you don’t have one to hand, then a hairdryer can be used to warm up and dry their fur. If you do use this, then make sure it’s at least 1 foot away from them, and don’t put it on the warmest setting. That will be highly uncomfortable for your rabbit.

Your Garden Pond

As something of a side note, if you have a garden pond and your rabbit falls in, then there are certain things you should do in order to make sure that they are nice and healthy.

First, get them warm and dry as quickly as possible. After that, think about what is in your pond and the chances of them having swallowed bacteria or algae. You may want to get them checked over to make sure that they are OK, and then keep an eye on them for any potential issues of being in shock or illness.

It’s more to do with the worry about infection if they fall into your garden pond. Also, keep an eye on them for the first 48 hours as it can take that long for infections to take hold.

A Swimming Pool

If you have a swimming pool, then please take steps to make sure your rabbit cannot fall in. Not only are they very deep for a rabbit, but the chemicals contained within the water will be dangerous to them as well.

With this, get them checked by a vet. Once again, this is more for the chemicals that they may have ingested, as this can prove to be problematic in a number of ways.

The same approach does kind of apply should they manage to fall into your bathtub at home. It’s not so much the water, unless it’s very warm, but more the soap you use in the bath that will be an irritant.

If they do fall into your bathtub, then get them to your local vet so they can be examined for any possible problems.

A Rabbit and Water – The Key Points

We have covered a lot here, so let’s run over the key points once more to make sure you have a complete understanding of how your rabbit feels about water.

First, some will love it and others will loathe it. Take your time to identify which camp your rabbit falls into.

Next, never force your rabbit into enjoying water. They will make up their own mind in their own time, and then act accordingly. If they love it, then make sure they can enjoy water as often as possible.

We also said how you have to build up their confidence, as well as your understanding of what they are comfortable with when it comes to water. If you are unsure at any point, then stop what you are doing and slow down the steps you have been taking.

Ultimately, you must listen to your rabbit and what they are telling you when it comes to water. Your rabbit will not be shy at telling you when they are not happy, and then you have to make sure you never force them. That is something we have stressed time and time again because of the damage it can do to the nerves of your rabbit.

In saying that, have some fun seeing how your rabbit reacts. You never know, you could have a rabbit that simply loves water, and then you have a whole new way of playing with them opening up to you.

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