Social, smart, and ever so precocious, rabbits need physical and mental stimulation to entertain them and keep them from getting bored – and into trouble.
What happens when you have bored bunnies on your hands? Well, they tend to seek distraction in several troubling ways, such as gnawing on their enclosure or other inappropriate objects like carpeting, baseboards, and furniture. And sometimes, they turn that destruction onto themselves, scratching their skin until it’s raw and bleeds, pulling out their fur, or even biting their skin.
As you can imagine, a bored, understimulated rabbit makes for a very unhappy pet – and more often than not a destructive one. But another reason for that destruction is their teeth. You see, if you weren’t already aware, bunnies have teeth that continuously grow throughout their lives. That means they need to constantly chew – and chew and chew and chew – or else their teeth will grow into tusks, quite literally. For these creatures, chewing isn’t an option, it’s truly an intrinsic necessity.
So, how can you help your bunnies maintain healthy teeth? The answer is by providing them with safe rabbit chew toys to allow them to satisfy their need to nibble and keep their ever-growing teeth the perfect length.
How to Pick Out Safe Toys for a Rabbit
Essentially, to keep things simple, the best rabbit safe toys are made from paper, cardboard or safe-to-ingest wood. Really, these are the only things safe enough for your pets to chew on that they can easily digest, if eaten in small quantities.
Not all woods are safe for rabbits to chew, so make sure to stick to one that is (as mentioned in the information below). Additionally, even though the following items are perfectly safe to keep inside your rabbit’s habitat, always remember to allow them free access to unlimited hay, which is the absolute best substance to help them with digestion and wear down their teeth.
A Quick (but Super Important) Note on Wood
Rabbits cannot ingest just any type of wood, so make sure to thoroughly research items before you give it to them. Redwood, cherry, plum, peach, apricot, and other trees that produce a fruit with a solid pit are toxic to rabbits.
Check out this detailed list of dangerous and safe-to-chew woods at BunnyProof. If you’re not sure what kind of wood is used, be it a stick or a toy, then we recommend not giving it to your pets to be on the safe side.
Safe Rabbit Chew Toys
The following is an extensive list of well-known rabbit-safe chew toys that will certainly keep your bunnies stimulated, entertained, and out of trouble!
Cardboard Boxes and Rolls
Although it may sound funny at first, arguably one of the absolute best chew toys out there is the simple, humble – and incredibly inexpensive – cardboard roll.
Whether it’s a paper towel roll or a toilet paper roll, add a whole lot of extra pizzazz by stuffing the center of the rolls with Timothy hay. Not only will they get their chew time in, but they’ll also get a tummy full of healthy, yummy ruffage.
Chew-safe Sticks Like Apple Wood or Willow
Bunnies love nibbling on sticks like natural apple sticks or sweet bamboo sticks and can go through them rather quickly. They normally come in a pack of several pieces, are small and convenient to keep in the house, and are very affordably priced.
It’s a hideout, it’s a bridge, it’s a nibble toy – it’s all three?! Bend it into a bridge to get them to an upper level or keep it shaped like a little home, but no matter how you use it, it’s a nibble-safe structure. Another great thing about a wooden bridge is that it comes in various sizes, so you can go very small or all the way to super big, depending on the size of the cage and what you’re looking for.
For nervous nibblers who enjoy their free roam time but still need a place to hide, this wooden structure is the perfect place to stay concealed or take a snooze, with the added benefit of being a chew-safe toy.
Hand-woven, 100% all-natural mats like the Oxbow Timothy Mats are constructed from healthy, edible, high-fiber dry grass. It’s a great way to add a soft, cozy spot to your rabbit’s cage that’s also a material they can safely chew on.
These mats don’t contain any threads, wires or chemicals, so you don’t have to worry about what happens when your pets are unsupervised. Let them play on – and eat – these mats to their heart’s content.
Untreated or Natural Wood Blocks, Cubes, Shapes or Toys
Don’t give your pets random sticks or pieces of wood you’ve found outside without sterilizing them first, as they may contain insects, bacteria, parasites, or mold spores that can be toxic. Also, not all types of woods are safe for rabbits. Luckily, there are many safe and fun toys like this “Play Wall” toy or this wooden chew toy to choose from.
Grass, Willow or Other Chew-safe Balls
Edible grass or willow ball toys offer pets a fun, chew-safe shape to nudge and move around their habitat to prevent boredom and teeth problems. Make sure you purchase an all-natural, chemical free one that’s meant for small pets, rather than something that’s purely decorative.
You’re looking for balls that are handmade, 100% natural materials, that have no glue, plastic or metal, like this set of Fun Activity Pet Balls that have a natural seagrass, water hyacinth, and rattan trio of balls.
Chew tubes are relatively inexpensive and are a fun way to add attractive designs and colors to your pet’s environment. Whether they use it in their cage or out, your fluffy friends will get a kick out of how much fun these tubes are – and tasty!
Available in various sizes from small to extra large, you’ll likely want to go with a larger option like the Kaytee Large Chewbular Play Tube to give your rabbits as much room to as possible to crawl, nest, burrow, and play. Safe for bunnies to nibble on and made from environmentally-friendly materials, some of these models come with bedding for your pets to create the ultimate resting spot or hideout.
What Not to Let Your Pet Bunnies Chew on
Certainly, there’s a long list of materials you should never let your rabbits even go near, let alone chew on.
Unsafe materials: plastic, metal or soft rubber toys, carpeting and fabric should be avoided, since ingesting them can be incredibly dangerous, possibly even deadly. If they manage to chew or break off small amounts of the materials and swallow them, then this can result in a GI tract obstruction that could ultimately require surgery.
Unsafe wood: woods like pine or cedar that contain a lot of aromatic oil, or wood from trees that produce fruit with pits like plum, avocado or cherry trees are also not safe. Some fruit tree branches are toxic while attached to the tree, such as peach or apricot, but become safe after they’re cut and dried for the right amount of time (which is usually over a month). To play it safe, we recommend you don’t experiment with these types of wood.
Toys or objects with dangerous adhesives or paints: do not offer items that may have dangerous glue or adhesives, as well as stained or painted objects, as these chemicals can harm your pets if consumed.
Simply put, if it’s not an object that’s specifically meant for rabbits to play with or chew on, just steer clear of giving it to your pets because you just never know what could happen – and the last thing you want is an emergency trip to the vet.
Do You Really Need to Spend a Lot to Make Your Bunnies Happy?
Last March I wrote a post entitled Best Toys for Rabbits to Play With: 15 DIY & Store-Bought Options, and in it I asked my sister about her rabbit’s favorite toys to nibble on. I wanted to know if preference had anything to do with expense – meaning, were the more expensive toys a bigger hit? Well, while writing this article, I decided to revisit this question yet again to see if anything had changed in the past year or so since then.
Unsurprisingly, nothing’s changed for my sister’s rabbit, Codie. At their place, it’s still all about the cardboard boxes, crumpled up paper, and paper towel rolls filled with hay. For the most part, they’ve stopped spending money on store-bought toys for their rabbit. Though, every once in a while, they will still pick up some apple sticks, which Codie does enjoy immensely.
So, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on your fuzzy companions to curb their chewing habits, the great thing is you don’t have to. Keep the cardboard boxes from Amazon, add some hay-filled paper towel tubes and crumpled up craft paper, and watch your rabbits have a blast!