Sometimes, when bunnies aren’t chewing hay…
You may see them munching on cardboard like it’s a delightful snack.
However, the dilemma isn’t only about the mess they create…
But also, if it’s safe for them to eat?
Continue reading to find out:
- Why do rabbits eat cardboard.
- Whether it’s safe for them or not.
- 3 dangers of ingesting cardboard in bunnies.
- When you should be alarmed by this behavior.
- 3 easy ways to stop your rabbit from eating cardboard.
- And a lot more…
Can Rabbits eat cardboard?
It isn’t recommended for rabbits to eat cardboard. Consuming small amounts of plain ones isn’t harmful to them. But when they too much of it, it can result in an upset stomach. Or worse, an obstruction. It may also have toxic ink, plastic, glue, or sharp metals. Plus, it offers little nutrition too.
Why do rabbits eat cardboard?
Rabbits eat cardboard to satisfy their instinct to chew or trim their long teeth. They could also be attracted to it due to its cellulose content. Or they’re bored, and it’s their way to keep themselves busy. But sometimes, excessive eating of non-food items can also be a sign of a stomach problem.
5 reasons why rabbits eat cardboard
#1: To keep their teeth healthy
Every little bunny loves chewing on things. And if there’s cardboard nearby, likely, it’ll also be destroyed in no time.
But wait, why can’t rabbits stop chewing on things?
It’s because they’re constantly trimming their teeth.
Unlike us, bunnies have ‘open rooted’ ones. And this means that their teeth don’t stop growing over their lifetime.
“How fast do they grow?”
Research shows that rabbits’ teeth usually increase around 0.08 in (2 mm) in height per week.
See this more detailed info below:
- Maxillary incisors (upper front teeth) – 0.07 in (1.9 mm).
- Mandibular incisors (lower front teeth) – 0.09 in (2.2 mm).
- Premolars – 0.084 in (2.14 mm) if on sand pellet, rice hulls, grass diet.
This is quite fast. And if bunnies have overgrown teeth, they’ll be prone to injuries and dental issues. Which will affect their eating, as well as their overall health.
So what’ll they need to do?
Rabbits have to munch on things every day. To grind down their teeth and prevent them from becoming too long.
And since cardboards are pretty tough, it makes them an excellent trimming tool.
#2: It’s rich in cellulose
Next, what is cardboard made of?
It’s made up of paper pulp which is a product of trees. And cellulose is a major component of it.
Did you notice that a rabbit’s diet is also composed mainly of cellulose?
However, they get it from grasses and hays instead. And this could be the reason why they’re also attracted to cardboard.
“So, what’s cellulose?”
In simple terms, it’s the substance that makes up the plants’ cell walls and fiber. Which is often used in creating fabric and paper.
So, cellulose is hard to digest.
In fact, we, humans, can’t take this in. Since we don’t have the specific enzyme to dissolve it.
But rabbits can.
Because herbivores have an enlarged ‘cecum.’
Specialists say that this organ contains certain bacteria. And these help them digest fibers like cellulose. Plus, it also absorbs nutrients.
Interesting fact: How big is a rabbit’s cecum? Experts claim that it’s the biggest among mammals. One study says that it’s 10 times larger than their stomach. And it makes up 40% of the whole digestive tract.
#3: To satisfy their urge to chew
“Oh no. I’ve already finished up all of my hay.
Well, I think I have to improvise.”
Another reason is a lack of something they can nibble on. Either hay or chew toys.
Because like I said earlier, bunnies’ teeth don’t rest much all day long.
They need something to chew most of the time. And this is a natural rabbit’s instinct.
So if you’ve put cardboard inside their cage or see one while they’re out, they’ll chew on it. As it’s the most accessible to them at the moment.
Interesting fact: Research found that rabbits without access to hay often show unwanted behaviors. Like excessive nipping or eating non-food items such as cardboard.
#4: To entertain themselves
Like us, rabbits get bored too.
Although they’re small, these fluffy creatures are loaded with energy. So they love running and hopping around.
Plus, rabbits are social as well.
So, if they’re only in their cage most of the day. Alone, lonely, and with little stimulation…
What will they do instead?
They’ll find an outlet to release all their energy. As well as their pent-up tension.
And since chewing satisfies their instincts…
They can munch on anything they see. So even plain cardboard might turn into entertaining chew toys.
Reading tip: Can Rabbits Eat Paper?
#5: They have a stomach problem
Lastly, sick rabbits might also eat unusual things.
This is according to Dr. Richard Saunders, a specialist vet. And he said that it’s often the case with bunnies with a slowed-down stomach.
Because he usually sees large amounts of cardboard in those patients. As well as hair and fur.
“What may have caused this?”
Based on VCA Hospitals, gastrointestinal stasis isn’t a result of a foreign body that’s stuck in their gut.
This could be due to:
- Kidney diseases.
- A diet lacking in fiber.
- Excessive carbohydrates.
So pay close attention to your bunny. And see if they’ve been showing other signs, such as:
- Reduced appetite.
- Fewer stools or bowel movements.
Check out also: 15 Alarming Reasons Why Your Rabbit Poops So Much + 11 Tips
3 dangers when rabbits eat cardboard
It’s said that more than 3000 chemicals are needed to create cardboard. As well as pieces of paper.
These are a lot of additives.
But, although plain boards aren’t highly toxic to rabbits…
There are a few ones that might be dangerous when ingested in large amounts.
The most concerning is printed or colored cardboard.
“What makes them unsafe?”
It’s due to a chemical in inks called diisobutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DIBP.
One research found that recycled cardboard boxes can be dangerous to our health. And even more so to small animals.
Especially if the papers that were used are filled with adhesives and inks.
But, these boxes are often seen as food packaging. And the said chemical could seep into what we eat.
