How to Stop Pet Rabbits From Chewing

How to Stop Pet Rabbits From Chewing

How to Stop Pet Rabbits From Chewing
Having a pet bunny is often a joy, but one of the biggest challenges is curtailing a rabbit’s natural chewing instinct. With house rabbits, your beloved furniture, carpet, and your baseboards can become a target of their destructive energy. Plus, chewing the wrong things (like toxic wood or electrical wires) can be dangerous for your beloved bun. Rabbits can’t be trained out of this behavior, but there’s plenty of different options to try to protect your home and pet.

Why do Rabbits Chew?

A bunny’s teeth are always growing, so they have a natural instinct to chew and help grind them down. The act of eating pellets and hay helps wear down their teeth some, but rabbits need more chewing outlets to help keep their teeth and chewing urge in check.

In addition to their natural instincts, rabbits frequently chew because they are bored. Like all pets, they need plenty of interaction and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy. If they’re alone most of the day or lack external stimulation (toys, playtime), that unused energy manifests in destructive ways. If you have a solo rabbit, some of that boredom can be alleviated by getting a second bunny to keep them company.

How to Stop a Rabbit from Chewing?

There are many techniques to try to prevent your bunny from chewing on furniture, wires, and other dangerous household items. You may need to use multiple techniques at once to keep your bun safe and your home undamaged.

Rabbit Proof Your Home

The first step is to make sure your home is “rabbit-proof.” Any area your rabbit has access to–whether they are free-range or hang out in a room for playtime–needs to be set up to protect your bun and your belongings. Dangerous items like electrical cables need to be out of reach or protected with a chew proof cord cover.

Block access to anything else that might tempt your bun. If furniture legs or baseboards seem like a tasty chew toy, use NIC cubes to build a fence to block access. You can use untreated pine boards fastened over baseboards or around the bottom of furniture to give a safe chewing alternative.

Learn more about how to rabbit proof your home.

Supply Plenty of Hay

Rabbits should have unlimited fresh hay available at all times. This not only allows them to graze as they need to throughout the day but gives them something to chew on. A rabbit will eat more than their weight in hay a day, so you can never offer them too much. If it seems like your rabbit is uninterested in the hay you offer, check it for freshness or consider offering another variety. Timothy hay is the most common option. (Check out the best hay for pet rabbits for more healthy hay ideas.)

Combined hay with enrichment by using it to create DIY toilet paper toys to help harness their distructive energy in a positive way.

Provide Plenty of Toys

Rabbits need toys to provide mental stimulation and a positive outlet for their chewing urges. Boredom will cause your rabbit to seek out their own activities, like digging your carpet or chewing on your china hutch. A variety of toy types will keep them engaged and stave off boredom. Toys made from rabbit safe wood and shreddable materials will offer a fun chewing alternative. Cardboard boxes and phone books are a cheap source of destructive fun for your rabbits.

Check out our favorite rabbit toys.

Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit

If your bunny isn’t fixed, make that one of your first priorities. It will not only help to lessen their chewing (unaltered rabbits chew more than altered buns) but improve their overall health. Female rabbits have a high chance of developing uterine cancer if they aren’t spayed. Plus spaying and neutering help with litter training your rabbits.

Positive Reinforcement

Rabbits don’t understand the word “no.” If you want to try to train them away from chewing on your furniture, try a little positive reinforcement. Once you know what type of feedback your rabbit likes most (treats, petting, verbal praise), use that anytime your rabbit is chewing on appropriate items like their toys or wooden houses. They will begin to associate that activity with the positive feedback and understand that it is good.

Use Chewing Deterrants

I’ve never had luck with this, but I offer it because some rabbit owners said it worked for them. Use a chewing deterrent spray to make your rabbit’s favorite chew spots unappealing. The most popular one is bitter apple spray. It’s supposed to taste nasty and thus deter your rabbits from chewing the item.

Test it out first on one item they like to chew and see what their reaction is. Some rabbits actually like the taste while others find it to be bitter, so make sure you know it works before you spray it around your house. You will need to apply it frequently to keep the deterrent going.

To keep your home and rabbit safe, make sure to fully rabbit proof your home. Use a rabbit playpen to create a bunny-safe play area.

Everything You Need for a Pet Rabbit - New Owner Checklist

Everything You Need for a Pet Rabbit – New Owner Checklist

Everything You Need for a Pet Rabbit - New Owner Checklist
If you’re considering adding a rabbit to your family or researching bunnies as pets there is a lot of supplies they need you might now expect. In addition to picking out a rabbit (or two) to adopt, and selecting the perfect bunny name, you will need to buy a lot of supplies before you bring your new pet home. We’ve compiled this list to make it easy to see what you’ll need for your pet rabbit and whether they’ll fit into your budget.

Use this checklist as a guide. If there are any supplies or rabbit accessories you’re missing, click the link to see our bunny-safe product recommendations.

Note: Adding rabbits to your family is not a cheap endeavor. In addition to the recurring costs of fresh food, annual vet appointments, all of these supplies can really add up. If you cannot afford to buy all of these items before you bring home a pet bunny, you cannot afford to have a rabbit. If you’re still considering whether rabbits are the right pet for you, take a look at this list and add up the costs for each item.

