Everyone knows how much rabbits love to nibble and chew on anything and everything, appropriate or not. Some owners consider this constant chewing a nuisance and seek to make them reduce it. However, from a biological view, chewing is more of a necessity than a hobby. Rabbits teeth grow continually at a very fast pace and chewing is the way they keep their teeth trimmed.
In the wild, they get to chew on varieties of grasses and plants, since domesticated rabbits depend on their owner for everything, it is up to you to satisfy their biological needs by providing what they need to chew.
Boredom and the absence of appropriate things to chew are the major reasons for destructive chewing.
To satisfy their biological needs, most owners give their rabbit cardboard to chew. And as a new owner, you may wonder if it’s safe at all to give your rabbit cardboard to chew. The short answer is Yes.
In process of chewing, some rabbits even end up eating the cardboard and this is completely fine as long as it is done in moderation, and all the dangerous attachments such as staples or tapes have been removed prior to giving the bunny.
What is the best type of cardboard to give rabbits?
Plain, thin cardboard is the only cardboard you should bother giving to your rabbit. Anything other than that is poisonous to your rabbit. Yes, that means those UPS/ FedEx boxes, cereal boxes and magazines all need to be out of reach for your rabbits.
As you may have deduced, coloured and glossy cardboards are a bad and potentially dangerous cardboard choice for rabbits. This is due to the presence of ink, chemicals and glue which is bad for rabbits. So do yourself and your rabbit a favour, by keeping all ‘bad‘ cardboard out of sight.
Good cardboard/paper products: plain, thin cardboard, plain paper, empty toilet paper roll, packing paper
Unhealthy cardboard/ paper products: product boxes, magazines, thick industrial cardboard newspaper – basically any coloured products that may/ may not contain tapes and staples.
Do Cardboards offer any benefit?
Though it’s just paper and has zero benefits to human, it has loads of importance to rabbits which includes;
- Dietary Supplement: Although cardboards lack the basic nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals needed for the healthy growth and living of rabbits, they contain cellulose which may serve as a dietary supplement. However, it should not serve as a replacement for the rabbit’s balanced diet. Note that giving large chunks of cardboard daily can make the bunny develop an increased preference for cardboard over their real food.
- Healthy teeth: like humans fingernails, rabbits teeth grow very fast and needs to be trimmed constantly to maintain a fine look. Cardboards help rabbits maintain healthy teeth when they chew.
- Reduces destructive chewing: Cardboards really do save you the trouble of chasing the rabbits away from eating valuable household properties such as sofa or carpets. Rabbits never intend to be destructive, all they want is something to chew and nibble on, since you have provided an alternative they wouldn’t bother with the valuables.
- Mental Simulations: Cardboards keep unpaired rabbits booked and busy (pun intended;-). Lonely rabbits usually chew more to entertain themselves. While the cardboard would not solve loneliness, it does serve as a distraction.
- Cardboards can be constructed to serve as a playground. Turning cardboard into tunnels, with snacks at the end, helps to incorporate playtime with snack time hereby increasing physical activity.
Downsides to giving rabbits cardboards to eat
Like the popular saying, too much of anything is bad. This saying also applies to rabbits, giving them too much cardboard to eat may cause an upset stomach, digestive system block or plain refusal to eat real food.
Once the rabbit starts having small faecal matter compared to what it usually does, it would be best to stop giving them cardboards to chew as it is might be due to a digestive system block. Visit a veterinary doctor if this happens.
Another downside is that you’d have to clean up after the rabbit immediately or they may start following the trail of the shredded cardboard and even end up eating your carpet in the process. Of course, you are keeping the rabbit occupied and happy but you would have to keep up with cleaning the tons of mess afterwards or risk causing an even bigger problem.
Other options that your rabbits can choose from:
As mentioned earlier, too much cardboard is bad for rabbits and since they don’t know when too much is too much, you would need to provide alternatives that serve the same purpose as cardboards.
Rabbit owners recommend wooden toys as a substitute, and one upside is they can only chew on wooden toys and not eat it. Toys such as willow bridge, grassy mat, willow balls, willow dumbbells and tunnels are great chew toys and they serve as great mental simulations and encourages physical activity.
Giving your bunny the bark of an apple tree branch is also an awesome alternative. Obviously, you’d need to clean up after them but it is an easy task compared to cleaning tons of shredded cardboard.
How to reduce chewing habits:
You cannot stop rabbits from chewing but there are some things you can do to reduce their chewing urges.
- If your rabbit is living alone, get your rabbit a partner. Paired/bonded rabbits keep themselves busy doing rabbits stuff so they usually don’t care to chew everything they see lying around.
- Hormones play a great role in the chewing urges of rabbits, so, make sure to spay/neuter rabbits as soon as they reach sexual maturity at 4 – 6 months.
- You may also decide to invest in bitter apple spray to discourage insatiable chewing urges. It is extremely bitter, and chewing is not fun if everything tastes like wormwood.