The Importance of Toys for Pet Rabbits


what kind of toys are safe for rabbits?

Toys should be a part of every rabbit’s habitat. They provide mental enrichment and stimulation, keeping your rabbit active and healthy. But this doesn’t mean your rabbit will play with just any toy. Every bunny has their favorite way of playing, so it’s up to you to learn about the different types of toys and find the ones your rabbit will play with.

Toys are important for rabbits because it helps them keep their teeth from overgrowing. Rabbit toys also give them a chance to use their natural rabbit behaviors, such as digging and foraging, making your rabbit much happier in the long run. They can even help distract your rabbit and keep them out of trouble around the house.

Despite the importance of toys for rabbits, it can sometimes be disappointing when you get your rabbit a new toy only to find they don’t like it. The toy will be left completely untouched, your rabbit uninterested. When finding toys for your rabbit, you’ll need to consider how you can entice your rabbit to use their toys by understanding their behavior. You’ll also need to go through some trial and error with your rabbit as you figure out the toys they will like best.


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Why toys are important for rabbits

Toys may seem like an added extra to give rabbits every once in a while, but they are actually a necessary part of any pet rabbit’s life. Toys help maintain rabbit health by keeping their teeth nice and trim. They also have the potential to significantly improve a rabbit’s mental health by giving them ways to use their natural bunny behaviors.

Rabbits have the instinct to chew, dig, and forage. When looking for toys for your rabbit, you want to find ones that can satisfy one of these three behaviors. If they are unable to use these natural behaviors, rabbits run the risk of becoming bored or even depressed. Bored rabbits are also much more likely to become increasingly destructive around the house. They’ll resort to chewing on baseboards, or digging into the carpet.

The types of toys that you’ll be looking for include:

  • Chew toys: These include wooden and other natural toys, such as hay-based toys and loofahs, for your rabbit to chew on and keep their teeth trim.
  • Foraging toys: These include puzzle toys, where you hide treats for your rabbit to find.
  • Habitat toys: Items such as tunnels and platform cat towers help rabbits explore and get different vantage points from around the room.
  • Digging toys: These are mats, boxes, and materials that your rabbit can dig into without worry of destroying anything important.
  • Tossing toys: Rabbits like to throw toys around with their teeth, these include many small plastic toys.
DIY rabbit toys
You can easily make some fun DIY rabbit toys for your rabbit using old toilet paper tubes.

Finding toys your rabbit will want to play with

The problem with toys is that it can be difficult to find any that your rabbit is actually willing to play with. I know I’ve struggled over the years to satisfy my rabbit’s need to play and chew. I’ll get brand new toys, only to find that my bunny ignores it and continues to go after the baseboards instead. It took a lot of trial and error for me to actually find the items that interested my rabbit.

Unfortunately, there is no way to know what your rabbit will like to play with ahead of time. While some toys have a tendency to be more popular among rabbits, every bunny has their own idea of what is fun to play with. You’ll have to learn about your rabbit’s personality by giving them a variety of toys. Eventually, you’ll find some items that your rabbit absolutely loves, so you can continue to get your rabbit these items.

rabbit hay toy
You can get fun toys for your rabbit where you hide treats in a pile of hay. This will also encourage your rabbit to munch on hay until they can get to the yummy treat.

Where to get new toys

One place that I go to get a lot of toys at once is an online shop called Small Pet Select. I discovered this store about a year ago and have been really impressed with the quality of their products. I even get my rabbit’s hay from them!

Small Pet Select has a Sampler Toy set where they’ll send over a variety of different toys. Your rabbit will be able to choose their favorites from among the toys they send. Some of the toys in the sampler pack will be completely ignored by your rabbit, but you’re sure to find some that your rabbit absolutely loves. After you’ve figured out which toys your rabbit will play with, you can continue to get just those ones. (If you use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout, you can get 15% off your first order!)

To give your rabbit even more choices, you can make a number of fun DIY toys using cardboard and items you probably have lying around your home. I put together a few easy step-by-step guides that you can check out to create some of these cheap bunny toys.

What types of toys to get your rabbit

There are a wide variety of different types of toys for rabbits to play with. If your rabbit doesn’t seem to like what you’ve given them, try something different. It’s also important to make sure your rabbit has a number of toys available, so they can use all of their natural instincts whenever they want to. 

rabbit with a willow ball
Many rabbit toys are made with willow twigs. These are a lot of fun for rabbits to chew on.

