You may worry about your pet rabbit if you have a swimming pool or pond nearby. After all, you surely don’t want your bunny to accidentally drown if they fall into a large body of water. But is this something you should worry about? Will and can your rabbit swim if it falls into your pool or pond?
So can bunnies swim? Technically, yes, bunnies can swim as it’s a survival instinct. Rabbits develop the ability to swim about a week or two after they’ve been kindled (or born). Using their forelimbs and hindlimbs, rabbits can propel themselves through water, and their body fat helps them to stay buoyant. However, just because rabbits can swim, doesn’t mean they like to or should go for a splash in your pool.
Does this mean that you should take your pet bunny for a swim? And do they like to swim?
Spoiler alert: While rabbits can swim, it’s recommended to never force your bunny into a pool or pond to go swimming as this can cause extreme shock, with potentially dire consequences.
We’re sure you have more questions about this topic, so let’s learn more about domesticated rabbits, their wild counterparts, and swimming.
Is It Safe for Rabbits to Swim?
Technically, it is safe for rabbits to swim as they have the ability to stay afloat and also “swim” to get from one end of a body of water to another. However, this question also has a “no” answer. Whether it is safe for a rabbit to swim depends on the conditions of their swimming.
Let’s go back to the first bits. A bunny has the body composition and brain capacity to swim. Plus, for lagomorphs, the ability to swim is a survival instinct.
With their body fat, a rabbit won’t sink when they are in bodies of water, and to help them move through the water, they can propel themselves or doggy paddle with their front and hindlimbs.
The webbing in their feet also helps them swim; however, the main purpose of this webbing is to keep them safe while they jump and hop on the ground.
But just because rabbits can swim, does that mean they should?
The answer is a no. If your pet rabbit naturally goes for a swim, then great.
Bunny Arthritis and Hydrotherapy
Some vets may also sometimes prescribe hydrotherapy for rabbits with joint diseases or arthritis as being in the water helps relieve pain and stress on their joints.
But strict safety precautions must be taken here. Your vet will recommend that your bunny does their hydrotherapy in very shallow water with a life jacket on, and you need to closely supervise your bunny while they are in the water.
Why all these safety precautions when rabbits can naturally swim?
Why Your Rabbit Shouldn’t Swim
If your rabbit is suddenly submerged in a pool of water, it will panic and go into extreme shock. The result of this may be a heart attack.
Your bunny also breathes through its nose, and while in water, this may not be easy or possible.
There is also the possibility of contaminants.
If your rabbit goes for a swim in a wild water source, there are parasites, bacteria, and other dangers to consider that could be deadly for your bunny. And if your bunny swims in your pool, the chlorine could be harmful to their sensitive skin.
Bunnies also have small lungs, and secondary drowning is a real risk you should be aware of. Your rabbit shouldn’t swallow large amounts of water while it “swims” or tries to survive in the water.
And lastly, there is their fur. If a rabbit’s coat gets wet, it struggles to regulate and maintain body heat. So if the weather is cold and your rabbit’s fur wet, it could put your bunny in shock, and this could be fatal.
There are some rabbits that do love to wade into the water and splash to their little heart’s content, but if you are not sure, it’s best to be careful.
Rabbit Swimming Instincts
Are the swimming instincts between wild and pet rabbits different? Let’s find out.
Wild rabbits can swim and some are strong swimmers. When faced with danger, bunnies will do whatever they need to in order to survive, and that includes swimming.
Swamp rabbits are found in the southeastern parts of America, and these rabbits will swim to escape from a predator. Again, rabbits swim for survival, not for recreation purposes.
There is no reason for domestic rabbits to swim. It is easy to scare a bunny, and submerging them in water only causes them fear and stress. They may die of a heart attack.
If you are, however, sure your bunny enjoys being in the water, then you can mist its hutch. If your rabbit enjoys being wet, you can fill a shallow bowl with water and let your bunny explore.
If it likes the water and splashes around, then you can experiment with a bigger bowl.
But if your bunny doesn’t like being wet and reacts poorly to being misted, then you know your rabbit is not a water baby, and under no circumstances should you try to persuade it to swim.
Do Rabbits Like Swimming?
In general, no, rabbits do not like swimming, however, there are always exceptions to the rule. The Belgian Hare may be fond of splashing about in a puddle or two, but the Flemish Giant rabbit hates getting wet.
How Long Can Rabbits Swim?
If rabbits do swim, they will try to not swim for a long period of time. Once in the water, their fur becomes wet and heavy, making it difficult for them to swim and easier to tire out.
Their fur coat, specifically the undercoat, also takes a long time to dry once the rabbit reaches dry land. If the weather is cold, then the rabbit can die due to hypothermia.
Rabbits can swim, but unless it is for survival, there is no reason for rabbits to swim. There are some rabbits that may love to paddle and splash, but this is the exception and not the rule.
Rabbit owners should take care and ensure their bunnies are safe. A rabbit falling into the water could be a deadly affair, so help your rabbit avoid water if they don’t explore water bodies by themselves.