Its that time of the summer where it feels hotter and hotter outside. Just because rabbits are small and fast doesn’t make them any less susceptible to the heat either. We thought it would be a good time for a post on keeping your rabbit cool in hot weather. There are a lot of tips and tricks from cooling down hot rabbits, here are some we have recommended to use on your furry little friend during these heat waves:
1. Cool Flooring
Rabbits are generally pretty low to the ground which is good because it’s generally a bit cooler down there as heat rises. You might have noticed your rabbit digging/rearranging bedding to sleep on the bare floor – wild rabbits do they same. They dig scrapes, shallow hollows of bare earth, to lay in. These are lovely and cool. You can offer the same opportunity by providing soil in a box or tray if your rabbit doesn’t have access to bare ground. A ceramic tile (or a paving slab outside) is a bit less messy. You could spray them with water or, for tiles, pop them in the fridge awhile to make them even cooler. Don’t forget though, this only works if the floor is in the shade. Although they are good at staying cool, they’ll also heat up quickly if left in full sun.
Talking about shade. It’s a really important part of keeping your bunny cool. For outdoor bunnies, greenhouse shade netting is great or even just a cotton sheet. You can peg or tie them to your rabbit’s run. Check through out the day to see where the shade hits, as you may need to adjust as the sun moves. Provide extra shade with boxes and tunnels. Inside, keep curtains closed when the windows are in direct sun, that will keep the general room temperature down. Open windows (making sure bunnies can’t escape!) whilst the outdoor temperature is lower (early mornings/evenings) but close them again once the temperature outdoors gets higher than inside.
3: Frozen Water Bottle
Some days it’s hot even in the shade, so you need a way to cool things down not just stop them getting hot. A frozen water bottle is great for cooling down the area around your bunny (this can drop the temperate 3-4 degrees!). Just use a normal plastic bottle filled with water and left in the freezer. Your bunny might decide to sit next to it, but if not it will still cool the area around them. The only draw back is plastic bottles of water and chewing can be a messy combination. If your bun lives in a cage or crate, one solution is to place the ice bottle on top away from bunny teeth and the cool air will sink cooling the cage below. Having the frozen bottle inside something like a box or tunnel is more effective, as that way you are only trying to cool the box rather than the whole room. Having several bottles so you can rotate whilst you wait for them to refreeze will help you keep up a constant supply of DIY air con.
4: Veggie/Fruit Popsicle
It’s a hot day, what do you want? A popsicle. As most ingredients in popsicles are definitely not bunny suitable, we made our own. Broccoli popsicle or carrot popsicle, anyone? It’s very easy all you do is freeze your bunnies favourite veggies or herbs. You could also puree them and freeze them into icecubes or on string! Give them a few seconds to loose that stickiness lollies have when they come straight out the freezer and let your bunny nibble.
5. Soggy Ears
Another twitter bun suggested a spritz of cool water for the ears. Humans cool down by sweating – the sweat evaporates cooling the skin. Rabbits don’t sweat and they have very insulated fur, so the only way they have to cool is to divert more blood flow to their ears, where the fur is very thin. That’s why some rabbit’s ears lop in hot weather. When it gets warm, more blood flows through their ears to help with cooling, making them heavier, so they droop. By making your bunnies ears damp – just run your hand under a tap and then stroke your rabbits ears, don’t tip water over their head! As the water evaporates it will help cool their ears and the blood flowing through them.
Just a note on heatstroke: if your rabbit gets too hot e.g. lethargic, rapid breathing etc. then contact your vet and begin cooling them slowly e.g. by laying on a damp towel in the shade or immediately taking them to the vet!