What If My Bunny Eats Cardboard? (+ safe chewing alternatives)

Rabbits are known for chewing on different things. One of their favorite chewing toys is cardboard. They simply love it! But what if they don’t just chew on cardboard but eat it? Is it safe for the rabbit’s sensitive digestive system?

If rabbits eat cardboard in moderate amounts, most probably will not have any issue. Cardboard contains cellulose ( same as leafy vegetables that bunnies like to eat) but the thing is that it has no nutritional value.

So the bottom line is that rabbits can safely eat cardboard in small amounts but not every day. Ingesting larger amounts of it on an everyday basis could bring different health issues such as an upset stomach, digestive tract blockage or simply would make the bunny’s stomach full so he won’t eat the real food with all nutrients he needs.

Some of my friends who have rabbits have that problem that bunnies like to chew and eat too much cardboard, I’ve did research on this to help them. If you would like to know more about this and answers to those questions above, keep reading this article.

Why do Rabbits Chew In The First Place?

I am sure you all know but just in case- rabbits have a strong instinct for chewing because they have teeth that grow during their whole life. Did you know that their teeth grow equally fast as our fingernails? With constant chewing, rabbits keep their teeth short and healthy.

Another reason why the rabbits chew is their urge to burrow. According to House Rabbit Society, females have a slightly stronger instinct for burrowing then males, so we can say that females chew on more than males but burrowing is not the only reason for chewing

In addition to this, a spayed rabbit will chew less. Of course spaying procedure you can perform when your female rabbit reaches sexual maturity (4-6 months old).

You also have some rabbits which are simply chewers by personality. According to the House Rabbit Society, intelligent and outgoing rabbits that like to be in charge and require a lot of attention. Maybe your bunny chew on to get some attention – do think about that.

One of the most important ”trimmer” is hay but besides hay, they like to chew a number of different things. Rabbits are also very curious creatures that like to play a lot and need to be mentally stimulated so chewing toys are perfect for rabbits to play, avoid being depressed and bored.

If you don’t provide interesting chewing toys you might face your rabbit’s dark side : ). Bunnies will not choose what they chew on, they will grab the first thing they come across with, but that thing could be your expensive purse or something similar. That is why you need to provide adequate chewing toys.

Why Do Rabbits Like To Chew Cardboard?

One of the cheapest things that rabbits love to chew is cardboard.

Rabbits like to chew on cardboard as it’s not too thick but yet is hard enough to help them wear down their teeth.

Also, cardboard is packed with cellulose- the plant fiber, the thing that makes up the large part of the rabbit’s diet, so maybe this is one of the reasons they like to chew it on.

With cardboard chewing toys they have much fun. With one box or tunnel, they could be entertained for hours.

They especially love toilet paper and paper towel rolls. If you add just a little imagination you can make a very attractive chewing toy that will keep your bunny busy and happy.

Are All Types of Cardboard Safe?

Not all types of cardboard are safe for rabbits though.

Cardboard boxes that have dyes or ink on them are not safe. Both can cause stomach issues and possible poisoning.

Industrial cardboard that is much thicker then regular one is not safe. It can contain staples and tapes which can injure badly your rabbit or cause abdominal issues.

Different commercial product cardboard boxes are also not the happiest solution. Any box that has a shiny cover is potentially dangerous. Any cardboard that is coated in something like wax, plastic or varnish could be harmful to your pet.

Be careful with cardboard boxes that have a metal layer on one side such as juices cartons or take away boxes that have thin foil on one side. Rabbits shouldn’t eat that.

The bottom line is that only plain cardboard without any coating or ink or colors, metals, foils and other toxic stuff is safe for rabbits.

Can Rabbits Eat Safe Types of Cardboard?

Even the safe cardboard can make trouble to rabbits. How? If your rabbit eats large portions of it on a daily basis can end up with some health issues such as blockage and upset stomach.

