Rabbits are notorious chewers. If you have a pet rabbit, you’ve probably noticed that they like to chew on just about everything.
And while it looks cute and strangely hypnotizing when they are chomping down hay, it can quickly become irritating when your bunny reaches for your electrical cords and clothes. Irritating and even dangerous.
If you’re finding that your rabbit is chewing on things they shouldn’t be, don’t worry – there are a few things you can do to stop them.
The first thing you need to do is figure out why your rabbit is chewing in the first place.
Why do rabbits chew so much?
Rabbits have a natural urge to chew. You’ve probably heard this before, either through doing your own research, observing your bunny, or watching cartoons as a kid. Rabbits chew. A lot.
But this is not a fleeting fancy or something they love to do just like a dog loves playing fetch. A rabbit’s well-being depends on their chewing.
This is because their teeth are constantly growing. In fact, a rabbit’s teeth can grow up to 3mm per week! That’s a lot of growth. If rabbits don’t keep their teeth in check, they can grow too long to the point of causing painful sores on the bunny’s tongue and cheeks.
In order for rabbits to keep their teeth at a manageable level, they need to chew on something hard enough to wear them down. This is why hay and vegetables are so important in a rabbit’s diet – they help keep the teeth at a healthy length.
So trying to stop rabbit chewing is a futile task. Instead, you need to find a way to redirect their chewing urge to something else.
Now that we’ve established that rabbit chewing is a natural process, you might be thinking “okay, but my rabbit has plenty of hay to chew on and he’s still trying to chew through my sweater.”
The problem of a bunny chewing things he or she shouldn’t often pops up even when the little rascal has plenty of food and hay to go through.
So the first thing we need to do is to identify the reason your bunny chews on everything except the things she should
Reasons for excessive bunny chewing
There are a few reasons your bunny might start excessive chewing:
Rabbits are intelligent creatures and can easily get bored if they don’t have enough to do. This is often the case with rabbits that live in small cages or hutches.
If your rabbit is bored, they will look for anything to keep them entertained – and this includes chewing on your clothes or electrical cords.
The solution here is to provide your rabbit with more things to do. We’ve actually made a list of fun interactive activities (including chew toys) for your bunny that will give them the mental stimulation they need.
Rabbits can also start chewing excessively if they are feeling stressed.
Once again, unwanted behavior from a rabbit that we humans would consider “destructive” might be completely normal for them. Rabbits love chewing and sometimes this love of theirs can be directed at wall corners or carpets. However, this is where the context comes in.
Depending on the context, destructive behavior can be the result of stress. Some of the reasons your bunny might be stress-chewing:
If your bunny isn’t used to being around humans, they will be very stressed when you try to pick them up or pet them. This can lead to excessive chewing as a way to relieve that stress.
Changes in the environment
Moving house, getting new furniture, or even just rearranging their cage can stress out a bunny.
If your rabbit is lonely, they will also start to feel stressed. This is why it’s so important to provide them with a friend (if possible).
If you’re trying to litter train your bunny and they’re not getting it, this can also lead to stress-chewing.
New animals and people: any new animal or person in the house (even a baby) can stress out a bunny.
The solution to this problem is to try and identify the source of the stress and remove it if possible. If you can’t remove the source of the stress, you can try to desensitize your bunny to it by slowly introducing them to the new thing (person or animal) in small steps.
Lack of attention
We’ve touched on this topic a little earlier but it is still worth bringing up.
First of all, bunnies are social creatures and they need to be kept in pairs (if not more). Domestic rabbits come from the same breed of rabbits that live in warrens — a vast social hierarchy that provides each member with attention and care.
Even though our lops who chew on cardboard tubes and live in a fancy rabbit hutch are domesticated, the instinct to bond is still there. So if you are able, get your bunny a companion.
Second of all, if your bunny lives alone (which is completely fine) he or she still needs a lot of social attention. And if they don’t they can resort to obsessive chewing. Even more so if your bunny chewing on you things elicits a negative reaction out of you, that’s still a reaction. Although negative, it is still attention that your bunny has managed to get out of you which further reinforces this bad chewing habit.
Age & neutering
Age, gender, and hormones can all have an impact on a rabbit’s tendency to chew.
As a general rule, younger rabbits are more likely to chew than older ones. This is especially true for males and unneutered rabbits, who tend to have a much higher chewing instinct than females and spayed rabbits.
While neutering will not completely eliminate a rabbit’s urge to chew (as it shouldn’t), it can help to reduce it.
How to stop rabbits from chewing
Now that we know some of the reasons why rabbits chew, let’s take a look at how to stop them from doing it.
Provide chewing alternatives
The best way to stop a rabbit from chewing something is to provide them with an alternative.
This could be in the form of chew toys, or even just fresh vegetables that they can munch on.
Some good chew toys for rabbits include:
Untreated wood is a great material for rabbits to chew on. You can find plenty of wooden toys specifically made for rabbits that she can safely chew on.
You might be tempted to simply go out and find a few branches to give your rabbit. However, it is important to remember that some types of trees are toxic for rabbits.
