While rabbits are the third most popular pet in the United States, pet stores are way behind when it comes to rabbit care. A lot of the products sold in stores and marketed to bunny owners is actually dangerous and in some cases deadly to your pet. This list highlights ten things you should never buy your pet rabbit (and gives suggestions for safe alternatives to get instead).
Never Buy Your Bunny These Items
1. Toxic Litter
Rabbits are relatively easy to litter train, but you have to be careful what type of litter you use in their box. Clumping litter that is sold for cats is toxic for rabbits and should not be used anywhere in the house (even if you have cats). Wood shavings made from cedar or pine are also toxic to bunnies and can cause liver disease.
Opt to use rabbit safe litter including paper based litters (Carefresh & Yesterday’s News) or compressed sawdust pellets.
2. Rabbit Leashes
There’s a lot of debate in the rabbit community about whether or not it is safe to take rabbits for a walk on a leash. There is one point we all agree on though: these thin cord rabbit leashes are incredibly dangerous and should never be used to walk a bunny. If your rabbit gets startled and tries to bolt it is very easy for them to strangle themselves, which makes these leashes a death trap. If you are going to walk your rabbit, get a vest style harness instead.
3. Pet Store Rabbit Cage
Many people have an image in their head of a rabbit sitting in a small cage like a hamster. In reality, rabbits need a large cage they can stretch out and stand up in. Most pet stores, unfortunately, sell cages that are way too small for adult rabbits. Rabbit owners are better off building an x-pen cage or ordering a properly sized cage online (check out our bunny cage recommendations). As a rule of thumb, a rabbit cage should have at least 8 square feet of space and be at least two feet tall.
4. Salt & Mineral Wheels
Salt and mineral wheels are regularly sold in the small pet section of the pet store and advertised for all kinds of pets. As long as you’re feeding your rabbit a balanced diet of pellets, hay, and fresh veggies, they’re getting all the salts and minerals they need. A salt wheel can actually cause your bunny to consume too much sodium, which can lead to health issues. Save your money and skip this item.
5. Colorful Rabbit Food Mixes
When you walk down the pet food aisle, I’m sure you notice the bright bags of rabbit food with multicolor pieces, nuts, and other tiny pieces in them. These foods are the equivalent of giving your rabbit junk food to eat. You should only feed your rabbit a plain timothy based pellet from recommended food brands. Food mixes are filled with extra fat, sugars, and preservatives that your rabbit does not need. They can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Focusing on a properly balanced rabbit diet will give them all the nutrients they need.
6. Yogurt Drops & Dandelion Drops
Yogurt drops are frequently sold in pet stores and while your bunny might gobble them up, they’re extremely unhealthy for rabbits. The sugar content in them is way too high (it’s the first ingredient!) and adult rabbits should never have dairy products.
Instead, opt for healthy rabbit treats like fresh or dried fruits. I guarantee your bunny won’t mind if you give them some banana instead.
7. Iceberg Lettuce
While a daily salad is an important part of your rabbit’s diet, iceberg lettuce shouldn’t be a part of it. This staple of human salads is not good for bunnies. Iceberg and other light colored lettuces are high in water and have very little nutritional value. It also contains lactucarium which can be harmful to bunnies in large quantities. Instead opt for dark leaf lettuces like romaine, which are higher in fiber and other nutrients. Check out recommended leafy greens for bunnies.
8. Nut & Seed Treats
Whenever I walk down the small pet aisle at the pet store I always get so mad when I see “treat sticks” with rabbits on the packaging. These sticks frequently look like granola bars people enjoy as snacks and are held together by things like honey. Nothing in these snacks is good for rabbits! They’re very high in sugar and fat. Bunnies are naturally herbivores, meaning seeds and nuts are not a part of their normal diet. While the nuts are not toxic, they can cause your bun to gain weight and affect their health negatively. Stick to fresh or dried fruits (with no sugar added) as a healthy treat.
9. Unknown Wood Toys & Accessories
Wood toys and cage accessories are great for your rabbit since it gives them a safe outlet to chew and wear down their teeth. But, that doesn’t mean you can just grab any wood toy off the pet store shelf and give it to your bun. There’s a lot of toxic wood that can poison your rabbit or make them sick. You should make sure to only buy rabbit safe wood accessories and toys, like those made from apple wood or kiln-dried pine. Often toys and cage accessories are not labeled with what kind of wood they’re made out of. Always err on the side of caution and only buy items that are clearly labeled untreated wood.
Check out some of our favorite rabbit safe toys.
10. Vita Drops
Marketed in pet stores as a vitamin supplement for rabbits, this is another thing you don’t need as long as your rabbit is eating a balanced bunny diet. It’s basically a liquid that you add to your rabbit’s water bottle. Unless your vet suggests vitamins to supplement your rabbit’s diet, you don’t need it. Save your money and give your bun fresh veggies, hay, and pellets instead.