Rabbit New Owner Checklist

Must Have Bunny Supplies

These are the things you need to have ready to go the day you bring your new rabbit(s) home. If you don’t have these basic bunny supplies, you aren’t ready for your new pet.

Optional Rabbit Supplies

These are supplies and accessories that are nice to have but are not crucial to your bunny’s care and well-being. Buy them as you see a need.

  • Baby Gates
  • Travel Cage
  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Playpen – to create a rabbit safe space for out of cage time
  • Brush (To remove shedding hair and prevent hairballs)
  • Pet Sitter Phone Number
  • Broom and Dust Pan – for sweeping up scattered hay, pellets, and poo
  • Vacuum – Handheld or shop vac helps for quick cleaning

Free Printable: New Owner Checklist

Download and print this free checklist to take with you to the pet store. Easily check off each rabbit supply as you buy it and keep track of what you need. (Right click “Save Link As” to download to your computer.)

While shopping for your bunny supplies, make sure to avoid these 10 things you should never buy for pet rabbits.

Learn how to set up a rabbit cage.

Iceberg Lettuce Bad for Rabbits

10 Things You Should Never Buy Your Pet Rabbit

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).

10 Things You Should Never Buy Your Pet Rabbit

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

Never Buy Dangerous Rabbit Leash
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

Don't Buy Salt & Mineral Wheels for Rabbits
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.

Healthy Pellet Food for Pet Rabbits

6. Yogurt Drops & Dandelion Drops

Yogurt Drops & Dandelion Drops - The Worst Treats for Rabbits
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

Iceberg Lettuce Bad for Rabbits
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

Bad for Rabbits: Nut & Seed Treat Sticks
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.

Got a new pet rabbit? Learn how to clean a rabbit cage and how to rabbit proof your home.

Pet Rabbit Toys & Bunny Chews

Pet Rabbit Toys & Bunny Chews

Pet Rabbit Toys & Bunny Chews - Digging Toys
While most of pet rabbit supply shopping is about buying the essentials, there is one thing to buy for your bunny that is all about fun: toys! Sometimes I think toy shopping is as fun for me as the playtime my rabbits get. While toys may seem incidental, they’re actually a really important part of your bunny’s health and happiness.

You should provide a variety of toys for rabbits to play with inside and outside of their cage. The toys will provide something for your rabbit to do when you’re not around, helping to stimulate their intelligence and preventing boredom, which can cause depression. (This is especially important for solitary bunnies who don’t have companions to interact with.) Pet rabbit toys also provide a safe outlet for your rabbit to chew and shred, saving your baseboards, furniture, and power cords from a nibbling bun. Toys are also perfect to encourage activity and exercise. When they have toys to jump on, dig in, or chase around, your rabbit will get essential exercise that will help keep their body fit and avoid obesity and other health issues.

Now that you understand the importance of safe and stimulating bunny toys, this article covers all the different types of toys you can offer your pet.

Rabbit Toys & Fun Stuff

The best toys for rabbits are made of safe materials, challenge their intelligence and curiosity, and help support bunny’s natural instincts like chewing and digging. A good variety of toys with help keep your bunny entertained no matter their mood. When you first get a new pet rabbit, it may take a bit of trial and error to discover what types of toys your bunny enjoys and what materials they like to chew. We have tons of ideas of toy types to consider.

When shopping for rabbit toys, keep the following in mind:

  • Hard plastic is okay (make sure your rabbit is not ingesting plastic)
  • Avoid toxic dyes and paints. Food grade coloring is OK
  • Make sure any wood toys are made from wood that is not toxic to rabbits
  • Recycled cardboard that is clean and free of ink is fine (make sure your rabbit is not ingesting the cardboard)

If you’re considering buying a toy for your rabbit, especially one that doesn’t list what type of wood or materials it’s made of, always err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure that a toy is safe for your bun, don’t give it to them.

Safe and Fun Rabbit Toys

What Kinds of Toys do Rabbits Like?

Good rabbit toys come in many different types to appeal to different rabbit opinions and stimulate natural behaviors. But each rabbit will have their own preferences. Some bunnies love shredding and digging but don’t care about ball rolling toys. Your rabbit may also have a favorite type of wood they like to chew on. As you get to know your pet, they’ll make their preferences known, but you may need to experiment in the beginning. While each bunny is unique, these toy types are popular with most rabbits.

Chews – Made from rabbit safe wood and other material, the whole purpose of chew toys are to give your rabbit a safe outlet to chew. These can be wood pieces, tossing toys, or hanging toys.

Hanging Toys – Perfect for hanging inside your rabbit’s cage or pen, these toys are often made of wood and other chewable materials.

Shredding Toys – Designed to harness your bun’s destructive energy. These toys allow them to shred and destroy, keeping them occupied and away from your curtains and blankets.

Digging Toys – People’s houses don’t have the natural environment that rabbits crave. Digging toys allows rabbits to exercise their digging instincts while providing a great workout and wearing down their nails.

