It’s not a problem with every rabbit, but I’ve known a few through the years who love to chew on plastic. I don’t know if it’s the texture of the plastic or even the flavor, but I’ve had rabbits who could shred through the side of a plastic litter box in a single day. Maybe you’re in a similar situation and need to find ways to prevent this plastic-eating behavior.
Plastic is not healthy for rabbits to ingest. However, chewing on plastic toys will not harm rabbit teeth. It’s okay for rabbits to chew on some plastic as long as they are not eating chunks of the plastic material.
If your rabbit is actively eating the plastic, and not just chewing it, you will need to replace their toys and accessories with wood, metal, or another rabbit-safe alternative. If you let your rabbit continue to eat plastic, they could end up with an intestinal blockage and get very sick.
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Is it okay for rabbits to chew on plastic?
If your rabbit is just chewing on plastic, not eating it, then it’s completely okay to let your rabbit continue. The plastic is not going to do any harm to your rabbit’s teeth. So, it’s perfectly acceptable for rabbits to occasionally chew on a plastic toy and toss them around. It’s normal for rabbits to chew on just about anything in their environment, so don’t be too concerned about this behavior.
The danger comes when rabbits actually eat pieces of plastic. Whether they chew off chunks of your eraser or tear apart pieces of their plastic litter box to eat, this is a behavior that can end up causing problems in a rabbit’s digestive tract. If your rabbit is eating plastic, you should replace any toys or accessories around them with wooden or metal alternatives.
Acceptable plastic toys
If your rabbit is only chewing, and not eating, their plastic, then it’s common to provide them with plastic toys to play with. Generally, it’s best to give your rabbit toys and accessories that are made with sturdy, thick plastic, because it’s less likely a piece will break off. These toys will either be meant for your rabbit to have fun tossing around, or you can hide treats inside of them for your rabbit to find.
Examples of acceptable plastic toys for rabbits include:
- Treat balls: something like this ball rabbits can roll and toss around to get food out of.
- Stacking cups: Many rabbits like playing with baby toys, like stacking cups, by tossing them around.
- Bottle caps: You can wash out bottle caps and give them to your rabbit to toss and play with.
Plastic toys to always avoid
Even for rabbits who are not crazy about eating plastic, there are still some types of materials you should keep away from them. These are plastics that are easier to chew pieces off of and accidentally ingest.
Avoid any toys or plastic objects that have these characteristics:
- Soft plastic: erasures, rubber bands, remote control buttons, etc.
- Thin plastic: plastic bags, bubble wrap, food packaging, etc.
- Small plastic pieces: Tinsel, zip ties, small buttons, any small plastic object a rabbit can easily fit into their mouth.
What to do if your rabbit ate plastic?
In most cases, if your rabbit ate a small piece of plastic, they will be fine. The plastic will pass through their system and manage to come out the other end. However, there is always the possibility that a piece of plastic will cause an impaction in the intestines or cause their digestive process to slow down, making the rabbit very sick.
This is especially a problem if your rabbit is notorious for eating plastic. Maybe they will not stop chewing on the side of a plastic litter box, or they eat the leaves off of plastic plants. This kind of plastic-eating behavior is more likely to lead to problems in the GI tract, potentially causing GI Stasis, a common and deadly rabbit illness.
Sadly, this is what happened with one of my family’s rabbits growing up. We had a bunny who kept chewing and plastic, especially his litter box. We didn’t think too much of it, and he was fine for several months. But eventually, he ate enough plastic that it caused him to get very sick because his digestion wasn’t working properly anymore. So, even if eating a small amount of plastic now doesn’t cause a problem for your rabbit, you want to watch them and prevent the behavior in the future.
If your rabbit ate a large amount of plastic, you’ll want to keep an eye on them over the next few hours to make sure they don’t show any signs of illness. If your rabbit shows a decreased appetite and is struggling to poop, you should bring them to a rabbit veterinarian to make sure they are not seriously ill.
Encourage healthy eating and drinking
The best thing you can do if your rabbit has been eating plastic is to encourage them to eat more hay and drink more water. Hay helps to keep the rabbit’s digestion moving, which will help them to pass the plastic through their system quicker. Make sure they have plenty of hay available and consider giving to orchard hay or oat hay in addition to timothy hay.
Drinking plenty of water helps keep the digestion moving and prevents clumps from forming within your rabbit’s digestive system. To encourage your rabbit to drink more water, make sure they have access to water in a bowl instead of a bottle since this is a more natural way for rabbits to drink.
Monitor for signs of a blockage
If you know your rabbit ate a lot of plastic, continue to watch their behavior over the next few hours to make sure they don’t show any signs of GI Stasis. It’s often difficult to tell when rabbits are sick because they tend to hide any major symptoms, so you’ll have to watch your rabbit’s behavior very closely.
