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I've been asked to take care of our neighbors' rabbit again this upcoming summer holiday for two weeks. I also did so last summer, and I think I may have messed that up, and that it got too lonely during that time.

It's a single rabbit and usually, it isn't lonely: They have three kids and they all spend a lot of time and attention on/with the rabbit, so when the kids are around the rabbit gets enough petting and entertainment to not be lonely. And I mean a lot of time: I hear they take turns petting/playing with the rabbit for hours.

But it becomes a problem when I'm watching it for two weeks, I think. I've read the answer here to 'Can bonded rabbits die of loneliness' while searching the site for information on the topic of rabbits and loneliness because I already suspected the rabbit may have been lonely last year. I noticed that the behavior described in that second warning point there matches what I've observed last summer with the same rabbit:

Lethargy: An active rabbit suddenly stops playing or interacting. My only solution for this is to cuddle as much as the rabbit wants to, and try not to do anything to cause more stress in the rabbit

Last year, for the first few days, whenever I went to take care of the rabbit, it was lively, and came to me for a few pets and moved around its cage. At the end of two weeks though, it didn't even get up to meet me when I brought it its fresh food and water (I guess I'm lucky the rabbit didn't stop eating!).

I usually visited it at least thrice every day, to bring it fresh food/water and a cold water bottle to lie against, switch the cold water bottle halfway during the day (it was a hot summer) and again some green food/fresh water in the evening. I did spend around 5/10 minutes each time, also talking and petting the rabbit a bit, but this is a lot less interaction than what the rabbit is used too.

The rabbit and its cage are in the neighbors' backyard, so the rabbit won't see anybody else but me during that time, which of course doesn't help either. Moving the rabbit with its cage to my house/backyard for those two weeks isn't an option, as the cage isn't moveable. I can't let it run loose in our house or backyard either, it's a small rabbit and it can slip through the fence.

I realize that 'cuddle as much as the rabbit wants to' is suggested as a solution in the quote above, but I'm not sure I want to spend the entire day/afternoon cuddling a rabbit (as relaxing as that may sound). I think I can spend a little more time petting the rabbit each day, but I would not be willing to spend more than half an hour each time I visit it. That's still a lot less than the entire afternoons playing with it that the kids would do.

As our neighbors always have a bit of trouble finding someone to take care of their pet, I'm wondering if there's anything I can do so I can take care of the pet during those two weeks, that takes into account the limits desribed above, without the rabbit becoming stressed/lonely again?

If the answer is that no matter what I try, it's going to be very bad for the rabbit, I will tell the neighbors to find other people to take care of their pet, or maybe even try to find something like a pet hotel for it. But as it's hard to find a someone you trust to take care of your pet, I'd like to see if I can try myself first.

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    You took the time to ask this question. Ask yourself another question, "If you don't watch the bunny while they are gone, what is the chances they will find someone better for the job?" While I am not a fan of pet rabbits outside in cages, I think you are doing as well as anyone in your position could during this period. The only possible way it could be better is if you could bring the rabbit in your home while they were gone, but I am not sure if the harm of putting it backout side when they returned would be more or less. – James Jenkins Jul 2 at 14:49
  • For how long would they be gone this time? Also it is great that you care but every pet owner has to think of things like holidays when they get the pet. You are not responsible here. – SerenaT Jul 4 at 13:47
  • @SerenaT they'd be gone for two weeks again, just like last year. And yeah, it seems they did think of that, but don't really realize their pet might get this lonely... – Tinkeringbell Jul 4 at 17:12
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I am not sure this is the perfect answer but here is what I found.

There are certain signs the rabbit could be lonely and being lethargic is one of them.

Now what to do to keep the rabbit happy?

  1. Give the bunny another bunny to be friends or companions with
  2. You can also give them a different species for a friend, not a predator maybe (even though that can work) but guinea pigs for example
  3. Human companionship, which is what the bunny of the family is used to. This includes playing, petting and just being around the rabbit.

Rabbits are very social animals and should not be kept alone unless you have humans to be their companions.

Rabbits are gregarious by nature and need almost constant companionship to avoid emotional suffering. One rabbit or two? Make the right decision

Your post makes it clear that you have done some research yourself and you know rabbits get lonely.

@James Jenkins has a point though. If the family can not find a better place, like a pet hotel or someone with lots of time on their hands you might be the best option. Two weeks is not forever the rabbit might get lonely but I do not think that the duration is too long.

My advice if you end up taking care of the rabbit:

  • do as you did last year, feed it regularly and talk and pet it

  • if you find some spare time maybe play a little or just cuddle extra

  • do not stress out too much, you are doing your best

As I said you are not responsible for the rabbit in general. Maybe talk to the family again and suggest that they either find a suitable holiday place for the bunny for next year or that they should consider finding an animal companion for it. The way you talk about them makes it seem like they care a lot so just bring this problem to their attention.

How to tell if your rabbit is lonely

Should rabbits be kept around other animals?

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