Puzzles & Treats Dispensing Toys – Designed to stimulate your bunny’s curiosity and slow down quick eaters, these toys are fun and rewarding.

Tossing Toys – Typically a type of floor toy, these are a variety of toys that your rabbit can pick up in their mouth and throw. Many are made from wood and double as chew toys.

Exploring Toys – These are larger toys like boxes, baskets, tunnels, houses, and “jungle gyms” that allow your bunny to explore, play, climb, and hop at the same time.

Rollings Toys – Rabbits love pushing things around with their noses. From simple hard rubber or plastic balls to fun treat dispensing balls.

To keep your rabbits from getting bored, make sure to provide them with a variety of toys, not just different toy types but toys made of different materials. You may even rotate toys or rearrange hanging toys during your weekly cage cleaning to keep their environment fresh and exciting.

Check out the next section to see some of our recommended rabbit toys.

Best Bunny Toys to Buy

There are tons of toys available online and in pet stores that are marketed towards rabbits. But like many other rabbit supplies, just because a company says it’s for bunnies doesn’t mean it’s actually safe for your precious bun. Every toy or chew you give your pet needs to be made of rabbit-safe materials because your bun will be chewing on them and possibly ingesting pieces of the toys. Make sure you reference the list of rabbit safe wood and materials before you buy any pre-made toys. If a toy doesn’t say what kind of wood or dyes it is made of, do NOT buy them. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you’re shopping in a local pet store, make sure to look in the small pet section as well as the bird department and even the cat aisle. Many bird toys are made from safe wood and materials that rabbits enjoy. Hard plastic cat toys are great for tossing or rolling.

Since I know it’s time-consuming to research every possible toy or chew, we’ve listed some options for you that we’ve already vetted as rabbit safe.

Hanging Toys

The perfect way to add some fun to cage time, hanging toys will keep your bun entertained. Wood toys work really well for this since they allow your rabbit to wear down their ever-growing teeth.

Shredding & Chewing Toys

While you can just buy some sticks and twigs made from rabbit safe wood and give them to your bunny, sometimes toys designed to be destroyed are a little more fun. (If you’re interested in buying plain sticks, check out the Toy Parts section below). All of these bunny toys are made to let your pet get out their chewing and destructive energy. (Learn about how to stop rabbits from chewing on furniture.)

Digging Toys

While a DIY box of hay or shredded paper works just fine, sometimes you want to give your rabbit more ways to expend their digging energy. These toys are the perfect workout for dig-happy buns.

For an easy DIY digging box, get a rectangular litter box and fill with shredded newspaper, hay, and other materials your bunny can dig in.

Puzzle & Treat Dispensing Toys

These toys are designed to help stimulate bored bunnies and give you an exciting way to feed them pellets or treats. Intelligent bunnies will figure out puzzles quickly, so it is good to rotate them with other toys to prevent boredom.

Bunny Tossing Toys

Perfect for use in a cage or during playtime, tossing toys go on the floor for when your bun wants to practice throwing. Rabbit tossing toys can include chewable toys made from bunny safe material or hard plastic toys. Baby toys and cat toys are popular for this. Plastic slinkies are favorites of many bunnies.

Rabbit Exploring Toys

These toys are great for free-roaming bunnies or to keep in your rabbit’s play area. Tunnels and houses are good for exploring, crawling through, and hopping on top of. Other toys are more for mental stimulation with some physical elements like a jungle gym or toy table.

Rabbit Houses & Boxes

If you don’t want to go the DIY route to build your rabbit a cardboard box house, there are plenty of shops and websites that sell pre-made “houses.” (Check out some DIY suggestions in the next section.)

Rabbit Asas Wood sells amazing rabbit houses and castles made from wood. They are pricier than cardboard options, but they’re guaranteed to last for years, even against the most voracious chewers.

Cacao Pets on Etsy offers extremely elaborate cardboard houses perfect for your bun. From castles to cathedrals and even pirate ships, these houses are cool and fun for buns and owners alike.

Binky Bunny also sells some cool cardboard rabbit houses and tunnels. They come in many different packs and pieces that can be combined together for any size play space.

Check out more of our favorite rabbit hideouts.

Pet Rabbit Tunnels

Rolling Toys

Rabbits love to nudge and roll balls with their nose. Turn it into an interactive “game” with your bun by setting up plastic bowling pins and letting them knock each one down.

Etsy Stores that Sell Rabbit Toys

If you want to support small business owners and other rabbit parents who love making toys for rabbits, these Etsy Stores make a variety of safe toys for your bun.

Farmer Dave Pet Supply (USA) – In addition to selling a variety of delicious hay and treats, this story also offers organic apple wood toys. Check out the tossing toys, hanging toys, and chew sticks.

Folklore Rabbit Toys (USA) – Run by a geeky bunny owner, this shop as fun and unique toys, like mystery boxes that rabbits can destroy to reveal the contents. She also sells make your own toy kits, which are great if you have a hankering for DIY but don’t want to do a lot of work sourcing toy parts. (Learn more about DIY toys in the next section.)