The point is that you need to observe your rabbit, don’t just give him unlimited amounts of cardboard as you don’t have time for him nor imagination what else could keep your bunny entrained.

Rabbits are capable to destroy a big cardboard box in a very short time ( in minutes). Some rabbits will eat more, others will eat less cardboard but generally, quite a big number of rabbits like to eat what they chew.

If you notice that the cardboard is vanishing quickly, reduce the amount of cardboard you are giving to your bunny and encourage him to eat more hay and drink a lot of water. Hay and water will help his digestive system to push the cardboard out of his body.

The cardboard alone doesn’t have any nutritional value. Although it’s not toxic to rabbits, may fill their stomach so they cannot eat the food they need. In the end, if that situation persists your rabbit may get sick because he didn’t take enough minerals, vitamins, and other nutritional elements that keep them vital and healthy.

If your bunny really likes cardboard you can mix it with food. You will make a great toy and your bunny will eat real food as well. Fill up the toilet paper roll with hay or leafy greens instead or just put the hay in a big cardboard box. You can add some pellets as well.

Last but not least- don’t forget the mess. Rabbits that chew on cardboard leave a big mess behind. So be prepared to work hard in order to keep your house clean and tidy.

What About Paper, Is it Safe for Rabbits To Eat Paper?

Rabbits also like to chew on paper. Although the paper doesn’t have such a great ability to wear down their teeth the same way cardboard does they still, they love it.

Generally plain paper is quite safe for rabbits ( packing paper in white or brown color or any other blank paper). They love it for the same reason as cardboard- it contains cellulose. Paper is made of wood pulp which contains cellulose among other elements.

But as cardboard, the paper doesn’t have any nutritional value. So if your bunny eats an excessive amount of paper, that could cause health issues with stomach, blockages.

Rabbits like to shred paper and some of them could spend the whole day doing it but be aware that some sorts of paper are not safe for your bunny.

Paper that has print on it, colors ( newspaper), glossy cover (magazines) are not safe for your rabbit. If you are positive that your bunny is not eating but just chewing and shredding paper then you can give him some newspaper or an old book but if you are not sure, then the blank paper is a better idea.

I found the information that newspapers use soy-based ink which is not harmful to rabbits, so it’s possible that the newspaper wouldn’t be harmful to your bunny. Still, I couldn’t confirm this statement with any certified Rabbits Organization or Association.

Although your rabbit likes to chew on toilet paper roll, don’t ever give him a toilet paper! This is not the kind of paper that is safe for your bun. Toilet paper is made to absorb so it could make a mess in your rabbit’s stomach. It could expand, causing gases and pain. Not a good experience. Also, don’t use it for the rabbit’s bedding.

What About Alternatives, Is Wood Safe For Chewing?

If your bunny like cardboard too much, eats it in excessive portions then you have to find a good alternative. He still needs to chew on something for the various reasons we have already talked about.

You also need to prevent him to destroy your furniture and other belongings, as rabbits will never take something unimportant to chew on 🙂

A good alternative to cardboard or paper is wood. Wood is natural, durable, will do a great job with your bunny’s teeth, will keep your rabbit busy for quite some time.

Some types of wood are safe, others not. If you pick wooden toys for chewing, stick to willow, maple, spruce, hazel and apple, pear, raspberry and blackberry branches.

Types of wood that are not safe and potentially toxic to your bunny:

  • Cedar and pine– contain phenols that give them that specific smell but toxic to rabbits.
  • Oak and Elder – contain a small amount of cyanide however better not to give to the rabbits.
  • Stone Fruit trees – all fruits that contain stones are not good for rabbits. These trees are toxic to bunnies, avoid cherry, apricot, plum, peach trees.

If you buy wooden toys in the store, make sure that are safe for rabbits ( it should be written on the label )

If you prefer to pick the ”toys” for your rabbit from nature, make sure you dry and sanitize the wood first. You can bake it in the oven to be certain that you have killed bacteria.

