We are meant to be getting a heat wave over the next few days. So I thought it would be a good time for a post on keeping your rabbit cool in hot weather. There are a lot of tip and tricks from cooling down hot rabbits, here are some recommended by Scamp’s twitter from and some Scamp tried out too.
1. Cool Flooring
Rabbits are generally pretty low to the ground (Scamp get down off the table!) 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.
@therabbithouse i put some ceramic tiles down today and Mini hasn’t left it since!
— Elena (@ElenaSchu) July 17, 2014
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. Scamp has sorted out his own cool flooring by removing the bottom of his cardboard box so he can sit on the tile underneath. 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 outdoors, greenhouse shade netting is great or 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. 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.
I tested this out by placing a 1L frozen bottle inside Scamp’s cardboard sleeping box. This dropped the temperature 3-4 degrees! 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: Ice Lollies
It’s a hot day, what do you want? An ice lolly – I think you call them popsicles in the US? As the things in ice lollies are definitely not bunny suitable, we made our own. Broccoli popsicle or carrot lolly pop, 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.
I’m not sure it’s going to have a significant effect on how warm your bunny is, but who cares because it’s a pretty fun enrichment activity. That said, he had quite a cold nose when he tried to lick me afterwards. Laura also suggested ice cubes in the water bowl, which sounds like another good way to cool down a bunny and the general temperature around the bowl.
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.
Scamp didn’t seem to object to having his ears made soggy, but then he had to spend ages grooming them, plus they dry out quick and you have to reapply. If you’re outside, you could spray water on the floor instead, although then they’ve probably have to clean their tootsies instead.
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. Also don’t forget to check regularly for flystrike.
If you’ve got any more suggestions leave them in the comments below or you can tweet them at me.