White Rabbit Pet Care (USA) – This shop features a variety of fun and colorful toys for rabbits and other exotic pets. All of the options are very affordable and perfect to be destroyed by your bun.

Bunny Bliss (USA) – With a shop full of handmade toys and chews for rabbits, there’s lots of interesting options at affordable prices for discerning bunny owners.

Fuzzy’s Toy Shop (USA) Fuzzy’s focuses on toys and fun for rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs. I really like their “toy baskets” which come with a variety of bunny safe toys, perfect to help new owners identify their pet’s favorites.

Dumbo Rats for Days (UK) – While this shop is dedicated to dumbo rats, they’re a great option for rabbit safe toys in the UK. They have plenty of hanging toys perfect for bunnies to chew on.

Bless Their Cottontail (Australia) – For bunnies down under, this shop carries cute and tastey treats and toys for rabbits.

DIY Homemade Bunny Toys

If you’re looking for rabbit toys to make yourself, there are tons of options. Like human babies, your fuzzy bunny children are easily amused by recycled cardboard and paper items they can toss, shred, and hop around. If you want to get fancy with your DIY toys, there are also supplies and toy parts you can buy online.

DIY Rabbit Cardboard House

Toys Made From Household Supplies

There’s tons of stuff around your house that can be safely repurposed for rabbit fun. If you’re new to rabbits or still trying to figure out what kinds of toys your bunny likes, this is a good place to start because it requires minimal money investment. Here’s some stuff you might have around the house to entertain your pet:

  • Cardboard Boxes – Fun for bunnies to crawl inside, hop on top, chew, and scratch. Try to create two points of entry by cutting the sides of the box.
  • Paper Bags – Can be used for digging, shredding, crawling inside, etc. Can also use lunch sized bags to put hay, pellets, and treats inside to make a fun feeder/shredder bag.
  • Cardboard Toilet Paper & Paper Towel Rolls – Can be given as is for chewing and tossing, or make into DIY cardboard toys.
  • Phone Book – Your old yellow pages are perfect for bunny shredding.
  • Hand and Bath Towels – Perfect for digging, pushing, and scooting.
  • Plastic Laundry Detergent Caps – Once thoroughly cleaned, these are perfect for tossing.

If you’re willing to do a little work, these are some easy DIY toys you can create using household supplies:

  • DIY cardboard paper rolltoys
  • Dig Box – Take a cardboard box or a plastic litter box and fill it with shredded paper, hay, old towels, or other soft material so your bun can dig to their heart’s content.

Note: anything you give to your rabbit will be chewed on to some degree, so make sure you only give them “toys” that you don’t mind having destroyed.

Toy Parts

If you’re crafty or enjoy making things yourself, you can easily create safe and fun toys for your pet rabbit. We have plenty of recommendations for toy parts to buy for your bunny. Some of these items you may be able to find at your local pet store.

Toy Chains, Strings, etc.

If you want to make your own hanging toys or toss toys, you’ll need something to tie or link them together. There are two ways to do this, either with something reusable that your chin cannot chew or with a chinchilla safe material that they will destroy with the toy.

Resuable Toy Parts
Kaytee Stainless Steel Kabob Dispenser
Nickle Plated Chain
Nickle Plated Bell
Nickle Plated Pear Links

Destroyable Toy Parts
Sisal Rope
Braided Seagrass Rope

Toy Parts

Some of these toy parts, like sticks and such, can be given to your pet chinchilla on their own. You can also create hanging toys or toss toys with them. These toy parts are all chinchilla safe and easy to order from Amazon.

Wood Chews and Toy Parts

Etsy Stores That Sell Toy Parts

A Bird Toy – Christina’s shop specializes in toys and toy parts for birds and her huge selection also includes toy parts that are good for rabbits.

Chinvilla (USA) – It’s no surprise that this chinchilla shop has a lot to offer rabbit owners. Check out their toy parts section where they sell bulk wood pieces and vine toys.

Other Sites that Sell Toy Parts

Small Pet Select – Known for their awesome rabbit hay, Small Pet Select also sells a variety of rabbit safe toys and chews which can be used to build your own toys. They have a variety of wood and grass options your bun will love to destroy.

Binky Bunny – A favorite among rabbit owners, BB mostly sells premade toys, but they do offer toy parts and wood chunks.

Ronda’s Chinchilla Supplies – While this is a chinchilla supply sight, Ronda sells wood by the pound. You can purchase twigs, sticks, coin, and chunks–just check with the rabbit safe wood list before you order.. She also sells other toy parts like vines, coconut shell, and more.

Make sure playtime is a safe time for your rabbit. Learn how to rabbit proof your home.

Check Rabbit Feet for Hock Sores

Pet Rabbit Grooming 101

Like all pets, rabbits require a little bit of maintenance from their owners in the form of grooming. Fortunately, most rabbit grooming tasks are easy enough to be performed by an owner at home with a few tools on hand. Regularly grooming your rabbit will help prevent health problems, increase your bunny’s happiness, and help you recognize signs of illness and other conditions that need to be looked at by a vet. Make these grooming steps a part of your regular rabbit routine.

