Does my bunny snooze all day while I’m gone, or are they anxiously awaiting my arrival?
Research says rabbits can recognize human faces and as very social creatures, create tight and loving bonds not only with their bunny counterparts, but with their owners. Although more research needs to be conducted, it’s very possible that rabbits can recognize when you are absent.
I’m going to take a look at how rabbit’s relationships and minds work, and then the evidence for how much they might miss you as the owner. Also I’ve got lots of top tips on how to strengthen your bond with your bunny
Does My Rabbit Miss Me?
Rabbits in the wild do not spend much time alone. (Source) Rabbits are naturally prey animals and in the wild live in high vigilance. Colonies help to give the group the best chance of survival not only working as a team to warn each other of danger, but to keep each other company and of course snuggle up when the temperature drops.
Rabbits have excellent long term memory skills. This helps them in the wild remember where good food sources are and where predators may tend to lurk.
Their short term memory isn’t the best, so teaching your bunny to jump on command in 5 minutes may be tough. However if you curl up on the couch with your pet to watch Netflix every night, that’s something that will stick in their mind and that they will be expecting!
In domesticated rabbits, owners provide the sense of security, food, water and shelter. All these positive associations will condition our pets to look for us as their protectors and sources of all things goods and fun.
The amount of time your spend with your rabbit will influence not only your bond, but the stark contrast of your absence. So without you by their side, the world can be a scary place!
How will I know if my rabbit is missing me?
Without their favorite friend nearby (hopefully that’s you!), rabbits can become quite depressed.
If your normally energetic bunny seems lethargic, sleeping for more hours than usual, or is not greeting you in their normal fashion (perhaps hiding behind the sofa instead of out and about) – these are all warning signs.
Firstly, it is crucial to make sure your rabbit is healthy and having normal routine veterinary care. It’s very possible that these are warning signs your rabbit isn’t feeling their best. Other signs may include reluctance to eat or even destructive behaviors.
If they otherwise have a clean bill of health, they may be suffering from depression/anxiety and missing you could be the cause!
I have to go to work! What can I do to keep my bunny happy while I’m gone?
Much like toddlers, mental and physical stimulation is the key to a well behaved and happy bunny.
Before you need to leave for an extended period of time, make sure your bunny has had proper exercise. Let them roam around the house or take them outside on a leash to explore. Mental enrichment toys are helpful as well.
Toys that engage the mind and body are great like sniffing out treats in a puzzle or a card board box playhouse are great ways to entertain a busy bunny.
It is important if you’d like to leave a fun game with your rabbit as you leave for the day, that the toy is safe and there’s minimal chance of injury or any type of toxic ingestion.
I have tried that, but my rabbit still seems unhappy!
Sometimes you can do your very best and it still seems like your rabbit is not their usual self. There are some things you can do in order to try to combat the loneliness and perhaps anxiety your pet experiences when you’re not around.
1. Ask a friend
Perhaps you have a friend who is over your home a lot and is familiar with your pet. Having a friend stop by to spend a little time with your rabbit may help. Rabbits not only can recognize their owners, but may also possess the capabilities to recognize a familiar person in your life.
If you can’t be there, your best friend may be the next best thing! Before trying this out, it may be worth a few test runs with you in the room.
Naturally, rabbits tend to be more “flight” than “fight”. The last thing we want to do is create more stress and anxiety. Having a few “hang outs” will make your pet more at ease. Small doses of your pet and your friend alone together slowly building up to prolonged time without you there is the best way to introduce this.
Watch you rabbit’s body language.
Are they happy to snuggle up on the rug next to someone you trust, or are they off in the corner trying to disappear?
2. A piece of you
Along with amazing eyesight to spot predators, rabbits also have quite the sense of smell. Along with recognizing their favorite people, your scent is distinct and familiar.
Depending on where you keep your rabbit when you’re not around, an article of clothing or perhaps the blanket you use while lounging on the couch can be a great source of comfort.
A simple blanket over the cage /hutch or a pillow wearing your tee shirt can act as a temporary YOU until you can be home again. These scents can be comforting to your pet and serve at this metaphorical security blanket in your absence.
3. A bunny buddy
A lot of the time, getting a second pet is not a feasible option. However, if you do have the space and time for a second rabbit – this can be a great way to combat loneliness, give your pet a sense of security, and keep your rabbit entertained!
All new animals should be introduced slowly over a period of time and always under supervision. After proper introduction and acclimation, a bonded pair of bunnies will do just fine together if you have to stay late at the office.
Double the bunnies means double the fun, but can also mean doubling of a lot of other things. More food, water, space and veterinary care. Make sure you are prepared for all these things before bringing in a new addition to your household!
4. Stick to a routine
Just like you stomach growls when dinner time rolls around, rabbits are no different.
In all domestic animals, routine is very important. So if you get up for work and feed your pet at 7AM, that is something that sticks to their memory.
If you had dinner everyday at 6:30PM and suddenly there comes a day when it’s 7PM and you still haven’t had your dinner, you’d be pretty stressed, confused, and HUNGRY.
Same thing goes for our bunnies. If you can’t be there to feed your bunny at a certain time, or take them out for a romp in the grass – having someone to be able to fill in those crucial moments in your normal routine can keep your pet happy and stress free.
If you have a job that’s consistently 9-5 Monday through Friday, that is your routine and will eventually become THEIR routine. If you have a sudden change to your everyday routines, that can be hard for you and your pet to adjust to! Keep in mind sudden changes may not seem like a big deal to you, but may be a big deal for your pet!
This is a fantastic youtube video about the sort of routine you could have for your rabbit:
According to the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science, there is evidence to believe that rabbits CAN tell humans apart. (Source) When paired with a positive stimulus (food), the rabbits were able to correctly identify/remember later in the study which people they wanted to be with, and which people were empty-handed.
It’s possible to say if you’re gone for a long weekend, or perhaps a week business trip – your pet will realize you’re not there and will miss you.
Every bunny is of course different and some may adjust to your absence better than others. Taking steps to ensure your pet’s health and well-being by not only noticing the signs of distress , but also trying to prevent them is one of the many ways we can show our animals that they are safe and so very loved!