Almost every rabbit enjoys spending time outdoors. It’s their natural environment, a place of interesting, wide-open spaces, tasty green things, sunlight, places to dig, and things to chew on—all things rabbits love.
So, will my rabbit run away if I let it outside? Rabbits do run away, although it’s usually not because they want to. They may be curious and get lost as they wander, or they may get startled and dash away looking for cover. They may hop away from you because they aren’t ready to come in yet.
This article will explore the various reasons a rabbit may run away and discuss ways you can safely allow your rabbit to enjoy the outdoors. We’ll conclude with a few tips on how to find and catch a rabbit that has run away or just isn’t ready to come in yet.
Why Your Rabbit May Run Away
If your rabbit is used to being handled and trusts you, it’s unlikely to run away the minute you take it outside. It will definitely want to explore, though, which could lead to an accidental runaway. Rabbits are fast, curious, easy to frighten, and difficult to train—all good reason to take the utmost care when letting your rabbit outside.
Domestic rabbits are unequipped to take care of themselves outdoors and should only explore them with supervision. Even though your bunny has no desire to leave you, it may get so focused on exploring and unintentionally venture into an unfamiliar area and not know how to get back home to you.
Rabbits do not have a strong sense of direction. This is one of many reasons you should always accompany your rabbit outdoors.
It’s Not Used to Being Handled
A new or young bunny is especially at risk of running away because it doesn’t know you very well yet. It may run from you because it doesn’t know what to expect or does not like being picked up.
This doesn’t mean your rabbit doesn’t want to stay with you and eventually return indoors with you—it’s just a little confused about what’s going on. Gaining your rabbit’s trust is essential before you ever take it outdoors.
It Wants to Stay Out Longer
Even a bunny with whom you have a longstanding relationship may run away if you try to take it back inside simply because it wants to continue playing, exploring, or nibbling on fresh green grass. This rabbit may be tricky, almost letting you close in on it just to kick up its heels and dash away at the last minute.
A rabbit that doesn’t have enough enrichment or interaction indoors and has been feeling bored, stressed, or lonely may also avoid being caught. You can keep this from happening by making sure your rabbit also has fun in its usual habitat and by taking it outside more frequently. This way it knows that going back home doesn’t always mean the fun is over.
A final reason your rabbit may run away when you take it outside is that it’s frightened. Flight is a rabbit’s first instinct when it senses danger, and a rabbit that is unaccustomed to the outside world may see danger everywhere. So many things can make a rabbit run for cover—things as simple as a shadow or a dog barking.
A frightened bunny shouldn’t be chased or grabbed right away. Instead, follow it and keep a close eye on where it goes. Most frightened rabbits will head for the cover of bushes or undergrowth. Once they’ve had a chance to settle down, you’ll be able to coax them back to you or scoop them up.
Reducing the Risk of a Runaway Rabbit
There are many ways you can safely take your bunny outside. Along with staying nearby the entire time your bunny is enjoying the outdoors (unless it’s in a completely enclosed, rabbit-safe pen), you can take precautions to reduce the risk of your rabbit running away.
A Fence-in Area
A fenced-in area is one of the safest places to allow your rabbit outside, whether it’s your entire yard or a smaller kennel or playpen just for your rabbit. The fence needs to be tight enough that your bunny can’t slip through or under it.
Keep in mind that rabbits love to dig—to keep your rabbit from going under the fence, you’ll need to partially bury it or keep a very close watch as your rabbit plays.
If you intend to leave your rabbit outside without supervision for any amount of time, make sure the fenced enclosure meets outdoor rabbit habitat standards. Not only does it need to keep the bunny in, it needs to keep potential predators like dogs, cats, and hawks out. Your rabbit will also need a hut or box that it can retreat to if frightened.
A Leash and Harness
A leash and harness made specifically for rabbits is another safe way to take your rabbit outdoors. The harness should be comfortable and sturdy and fit your rabbit exactly. You’ll need to practice with short sessions as it can take a while for a rabbit to get used to wearing a harness and being stopped by a leash.
Tugging on the leash can frighten or injure your rabbit, so a leash and harness won’t really allow you to take your rabbit on a walk as you might walk a dog. You’ll more likely spend the time just following your rabbit around or letting it hang out while you sit or stand nearby.
A Familiar Location
Returning often to an area will allow your rabbit to become familiar with it, lessening the chance that it will get frightened, confused, or lost. It also helps to stick to areas you are familiar with, so you’ll know what to watch out for and where your rabbit will be most likely to go.
A Sharp Lookout
Rabbits are fragile animals with a lot of enemies in the outdoor world. Make sure to keep your eyes open for anything that could frighten or harm your bunny like cats, dogs, or vehicles. If you see the potential danger first, you may be able to deter it or remove your rabbit before it is startled and makes a run for it.
Tips for Catching a Runaway Rabbit
No matter how cautious you are, it may still happen. Your bunny may slip away and end up lost or running around loose outside. How you approach this situation will make all the difference in how quickly and efficiently you catch your pet. Stay calm and take a moment to strategize.
What to Do
One of the best ways to recapture a rabbit is to sit on the ground and offer its favorite treat. If your bunny will climb into your lap for the treat, you should be able to gently pick it up. You can also try sitting inside a fenced area or somewhere else where you can more easily corner the rabbit. If it’s close enough, you may even be able to coax your rabbit directly into the house using a treat.
Another way to catch a runaway bunny is to get a group of people to help you. Make a loose circle around the rabbit and slowly close in, cornering it against a wall or fence if possible. Once the circle is small enough that your rabbit can’t make a run for it, someone can scoop it up.
This method takes patience, as rabbits are wily and may break out of the circle several times, forcing you to reform it. You also don’t want to frighten your rabbit by closing in too quickly or aggressively.
You can also place your rabbit’s cage outside with food, water, and treats inside. If nothing else works, your rabbit will eventually tire of its explorations and want to return to this safe haven.
What Not to Do
Never run after your rabbit or try to snatch it up suddenly. Chasing it will only cause it to run further away, and grabbing it suddenly may cause it to jump out of your arms, injuring itself.
Instead, use the slow and careful cornering methods discussed above. Once you can pick up your rabbit without having to snatch it, hold it snugly against yourself and cover its eyes. This will help a wound-up rabbit calm down and feel safe.
Try to have someone watching your rabbit the entire time it’s out so that you won’t lose track of it. If you lose track of it, think about where it would be most likely to go and search those areas. Most rabbits will head for the nearest sheltered area like a garden or bushes against the house.
Above all, don’t give up! Your rabbit is unlikely to wander far from home and probably wants to be found as much as you want to find it.
Although a rabbit may run away if you take it outside, it is most often temporary or accidental. It doesn’t mean your rabbit doesn’t like you—it’s just being its curious, independent self. With the proper precautions you can allow your rabbit to enjoy the outdoors without the fear of losing it.