The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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If you’re a rabbit owner or you’re thinking about becoming one, then you should know two things about bunnies: they get bored easily and they’re not picky when it comes to food.
This brings us to today’s question: why do rabbits eat paper? If you’ve noticed this behavior in your cottontails or you’re generally curious, then this article is for you!
Below, we’re discussing all the reasons that rabbits may be munching on paper, whether or not that’s safe, and how you can stop it from happening. Let’s get started!
Rabbits are playful animals by nature. When it comes to paper, their main interest is usually to play with it rather than eat it.
Rabbits are curious creatures. They crave physical and mental stimulation and are always seeking a challenge, preferably a long-term one.
This means that your bunny will play with the paper as long as it can, shredding and biting it into pieces. However, this doesn’t dismiss the possibility of the rabbit eating the paper once they’ve had their dose of fun.
If you notice your rabbit eating paper, chances are you have nothing to worry about as long as it’s a few bits here and there while they’re playing with the paper. But if your cottontail is treating paper like a meal and is eating it regularly, the following reasons are worth looking into:
When rabbits eat too much paper as they play with it, it could be because they’re so hungry that they’ll munch on just about anything within their reach that they can bite through.
If your rabbit is consuming excessive amounts of paper because of hunger, you should put an end to that behavior immediately. The best way to do this is to make sure you regularly provide your pet with a supply of fresh hay.
Rabbits require a balanced diet to grow and thrive. Although the diet you’re offering your rabbit may include plenty of food to keep it from getting hungry, it may be lacking an important element — fiber.
If your bunny isn’t receiving enough fiber content from the food you provide, this will lead them to look for fiber in alternative sources such as paper and cardboard. Unfortunately, eating paper isn’t nutritional for your pet.
Not only are rabbits adorable from the moment they’re born, but they’re also curious about their surroundings and love to play and explore. If you’re positive that your rabbit is getting enough food and that their diet isn’t lacking fiber, then you may be dealing with a bored pet.
It’s not uncommon for bunnies to eat paper due to boredom. Chewing paper may help trim down a rabbit’s continuously growing teeth, but resorting to this behavior to combat being bored isn’t something you should allow to happen.
Your pet rabbit requires stimulation, especially if they live alone. Otherwise, they’ll probably become very restless and seek entertainment in chewing things.
If not paper or cardboard, bunnies have no issues munching upon cables or furniture if you let them roam freely around the house. To avoid such scenarios, you should provide stimulation in the form of toys, exercise, and social interaction.
Within the limits of a hutch, your rabbit will work out their boredom with whatever they can get their little paws on. Since a lot of bunny owners line their pets’ homes with shredded paper or newspaper, these are what the animals happen to have access to.
There’s no set answer to this question, it mainly depends on the amount of paper your rabbit is consuming.
If your bunny eats a small amount, then it’s a sign that your pet is just playing with the paper. In this case, eating paper shouldn’t have a significant effect on your cottontail’s health as most rabbits will rip the paper into small enough pieces to digest more easily.
That said -and as with pretty much any sort of food-, munching on too much paper will compromise a rabbit’s health. After all, paper is an inedible material, no matter the angle we look at it from.
Eating paper offers no nutritional value. Not only that, eating excessive amounts of paper puts your bunny at risk of potentially lethal health issues including:
Rabbits possess a complex gastrointestinal system that’s designed to work with diets mainly consisting of fibrous vegetation such as hay, grass, and fibrous weeds.
Most of the common digestive problems that occur in pet rabbits are a result of some type of inappropriate diet, whether due to lack of fiber, too much protein, too much carbohydrate, or a combination of these. This is why you shouldn’t give your bunny grains, fruits, and/or fat-based or carbohydrate-based treats.
Similarly, a rabbit’s digestive tract isn’t equipped to deal with paper. While it’s not exactly toxic and causes no issues if consumed in small amounts, your bunny can become sick from eating paper in excess.
The primary hazard of a rabbit munching on too much paper is developing intestinal blockage. As paper doesn’t get broken down in a rabbit’s gut, it can accumulate and obstruct their gastrointestinal tract if not swallowed in small enough pieces and in limited quantities.
