Suba-Bokodi, É., Nagy, I., Molnár, M. 2022. Changes in the stress tolerance of dwarf rabbits in animal-assisted interventions. Applied Sciences 12(14), 6979.

Background: Rabbits are common companion animals in many European countries. Rabbit-assisted interventions in primary schools are suitable for decreasing the anxiety levels of children, which may increase the education efficiency of teachers. Methods: In our present study, the behavior of dwarf rabbits was tested in a children’s summer camp organized by the Family and Child Protection Service in Várpalota, Hungary, 2021. In two occasions, altogether 20 rabbits were evaluated, while 120 children were involved in the examinations. All the rabbits were the progeny of the same buck and three different does. Four of them had been previously socialized to humans during the sensitive period after birth. Results: The familiarity level of the rabbits with their owner was significantly lower after the interventions compared to the previously measured scores (p < 0.05). In the interventions, children also made behavior surveys with the rabbits in which they contacted the animals, touched them and held them. After three successive interventions, rabbits became significantly less tolerant compared to the first intervention (p < 0.05). In both cases, the rabbits who had been socialized obtained higher scores on the behavior tests compared to the non-handled conspecifics. However, by the third session, socialized rabbits showed a considerable decrease in cooperation. Conclusions: The stress tolerance of rabbits receiving handling exceeds that of those that were not handled previously. The familiarity level of the imprinted rabbits was higher in both cases: with the owner and children. When using rabbits in AAI, a maximum of two 20 min sessions is recommended for handled rabbits.

Animal Type