Can Rabbits Swim ?
The short answer to this question is ‘yes, rabbits can swim, but they would rather not’. This article will help explain what we mean.
Although bunnies can survive in the water for a short while, they find it a stressful experience. So, we should avoid putting our rabbits in water.
On a hot summer’s day, you may have been tempted to put your bunny in the paddling pool. Perhaps with the good intention of cooling him down. However, although bunnies will stay afloat, they will paddle frantically and expend large amounts of energy. This is not really swimming. More surviving. No bunny has ever got in the water just for enjoyment, even on the hottest day.
What happens to your bunny when he gets in the water?
Bunnies have a thick coat which is not greasy enough to keep out water. The coat, therefore, quickly soaks up water and becomes dangerously heavy. If you have ever fallen into the water in your clothes, you can imagine the counterweight your bunny will have to struggle with. Long stays in water can, therefore, be downright dangerous for the animals.
Although a rabbit can swim, water is not it’s natural environment. Rabbits will only usually enter water in a life or death situation. Perhaps to escape a predator from land or air.
Fear and stress in a Rabbit
Next time you see a YouTube video of rabbits swimming, look at their body language, especially the following signs:
- Big staring eyes with no blinking
- Stiffened muscles
All of the above signs indicate fear and stress.
Bunnies scare easily. Their natural instinct is to flee as quickly as possible when alerted to any sign of danger. If your bunny suddenly makes a dash towards the pool, it may be that they have sensed danger, And not that they want to swim.
Rabbits and Swimming pools
As we said earlier, paddling wide-eyed rabbits will swim for short periods in a pool. But if you see one, it’s time to grab the towel instead of the camera.
On the one hand, there is a risk that they will get water in their eyes and nose. And on the other hand, your pool is probably at least slightly chlorinated. Bunnies have a stronger reaction to chlorine than humans.
The third reason is not immediately apparent. Swimming without support overstretches the neck of the bunny. It causes pain in the neck area, which the animal can not communicate. Over time, the vertebrae can continue to solidify, causing back pain and tormenting the bunny.
What should I do if my bunny falls into the water?
We’ve already established that your rabbit will not enjoy being in any body of water. From unsecured ponds to luxury swimming pools, you name it, your rabbit will not enjoy it.
If, however, your little bunny friend does accidentally end up in the drink, you should act immediately.
First and foremost, grab your rabbit as soon as possible and remove him from the water. Dry your rabbit immediately, especially if he is a long-haired variety. Rabbit’s big coats can soak up a surprising amount of water!
Once dry, return your rabbit to a safe environment and monitor him closely. If he coughs or sneezes consistently, then your bunny may have water in his respiratory tract, and You should seek advice from a vet immediately.
If your rabbit does not display these symptoms, let your rabbit relax. Perhaps provide some food or a treat to calm him down and reduce stress. You should continue to monitor your rabbit closely for the next few hours for good measure.
Whilst your bunny is returning to his fluffy self, it’s time to look at securing any accessible bodies of water. The last thing anybody wants is a repeat incident! try to cover any ponds, or lock gates around pools. It’s also a good idea to provide some sort of escape route from the water, such as a ramp. Should your pet be in watery trouble whilst you are out, he will need a way to escape on his own.
How to look after your bunny in hot weather
Rabbits do not like to overheat. So it is important to provide means of cooling in hot weather. As discussed, your bunny will not like swimming, so you’ll need some other ways to cool him down.
- Provide lots of shady areas around his living quarters.
- Provide fresh, clean drinking water in a suitable dispenser.
- If you are lucky enough to have air conditioning, let your bunny enjoy the benefits as well!
- Provide some frozen snacks! Carrots freeze really well, or chilled lettuce leaves.
- non-toxic Cooling pads can also be used. However we prefer wetting a small towel and freezing it !
- a good old desk fan strategically placed is always welcome.
Should I put my rabbit in water to cool down ?
There are much better ways of cooling down your bunny than putting them through the ordeal of the paddling pool. So no, do not put your rabbit in water to cool him down!
Do Rabbits Sweat ?
Rabbits do not counteract heat by sweating and their coats do not regulate direct heat. In the wild, jackrabbits would hide in the thicket until the evening, when they emerge to feed on green meadowland.
Responsible owners of pet bunnies should try and replicate the living conditions of wild jackrabbits as much as possible, although this may be a challenge. Nevertheless, there are plenty of suitable ways to cool your rabbit, for example, with cooling pads and frozen snacks.
Rabbits and Hydrotherapy
Vets may very rarely prescribe hydrotherapy for bunnies with joint diseases. However, these swimmers wear life jackets and are moved, closely supervised, in very shallow water.
Marsh rabbits: wild relatives that are a slight exception to the rule
The marsh-rabbit, also known as the cottontail-rabbit, is the only known species that safely floats and voluntarily lives in humid habitats. This wild North American species became famous after a marsh-rabbit once terrified ex-President Jimmy Carter in 1979. On a PR paddling excursion, he claimed to have seen a rabbit heading determinedly towards his boat after being chased by hounds. The intrepid bunny swimmer only retreated after he splashed it away with his paddle.
He continued to narrate this experience as a heroic anecdote until photos emerged that showed the little bunny at a relatively distant distance from the boat. Your bunny is not equipped with enough water skills to live in the swamp. You should, therefore, keep your bunny as far as possible from ponds and pools, and provide any open water with a safe exit to keep your pet from harm.