Rabbits can be a very enjoyable animal to have as a pet. They’re furry little critters who enjoy affection and play time. While their company can be enjoyable, they do have some behaviors owners find unpleasant. One of these is chewing, especially when it is done on objects that are not appropriate for chewing. A common material rabbits are drawn to is plastic.
So, why is your rabbit eating plastic?
Rabbits chew on plastic because it is their natural instinct to chew. They will gnaw on pretty much anything that is available to them that satisfies their need to chew. You can combat this by making sure they have plenty of materials and toys to chew that are safe for them.
I will be discussing why rabbits chew as a habit as well as the possible health impacts of eating plastic. What to do if your rabbit eats plastic, as well as ways to stop your rabbit from chewing on plastic will also be covered.
Why Do Rabbits Chew as a Habit? Rabbits Chew on Anything Available to Them Because it is Part of Their Instinct to Grind Their Teeth Down. Unfortunately, Sometimes Materials Such as Plastic, Carpet, or Furniture Are Available and Rabbits Take Advantage of This Convenience.
If rabbits do not chew enough then their teeth will become overgrown. This is uncomfortable for them, but it will also cause health complications for them. If a rabbit’s teeth become overgrown, they will become uninterested in eating.
If a rabbit is not eating, they are not getting adequate nutrients, including fiber. A rabbit must be eating an ample amount of hay which includes fiber that is important for their digestion.
Without fiber, a rabbit may experience gastrointestinal stasis (GI stasis), which is a blockage in the digestive system of a rabbit. This can lead to death if not treated.
A rabbit may also chew out of boredom. If a rabbit is alone for much of the day, this is one way for them to entertain themselves. If there is not wood, hay, or a toy in their enclosure for them to chew which they enjoy, they may resort to chewing on their litter pan or plastic parts of the cage.
Chewing is also a habit that varies with age and gender. Female rabbits tend to have a stronger urge to chew than males, although both sexes have a strong desire to chew. This desire to chew can be lessened by spaying and neutering early on in the life of rabbits.
Younger, unspayed, or unneutered rabbits have a higher likelihood of chewing on things they should not. This is because they have a stronger urge to chew due to hormones and lack of maturity.
What Can Eating Plastic Do to Your Rabbit’s Health, and What Can You Do If Your Rabbit Has Eaten Plastic? It Will Probably Come as No Surprise to You that Plastic is Not Good on a Rabbit’s Digestive System. It is Best to Try to Keep Your Pet from Eating Plastic as Blockage is Always a Concern When Materials that are not Easily Digested are Consumed. However, if Small Bits Are Consumed There are Ways You Can Help Your Pet Pass the Material Through More Smoothly.
Just like any other material that cannot be easily broken down in a rabbit’s digestive system, plastic is not healthy for a rabbit’s digestive system. Too much plastic can cause blockages within the digestive system which can become deadly if untreated and is happening continually.
Rabbits can be mischievous little creatures, so while undesirable, it is reality that they may ingest small amounts of plastic. This should not cause a major impact on their health as long as the pieces are small, and it does not happen often.
Should you notice your rabbit has consumed plastic, it is recommended to take measures to get the digestive system flowing smoothly in order to make sure the plastic makes its way out without causing blockages.
Stocking plenty of hay and fresh water in the rabbit’s cage is going to be very important if bits of plastic have been ingested.
This is a practice that should be occurring anyway, however, if materials such as plastic are eaten it becomes even more important.
As always, if you are concerned about the amount of plastic your pet has eaten, it is best to take them to your veterinarian to have them checked over.
How Can You Stop Your Rabbit from Eating Plastic? Rabbits Are Acting Out of Natural Instinct When They Are Choosing to Eat the Plastic Around Them. They Know That They Need to Chew, However, They Are Not Aware of the Objects that are Safe for Them. This Leads to Your Pet Chewing on Whichever Materials Are Available to Them. You Can Stop This Behavior by Providing Safe Objects for Your Pet Rabbit to Chew On.
The act of chewing for a rabbit comes mostly from a need and instinct to wear teeth down. As a pet owner, you can combat chewing on inappropriate objects by supplying your pet with safe materials and chew toys.
Safe materials for your pet to chew include:
- Hay, hay, and more hay. Grass hay is best for adult rabbits, alfalfa is recommended for growing/young rabbits, and rabbits who need to put on weight.
- Apple, willow, and aspen branches
- Pine firewood
- Untreated fresh pine lumber- this can be attached to the cage, so it does not move for convenience for your pet
- Basket with hay- the rabbit can chew the basket
as well as the hay.
- The basket should be untreated willow, as materials are often treated with varnishes or pesticides that are harmful for your rabbit.
- Compressed alfalfa cubes
There are also toys that can be purchased for your rabbit. These toys should not contain anything other than natural materials. Toys for a rabbit should also only be purchased from trusted pet stores.
Safe toys for a rabbit for chewing include:
- Grass mat
- Willow bridge
- Willow tunnel
- Wicker balls (only from a pet store, from home goods they are treated with harmful varnishes)
If your pet is chewing on plastic out of boredom, supplying materials and toys they can safely chew on is a start to combat this issue. They may also need more time to run around outside of their cage, and to be given attention.
It is not uncommon for rabbits to act out and chew items they should not due to a lack of attention. If you feel your pet may be acting out from a lack of attention, try to make some more time to spend with them.
Trying to provide items your rabbit will chew instead is your greatest chance of changing the behavior when it comes to chewing plastic. Attempting to discipline rabbits usually does not work well.
Disciplining a rabbit is not the same as disciplining a cat or dog. A rabbit is a prey animal, so they may become more scared or anxious at loud noises such as yelling, or spanking. This does not teach them right from wrong, it usually only results in a nervous, anxious pet.
If you insist on using negative reinforcement with your rabbit, it is not recommended to go any further than clapping and saying “no.” This may assist in conditioning your rabbit to chew on items that are not plastic.
Should you choose to use this technique, it is important to only use it when you catch your rabbit performing the action. If you find a plastic pan chewed up but did not see your pet chewing it, disciplining your pet afterwards will have little effect. The rabbit will not remember what they did wrong.
If Your Rabbit is Eating Plastic, there are A Number of Reasons Why This May be Happening. They May be Bored, or it May be the Most Convenient Material Around for Them to Chew. Combating this is not too Difficult.
If your rabbit’s enclosure is not stocked up with enough hay, wood, or toys they may resort to the other materials around them. Whether it is carpet, plastic, or furniture, they have a natural need to chew and they will fulfill it somehow.
This is why it is very important to keep materials that are safe for their digestive system around, so they do not risk blockages trying to chew and eat materials that are difficult to digest.
If too much plastic has been eaten and you feel a concern for your pet’s health, it is always recommended to take them to your local veterinarian to be checked over.
While having a rabbit chew on plastic can be an inconvenience, there are plenty of ways to stop this behavior. There are many different materials you can replace the plastic with.
Overall, keeping a rabbit satisfied when it comes to chewing does not need to be difficult. With proper research and understanding, you will have your rabbit chewing on the correct things in no time.