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How Intelligent Are Pet Rabbits?

Nicole Cosgrove

July 6, 2021

If you’ve ever owned a cat or dog, you know that these common domestic animals are very bright and require mental stimulation. But what about small animals like rabbits? Rabbits may not have a reputation for being intelligent animals, but the truth is, pet rabbits are very clever. They are capable of learning tricks, solving puzzles, and they can even learn a handful of words, making them wonderful companions.

In this article, we will discuss which rabbit breeds are smartest, as well as some of the best ways to keep your rabbits mentally stimulated.

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Which Rabbit Breeds Are Smartest?

Like dogs and cats, there are many different rabbit breeds. It’s difficult to make generalizations about which rabbit breeds are the smartest because, at the end of the day, an individual rabbit’s intelligence will vary regardless of breed. However, certain rabbit breeds are more popular than others, and that popularity does tend to come down to the overall intelligence and sociability of the breed. Some of the most popular breeds include Lionhead, Belgian Hare, Holland Lop, Netherland Dwarf, Mini Rex, and Dutch rabbits.

netherland dwarf rabbit
Image Credit: RATT_ANARACH, Shutterstock

What Can I Teach My Rabbit?

If rabbits are so smart, you may be wondering what kinds of things they are capable of learning. Like a dog, your rabbit is capable of learning commands such as “stay” or “come.” However, like cats, rabbits are independent animals that may not always obey your commands. You will need to provide plenty of treats to get your bunny to learn your commands. You should also know that it’s best to wait to train a rabbit until he is at least 6 months old; you aren’t likely to get very far with training a baby rabbit.

One of the most practical habits you can teach your rabbit is litter training. Although they are very clean animals, domesticated rabbits do not instinctually eliminate in a litter tray. However, they do tend to poop in one specific area away from their food. If you plan to have your bunny roam around the house, you can train him to use a litter tray. Try placing the litter tray in one specific area of your rabbit’s cage to associate the tray with using the bathroom. If you move the tray after some time, your rabbit will likely seek it out when it needs to eliminate.

With patience, rabbits are capable of learning beyond just simple commands and litter training. You may be surprised to learn that rabbits can play fetch and jump through hoops. However, you need to make sure that your rabbit is getting something out of it, such as a treat. Rabbits are unlikely to perform tricks purely because you asked.

rabbit sitting on a litter
Image Credit: Janulin Andrey, Shutterstock

Toys For Pet Rabbits

There are many toys you can choose from to mentally stimulate your rabbit. However, make sure you don’t buy anything that has been treated with chemicals, as these toys could potentially harm your rabbit. Rabbits love to chew, so a lot of rabbit toys are geared towards chewing. Make sure to mix up chewing toys with puzzles and other options that will help mentally stimulate your rabbit.

Some great toy options for your rabbits that you can buy in pet stores include sticks designed for chewing, balls for chewing and chasing, and treat balls that feature openings for treats and encourage activity. If you don’t want to buy new toys, there are plenty of common at-home items that you can use as toys for your pet rabbit. Some great DIY options include cardboard boxes with holes cut out, PVC pipes that you can turn into tunnels, and old baby toys.

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Final Thoughts

Don’t underestimate your rabbit’s intelligence. It may not be as easy to train your pet rabbit as it is to train a dog to do tricks, but with patience, your rabbit is capable of learning a thing or two. Make sure to give your rabbit plenty of playtime outside of his cage, as he will become easily bored if he spends too much time by himself. With diligent training, you may even be able to train your rabbit to use a litter box or tray!


Featured Image Credit: pritsana, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.