If your at a loss of what to give your rabbit, try some of these ideas:

  • Packing paper. Plain white or brown packing paper that you get in packages can make a great digging and foraging toy for rabbits. Pile it up and sprinkle some treats in it to let your rabbit dig through it and find those hidden treats.
  • Sticks. You can get apple sticks or willow sticks as chew toys at most pet stores. There are also plenty of wood types you can get from your backyard that are safe for rabbits. Just be sure that no dangerous chemicals or pesticides have been used.
  • Hay-based toys. Woven or braided hay-based toys are excellent for rabbit teeth, and they are also super healthy for rabbits.
  • Natural toys. Natural toys such as pinecones and loofahs can be fun chew toys for rabbits. Be sure to wash anything you bring in from outside and give the pinecones a few weeks to dry out before giving them to your rabbit.
  • Hanging toys. Many rabbits love to tug on hanging toys, especially if there is some kind of treat on them. You can easily make your own hanging toy with toilet paper tubes, or purchase some from pet stores. My rabbit really likes this toy from Small Pet Select.
  • Ball toys. Wicker balls, hay balls, and plastic balls can all be a lot of fun for rabbits. They’ll roll them around, toss them and chew on them to have a good time.
  • Plastic tossing toys. Hard plastics can be fun toys for rabbits to toss around. Baby toys, such as stacking cups and plastic rings, can actually be good options. You can also give your rabbit bottle caps to toss around.
  • Grass mats. Woven grass mats are a great digging toy for rabbits. They’ll chew and dig into the mat until it’s completely destroyed.
  • Cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes are an extremely versatile toy for rabbits. They can be flattened to make mats or cut up to make DIY toys and digging boxes for rabbits. You can also use them as habitat items to make hiding houses, tunnels, and platforms.
  • DIY toys. There are so many types of toys you can make using common household items, such as toilet paper tubes. Try this tutorial to get you started on some cheap and easy rabbit toys.
  • Puzzle toys. Any toy where you hide a treat inside for your rabbit to find is great for their foraging mind. My rabbit’s preferred puzzle toy is actually a cat toy. It’s a food dispenser that you have to roll around to get the food and treats out of.
  • Climbing toys. Climbing toys, like short cat towers, are a great way to give your rabbit a different vantage point. It can also be an excellent way to encourage your rabbit to get more exercise and stay healthy.
  • Cotton or fleece material. Cotton and fleece material is safe for rabbits if they ingest a little. Old towels, T-shirts, or blankets can be good toys. Mostly this type of toy will be a digging toy for rabbits. They will shove it around or try to tunnel underneath it.
  • Untreated wood toys. Wood toys are great for keeping rabbit teeth trimmed down. Just be sure the wood is untreated so you don’t risk your rabbit ingesting any dangerous chemicals.
  • Tunnels. Tunnels are another fun habitat toy that can give your rabbit a different vantage point. You can even make fun tunnels out of a simple cardboard box!

What types of toys to avoid

While there are definitely a lot of different options for giving toys to rabbits, there are also some types of toys that you want to avoid. These are mainly toys that are made with materials that you wouldn’t want a rabbit to ingest or have a higher chance of causing a rabbit to choke. While in most cases your rabbit will be fine, it’s best to avoid anything that’s potentially dangerous.

The types of toys you want to keep away from your rabbit include:

  • Toys with excessive glue. A little dab of glue used to keep pieces of a toy together is usually fine, but you want to avoid any toys where you can see big globs of glue at the seams.
  • Painted toys. Since rabbits chew on their toys it’s best to avoid the painted ones. The only exception is if a toy is using vegetable dye coloring. You can tell the difference by running the toy under the faucet. If the color starts to run, then it’s using the dye and is okay for rabbits to chew.
  • Toys with bird seeds. Many bird toys are okay for rabbits, but you want to avoid any that have seeds included. Most of these seeds are not good for rabbit digestion.
  • Soft plastic or rubber toys. Avoid any plastic or rubber toy that your rabbit would be able to bite a piece off of and eat. These aren’t good for rabbit digestion.
  • Plastic bags. Any kind of plastic bags or packing paper should be avoided. Just like with young children, these can be a choking hazard for rabbits.
  • Cedar wood. Cedar and other types of wood with a strong aroma are not good for rabbits. If exposed over a long period of time, these can end up causing health complications including liver damage.
  • Wood that has been treated. Any kind of wood or wicker that has been treated or has a varnish should be avoided.

Sources:

  1. Curley, Kendall. “How to Pick Out Safe Rabbit Toys.” PetMD. March 7, 2019. https://www.petmd.com/rabbit/care/how-pick-out-safe-rabbit-toys.
  2. “Toys.” House Rabbit Society. July 20, 2011. https://rabbit.org/faq-toys.

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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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