Signs of a blockage or slow down of their digestion include:
- Not eating. If your rabbit is refusing to eat when they normally have a healthy appetite, they may be very ill. If your rabbit has not eaten anything for more than 10 hours, treat it as an emergency and get your rabbit to the vet.
- Very small or no poops. Small poops are a sign of pain or stress, so they can be an indication that your rabbit isn’t feeling well. If your rabbit has not pooped for more than 10 hours, this is an emergency and you should see a vet as soon as possible.
- Lack of energy. If your rabbit is not as excited and energetic as usual they might be getting sick. It’s normal for rabbits to have lower energy levels in the middle of the day, but they should still be active in the morning and evening.
- Sitting in a hunched posture. A hunched posture looks like a rabbit who wants to sit in a loaf position, but can’t get comfortable. They might also occasionally press their belly against the ground or have squinted eyes.
- Loud stomach gurgles or none at all. It’s normal to hear some gurgles from your rabbit’s stomach when your head is close to your rabbit. However, you shouldn’t hear the gurgles from across the room.
- Unusual behavior. Take note of any behavior that seems strange for your rabbit. For example, are they sitting in the litter box for an hour doing nothing? If they don’t normally do this, they might be feeling ill.
Finding a rabbit veterinarian
If your rabbit is showing signs of illness, you’ll want to get them to a rabbit veterinarian as soon as possible. Look for exotic animal or small animal veterinarians, since most cat and dog vets are not experienced with rabbit anatomy.
If you are trying to find a vet near you, I recommend starting with the House Rabbit Society vet listings. There is a similar vet listing for rabbit vets in the UK and the Rabbit Welfare Association. If you have no luck with these places, I recommend calling a local vet and asking for their recommendation for emergency rabbit veterinarians nearby.
How to prevent your rabbit from eating plastic
If your rabbit is notorious for eating plastic, you’ll have to limit the amount they are exposed to in order to keep them from ingesting too much. It might mean completely redecorating the rabbit room so that there is no plastic in sight, but in the end, it will keep your rabbit much healthier for the long term.
Give your rabbit non-plastic accessories
Some of the main culprits for rabbits who chew on plastic are their enclosure supplies and accessories. Rabbits are more likely to chew on and eat pieces of plastic litter boxes, food dishes, and plastic rabbit houses. You’ll want to replace any of these accessories with non-plastic alternatives. You can get a metal litter box, wooden or cardboard hiding houses and hay troughs, and ceramic dishes.
Provide non-plastic chew toys
Plastic toys can also be a problem for rabbits. If you have a plastic-eater, it’s best to stick with more natural toys that won’t hurt your rabbit if they eat anything. Things like wooden toys, hay-based toys, dried pinecones, chew sticks, and cardboard are safe for rabbits to play with and eat.
Avoid plastic cages
Many cages that are sold for rabbits are made out of plastic. If you have a plastic-eating rabbit, they will eventually chew right through one of these cages. I recommend getting a pet playpen instead of a traditional rabbit cage. These are metal, so your rabbit can’t chew through it. They also give your rabbit a lot more space, which is better for rabbits and keeps them much happier. Learn more about why I recommend leaving traditional rabbit cages behind.
Beware of synthetic carpet
Another common plastic material that’s often overlooked is synthetic carpeting. The fibers of most common rugs and carpets are made from plastic and should not be ingested by rabbits in any high quantity. If you have a rabbit who likes to chew on pieces of the rug, you’ll have to cover the carpet or replace it with something that is made from natural fibers.
You can cover areas of the carpet where rabbits chew by using flattened cardboard boxes or natural-fiber area rugs. If you want to replace a rug completely, opting for something made from sisal, seagrass, or related material is safe for rabbits to chew on.
Preventing boredom can prevent plastic-eating behaviors
Sometimes the best way to keep your rabbit from eating plastic is to figure out why they are behaving this way, to begin with. While not always true, many rabbits will only chew and eat plastic out of boredom. If they get enough playtime and socialization, the plastic-eating behaviors might stop completely.
Try preventing boredom with these quick tips:
- Providing more hay. Rabbits need to have constant access to hay. It’s good for their digestion and it gives them something healthy to munch on instead of plastic.
- Giving your rabbit a larger enclosure. Rabbits like to hop around and sprawl out. They should have an enclosure that’s big enough to give them basic mobility at all times of the day. Make sure the enclosure is three to four times the length of your rabbit so ensure they have enough space in their home base.
- Giving your rabbit more time out to exercise. Rabbits are also very active animals who need time to explore a wider space. Make sure they have a couple of hours out of their enclosure every day to roam the bigger room.
- Spending more time with your rabbit. Rabbits are social creatures. They get sad and frustrated if they’re left alone all the time, so make sure to spend quality time with your rabbit daily to keep them happy and prevent boredom.