It’s the time of year for festive decorating! To be honest, I’m not much of a decorator, but even I like to liven things up with the occasional candle and holiday lighting. When it comes to decorations, it’s important to take our rabbit’s habits into consideration. We’ll want to keep them from chewing on anything that’s potentially dangerous, and (of course) keep them from breaking anything.
Christmas trees and other holiday plants can pose a danger to rabbits. Other decorating materials, such as candles, tinsel, and ribbon should also be kept away from rabbits or avoided altogether. Otherwise, basic rabbit proofing (such as covering wires) is usually enough to keep your rabbit safe around holiday decorations.
While it’s a lot of fun to decorate and create an atmosphere of festivity, you also want to make sure you think about what your curious rabbit would get into. Whatever holiday you are decorating for, in whichever season, these are guidelines you can use to keep your rabbit from eating something they shouldn’t or destroying your favorite decorations.
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Are Christmas trees safe for rabbits?
If you celebrate Christmas, then you’ll most likely have a tree decorating your living room. Many people opt for reusable plastic trees these days, but live Christmas trees are still widely available for the holiday season. Rabbits will often get very excited about these new plants in the house and immediately start chewing on the branches and needles.
The problem with the Christmas trees is not the tree itself. Most trees that you can purchase as Christmas decorations are spruce trees or fir trees, neither of which are toxic to rabbits. However, you do want to watch out for pine trees. These are mildly poisonous for rabbits to chew on, so it’s best to keep rabbits away from pine trees.
Unfortunately, even though the type of tree is safe, you still want to avoid letting your rabbit chew on it. Most commercial Christmas trees are sprayed with fire retardant chemicals, to prevent them catching fire inside, and pesticides, to keep bugs out of people’s homes. These chemicals are NOT safe for rabbits.
If you can find a place that sells completely organic trees with no pesticide or chemical sprays, then it’s safe to allow your rabbit to have fun and chew on the tree, but you may have to do a lot of searching before you find a tree that will be safe for your rabbit.
If you cannot find a tree that is safe for rabbits, then you could opt to purchase a plastic tree instead. Many of these look very realistic and you’ll be able to reuse them every year. The other option is to either keep your rabbit away from the tree by keeping them out of the room, or surrounding the tree with a pet playpen to make it off limits to rabbits.
Christmas tree decorations
When decorating your Christmas tree, try to make sure you keep the bottom area of the tree free of any decorations. This will prevent your rabbit from chewing on anything they shouldn’t or knocking over fragile decorations.
If you must have decorations on the bottom of the tree to give the aesthetic more balance, try putting rabbit toys as decorations on the bottom. You can easily purchase or create rabbit toys that you can hang from low branches of the tree.
My rabbit’s favorite hanging toys are the natural hay and stick mobiles that I get from Small Pet Select. They are an online store that specializes in selling high quality hay and toys for rabbits and other small animals. I discovered them about a year ago and have been honestly impressed with the quality of their products. Check out their mobile toys to add to your Christmas tree. (You can also get 15% off your first purchase by using the code BUNNYLADY)
What holiday plants are poisonous for rabbits?
Most plants are fine to have around the house even if you have a rabbit. As natural herbivores, rabbits are better at digesting plant material than other carnivorous pets, even with plants that might be a little poisonous. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice caution.
While most plants are not going to cause significant damage to rabbits, there are still some that it’s best to avoid. At the very least, you’ll want to keep these plants up on high surfaces or completely out of your rabbit’s reach.
Common holiday plants that you should keep away from your rabbit include:
- Christmas azaleas
- Winter cherry
- Holly (mildly toxic, unlikely to cause major problems)
- Poinsettia (mildly toxic, unlikely to cause major problems)
Small amounts of any of these plants are unlikely to cause major health problems. You’ll want to keep an eye on your rabbit if they eat any, since they might have gastrointestinal issues. However if your rabbit manages to eat a significant amount of your houseplant (especially the winter cherry or mistletoe), then you’ll want to give your vet a call to ask for advice or make an emergency appointment.
If you want to have any of these plants around, be sure that they are completely out of your rabbit’s reach. Keep them in rooms that your rabbit cannot access, or up on surfaces your rabbit can’t reach.
Be careful with fake plants
Fake plants can be a great option for adding festivity to your home without introducing one of these poisonous plants. It’s best to be careful even with fake plants though. Some rabbits will try to chew on them anyway and end up ingesting a lot of plastic. Pay attention to your rabbit around the plants and if they try to chew on the plastic, make sure to move the decorations and keep them out of your rabbit’s reach.
Rabbit proofing your decorations
For the most part, you need to think of rabbit proofing your holiday decorations the same way you would rabbit proof the rest of your home. You just need to make sure anything that you don’t want your rabbit to chew on is covered up or moved to a place away from your rabbit.
