The first time I let my rabbit roam in the backyard, I had a mini heart attack when I couldn’t find her.
I feared the worst: hawks, stray dogs, or perhaps, even a large snake!
After all, the yard was closed so my bunny couldn’t run off, but I didn’t see her anywhere until I looked in a tree that was.
Yeah, that’s right, my cute rabbit was sitting about four feet off the ground on a large branch. How had she gotten there?
I began to wonder if rabbits could climb trees after all.
Being somewhat paranoid that a hawk had maybe grabbed her and dropped her into the tree, I headed to my vet.
The vet had a little giggle and assured me that while rabbits don’t climb trees as we would imagine, they can get into a tree with a little effort.
Rabbits Can not Climb Trees
Rabbits don’t have the right paws, nails, or body shape to climb trees as a monkey may do.
Instead, rabbits may leap into lower hanging branches, using their claws that are designed for digging to grip the tree bark.
However, rabbits are not meant to climb trees, and it is rare to see a bunny climb a tree.
Why Rabbits Shouldn’t Climb Trees
My vet explained that my dear fluffy rabbit probably leaped up into a low-hanging branch.
She then hopped along the branches, which is how my rabbit ended up in the tree.
However, as a rule, rabbits aren’t built for climbing. Instead, rabbits are made to dig and burrow.
They are built for speed and agility to avoid predators, and they don’t have the ability to pull themselves into trees as other animals do.
I was curious, so we discussed each of my bunny’s body parts to decide whether she could actually climb a tree.
A Rabbit’s Claws
Rabbits have sharp digging claws they use to burrow into the ground to make their warrens.
They use these to help them grip when they make sudden changes of direction when running.
While these claws are sharp, they aren’t really strong enough to grip if the rabbit tries to climb a tree.
Likely, a rabbit’s claws will break if it tries to climb up a tree.
A rabbit’s claws would only be useful for gripping if it leaped into a tree, but it wouldn’t be able to use claws to pull its own body weight into the tree.
A Rabbit’s Spine
While a rabbit is an agile and powerful runner, its spine is actually quite weak.
To climb a tree, a rabbit would need powerful shoulders and a strong spinal column to pull its own body up the tree.
Rabbits have elongated spines. With their unique build, they are designed for fast movements, but they lack real power in their spine.
I also worried if my rabbit would have survived if she had fallen out of the tree.
A fall from even a low height can paralyze a rabbit, which is why climbing isn’t a great idea for a rabbit.
Rabbits Have Powerful Back Legs
Rabbits may have powerful back legs, but they are designed to kick and power them forward when running, not for pushing them up a tree.
While a rabbit may be able to use its back legs to leap into a tree, its back legs aren’t designed to grip and claw up a tree trunk.
Most rabbit breeds are bred to carry the majority of their body weight in their hindquarters.
They have large and powerful back legs, which are attached to large thighs that are quite heavy.
By contrast, a rabbit’s front end is quite light, and its upper body is small when compared to its lower body.
These rabbit proportions also mean a rabbit isn’t designed to climb up a tree as gravity would pull their heavier hind ends down and prevent them from climbing.
Why Rabbits Would Try to Climb a Tree
Since rabbits aren’t built to climb trees, I wondered just why my Mrs. Fluffles was up that tree in the first place.
My vet suggested a few reasons why rabbits (most likely wild ones) have occasionally been known to climb into a tree.
To Find Food
Rabbits may leap up into trees or onto low branches to forage for better food.
Since rabbits like greens, it is not a stretch to think they would love to get up into a pear or apple tree to eat the leaves and fruit.
Since rabbits have teeth that keep on growing, it is also possible that a rabbit may have developed a taste for a particular tree’s bark and hops up to chew at the trunk.
This can be for nutritional needs or to shorten their teeth.
Also read: How to Keep Rabbits Teeth Short?
Clever Hutch Entrance
One particularly clever rabbit had been seen jumping up into a dead tree since the tree had rotted into the ground, making a natural entrance to the bun’s underground warren.
To Reach Safety
Rabbits normally rely on speed and the ability to hide to get away from predators, but they may also leap into a tree if they feel threatened.
To Satisfy Their Curiosity
I was still worried as I didn’t know why my own rabbit would have leaped into the tree. My vet mentioned a possible reason that fit.
My rabbit was bored.
She spent most of the day alone, and while I love her and want her to be happy, I also have to work.
This means she was feeling understimulated.
My rabbit likely jumped up into the tree to explore her world and look for friends since rabbits have unique social needs.
If Rabbits Were to Become Tree-Climbing Animals
To become a tree-climbing animal, rabbits would have to undergo some serious adjustments.
I was curious about this, and together with my vet, we put together what a tree-climbing rabbit would look like.
- Shorter Back
A rabbit would need a shorter back to be able to effectively pull itself up into a tree.
Rabbits have long spines, which means they are great at running and making sharp turns, but they don’t have the power to pull themselves up.
- Longer and Stronger Front Limbs
To climb a tree, rabbits would need to pull themselves upward, meaning they would need longer front legs and stronger legs to be able to carry the weight of their body.
- Longer Toes With Stronger Claws
A rabbit would need longer toes that are more like fingers to climb into a tree.
Additionally, they would need much thicker and stronger nails or claws to clutch at tree branches and bite into the tree trunk when climbing.
- A Longer Tail
Finally, a rabbit would probably need a long tail like a cat’s tail to be able to climb a tree well.
A longer tail would help a rabbit balance and remain upright if it should fall from a branch.
Rabbits traditionally have a fluffy tail they use as a shield to flash white fur at a pursuing predator to distract them when the rabbit turns away suddenly.
Helping a Tree-Climbing Bun
I wanted to make sure my bun never climbed into a tree again when I wasn’t around, but I also wanted her to explore her world and climb if she wanted.
The vet suggested that I remove the lowest hanging branches, close up any tree trunk sections that my bun could jump up into, and get my rabbit a cat castle.
My rabbit was happy to hop up into a carpeted cat castle, where she could easily bounce between the different raised platforms, explore the small tunnels, and finally snooze at the top of her castle when the sun was out.
Some Common Questions about Rabbits Climbing Trees
Below are some common questions people have about rabbits climbing trees and other high objects
How high can rabbits climb?
Rabbits aren’t really climbers, but they can comfortably leap into a low-hanging branch.
A rabbit can easily leap two to three feet off the ground, with larger rabbits being able to leap as high as four feet off the ground.
This is more than enough to get into a branch.
Do rabbits like to climb?
Rabbits aren’t known for being climbers, but they do love to explore, so it is not unheard of for rabbits to climb onto furniture and even tables.
How far can rabbits jump down?
You may be worried about how far your rabbit can safely jump down without injury from the height of a table, chair, or even tree.
Rabbits can safely jump down by four to five feet.
Most household surfaces will be fine for your bun to dismount.
Now I know that while you may see a rabbit in a tree, this is not normal for them.
What’s more, a rabbit that ends up in a tree may climb higher than what it can safely jump from.
I have made sure my rabbit is safe and won’t be climbing into any more trees without supervision.
She adores her new play palace.
I am constantly entertained as she leaps and hops along to safe heights on the platforms and happily nibbles the hay I scattered for her in the little domed sections.
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