Rabbits are active animals. They’re most active in the evening and early morning hours all year round, including the winter. I recommend that rabbit owners learn everything they can about what rabbits do during the winter. In fact, I get asked by people all the time if rabbits hibernate during the winter. So, do rabbits hibernate? Rabbits don’t hibernate, but in the wild, they do prepare for the cold by eating all summer and fall storing fat for the winter. Wild rabbits also grow thicker fur and burrow deep into the ground to stay safe and warm all winter. Pet rabbits obviously don’t hibernate, but if your rabbit is outside, there are special preparations you’ll need to do to get your pet ready for the cold. If you decide to move your outdoor rabbit inside, do it gradually to avoid physical shock for your rabbit. Last of all, be aware of what hypothermia is and what it looks like in a rabbit.
What Is Hibernation?
Hibernation is when an animal spends the winter in a dormant state. It’s the way animals survive the cold, dark winters without eating, foraging for food or migrating. Their metabolism and body temperature actually slows down to save energy. Their breathing and heart beat slows down, too. Usually animals that hibernate prepare for their hibernation by eating heavily in the summer and fall, storing fat to get them through the winter.Some animals that hibernate are:
- Garter snakes
- Box turtles
- Bumble bees
- Ground squirrels
- Wood frogs
Do Rabbits Hibernate In The Winter?
Rabbits do not hibernate like many other small mammals. Rabbits are herbivores. In the spring and summer months, they eat plants, but in the winter, they will eat bark or twigs. They also eat their own cecotropes which are full of nutrients. Cecotropes are made in a section of a rabbit’s digestive tract called the cecum. The cecum contains a balance of bacteria and fungi needed to produce the cecotropes. The cecotropes look like soft, small greenish looking pellets clustered together like grapes. They are sometimes called “soft feces” because they’re moist and covered with mucus.
Where Do Rabbits Go In The Winter?
Rabbits don’t migrate, but usually stay in one place where they’ve found food. The will find a hiding place where they’re safe from predators. These hiding places are often underground dens they’ve dug themselves. Being underground keeps them safe from predators and the winter weather. Rabbits’ fur thickens in the winter and changes color to white or gray so they look more like their natural surroundings.
Can My Pet Rabbit Stay Outside All Winter?
Obviously your pet rabbit can’t dig a den to stay in all winter. If your rabbit lives outside during the warm months, you’ll need to winterize his hutch so he won’t get too cold during the winter. Your pet rabbit will be fine as long as he’s warm and protected from winter’s elements. Here are a few tips so your rabbit will be safe and comfortable all winter long.
- Move your rabbit’s hutch to a garage or shed for extra warmth. Be sure there’s no harmful fumes from stored chemicals in the shed. Don’t put your rabbit in the a garage where you store your car, carbon monoxide is deadly to your pet rabbit.
- Sometimes, moving your rabbit’s hutch isn’t an option. In this case, check that the hutch is well insulated with holes in the roof or sides where rain could get in.
- Check inside and out for rain damage. Paint the outside of the hutch to keep it from absorbing dampness from winter cold and weather.
- Keep the hutch up against a building or sheltered area to stave off the cold and wind a bit.
- Keep the hutch up off the ground so air can properly circulate all around the hutch to minimize dampness.
- Purchase a specially made hutch cover for over the top of your rabbit’s hutch. They are usually plastic. You can also make your own out of tarpaulin which is a waterproof cloth or plastic tarps. Some people use carpets nailed to the hutch to cover and insulate their pet rabbit’s hutch. Just be sure that if you cover the hutch, you allow lots of air to flow around the hutch so your rabbit is getting enough air.
- Add a thick layer of newspapers to your rabbit’s hutch floor and to your rabbit’s sleeping area in the hutch. Also, add extra straw for your rabbit to feel comfortable and warm.
Should I Add Heat To My Pet Rabbits Hutch In The Winter?
Rabbits usually don’t need heat during the winter months. If your rabbit has been outside, his fur will naturally thicken as winter approaches. Some pet rabbit owners who live in especially cold climates recommend that if your winters do get really cold at night, you might add some pet safe heated sleep pads to your rabbit’s hutch. Never use plug in types of heating pads since your rabbit might chew on the cords.
What Is The Lowest Temperature A Rabbit Can Tolerate?
Surprisingly, rabbits do better in the cold weather than they do in the warmer weather. Many pet rabbit owners report that they’ve lost their rabbits in the hot summer heat, but that their rabbits did fine in below zero weather if they’ve got good shelter. Some say their rabbits do fine even with cold temperatures well below zero Here’s a list of other things to provide for your rabbit in the coldest months.
- Water-Make sure your rabbit has lots of water during the winter. They get very thirsty in the cold. Check that their water bowls haven’t frozen over. Some rabbit owners say that a water bottle with a sock over it helps slow down the freezing of their pet rabbit’s water. One rabbit owner recommends you put a spoonful for glycerine into your pet rabbit’s water and it won’t freeze.
- Litter box-Keep your pet rabbit’s litter box clean. Their urine can freeze which will cause your pet rabbit to not want to use the litter box.
- Bedding-Add fresh straw daily. Make sure old, damp straw is removed. If your rabbit sits on wet straw, it could make him sick.
- Two is better-Many rabbit owners suggest having two pet rabbits helps them in the winter since they can snuggle together and keep warm.
- Exercise- Make sure your pet rabbits get lots of exercise during the winter. Let them run around the garden on sunny days when it isn’t wet outside. If it’s wet outside, let him run around inside for just a short period of exercise.
Should I Pet Rabbit Come Inside During The Winter?
Rabbits don’t do well with change. If your rabbit has been outside all year then you decide to move him inside for the winter, you’ll need to consider a few things first.
- Sudden temperature changes can hurt your rabbit. Bring your rabbit inside, but keep them in a cooler room for a few days. Then gradually bringing up the temperature over time to where the rest of the house is. This way your rabbit won’t be shocked and possibly sick from the warmth of the house.
- Once your rabbit is moved inside, don’t move him back outside. Your pet rabbit would have a hard time maintaining his body temperature.
- Moving inside could be stressful for your rabbit. Once he’s been moved inside, give your pet rabbit some space. Don’t pet or pick him up.
- Just leave him alone for two days. You can refill his hay, water and food as usual, but don’t change his litter box for a couple of days.
- Over time he’ll start to get curious about his new surroundings. You should keep your doing your regular things around the house, near his cage. He’ll adapt to this new life inside.
Can My Outside Pet Rabbit Get Hypothermia?
A rabbit’s normal body temperature is 101.5 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hypothermia is the point when an animal’s body can’t regain or maintain its normal temperature. A rabbit can develop hypothermia is his body temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, at this point the rabbit will continue losing body heat and his normal body functions will slow down. Their breathing and heart rates slows down first. Also, the rabbit’s body won’t be able to keep him warm. Often his ears may freeze causing irreparable damage.
Symptoms of hypothermia:
- Your rabbit may look like he’s in shock
- No movement
- Cold ears, legs
- Pale color
- Stiff body
- Glazed eyes
Treatment of hypothermia in rabbits.
Mild hypothermia can be treated. You should take action right away if you think your pet rabbit has symptoms. The sooner you act, the better for his survival.
- Move into your house or warmer place
- Wrap the rabbit in a blanket and cuddle him close so your body heat will warm him.
- Push fluids like warm water and electrolytes
- Wrap bottle filled with warm water around blanket so your rabbit will warm up