Pet Rabbit Grooming 101 - How Clean & Care for Your Bunny

How to Groom a Rabbit

When you add a new pet rabbit to your family, you’ll want to put together necessary care supplies including a rabbit first aid kit. You can add some of these basic grooming tools to your kit:

  • Flea Comb or Shedding Brush
  • Nail Clippers
  • Clean Bath Towel
  • Q-Tips & Cotton Balls

How to Brush Your Rabbit

All rabbits shed, but the frequency and quantity of their shedding will depend on their breed. Usually, there will be three big sheds a year as they grow in different coats. For some rabbit breeds, it will seem like they’re always shedding. For others, you can even see the line of shedding happen as it will start at the tip of their nose and move across their body in a line until it reaches the tail.

Since rabbits self-groom by licking themselves, during periods of heavy shedding they can ingest more hair than usual which can cause stomach issues. You’ll also notice tons of hair around your house. One way to help with this process is by brushing your rabbit.

The general recommendation is to brush your rabbit at least once weekly. If you have a long haired rabbit, two times weekly may better help to keep fur mats at bay. During heavy sheds, you may need to do it more frequently–often daily.

There are a few different styles of brushes you can use for grooming your rabbit. The type of brush doesn’t matter too much, as long as your rabbit will allow you to use it on them. Common brushes used by many bunny owners and breeders include flea combs or shedding brushes. Whatever brush you buy, look for a “cat” or “small pet” size for your rabbit. To brush your rabbits face, it’s recommended to use an eyebrow brush/eyelash comb commonly sold for doing make-up. These brushes are gentle for around delicate eyes and small enough to work on cheeks, chins, noses, and around the ears.

During heavy shedding periods, you can pluck hair by hand (demonstrated in this video). Some rabbits do not like this though, so pay attention to your rabbit’s reaction. If they will tolerate it, plucking is a quick way to remove large tufts of hair. Make sure to only gently tug at tufts of hair that are visibly coming loose. If you grab a bit of hair and it doesn’t budge, leave it be. It’s not ready to be shed yet.

To use a brush to remove hair, gently sweep it through the hair, going in the direction of hair growth (from the head toward the tail). Often rabbits do not like it when you try to brush against the grain, even if it removes more hair. Going with the hair growth feels more like you’re petting them and some rabbits find it very relaxing. During periods of heavy shedding, shorter strokes work best. You will need to pause occasionally to clean hair from the rabbit brush or comb. Make sure to brush their bum and the area right above the tail. That area can be harder for the rabbit to reach to groom themselves, especially for older bunnies.

How to Trim Bunny Nails

In the wild, rabbits are constantly digging which wears down their ever-growing nails. Lucky house rabbits live a cushy life with soft furniture, carpets, and rugs, so their nails often don’t wear out naturally and grow long. Long nails are at risk for getting caught, scratching owners, breaking off, and causing pain for the bunny. You should regularly inspect a rabbit’s nails and trim them if they get too long. For most rabbits, they will need a nail trimming every month or every other month. You don’t need fancy tools to trim your rabbit’s nails. A regular set of fingernail clipper for humans works great for rabbits or you can buy pet nail clippers. Make sure you have styptic powder on hand or in your rabbit’s first aid kit before you start.

If you’ve never trimmed your rabbit’s nail before, it might be easier to have a friend or family member help you. While trimming the nails correctly will not hurt the rabbit, they may struggle and want to run away if they’re not used to being held. Try to hold the rabbit in your lap or on a table with a towel laid flat on the surface. Hold the rabbit against your body firmly with one arm. If your rabbit doesn’t like being held, wrapping them in a towel to make a “bunny burrito” can make the task easier.

How to Trim Bunny Rabbit Nails

When you’re trimming a bunny’s nails, the biggest challenge is to not cut them too short. Rabbit nails have a blood vessel in them, also called the quick. If you cut the nail too short it will bleed (which you can stop using styptic powder or corn starch). This is painful for the rabbit and create an opportunity for infection, so we want to avoid it. If your rabbit has light color nails it will make trimming easier since you’ll be able to see the quick through the nail. No matter what color your rabbit’s nails, if you use this technique (also demonstrated in the video above) you will be able to avoid cutting too close.

With your rabbit pressed against you, lift one paw. Place the clipper around the tip of the nail and press gently once and then again. If your rabbit reacts and tries to pull their foot away, you’ve placed the clippers too high. Move them lower and press twice again. If you get no reaction, got ahead and clip the nail.

Your rabbit’s front paw has four forward nails and a fifth dew claw where a human has a thumb. Make sure to check and clip all five nails. The hind legs only have four forward nails. Of your rabbit has long fur on their paws that make their nails hard to see, use a damp washcloth to lightly wet the fur. Watch the video above to see techniques for accessing each foot without stressing your rabbit too much. If your bunny is very resistant to being held, try the burrito technique, or in worst case scenarios you can have the vet clip the nails on their next check-up.

