Can Rabbits Eat Cardboard?


can rabbits eat cardboard?

I had a rabbit, my mini lop named Tenshi, who absolutely loved digging into cardboard. She would dig, and she would chew. And sometimes I found her eating pieces of cardboard. At first, I was worried this would be bad for her health. I know rabbits have a sensitive digestive system, so I did some research to find out.

Is it okay, can rabbits eat cardboard? It is okay for a rabbit to eat cardboard. You don’t want the cardboard to be a main source of food, of course, but ingesting cardboard in small amounts is not harmful to your rabbit.

Cardboard is actually great for your rabbit to chew on to wear down their teeth. It’s normal for them to eat a little while chewing. But there are a couple things to keep in mind before giving cardboard to your bunny.


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Cardboard for chewing

Giving your rabbit cardboard is an easy and cheap way to help your rabbit to have healthy teeth. Rabbit teeth grow very quickly, a lot like human fingernails. They always need to have something to chew on to keep their teeth from growing too long. Having a healthy diet with a lot of hay is the most important, but providing your rabbit with wooden or cardboard toys helps too. 

Because rabbits have to keep their teeth from overgrowing, our bunnies have an instinct to chew a lot. Giving your rabbit cardboard and other chew toys helps to keep them from biting on things they shouldn’t, such as wires and furniture legs. It is also good for your rabbit’s mental health by keeping their mind active and curious while they play with their cardboard toys.

Toilet paper rolls

Rabbits will love to chew on toilet paper and paper towel rolls. They will have so much fun tossing these around. Even better, you can make some cool DIY toys with these cardboard tubes. You can hide treats inside and pinch off the ends. Or stuff them with hay and greens and hang them up for your rabbit to play with. The possibilities are endless.


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Cardboard boxes

Flattened or standing, cardboard boxes are another easy and cheap way to provide entertainment for your rabbit. You can make a digging box for your rabbit, or turn it into a tunnel for your rabbit to destroy. I even use them as temporary mats to block the carpet at the corners of the room, or flatten and line them up against the wall to keep my rabbit from chewing on the baseboards

Just remember to inspect and remove any staples or tape when you give your rabbit a new cardboard box. This can be dangerous for your rabbit and cause digestive problems or injury.

Cardboard boxes are also great hideouts for shy or scared rabbits. Placing one in a new area where your rabbit is exploring can help them feel more confident, since they’ll have a safe place to run to.

Cleaning up the mess

The main downside to giving your rabbit a cardboard box to tear apart is cleaning up the mess afterward. Rabbits can completely shred cardboard boxes very quickly. This means we are left with all the little pieces of cardboard, and we’ll have a lot of cleanup to do. 

When is cardboard dangerous

Not all cardboard is created equal, so there are a few things to look out for or avoid when you give your rabbit cardboard to chew on. As I mentioned before, you want to exclude any dangerous accessories, like tape or staples, but there are a couple other things to keep in mind too.

Glossy or colored cardboard

You want to be careful of what kind of boxes you give your rabbit. Some inks have the potential to be harmful for your rabbit so you want to avoid anything that’s not a plain cardboard box. This means avoiding anything like a cereal box and product boxes. It also includes magazines and anything that has a glossy cover.

If your rabbit doesn’t eat the boxes and only uses them to dig, this is not quite as big of a problem. It’s best to er on the side of caution, though, and avoid any cardboard that has the potential to be harmful to your rabbit.

Eating too much cardboard

While a little bit of cardboard won’t harm your rabbit’s digestion, it doesn’t provide any nutritional value. You don’t want your bunny to fill up on cardboard instead of their food. 

If your rabbit seems to be eating a lot of cardboard, limit the amount that you give them. Try introducing other types of chew toys instead. For example, if your rabbit seems to be eating too much cardboard, try giving them more wooden toys. These are more difficult for a rabbit to chew up, so they won’t be able to eat too much of it.

rabbit digging box
A digging box is a great enrichment toy for your rabbit.
Learn how to make one for your rabbit!

What other paper can your rabbit play with?

If it’s okay for rabbits to eat cardboard, then can rabbits eat paper too? For the most part, yes. However, paper products do not provide the same kind of resistance to help your rabbit’s teeth, and your rabbit is more likely to eat larger pieces of it. But paper can be great fun for your rabbit. I like to use it to create digging boxes for my rabbit’s enrichment.

Like with cardboard, most paper with ink on it is not good to give to a bunny. So it’s best to avoid giving them magazines, books, receipts, used printer paper, etc. But there are still some good options that are useful as enrichment for your rabbit.

Newspaper 

This is the one exception to the no-ink paper rule. Most newspapers are printed with a soy based ink, which is not harmful to a rabbit’s health. This is why a lot of good rabbit litter brands are made using recycled newspaper, and it’s common to use old newspapers to help with litter box training. You can also shred or crumple up the pages of a newspaper to make a simple toy for your rabbit.

If you give your rabbit a lot of newspaper to shred, don’t be alarmed if their paws start to turn a little black. This is just the ink rubbing off on your bunny. Since it’s a soy based ink, it’s not harmful, and the stains will go away on their own after a couple weeks of being away from newspapers.

Packing paper

Packing paper is the plain white or brown paper that will sometimes come in a package. It is becoming a little more common nowadays to get a package with paper as companies try to use less plastic. And this is great for us rabbit lovers. These large pieces of pre-crumpled paper make amazing toys for rabbits. It will keep them busy for hours. And as a plus, there is no ink to rub off on their paws like there is with newspapers.

Shredded paper

Shredded paper is great for using in a digging box. You can take a whole clump of shredded paper and fill a box that your rabbit can fit into. Then hide some treats and other toys in the shredded paper and watch as your rabbit excitedly digs through the box and throws the paper around to find the treats.

Other great chew toys for rabbits

Having chew toys also provides mental stimulation for your rabbit. It’s even better if you can give your rabbit a lot of different options to choose from, or rotate which toys to give your rabbit.

Wooden chew toys are a great option to start with. These are available at many pet stores and come in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes, such as hanging toys or puzzle toys. Just be sure if you get colored wood toys, that they were painted with vegetable dyes, or otherwise rabbit safe paint.

If you’re not sure what kind of toys to get your rabbit, then I recommend checking out Small Pet Select. This is an online based company who I trust to have high quality food and toys for rabbits. They have a sampler pack of toys you can get to see what your rabbit likes to play with most. (Use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first purchase at Small Pet Select)

You could also get some applewood sticks. I’ve known some rabbits who completely gobble these up, so don’t give them too many at once. In the same vein, pinecones are also a good chew toys. You want to be sure to completely wash and dry these before giving them to your rabbit.

Wicker baskets are another option for your rabbit. You want to make sure you find untreated and unpainted wicker though. So furniture wicker is usually not okay for your rabbit to chew on, but a lot of cheap wicker baskets will be safe for your bunny.

There are so many creative ways you can help your rabbit have healthy teeth and an enriching, happy life. So see what you can come up with and watch your rabbit get super excited with all their fun new toys. 

Sources:

  1. “Chewing.” House Rabbit Society, rabbit.org/faq-chewing.

Related Questions

What can rabbits eat?

A rabbits main diet should consist of mainly grass based hay (such as timothy hay). A rabbit should also have a cup of fresh leafy greens every day. Pellets are not necessary, but can be a healthy addition to a rabbits diet in small amounts.

How to keep my rabbit from chewing on wires?

Because they are burrowers in the wild, rabbits have an instinct to chew on thin objects that look like tree roots. The best way to keep your wires safe from your rabbit is to keep them away from your rabbits reach, or cover them with a thick flexible tubing.

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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