Bunnies love to chew!

Every rabbit has a tendency toward one or more specific natural rabbit behaviors, therefore bunny-proofing and chewing habits should be identified upfront. Some rabbits are chewers, some are diggers, some are climbers (keep the chairs pushed into the desk!), and some are couch potatoes (who may be highly food-motivated).  Then there are those who pursue all of those activities at some time or another. Accepting and having strategies to work with your rabbit’s natural preferences will help you both enjoy a safer, happier space.

Chewing is a normal, natural, necessary activity for rabbits. Their teeth are always growing, so they need hard things to chew on to keep their teeth healthy. Chewing is different than typical eating for nourishment.

Photo above: Walnut admires his room, made safe for him (and from him). Notice the bare floor for easy clean-up; the rolled up curtains–which would be so fun to chew; the covered-over baseboard (ditto); the fleece blankets, for pushing and digging; and the edible wooden castle, for climbing and reshaping!

Factors that Affect Chewing

  • Gender. Females often have a stronger urge to redecorate their space than males, though this is not the only reason rabbits chew.
  • Hormones. Some rabbits will always be chewy; but after spaying/neutering, a young rabbit will usually chew less and less.
  • Personality. Chewers are often outgoing, affectionate rabbits who like to be in charge and get lots of attention. Chewing can be an attention-grabbing behavior. Consider ways to enrich your chewy rabbit’s life, like providing a rotation of bunny-safe toys, providing lots of exploration and play time, or adopting a companion for her.

Choosing the Chews

Give every rabbit plenty of fresh hay–such as oat hay, timothy, orchard grass, and others–
and replenish/replace it daily.

Shearing high-fiber hay between the molars is necessary for rabbits to have healthy mouths.

Safe items for chewy rabbits:

  • Hay! Whether loose, braided, wreaths, or toys
  • Unsprayed apple, willow, aspen twigs and small branches
  • Untreated fresh pine lumber toys, blocks, castles
  • Untreated willow baskets and balls filled with hay
  • Compressed alfalfa or timothy cubes (these are high in calories; provide only as a rare treat)
  • Clean, dried loofah slices
  • Dried yucca

Items to avoid:

  • Avoid toxic woods!
    Fruit tree branches and sticks are toxic while attached to the tree. Do cure (dry) peach, apricot, apple, and pear twigs for a month or longer after cutting. Only provide baskets made of willow (not wicker). Check that any woody materials given to your rabbit are not painted, gllittered, or sprayed with pesticides.
  • Uh-oh, carpet fibers
    It is dangerous for your rabbit to ingest the carpet fibers. They can cause obstruction in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and that is an emergency. If you saw or suspect your rabbit swallowed non-food materials, give them some petroleum laxative such as Petromalt (barley flavored) or Laxatone. These products are sold at pet-supply stores. Monitor your rabbit closely for the next 24-hours. If they are not pooping, not eating, or lethargic, they may have a GI blockage. Take this one to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately.

Do they dig it too?

A chewy rabbit might also be a rabbit who enjoys digging, another natural behavior. Many rabbits LOVE to dig at the end of tunnels. You can construct a cardboard or untreated plywood tunnel. A top isn’t needed–just bottom, high sides, and end. Cover the bottom with a bit of carpet or a fleece blanket for traction. Crumpled, clean packing paper can be put in the tunnel for your rabbit to dig out.

Don’t punish the chewer

Clapping your hands and shouting “no!” will not stop chewing. Most rabbits are “born to chew” and need a way to do this natural behavior.

Rather than trying to discipline your rabbit, set them up for success. Give a small treat while they are doing a behavior you want (positive reinforcement). Provide a living space with rabbit-safe items for digging and chewing. Rotating toys and hiding boxes every month will keep your rabbit mentally stimulated. Block access to unsafe items by bunnyproofing.

Bunnyproofing: How-To

A chewy rabbit will be harmed, and damage to your property will happen, unless you bunnyproof!
All spaces your rabbit can access need to be made safe.

  • Cover all electrical cords with “split loom” or “split wire” flexible plastic cord protectors
  • Use an exercise pen to cage your electronics and entertainment center
  • Put hard plastic guards over baseboards, wood trim, and wall corners
  • Keep remote controls out of rabbit spaces (apparently the buttons are fun to nibble)
  • Keep “white hay”–cords that are used daily for charging phones, laptops, and tablets out of–rabbit spaces. The texture of these rubbery-coated wires is very tempting to many rabbits
  • Move houseplants out of rabbit spaces

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