How to Bathe a Rabbit

Many new owners wonder how to clean a rabbit. Fortunately, they are a self-cleaning pet! That means barring special circumstances, your bunny will take care of their own bathing with frequent grooming like cats. In fact, bathing your bunny may cause them undue stress, so it should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

One of the few occasions you may need to “bathe” your rabbit is when they get a poopy butt that needs to be cleaned by you. This often happens if your rabbit is sick or is overweight or old and cannot clean that area themselves. Eventually, poop will get caked into the fur on their bottom, which you’ll need to wash off. Unless directed to do so by a rabbit savvy vet, do not emerge your rabbit in water. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to shock and even death in rabbits. Instead, for poopy butt, you should give your rabbit what is called a “butt bath.”

Get a litter box or other plastic container just large enough for your rabbit to sit inside. Put a folded towel in the bottom of the box and fill it with an inch or two of tepid/warm water (NOT HOT). Gently place your rabbit in the box, holding the front end of your rabbit up so they’re out of the water (see the video above). Switch water around their butt until the dried on poop is moist. Gently remove the poop with your fingers, being careful not to pull out any hair.

Once their backside is clean, lift them from the box and place them on a dry towel. Dry them with the towel as best you can. Then use a hair dryer set on the lowest heat, until their fur is dry.

Other Grooming Tasks

While brushing and nail clipping will be the main grooming you have to do for your pet rabbit, you’ll also want to examine your rabbits at least once a month to check for sores, injuries, or anything unusual on their bodies.

Each month when you check to see if your rabbit’s nails need to be trimmed, also check the following:

Fur Mats

While any rabbit can get fur mats, long-haired rabbits are most susceptible. Regular weekly or 2X weekly brushing will help to keep fur mats at bay, but if you do discover any you’ll need to remove them. Since rabbits have very delicate skin, it’s dangerous to cut mats out with scissors as you can easily cut their skin. Instead you should use a mat splitter or rake to gently work the mat out of the fur.

Scent Glands

Both male and female rabbits have scent glands under their chin (which they use to mark items and people as “theirs”) and also on either side of their anus. While most rabbits do not have issues with their scent glands, some bunnies have problems grooming them, which can lead to build-up. You’ll easily notice if this is a problem because there’s usually an unpleasant smell (kind of a mix between a skunk and coffee) and a brown build-up in the glands.

Inspect your rabbit’s underside, looking for brown build-up and unpleasant smell. If there’s nothing amiss, don’t worry about it. If your rabbit’s scent glands need cleaning, get some Q-tips and warm water. Securely hold your rabbit on their back so you can access the scent glands. Gently swab away any build-up with the Q-tips.

Check Rabbit Feet for Hock Sores

Sore Hocks on the Feet

Rabbit feet can easily become susceptible to sore hocks. A “hock” is the heel of your rabbit’s foot, which is normally covered by fur that protects the skin. Sore hocks happen when the skin becomes inflamed and painful. While sore hocks can come from neglect, well cared for rabbits can get them too. Common causes are poor hygiene or damp bedding, long nails, rough floors (this is why wired cage floors are a no-no), obesity, immobility, and excessive thumping. My rabbit Barney developed hock sores when he got arthritis as an elderly rabbit, a combination of his immobility and a tendency to sit in his litter box for hours.

If your rabbit develops sore hocks, make sure to consult with your veterinarian to discover the cause and make a plan to remedy the situation. If the skin is broken, raw, or bleeding, see a bunny savvy vet ASAP because the risk of infection means they may need antibiotics. Minor hock sores can be treated with A&D ointment to protect and heal the skin.

Do you have a new pet rabbit in your family? Learn about a healthy rabbit diet, how to rabbit proof your home, and how to clean a rabbit cage.

How to Keep Your Rabbit Cool in Hot Weather

Ah, summer. It brings sunny days, clear skies, and in many parts of the world, hot and humid days. But people aren’t the only ones who suffer when temperatures skyrocket. Pets also feel the heat, in fact, they can be more susceptible to it because of their fur coats. If you’re looking for ways to keep your rabbit cool during hot weather, this article will give you plenty of tips to keep your rabbit comfortable, as well as a few rules to follow to prevent heat stroke.

How to Keep Your Rabbit Cool in Hot Summer Weather

How to Keep Your Bunny Cool in Summer

While rabbits aren’t as heat sensitive as other small pets like chinchillas, high temperatures can still be deadly. Some cultural and climate differences guide rabbit owners to keep their pets in hutches in their yard, but we highly recommend that bunnies in the United States and other locations where temperatures go over 75F should live in houses with air conditioning.

Rabbits control their body heat through their ears. They do not sweat like humans do, so they are susceptible to heat stroke whenever temperatures go above 77F (25C). During summer months, rabbits should be kept in an air-conditioned room to regulate temperatures. If you do not have air conditioning, using a fan and some of the keep cool tips below can help keep your rabbit from overheating.

Tips to Help Keep Your Rabbit Cool

These tips and tricks will help your bunny stay cool during summer weather.

