I’ve seen quite a few videos of rabbits swimming, and I’ve wondered whether my pet rabbit would like to swim too
I was even more confused when the one water bowl was a bit too deep and my dwarf rabbit went for an involuntary swim when she tried to take a sip.
My rabbit didn’t like the dip, and she didn’t want to drink water from the water bowl.
I had to get her a water bottle so she can stay hydrated. So are there some rabbits that enjoy swimming, and can rabbits actually swim (or are the YouTube videos just hogwash)?
Can Rabbits Swim?
Rabbits, both wild and domesticated, have the ability to swim.
Rabbits can swim as part of their survival instincts.
A rabbit can swim about a week or two after they are born. These small mammals use their forelegs and hind legs to propel them forward in water, and their body fat ensures they stay buoyant.
But just because a rabbit can swim, doesn’t mean you should take your pet bunny with you for a swim in the bathtub, pool, lake, or ocean.
A rabbit will most likely only go for a swim when they need to get away from a predator and there’s a body of water they need to cross.
They won’t swim and play and have fun in a body of water since swimming is just a survival instinct for them. Their bodies are also made to keep them safe in a body of water.
A rabbit has strong hind legs, and together with their front limbs, they can doggy-paddle and move in water to get from point A to point B.
They also have webbed feet that help them swim. But before you think a rabbit was made to frolic in water, the purpose of a bunny’s webbed feet is to protect a rabbit’s feet when they hop and jump on dry land.
Lastly, a rabbit’s body fat helps them stay afloat in water so they don’t sink and drown.
What Rabbit Breeds Like to Swim?
In the wild, there are two rabbit breeds that seem to like swimming.
These are marsh rabbits and swamp rabbits.
These two rabbit breeds live in wet environments, and they’ve adapted to it quite well too.
If you see wild rabbits playing with each other while they are in a body of water, chances are you are seeing marsh rabbits or swamp rabbits at play.
So are there any domestic rabbits that like swimming like these wild cousins of theirs?
This is entirely dependent on your rabbit and its personality.
While all rabbits CAN swim, that doesn’t mean all of them also like to swim. My Miss Cotton Tail certainly didn’t like the tumble into a bowl of water.
Why Do Some Rabbits Like or Dislike the Water?
The reasons your bun likes or dislikes swimming is unique to them, just like if you ask a person why they do or don’t like doing something.
But there are a few general reasons at play.
A rabbit may like to swim because it’s fun to splash about in the water, and it’s a nice way to cool off on a hot summer’s day.
However, your rabbit may also not like swimming because they struggle to regulate their internal body temperature while in water.
Plus, how would you like to be covered in a thick coat of fur that’s drenched in water… yucky, right?
Should a Pet Rabbit Swim?
You shouldn’t ever force your rabbit to swim, even though hydrotherapy has a lot of benefits (more on this soon).
If your rabbit goes for a swim on its own, then cool. Let them enjoy the playtime in water, but ensure they are in a safe space afterward so they don’t catch a cold.
Dangers of Swimming for a Pet Rabbit
There are various dangers to letting your pet bunny go for a swim:
Shock and Stress
Rabbits, in general, don’t like to be in the water.
The whole experience of being in the water is stressful for your bun, and it can be quite a shock too to feel the water on their skin.
Damage to Their Lungs
The whole body of a rabbit is fragile, and they can sustain damage to their small lungs if they swim – especially if they unexpectedly fall into a body of water or swim in unsanitary water.
Your rabbit can easily develop pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses if they swallow a lot of water.
Unable to Regulate Body Temperature and Hypothermia
If your rabbit’s fur gets completely wet, they are unable to regulate their body temperature and retain body heat.
While your rabbit prefers cool temperatures, it is because their thick coat keeps them warm.
So if your rabbit’s coat gets wet, the damp and cold will easily seep into their bones. And even before this happens, your bunny can catch a cold if there’s a cold wind or draft.
This means your rabbit will become hypothermic, and this condition is deadly if not treated immediately.
Your rabbit’s skin is very sensitive. If your rabbit goes swimming in a pool, the chlorine may burn or irritate your bun’s skin.
If the tissue-thin skin tears and forms a sore, it can easily become infected, and this can be fatal.
If the body of water contains contaminated water, your bun can become very sick from the microscopic bacteria and parasites.
Your bunny can’t vomit or gag as you can, so if they ingest some water while they “swim,” it can be disastrous for their sensitive digestive system.
So should your bun drink some contaminated water, the flora that resides in their gut can become unbalanced, and this could lead to gastrointestinal stasis (GI stasis).
Yes, the fat of a rabbit’s body will help keep them afloat, but if your rabbit needs to swim a long distance to get to land or safety, it can drown.
A rabbit’s coat gets heavier as it becomes waterlogged, and this extra weight causes fatigue.
So even the most athletic of rabbits will get tired while swimming a long-distance or for a lengthy period of time.
And if your rabbit doesn’t have the energy to keep going, it won’t continue to stay buoyant.
Signs Your Rabbit Likes to Swim
Knowing your rabbit likes to swim isn’t as easy as simply giving your rabbit a little pool and saying “jump in.”
Here are a few ways you can test how much your rabbit likes water:
- Mist your rabbit’s cage and note your bun’s reaction. If they tense up as the mist hits them, then it’s likely that your bunny won’t like swimming.
- Check how your rabbit treats their water bowl. Some rabbits will happily put their paws in the bowl or even play with it like it’s a toy. If your rabbit does this, they’ll like swimming.
- Place a shallow bowl and fill it with room-temperature water. Place it in your bunny’s exercise pen or cage.
Don’t encourage your rabbit to do anything; instead, just keep watch and see what your bun does.
If your rabbit splashes and plays in the bowl, they’ll like to swim, but if they just ignore it or hops away, then they aren’t a water baby.
A Note on Aqua Therapy (Hydrotherapy) for Your Rabbit
If you have a senior rabbit or rabbit suffering from arthritis, your vet may recommend aqua therapy or hydrotherapy for your bun.
The benefits of aqua therapy for your rabbit include:
- Decrease the inflammation
- Ease joint strain
- Great exercise
However, the hydrotherapy needs to be administered by a professional and in a controlled environment to ensure your rabbit is safe, doesn’t go into shock, or gets sick from a wet coat and being cold.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits and Swimming
After seeing how unhappy Miss Cotton Tail was with the water when she went for an unplanned swim, I am definitely not going to encourage her to go swimming.
Rabbits can swim, but that doesn’t mean they need to.
And yes, some rabbits love the water, so if this is your bun, let your bunny frolic in the water.
Supervise your rabbit while they swim and make sure to dry them off with a towel so they don’t suffer from hypothermia and die.
Other articles you may also like: