Image via iStock.com/Artfully79
By Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)
Rabbits are smart, social animals that need entertainment and stimulation to keep them from getting bored. Bored bunnies may chew on their own skin and hair or destroy furniture or other inappropriate objects—such as baseboards, walls and carpet.
Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so they must chew on hay every day to help keep their teeth from overgrowing. Rabbits also have an innate need to chew.
By providing rabbits with safe rabbit chew toys, you can satisfy their need to chew and help them wear down their teeth. However, rabbit toys should not be treated as a substitute for hay when it comes to keeping teeth worn down.
How to Pick Out Safe Toys for a Rabbit
Pet rabbits should be supplied with safe rabbit toys that they can chew on.
The best toys for rabbits are made from hardwood, cardboard or paper. These materials are okay for rabbits to gnaw on and are digestible if ingested in small amounts.
However, excess ingestion of toy materials, even if they are safe for rabbits, can cause gastrointestinal (GI) irritation and stasis—a common and potentially life-threatening condition in rabbits that leads to a slowing down of the passage of food through the GI tract.
Rabbits can safely chew on cardboard items like paper towel and toilet paper rolls.
Wooden pet rabbit toys, especially those in which rabbit food can be hidden, can help fulfill their desire to forage for food.
Untreated wood is generally fine for rabbits; however you should never give your bunny sticks or tree branches that you find in the yard. They may contain mold spores, parasites, bacteria or insects that can be toxic.
Commercially available sticks made from applewood are safe for rabbits to chew on. Kaytee Apple Orchard sticks are made from sustainable Applewood and are made especially for rabbits and other small animals to gnaw on.
What Not to Let Your Pet Rabbit Chew on
Certain materials should never be offered to rabbits. Fabric, carpet, soft rubber, metal or plastic toys, (especially those that have small pieces that break off easily) are not recommended for bunnies. Small pieces that break off can be ingested and potentially lead to GI tract obstruction.
Wood that contains a lot of aromatic oil—such as cedar and pine—or that comes from fruit trees that contain pitted fruit (such as peach, plum, apricot, cherry, avocado and plum) are also not safe.
Painted or stained objects as well as those that contain large amounts of glue or other adhesives should not be offered to rabbits. The chemicals within these materials may be harmful if to your rabbit if consumed.
In general, any decorative objects that are not meant for animals or that have been treated in an unknown manner should never be given to bunnies for chewing.
Pet rabbits need plenty space to run around, daily attention and a proper diet that includes unlimited amounts of hay, leafy green vegetables, fresh water and a small amount of rabbit pellets.
Bunnies also need appropriate rabbit chew toys to keep them happy and healthy. When these basic needs are met, bunnies can make wonderful companions for many years.