  • Turn the AC on, keeping temps below 77F.
  • Use blackout curtains to block direct sunlight from their room and keep the temperature down. You may want to relocate their cage to a cooler part of the house, like a basement. (If your rabbit is outside, position their hutch in the shade or create shade with an awning.)
  • Fill 2-liter soda bottles with water and freeze them. Place them in your rabbit’s cage or playpen and they can lie next to them to lower their body temperature.
  • Provide marble, granite, or ceramic tiles for them to lie on. These will stay cooler than other surfaces. You can also put them in the fridge or freezer for extra cooling. You can easily buy squares at hardware stores or pick up a couple Chinchilla Chiller stones at the pet store.
  • Change your rabbit’s water frequently to keep it fresh and cool. This is especially important if they drink out of a crock or dish. You can add a few ice cubes to keep the water cold longer.
  • Rinse their veggies in cool water before you feel your rabbit. This will make the veggies cool and provide a little extra hydration.
  • Take their fruit treats, herbs, or veggies for the day and freeze them with water in an ice cube tray. Make sure not to over feed fruit treats.
  • Use a fan to keep air circulating in the room. Make sure it is not blowing directly on your bun. You can put a bowl of ice in front of the fan to create a cool breeze.
  • If you have a long-haired rabbit, consider giving them a trim in warmer months. Try hairstyles similar to what you see on poodles. Shorter hair will help them stay cool.
  • Mist your rabbit’s ears with cool water. This will help lower their body temperature.

If you follow these tips and maintain a cool environment for your rabbit, they will stay healthy and happy even during the hottest summer weather.

Rabbit Heat Stroke Symptoms

When temperatures sky rocket, you should monitor your bunny for any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. It’s especially important to pay attention to older rabbits and overweight rabbits as they tend to be less active than young bunnies and it may be harder to see the signs.

The signs of heat exhaustion in rabbits are:

  • Shallow and fast breathing
  • Wetness around the nose
  • Low energy or listlessness
  • Hot ears
  • Tossing head back with rapid, open mouth breathing

If your rabbit is showing signs of heat exhaustion, this is an emergency situation. You must immediately take action to lower their temperature and call your rabbit savvy exotics vet for further instructions.

Emergency action steps:

  • Move your rabbit to a cooler location away from sunlight
  • Dampen ears with cool water
  • Give cold water to drink
  • Call your vet

Get more tips on how to keep your apartment or house cool during summer without air conditioning.

Keep your rabbit healthy and safe by putting together a bunny first aid kit and rabbit proofing your home.

Rabbit First Aid Kit - Essentials for Bunny Emergencies

Rabbit First Aid Kit for Bunny Emergencies

Rabbit First Aid Kit - Essentials for Bunny EmergenciesYou don’t want anything to happen to your little cuddle bunny, but it’s inevitable that there may be some sort of small–or even big–emergency, injury, or illness in your rabbit’s future. When you add a bunny (or two) to your family, you want to be prepared the same as you would be for any other family member. In addition to buying the right foods and proper housing, you should have a rabbit first aid kit on hand to deal with the most common situations that come up.

Many owners think this is something they don’t have to worry about, especially with young rabbits, but I can tell you from my own personal experience that when something goes wrong, you will be so glad you were prepared in advance. Also–again my personal experience–it’s very likely that something will happen at night or on the weekends when you can’t reach your regular vet for advice or run out to the store to get essential supplies. Having these recommended items on hand in your rabbit first aid kit can help save you a costly emergency trip to the vet or even save your rabbit’s life. A rabbit first aid kit is essential for every bunny owner.

All right, now that we’ve established how important this is, let’s go through all the things you’ll need in your kit.

DIY Emergency Rabbit First Aid Kit

This is a list of items we recommend you have on hand in your rabbit first aid kit. Some are common items that you may already have around the house or in your regular first aid kit. Many of these items can be purchased at a pharmacy or from your vet. We included links to many of the harder to find items on Amazon. Because many of the items will have expiration dates–especially foods and medicines–make sure you are replacing the items as they expire.

We highly recommend getting some sort of container to keep these items in so they’re easy to find or grab in the case of an emergency evacuation. I would recommend something sturdy and waterproof, you could even take a traditional plastic first aid kit box and fill it with all your rabbit’s essentials.