If you have a piece of some old furniture or plywood, don’t use it for this purpose. These things can contain glue, dye or some other chemicals that are toxic to rabbits.

Some other alternatives would be sisal or jute rope toys. Sisal and Jute are natural materials ( both plant fibers) that are compositely safe to bunnies. Just make sure that ropes are 100% natural and that haven’t been treated with chemicals.

Other materials such as cotton or synthetic materials ( twine or polypropylene) are not safe for rabbits. Rabbits cannot chew these materials in small pieces ( like sisal or jute) so will swallow them in long strings which could make a big mess in their gut.

Is It Safe For Rabbits To Chew On Pine Cones?

Even though pine wood is not safe for rabbits, pine cones could be.

Rabbits adore pine cones. They like to chase them, chew on them, throw them around.

If you buy the pine cones in the store, make sure they are safe for rabbits. Avoid those that are sold for decoration, they could contain varnish, colors and other chemicals that are toxic to rabbits.

If you decide to go and collect pine cones in nature on your own, make sure you are picking them from a non-treated tree. Pesticides are very harmful to bunnies. Not only pesticides are a problem but also bacteria and insects that could be hiding inside.

If you are not sure about pesticides, rather find a better alternative for a chewing toy. If you are positive that pine tree is pesticide-free then pick up some pine cones.

Before you treat your pet with it, you have to make sure that it is 100% safe for him. You have to sterilize pine cones.

  • Wash it first in warm water with one cup of white vinegar. Don’t forget to submerge the entire pine cone in the water. This mixture will remove the dried sap ( something that your bunny should never ingest) and dirt.
  • Dry the pine cons leaving them somewhere sunny. This process should be completed in 3-4 days.
  • Bake pine cones in the oven for 2 hours. Place them on the bakings sheet and set the oven on 250 F. This step will kill bacteria, any left insects
  • Cool it completely before you give a special chewing toy to your pet friend.

How To Stop My Rabbit Chewing? Is There Anything I Can Do?

You cannot really stop your rabbit chewing but you can do some things to reduce chewing and to prevent your bunny from chewing the wrong stuff.

  • Spaying /Neutering – sometimes excessive chewing is caused by the presence of sex hormones. Solve this issue by getting your rabbit fixed.
  • Make your bunny busy and entertained – if your bunny feels depressed and bored he might chew on things more then usual. Encourage your rabbit to exercise, play with him, make him busy and happy.
  • Reward – teach your bunny what to chew by rewarding positive behavior. Sometimes your bunny tries to attract your attention with chewing so when he chews on the right things show him a lot of affection but if he chews on the things he shouldn’t, act the opposite.
  • Take away dangerous or precious objects – sometimes you have to behave the same as with small kids, some things you need to put away for their own good. The things your rabbit shouldn’t chew on, simply hide or take away out of his sight.
  • Use a little trick – bitter apple spray – some things you cannot move – such as furniture or walls or carpets so you can simply use bitter apple spray to discourage your rabbit from chewing. This spray isn’t harmful to rabbits but it has a pretty bad taste so rabbits will receive the message saying – NO-NO.

Don’t try to discipline your rabbit not to chew on things at all. This is simply not possible nor healthy. You only need to provide safe chewing toys and will be no problem.

Make sure your rabbit never chew on plastic and metal things, wires, cables, indoor plants ( many indoor but also garden plants are toxic to rabbits) walls, including bricks ( to hard for rabbits teeth, packed with chemicals that are toxic to them and chewing could produce dust which could cause a lot of sneezing.

Final Thought

Chewing plain cardboard is perfectly safe for your rabbit. Just don’t allow him to overdo with it. Excessive intake of cardboard may cause abdominal issues including blockage.

Remember that chewing is a completely normal activity for a healthy rabbit. You shouldn’t try to prevent your pet from doing it. Obsessive chewing though may have different reason than simply being natural instinct. Rabbits can chew because of sex hormones or they are depressed and bored. Try to discover the right cause. Maybe you can help.

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