Aside from potentially toxic inks, there may also be plastic or foil in some cardboard. And these aren’t also nice when ingested by bunnies.
Read next: Why does my rabbit shake?
#2: Upset stomach
Chemicals aren’t the only thing that’s alarming about cardboard.
There could also be adhesives. Which are used in joining some parts of cardboard.
Polyvinyl acetate, a.k.a. PVA glue, is one of the commonly found adhesives in boards. And in school, it’s known as ‘white glue.’
“Is this safe for rabbits?”
According to experts, it’s not highly poisonous. However, small amounts of this can still upset their stomach.
Apart from glues, cardboard may also have staples or tapes in them. And these might injure or cause serious stomach problems to your bunny.
#3: Intestinal blockage
Now, if a rabbit consumes too much cardboard. And if they also ingested a large amount of adhesive…
It could also lead to intestinal obstruction.
Even though this is rare, it’s still possible. Especially if a bunny doesn’t eat much hay every day.
It’s because eating hay helps in digesting. As it keeps their gut moving.
So, it can push down the ingested cardboard. And it’ll slowly clear their digestive tract.
“What other things may have caused this?”
- Fiber from cloth.
And any other non-food items. As rabbits love chewing anything they see.
Note: If your rabbit consumed a huge amount of cardboard, watch out for common signs of blockage, like:
- Teeth grinding.
- Abdominal pain.
- Distended stomach.
- Sudden loss of appetite.
These symptoms usually happen all of a sudden.
So, abrupt changes in behavior might be a telltale sign. And this means that your bunny needs immediate medical attention.
3 tips to stop your rabbit from eating cardboard
#1: Give them something to chew on
You can’t stop rabbits from nibbling things.
Because first, it’s an instinct. Plus, it’s their way to avoid dental problems and boredom.
But, you can refrain them from eating cardboard and other unsafe items.
By simply not providing access to it.
So, always keep those cardboards away from your bunny. And divert their attention unto something else. Say, a good chew toy.
This could be:
- Kiln-dried pine.
- Untreated and clean twigs (e.g., willow, apple).
And avoid these materials:
- Soft rubbers.
- Stained or painted wood.
Further reading: 23 Tips To Stop A Rabbit From Chewing Everything (How-To)
#2: Get them moving and busy
Bunnies also need exercise just like any other animal.
It’s one way of keeping their bodies fit. So, it may cause them to shed some excess belly fat.
Plus, engaging in physical activities makes them happy too. Just like what a simple walk or run does to relieve our stress.
And all of these help in improving a bunny’s mood. As well as their mental health.
“But, how much exercise do rabbits need every day?”
PDSA says that bunnies require at least 3 hours of it a day.
And mind you, it’s only the minimum amount. So, the more hours they spend outside the cage, the better.
Also, the standard rule is to let rabbits out at least twice a day.
But they should be supervised. Since they’re curious little fellows that love to chew.
‘Rabbit-proof’ your home or room first if you’re planning to use it as a play area. And remove any harmful and sharp objects.
As well as clear their sight of any electrical wires that they may munch on.
But, besides running, rabbits also need some mental stimulation.
This could prevent them from getting bored. And display excessive behaviors like biting and chewing.
What are other challenging activities do rabbits like?
- Digging: Bunnies are also burrowers. So you can give them a wide shallow bowl or planter with soil that they could dig.
- Gathering food: They may also enjoy a treasure hunt. So hide some food in the area along with grasses or newspapers.
- Chasing: Some rabbits might be interested in chasing as well. You can entice them with a ball or a toy attached to a string. Then toss or drag it on the floor.
But guess what, rabbits are also capable of learning tricks. And training them is a great way to spend more time and strengthen your bond with your bunny.
So, you’re hitting 2 birds with 1 stone.
Wanna know how?
Just watch this short video:
Learn more: How to reduce stress in rabbits?
#3: Make sure that they’re fed properly
Lastly, see to it that your rabbit eats an ideal diet.
So, it’s not only the amount that you should consider. But also the kind of nutrients that their food has.
This is to prevent them from finding other sources of food or fiber. Such as cardboard. As they’re grazing most of the time.
For hay, RSPCA recommends giving rabbits a minimum of 1 bundle every day. And ensure that it’s fresh and high-quality.
Hay helps in grinding down bunnies’ continuously growing teeth. Plus, it’s also rich in fiber, which aids digestion.
Next, grass and leafy vegetables are also on the list. Such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage. And a handful of these will do.
And lastly, 0.88 oz (25 g) of pellets per kg of their body weight is also advised.
While treats like carrots should only be used as a treat and fed in small amounts.
Interesting fact: According to Dr. Anna Meredith, rabbits digest their food quickly. And being prey, it’s an advantage for them. Because it’s the reason why they’re so light and able to move in times of danger.
People also ask:
Can rabbits eat cardboard boxes?
Rabbits can’t eat cardboard boxes. Those made with plain boards may not be toxic, but large amounts of these can still be dangerous. As they could lead to an upset stomach or intestinal obstruction.
Bunnies can’t stop chewing on things. And if they’re left alone with a box, who knows, they may destroy half or the whole thing in a matter of minutes.
Heavy-duty industrial boxes are also unsafe for rabbits. As well as other animals. As these are thicker than the usual ones.
Plus, metal chips and sand are often seen with this type of box. Which are highly harmful when ingested.
Can rabbits eat cardboard tubes?
Rabbits can eat cardboard tubes in small amounts. But, it must be plain. And it isn’t recommended to be part of their diet.
PetMD says that cardboard from toilet paper is safe. And most parents even use this as a DIY toy for their bunnies. With hays or green leafy veggies inside.
However, if your bunny loves to eat a lot of this every day, it might affect their appetite. Or cause a stomach problem in the long run.