Pet Rabbit Chewing: Rabbits chew for the health of their teeth. Learn the dynamics of why, and how to ensure that household items stay off the menu.
Do any of the following sound familiar??
Ack!! Bunny owners find out very quickly that rabbits chew and chew… and chew… and chew… and DO THEY EVER STOP CHEWING?!
In a word, no. While the rest of the rabbit stops growing once it reaches adulthood, bunny teeth never stop growing. It is similar to fingernails on people. And like our fingernails, bunny teeth need to be regularly worn down and filed through gnawing to prevent injury and pain to its face. Chewing and gnawing naturally perform the filing and wearing functions which is why bunnies constantly chew stuff.
Can I train my bunny not to chew?
No. You don’t want your rabbit to stop chewing! It’d be great, however, if you could train it to chew on appropriate objects! But if by some miracle you could train your pet rabbit to stop chewing, it would quickly develop serious problems.
What will happen if my bunny doesn’t chew?
Without chewing or gnawing, there is no control to how long the teeth grow. Because rabbit teeth are continually growing, it will soon develop a condition called malocclusion, also known as “wolf teeth” or "buck teeth."
The front teeth become so overgrown that the bunny can’t eat or close his mouth properly, and the rest of the teeth inside the mouth wear improperly, grow long and sharp, and start biting into bunny's cheeks and tongue. (If you’ve ever bitten your own cheek or tongue, you know how painful that is. OUCH!)
This is why a rabbit’s gotta do what a rabbit’s gotta do, which is chew.
So what will my bunny chew?
Rabbits will chew anything, and especially things that look and feel like the natural plants, grasses, straw and sticks that he would normally chew on out in the wild. Unfortunately, this does include shoe laces, window blind cords, clothing drawstrings, and power cords including phone charger cords. Besides making you crazy, chewing on electrical cords can also be very harmful (or fatal) to your rabbit.
Rabbits don't necessarily stop at the above items. They will also chew your walls (especially at the outward corners), your carpets, the baseboards, and the legs of your furniture. If your furniture is comprised of priceless antiques...yikes!!
How do I keep my bunny from bad chewing?
Give lots of gentle (but firm) positive reinforcement and keep plenty of acceptable alternatives on hand. Punishing a bunny for “bad” behavior doesn’t work. Due to being prey animals, they are prone to anxiety, and attempts to discipline them may cause mental and physical health problems.
Instead, remove the unacceptable option, give the acceptable option, and then give affection and affirmation so the bunny will favor the acceptable option. When you see your rabbit engaging in good behavior, reinforce it with approval, affection, and the occasional treat.
In some cases, a rabbit chew deterrent spray can help your rabbit learn a little more quickly (here and below).
So what are acceptable options?
Keep fresh hay available with its food. The hay has fiber that helps with digestion, as well as providing healthy chewing opportunities. Change out the hay at least once a week. Stale hay can taste like stale popcorn to your rabbit, not to mention the possibility of mold growth in old hay.
Without fresh hay, the likelihood of your rabbit taste testing other things around the house goes up!
In addition to hay, another fabulous pet rabbit chew toy for teeth are Raising-Rabbits Chew Stix.
Raising-Rabbits Chew Stix are nature's blessings from the beautiful Washington State forests. Fresh alder branches are harvested from trees without chemicals, pesticides, or smog. Those branches are then hand cut down to bunny size portions, then infused with apple from Washington’s famous apple farms. The alder is perfect for rabbit dental hygiene, and the apple taste and smell will attract your bunny, saving your phone cords and your sanity.
To learn more about malocclusion, how to spot it, and how to treat it once it happens, visit our rabbit teeth page, and check out our book, The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver. (The section on dental issues starts on page 280.)
The apple-infused chew stix are great! But consider also rabbit chew toys that can hang from the top or sides of a wire cage. The ones pictured below will provide hours and hours of chewing pleasure, AND entertain the rabbit as well.
For more info on rabbit toys:
As briefly mentioned above, perhaps not the least of your options for dealing with pet rabbit chewing, is to use a bitter tasting rabbit anti-chew spray as a teaching tool until the rabbit has learned proper etiquette.
Here are a few more of the better bitter sprays and rabbit chewing deterrents that I am aware of...