Chewing & Digging

Chewing and digging are natural rabbit behaviours. Some rabbits seem to enjoy these activities more than others, however. Unspayed and unneutered rabbits, as well as young adolescents, for example, seem to enjoy them the most. The key to dealing with chewing and digging is to provide diversions from your antique dresser, colonial baseboards or favourite armchair. Items such as unwaxed cardboard, digging boxes filled with hay or shredded newspaper, paper bags, or pieces of untreated pine attached to your rabbit’s cage can provide such diversions.

Carpet is also a favourite item for digging and chewing, but it’s not healthy for your rabbit to ingest the fibres or for your wallet
to pay for the repairs. If you have a rabbit who likes to chew carpet, put old blankets, pieces of cardboard or untreated grass mats over the areas that seem to being attracting too much attention. If your rabbit is really persistent, block his access to that area if possible.

Some rabbits also really enjoy chewing baseboards and wall corners. Clear plastic corner guards, which can be purchased from stores such as Home Depot, can be cut to length, and adhered to your wall. These work well to protect many right-angled surfaces.

Fruit tree branches like apple or willow and aspen branches provide tasty diversions from your baseboards, but cherry, apricot, peach, and plum branches (fruits with pits) are toxic unless they are removed from the tree and aged for a month. Make sure the branches you choose are from a tree that you know has not been treated with pesticides.

Some people include aversion therapy in their attempts to curb constant chewing and digging. This involves applying a strong smelling or foul tasting deterrent, such as lemon juice, bitter apple, vinegar, perfume or soap, to objects that are being chewed or scratched. Never use toxic substances as deterrents, and always apply a small amount of the substance to an inconspicuous area of the item being chewed or scratched to test for colour fastness or staining. Some rabbits have been known to develop a taste for these strong smelling, foul tasting would-be offenders, so try them on a small area first to see if the substance gets a thumbs up or a thumbs down from your rabbit.

When you see your bunny sampling your furniture tell him “NO” in a stern manner. Immediately replace the object he is chewing with an appropriate chew toy and praise him when he chews his toy. If your bunny repeatedly returns to your furniture and doesn’t seem to get the idea after several attempts are made to offer an appropriate chew toy, try a short time out in his cage. Never hit your rabbit.

Be patient and persistent. With maturity, spaying or neutering and the provision of other stimuli, your rabbit’s chewing and digging activities should decrease.