How To Keep Rabbits Calm During Firework Season

Introduction
 

Rabbits are naturally skittish creatures. They are often startled by sudden or loud noises due to their position in the environment. Rabbits are prey animals so they have a natural instinct to avoid sudden or loud noises as this indicates danger. Most animals are startled by loud noises but rabbits are particularly sensitive. The reason for this is not simply because the noise is loud but rather how they hear those noises.

Our beautiful bunnies have highly sensitive hearing, even better than dogs! They are capable of detecting sound from also 2 miles away and they can swivel their ears independently to focus on noises in different directions. For comparison, humans can hear up to 20,000 Hz, dogs up to 45,000 Hz and rabbits up to 49,000 Hz. This means that any loud noise is much more intense for a rabbit as it is for us. So, it is no wonder they are a little nervous.

If your bunny is feeling frightened, they will display this with body language or behavioural changes.

Watch out for:
• Playing dead
• Darting about
• Trying to hide
• Thumping hind feet
• Refusing food
• Uncharacteristic aggression
• Change in toileting habits

Even a usually confident and playful rabbit will show nervous behaviour from loud noises, but you can plan ahead for such occasions as Bonfire night, New Years eve or reported thunderstorms.


Top tips to help


Bonfire night and New Years eve are notoriously loud times of the year as people set off fireworks, play music and there is lots of shouting and cheering. In some cases, rabbits can die from fear, although the more accurate diagnosis would be a heart attack or similar condition. This is not good for rabbits as they will hear these noises much more clearly than us, so as a rabbit owner you should prepare in advance to help keep your rabbit calm.

The first thing you can do is relocate your rabbit’s cage or hutch. If they are an outdoor rabbit, bring their hutch indoors as this will help to muffle a lot of the noise. It is also helpful to lay a blanket over the cage. This creates a den-like environment which will help to soothe your rabbit. In the wild, rabbits dig burrows underground so a blanket will mimic this.

If it is not possible to bring the hutch indoors, you can either purchase a temporary indoor cage or prepare their hutch outdoors. An outdoor hutch should be covered with a thick blanket and it is also a good idea to give your rabbits a little extra bedding so they can burrow under it if they wish. If there are fireworks right over your house, you may still have to bring your rabbit indoors as a covered hutch will not sufficiently block out the noise.

Placing a hiding place inside their enclosure will give an extra cosy spot to keep your rabbit calm. This is easily done by cutting a small hole in a cardboard box and filling it with bedding and a small amount of hay so your rabbit doesn’t have to leave their hide to eat.

Some rabbits prefer human company so you may want to have your rabbit on your lap or cuddled under a blanket with you. Keep your blinds and curtains closed to reduce flashes and muffle a little of the noise. It is also good to have background noise from a radio or television so your rabbit has a calmer noise to focus on. If your rabbit has a favourite toy or game they like to play, try doing that, but do not force them if they show no interest.

 

 

Products to help keep calm


There are products on the market that can help to soothe an anxious bunny and they don’t require a vet trip or expensive prescription. Bunbox’s Calming Mix is a natural, healthy blend of herbs that slowly lower your rabbits blood pressure, giving a natural calming sensation. The calming mix also relaxes the digestive tract and helps reduce feelings of exhaustion and depression.

The ingredients of this natural calming mix are:
Enchea, dandelion leaves, plantain, rose flowers, lemon balm, chamomile flowers and lavender flowers. Many of these ingredients provide similar effects as essential oils do for us when we use sprays or go for a spa treatment.
You can give your rabbit a small amount of the calming mix with their normal food or hay portion. This helps encourage natural foraging behaviour which also aids in distracting your rabbit from their surroundings.

If your rabbit is especially nervous, you may wish to speak to your veterinarian for advice. There are medications that can help to reduce stress in rabbits, but this will only be prescribed if the all other methods of home management have failed.


Conclusion


Keeping your bunny calm and relaxed during loud parties, bonfire night or even just vacuuming the house, doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Work with your rabbit’s natural personality and this will help to provide the best ways of keeping them calm. Remember, never handle your bunny if they are darting or acting aggressively due to their fear. Leave them in their cage or hutch and ensure they have a cosy, dark place to hide. If you plan ahead for major events such as Bonfire night and New Year’s eve, you can easily keep your rabbit calm and settled.

- Hannah Elizabeth

Animal Health and Behaviour Blogger