Chewing Prevention: Why Rabbits Chew and Tips to Prevent the Problem
From the edges of the rabbit hutch to the food bowls inside, it can seem like your rabbit knows no limit when it comes to chewing. Chewing is an activity that rabbits seem to find enjoyable and can be daunting for you as the owner to prevent. However, if you learn a little about why your rabbit likes to chew so much and why they chew certain things, you can also better understand ways to deter this behaviour that can be a bit of a bother.
So, why is it rabbits like to chew on everything?
There is actually more than one reason why rabbits love to nibble. Biologically, rabbits learn to chew at an early age. The rabbit’s front teeth actually never stop growing, so chewing is a way to keep those elongated front teeth from growing too long. However, rabbits also chew as a way to create their own nests or burrows. For example, a female rabbit will often chew off bits of sticks and hay to use as bedding just before she gives birth. Rabbits also like to burrow into things for safe sleeping. So if you have a cardboard box, a piece of wood, or another object in the cage, the chewing could be the rabbit trying to create a safe burrow to hide in.
What can you do to prevent chewing?
Your rabbit will probably always chew, and in fact, they have a physical need to do so because of their teeth. Therefore, the key to changing the behaviour is to look at it from a different standpoint. Figure out why your rabbit is chewing and then go for a solution to match.
Your Rabbit Is Chewing to Create Nesting Material
If you notice your bunny is shredding the edges of the enclosure to create nesting material, you can deter some of this behaviour simply by making an alternative nesting material available. For example, give your bunny material like:
- hay and straw, such as timothy and orchard grass hay
- untreated, natural cotton or wool
- natural fabrics, such as cotton linen or jute
Your Rabbit Is Chewing Out of Apparent Boredom
If your pet bunny spends a lot of time in their hutch, cage, or enclosure alone and without attention, they can chew simply because they are bored. In these situations, you can offer your rabbit toys that are safe for chewing, store-bought chew treats, such as gnawing sticks and alfalfa cubes, or even just a basic cardboard box or collected and cured twigs. Additionally, a bored rabbit with a chewing problem may benefit from having a companion or sometimes just more human interaction or free play time in an open area.
Your Rabbit Is Chewing to Create Burrows for Her Young
Female rabbits can be a little more aggressive about chewing behaviours than males because they are consistently preparing their environment for offspring, even if they are not always carrying little ones. Because of this, females will be more persistent about chewing to create a burrow or safe area for their babies. If you suspect this is the problem, you can offer her a makeshift burrow, like a cardboard box stuffed with fresh hay or a hollowed out piece of pine wood. If this does not counteract the problem, it may be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about having your female rabbit spayed.
Chewing may be a natural behaviour for your pet bunny, but this can also be somewhat of a bother. To find supplies to help you prevent chewing, check out our rabbit supply list at Rabbits.ie.