First Aid Kit Checklist

  • Veterinary Contact Info – If you have a business card for your rabbit vet, include that or write it on a piece of paper. If there is an emergency exotics vet or other emergency resource (like a shelter) in your area, include that contact info as well.
  • Gauze Pads
  • Vetrap Bandaging Tape (Buy on Amazon) – This is a self-sticking bandage tape often used by vets to secure bandages on animals.
  • Cotton Balls
  • Q Tips
  • Tweezers
  • Rounded Tip Scissors (Buy on Amazon) – to cut bandages and tape.
  • Disposable Gloves – to prevent the transfer of germs.
  • Vetericyn Wound & Skin Care (Check Price at Petco | Buy on Amazon) – An antibacterial spray that is safe for rabbits, good to use to clean scrapes and cuts.
  • Neosporin – Make sure it does not have “pain relief” ingredients. For treating minor cuts and wounds.
  • Nail Clippers – These are to have on hand to regularly trim your rabbit’s nails. Regular human nail clippers work fine for this but you can buy pet nail clippers as well.
  • Styptic Powder (Check Price at Petco | Buy on Amazon) – If you accidentally clip your rabbit’s nails too close, they will bleed (same if they get their nail caught and rip it off). Dip the nail in styptic powder to stop the bleeding. In pinch, you can use cornflower. Do not use for other wounds, just nails.
  • Oral Syringes (Buy on Amazon) – If your rabbit stops eating or drinking, you’ll need these to administer food and water to help prevent GI Stasis. Get 1 cc size for medication and 35 cc size for feeding.
  • Oxbow Critical Care (Buy on Amazon) – This supplement is useful to syringe feed your rabbit if they stop eating. The flavor is tasty and it will get them the nutrients you need. Just mix with water.
  • Baby Food – Another trick for feeding a stubborn bunny who has stopped eating is to water down some baby food and feed it through a syringe. Make sure to buy organic baby food with no additives or other ingredients. Pumpkin and squash are highly recommended. In a pinch, you can use watered down canned pumpkin with no additives or seasonings.
  • A&D Ointment (Buy on Amazon) – Sold in stores as a diaper rash ointment, A&D is often recommended by vets to treat hock sores on rabbits. If you have Bag Balm on hand, this can also be used.
  • Infant Gas Medication (Buy on Amazon) – GI Stasis can be caused by gas build up in the stomach that prevents your rabbit from eating. You can give your rabbit 1 cc of infant gas medicine (simethicone) every hour for three hours to try and relieve the build up. Make sure to follow up with a vet if you rabbit doesn’t start eating normally again.
  • Papaya Tablets (Buy on Amazon) – If your rabbit is prone to hairballs, giving a papaya tablet weekly can help keep their system moving.
  • Rectal Thermometer (Buy on Amazon) – Because a rabbit’s body temperature can be elevated by stress (like a carride to the vet), it’s good to be able to take the temperature at home to have an accurate number. This will need to be done rectaly, and we recommend using a digital thermometer. Learn how to take a rabbit’s temperature with this easy to follow video. This is a skill you will want to practice before an emergency, both so you are comfortable with it and so your rabbit is used to the procedure.
  • Vaseline – To lubricate the thermometer. You MUST lubricate it well before taking your rabbit’s temperature. Vaseline or 100% petroleum jelly is recomended over other lubricants.
  • Heating Pad (Buy on Amazon) – Can use an electric heatng pad or a microwaveable one.
  • Cooling Pad – To cool an overheating rabbit. You can use a pet cooling pad, piece of tile, or an ice pack wrapped in blankets or a towel.
  • Towel – It’s important to have a large bath towel on hand that you can wrap your rabbit in if you need to restrain them.

If you don’t already have a rabbit carrier, buy one ASAP so you can easily take your rabbit to the vet in an emergency.

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DIY Rabbit First Aid Kit - Everything you need for a bunny emergency

When Should my Bunny Go to the Vet?

When Should my Bunny Go to the Vet?Just like cats and dogs, rabbits should have annual visits to the vet for check-ups. Since they are a prey animal, they easily hide any sickness or injury and an annual visit is a good way to catch health problems you may not notice. Having a relationship with a vet is also good because if you have an emergency situation you already know who to call or go see to take care of your bunny.

If you cannot afford to take your rabbit to the vet regularly, you should not have a pet rabbit. This is an essential part of rabbit care and ownership.

If you have a young rabbit who has not been spayed or neutered, you will want to have them fixed as soon as they are the appropriate age. This will greatly help with things like litter training and behavioral problems. It’s also essential for female rabbits who can develop cancer if they are not spayed. Include the cost of spaying or neutering your bunny in your considerations to add a rabbit to your home. In many places, this will cost around $150-$200.

How do I find a rabbit savvy vet?

Because rabbits are an exotic pet very different from cats and dogs, you can’t just take them to a regular vet. Instead, you’ll need to look for an exotic veterinarian with special training in rabbits. If there are any rabbit shelters or rescues in your area, you can contact them for a recommendation of a rabbit savvy vet. If not, the House Rabbit Society has a listing of vets for the United States and some other countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK.

What emergency situations require a vet visit?

Outside of your annual wellness exams, you should take your pet rabbit to the vet ASAP if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • If your rabbit goes 24 hours without eating or pooping–this can be fatal and needs immediate treatment!
  • If your rabbit is wounded
  • Your rabbit’s behavior changes in a way that makes you suspect illness or an injury (eg. sudden change in mobility, change in appetite, lethargy)
  • Teeth protruding out of your rabbit’s mouth (malocclusion of the teeth)
  • Diarrhea and runny poops
  • Red urine
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • Panting with mouth open
  • Drooling
  • Head tilted to the side or upside down

Now that you’re ready for rabbit sickness or injury, make sure to check out these important articles for new rabbit owners:
Learn how to rabbit proof your home.
Find out what makes a healthy rabbit diet.
Learn about safe rabbit litters and how to litter train your rabbit.