The list of trees toxic for rabbits includes anything that bears fruit with a stone (peach, plum, cherry, apricot, etc.); cedar and pine wood contains toxic phenols; elder and oak wood contains cyanide; anything that contains high levels of tannins (redwood, walnut, aforementioned oak, and cherry).
So to be on the safe side, reach for rabbit-safe wooden toys or be absolutely sure what tree you’re foraging the branches off. Also, be sure to bunny-proof the wooden furniture around the house.
A cardboard box has been a tried and true friend of every rabbit owner for generations. They can be set up in a variety of ways to pull an overzealous rabbit away from chewing on your stuff.
From building a DIY castle to a secret hideaway to a digging box filled with fresh hay and shredded paper, a cardboard box is a brilliant addition to your bunny’s chew toy collection.
The only caveat is to be on the lookout for cardboard boxes that are unsuitable for rabbits to chew on. This includes anything that has been treated with chemicals (e.g. waxed, varnished, printed, painted, etc.); anything that contains staples or other sharp objects; and anything that contains plastic (some have a plastic lining on the inside).
Hay is a must for every bunny, whether the rabbit chews on your stuff or not. Not only is hay a great source of fiber, but it also helps to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy and clean.
Hay should make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet and is essential for their digestive health. A good rule of thumb is that a rabbit will consume around five percent of its body weight in hay every day. That means if you have a three-pound rabbit, they should be eating about one and a half cups of hay each day.
There is also a matter of different types of hay you’d normally see in pet stores. Timothy hay is the best choice for stopping your rabbit from chewing on your things. This type of hay is high in fiber, which helps with digestion, and also low in protein, which helps to prevent obesity. Additionally, the thick stems of timothy hay can help to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy and curb their overzealous chewing.
Of course, remember about mixing in some oat hay, orchard grass hay, and tons of fresh veggies to diversify your rabbit’s diet and to keep them from getting bored.
Bunnies chew through everything. This includes rope and other soft materials that might be holding a chew toy together.
As with everything with rabbits, some materials are safe for them to eat and others aren’t. This includes ropes.
Cotton is reflexively associated with a safe, natural material that has to be suitable for rabbits too, right? Unfortunately, cotton (as well as polypropylene) ropes do not safely disintegrate in the rabbit’s digestive system. This can form obstructions in your bunny’s gut and carry incredibly dangerous consequences.
If your rabbit likes to play with ropes and toys that have them, ensure that it’s natural jute or sisal rope. They can be easily chewed into small pieces and pass through your bunny’s gut while satisfying his need for chewing.
Activity & stimulation
Now that you’ve found an appropriate chew toy, it is time to take care of other matters such as boredom. Give your bunny lots of attention and positive reinforcement when they’re not chewing on your stuff.
Play with them, let them chase you, take them for a walk, and, of course, reward them with lots of pets and treats.
Additionally, apart from giving your bunny things to chew, remember to provide them with lots of stimulating toys. They can play with baby stacking cups, dig through forage mats, and engage with other fun toys we’ve discussed here.
Bunny-proof your place
Sometimes, even if you do everything right, it won’t stop your rabbit from occasionally nibbling on something they shouldn’t.
While the topic of bunny-proofing your room is deserving of its own post, here are some pointers on how to make your belonging chew-proof:
- Run the cords and wires your bunny has access to through a plastic split-loom tubing. You can get these at any hardware store and they are flexible enough to accommodate your wires. It’s an easy DIY solution for places where you can’t simply hide the cords behind furniture.
- Use wire mesh or chicken wire to keep your rabbit from chewing on baseboards or wall panels. Some pet owners also place elaborate wooden panels and corner guards around their baseboards, so if you have enough room – go for it. Just make sure the panels are sanded and smooth, so there’s no risk of your rabbit getting splinters.
- There are also commercial chewing deterrent sprays that you can use on areas where your bunny likes to nibble. We don’t recommend these bitter sprays as they often contain ingredients that are toxic to rabbits if ingested, such as cayenne pepper.
- If you’re out of ideas, you can also try bitter spray made of apples. This is a safe way to deter your bunny from chewing, as the taste is unpleasant but not harmful. While this might seem like an easy solution, in order for this to stick you need to couple it with proper training and positive reinforcement.
- If you don’t want to give your rabbit free reign of the whole house, you can get a baby playpen or a puppy gate. A puppy gate should be high enough to stop your floppy-eared rascal from leaping over it (some rabbits can jump as high as 36 inches).
- If you want to protect your floors, there’s really no need unless you have carpeted floors. Rabbits (especially female rabbits) are extremely prone to digging. The easiest solution is to relocate your rabbit to a room with hardwood floors or ceramic tiles. But if you have no choice but enough floor space, you can place a pet playpen in your room with a hard plastic mat or tarp underneath. Just make sure your rabbits don’t chew on the mat.
As you can see, there are many ways you can go about stopping your rabbit from chewing. It might take some time and effort, but with patience and consistency, you will be able to achieve success. Just remember to use positive reinforcement and never punish your bunny for chewing. They are only doing what comes naturally to them. Try to provide them with an outlet for their chewing needs, play with them, and be consistent with your training.
With a little time and patience, you will be able to put a stop to your rabbit’s chewing habits. Thanks for reading!