Do rabbits need bedding? Well, that’s a very good question, and although you’d probably expect the answer to be either yes or no, the truth is, it all depends on your situation.
Some pet owners – like my sister – don’t use bedding to line their bunny’s cage, typically because their rabbits are toilet trained and only need a cozy spot to sleep. With a litter box in one corner, her precious furry-faced fluffkins, Cody, does her duty in the potty section, and when she’s in the mood for a rest, takes a snooze on her cozy bed, fleece blankie or cotton playmat. Sure, there might be a potty accident once in a while. But since it’s truly a rare occurrence, my sister feels there’s really no need for bedding throughout the entire enclosure for absorption.
In fact, having bedding in the cage can sometimes complicate litter training as the bunnies won’t understand where the toilet is. Having only a litter box in the cage, they’re more likely to figure out that is a place to potty.
On the other hand, using bedding for a rabbit’s habitat is indeed quite common, and a great many owners choose to do so for various reasons. No matter the details, it’s essential to understand what types of bedding are best in the event that you do indeed need to use it. So, let’s go over your options!
Table of Contents
- Types of rabbit bedding – our favorites
- Best bedding for rabbits
- Bedding types to avoid
- Clean cage, happy bunnies!
Types of rabbit bedding – our favorites
When it comes to finding the best bedding for rabbits, there are five main types that work great and ensure a healthy living space:
- fleece bedding
- paper bedding
- aspen bedding
- pelleted straw
- hemp bedding
We’ll get right into the pros for these bedding types and go over their cons as well, so pet parents get the full picture about these alternatives.
Do keep in mind that some rabbits might be prone to eating their bedding. That is just fine if you use hemp, pelleted straw or aspen bedding, but ingesting paper bedding might be an issue. In some cases, especially if eaten in large quantities, paper bedding might expand in rabbit’s tummy and create a blockage which would require a visit to the vet and can even be fatal. Luckily, that is not a common occurrence but it is good to be aware of the possible danger and keep an eye on how your bunnies interact with the paper bedding.
Best bedding for rabbits
Now that we’ve explored what types of bedding are good for rabbits, let’s look at various options in-depth and go over their pros and cons. That way you’ll be able to choose which material would be the best pick for your furry friends.
1. Fleece bedding/cage liners
Fleece bedding is super soft and comfy – and quite possibly the closest thing out there to living on a cloud. Without a doubt, your bunny will feel like a royal cottontail while resting on several layers of thick padding, which is essentially the equivalent of a mattress, that extends the entire width and length of the cage. If you’re also in search of an inexpensive, low-mess bedding, then you’ll get that in spades with fleece.
Keep in mind, however, that while you’ll save on costs, you’ll be giving up on time and energy maintenance-wise. Laundry, laundry, laundry – that’s what we’re talking about! Yet, if the thought of washing and drying a load every few days doesn’t sway you – because you want the best for your bun-buns – then fleece is likely what you should buy.
If you choose fleece as your rabbits’ bedding and your rabbits are not litter trained, you’ll also need an underlayer that will absorb the urine. Most pet owners opt for puppy pads or u-haul pads which work great. Although, if you choose a fleece liner such as the GuineaDad liner with a waterproof backing, you won’t need anything else under it.
- Effective at removing odor
- Made from natural materials like bamboo
- Extra laundry every few days!
- Overly furry or dirty padding can damage washing machine
- Pet-friendly detergents needed (unscented and hypo-allergenic)
- Time consuming (usually requires more than one set to save time)
Don’t let the name fool you – this bedding is perfect for rabbits too.
2. Aspen bedding
Aspen bedding is the best choice among wood bedding options as it does not contain any aromatic oils or phenols that might be harmful to bunnies (unlike pine and cedar), while also being dust-free and odorless.
- Can be pricier than other bedding alternatives
- Not as absorbent as paper-based bedding and fleece liner
3. Paper pellets
My personal favorite, paper pellets are extremely odor absorbent and excellent at moisture absorption. The brand I’m using is Yesterday’s News and it is an unscented non-clumping paper cat litter that makes a great bedding option for any small caged animal.