If possible, you can easily do this by keeping all of your holiday decorations out of your rabbit’s room. But if you have a free roam rabbit, or a rabbit who lives in the family room, this may not be possible. In these cases, you’ll have to be a little bit more careful about where you put your festive decorations and how you cover them up.
Wires and lighting
Colorful and creative lighting displays are a big part of many people’s holiday decorations. These come with long lengths of vine-like wires that are just waiting for a rabbit to come and chomp right through them. This is dangerous for rabbits since it can lead to electrocution, and it would also put a stop to your beautiful lighting display.
To protect your rabbit and your lights, make sure to keep your display up and out of your rabbit’s reach. Don’t let any part of it dip low enough for a curious rabbit to take a little nibble. If you need to plug the end of the cord down low where your rabbit can access it, make sure to cover that end with plastic wire tubing.
You can get long lengths of this tubing and use it to cover any wires that your rabbit might be able to get at. This will make the wires thicker and less attractive targets for rabbits to chew on. Even if they do chew on it, they’ll only chew on the plastic so you’ll notice before your rabbit gets to the actual wire underneath.
Scented candles are more common during the holiday season, since they give a cozy feeling to the room. However, anything with an open flame can be a hazard to a wandering rabbit. If you have any candles in the room with your rabbit, make sure to only light them when you are there to supervise your rabbit. This will keep your rabbit from knocking the candles over or accidentally catching their coat on fire.
You also want to avoid having the candles on too often around your rabbit. The strong scents associated with these candles can be irritating to a rabbit’s respiratory system, so it’s best to only use these in moderation. That goes for anything else that you have scented in your rabbit’s area as well.
And of course, you always want to keep the candles away from your rabbit’s reach, even if they’re not lit. The wax of candles is not good for rabbits to chew on or lick, so it’s best to practice caution.
Rabbits can be pretty clumsy, especially when they hop up and down from tables. They’ll often kick over any decorations you have when hopping off of a coffee table or low side table (I have lost many mugs like this). It’s best to keep any fragile or potentially breakable items away from these low surfaces so you don’t risk your rabbit knocking them over.
Decorations with small pieces
Like children, it’s best to keep any objects with small pieces away from your rabbit’s to prevent them from choking or eating something that may cause a blockage in their stomach. You’ll need to be especially careful of anything that sheds small plastic pieces.
Some of the main holiday culprits include:
- Tinsel. Typically made from tiny plastic or metal pieces, tinsel is something that you want to make sure your rabbit doesn’t chew on. Keep any tinsel out of your rabbit’s reach, and be sure the kind you get does not shed a lot, because your rabbit might try to eat the little pieces that have fallen to the floor.
- Garland. This can be made of real plants, but often it’s made of life-like plastic. Either way, you want to make sure that your rabbit can’t get at any of the pieces and watch to make sure it’s not shedding any needles. Even the real plant garlands have often been coated with chemicals and pesticides to keep bugs out of people’s homes.
- Potpourri. This is made from a mixture of any number of flower petals and nice smelling fragrances. Sometimes it’s completely fake, but sometimes this is made of real petals. Keep the pieces away from your rabbit either way, because you never know exactly what plants are used and what kinds of sprays are used to add fragrance.
Wrapping paper and ribbon
While your rabbit might have a lot of fun digging into wrapping paper or chewing on ribbon when it’s time to open presents, you do want to avoid allowing them to chew on these materials. Both wrapping paper and ribbon are more plastic than they are paper, and they are not good for rabbits to ingest.
If you want to give your rabbit something to play with, try giving them the plain white tissue paper as you’re opening gifts instead. This will give your rabbit something to have fun and dig into, but you won’t have to worry so much if they eat a little. Similarly, the plain brown or white paper that you often find in packages can also safely be given to rabbits.
What are holidays without yummy and festive foods for everyone. I think it goes without saying that you need to avoid giving your rabbit anything that you are adding to your own dinner plate, but you also want to be careful about leaving any food out where rabbits might try to steal a snack.
Any kind of candy or nuts that you put into a bowl for people to grab a handful should be kept up and out of your rabbits reach. These treats may be enticing for rabbits, but they would not be good for any rabbit’s digestion. Be especially careful with the nuts, since rabbits are more likely to go for these than other snacks.
Holiday foods and flavors that are safe for rabbits
If you want to give your rabbit a taste of some of those yummy holiday flavors, you can make your rabbit treats, or give them pieces of foods that won’t upset their digestion. Some common holiday foods you can give your rabbit are:
- Cranberry (unsweetened)
- Pinecones (after they’ve been dried)
- Leafy leftovers (The leaves that you cut off of foods such as celery, broccoli, carrots, strawberries, etc.)
- “Your Bunny and the Holiday.” House Rabbit Society. https://rabbit.org/care/holidays.html.