- Excellent odor control
- Highly absorbent
- Easy to clean up
- More expensive than some other types of bedding
4. Crumble paper bedding
A fantastic paper-based bedding with a cozy, soft texture that’s also environmentally sustainable. Your bunnies will be very content with this type of 100% recycled paper bedding lining their cage. Make sure you stick with a premium brand of crumble paper bedding because lesser known ones tend to be quite dusty.
- Low dust
- Super soft for your bunnies’ feet
- Great absorption
- Great odor blocker
- Some brands can be dusty
- Needs frequent changing since super absorption makes the material heavy
5. Pelleted straw
While the regular straw is best to be avoided due to its bad absorbent qualities and lack of comfort, pelleted straw is a great choice for bunnies that love to nibble on their bedding. With pelleted straw bedding you won’t have to worry about your bunny ingesting something dangerous because this bedding is 100% safe to eat.
- Low dust
- Decent odor control
- 100% safe to ingest
- Doesn’t contain any chemicals or fragrances
- Can be used in a compost
- Not the cheapest option
6. Hemp bedding
Hemp bedding is another great and safe option for your bunnies’ habitat. You don’t have to worry about your bunnies eating their bedding as the hemp is 100% safe for them to ingest. It has good absorbing qualities and has a nice smell that is not too strong.
- Affordable price
- Very absorbent
- Has a nice smell
- Can be used for compost
- Not the coziest type of bedding compared to fleece or paper bedding
- Can get a bit messy
Bedding types to avoid
On the market, you’ll find an endless assortment of materials claiming to be cheap, viable alternatives for rabbit bedding – but not all of those options are indeed safe. The following are materials you should avoid to ensure your rabbits are safe and comfortable in their habitat.
Straw makes great bedding… for horses! Don’t mistake straw for hay – it’s not a yummy treat or suitable bedding material. Without absorbent qualities, urine and feces would simply accumulate in the material, leaving your pets living in their own toilet. With stiff ends that can easily poke sensitive bunny eyes, nose, ears, and paws, this stuff just doesn’t provide your rabbits with the comfortable material that they need for their home.
You’ll see the use of corn husks on the farm due to its abundance, but it’s certainly not a good bedding material for bunnies. Aside from being prone to growing mold, the wispy hair strands and hard cores can also cause intestinal blockages if ingested.
Clumping cat litter
Cat litter is a substance that is used in a location meant to be a toilet – it’s certainly not meant to replace bedding at the bottom of a rabbit cage. Sure, it has lovely odor-cancelling properties, but it’s also full of chemicals that can be fatal if ingested.
The debate on pine and cedar shavings – good or bad?
There’s quite the debate online with regards to pine and cedar shavings because of its effect on rabbit’s liver and the effect of oils and phenols on rabbit’s respiratory system. So, are pine and cedar shavings good or bad? Between kiln-dried pine shavings and non kiln-dried pine shavings, it seems that kiln-dried is indeed the better choice as the drying process appears to eliminate substances in the wood that may cause respiratory issues in rabbits. We always like to err on the side of caution and skip the product that might be harmful so we prefer not to use pine or cedar shavings as bedding. You might want to stick to proven bedding types such as the ones we listed above.
Here are a few additional resources to read more about the potential dangers of cedar and pine shavings:
- Respiratory toxicity of cedar and pine wood by Jeff Johnston, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology
- Litterboxes and Liver Disease by Rabbit.org
Clean cage, happy bunnies!
Regardless of what bedding you use, don’t neglect the importance of a clean cage. Cleaning their habitat at least once a week ensures your bunnies are happy and healthy! Don’t wait for your cleaning schedule to tell you when it’s time to remove spilled food, clean up water accidents, or change soiled bedding. Those are things you should keep an eye on every day to make sure your pets stay in good health.
Do you have a favourite bedding that we didn’t mention? Tell us what it is, we’d love to know!