Eating too much paper can also lead to constipation in rabbits, which can be lethal to these animals. If you’re not sure how to recognize when your pet bunny is constipated, watch out for the following symptoms:
- Your rabbit doesn’t eat their hay or usual food.
- Your rabbit’s stomach appears to be swollen.
- Your rabbit experiences abdominal pain demonstrated by hunching over.
If you notice any of these signs, take them as a warning to visit your vet as soon as possible. It’s important to act quickly because constipation can turn into an emergency in a short term.
As a first-aid measure, you can give your rabbit small quantities of vegetable oil such as olive oil or sunflower oil.
Rabbits enjoy papers as something to play with. Thanks to their inquisitive nature, they typically like to stay busy with toys or objects for a long time.
As such, you can see rabbits playing around with an array of items. If papers are the easier thing to get their paws on, then that’s what they’ll play with.
Other than that, rabbits don’t enjoy eating paper more or even as much as their regular food. They don’t like how it tastes or anything of the sort, and you can test this and see the results for yourself if you need proof.
As a rabbit owner, you should have a good understanding of the food habits of bunnies and be sufficiently aware of the type of nutrition they need to be healthy, grow, and thrive.
The most effective way to stop a rabbit from munching on paper is to simply keep it away from their home and out of their reach. That said, here are a few tips you can try to prevent your bunny from eating paper:
You can use a variety of materials to line a rabbit’s hutch.
One of the most popular materials to use for this purpose is paper, mainly because it’s affordable and easy to come across in practically any household. Newspapers are especially common among bunny owners.
However, if your pet seems to excessively munch on paper, try using alternative materials as lining for their homes such as hay, straw, sawdust, wood pellets, and pine shavings.
If you’re going to use any of these options, make sure you allow for plenty of ventilation. Although they’re popular, these materials don’t naturally provide lots of ventilation, so it’s up to you to see that the hutch has efficient airflow to avoid breathing difficulties.
As we mentioned earlier, hunger can be the culprit behind your rabbit’s habit of eating paper. By ensuring that the core feeding needs of your bunny are fulfilled, you’re automatically reducing the chances of them snacking on paper.
Do this by providing your cottontail with plenty of hay. This won’t just leave them full, but also give high fiber content.
If your rabbit is feeling down or depressed, it may be due to a lack of social interaction. The void caused by this can urge the bunny to eat more as a means to overcome the feeling of loneliness.
As a responsible owner, you should make sure that your rabbit engages in a fulfilling social life. A great way to do this is by introducing another bunny who’ll soon become a friend that they spend time and play with.
If it’s not possible to introduce another bunny, then you should schedule one-on-one playtime more frequently.
Since lack of stimulation can lead to boredom that drives rabbits into eating paper if it’s within reach, providing means of entertainment can keep your pet distracted from munching on the wrong things.
Toys are fantastic stimulation methods for rabbits. Give your bunny several toys to chew on and hide.
With enough toys to stay busy and amused, your cottontail is far less likely to resort to playing with and eating paper.
Many rabbit owners find it rather satisfying to recycle paperwork and bills by incorporating them into their pets’ homes. Not to mention, this way you’re not throwing away personal information straight into the garbage, which isn’t as secure as having your bunny resting on them.
That said, you need to be careful about the sort of paper you’re lining your rabbit’s hunch with. The paper could have a type of ink that’s toxic to small animals such as bunnies.
Granted, most modern inks used nowadays are a lot safer than they used to be, but it’s always better to be extra careful instead of regretful. Leaflets and pamphlets contain the most hazardous ink for bunnies.
This is because they’re mass-produced forms of communications, so there’s a higher chance they feature cheaper, lower-quality, and potentially toxic ink. Even if we’re talking about high-quality pamphlets, they’re still dangerous due to the paper having waxy characteristics.
One more thing to think about regarding paper with ink is that it can leave stains on your pet bunny’s fur. This is particularly frustrating if your rabbit has a light-colored coat, such as white, because there’s a chance it won’t stay that bright.
In this case, you shouldn’t be surprised to see your cottontail’s clear paws become a dirty shade of navy or grey. This is one the most annoying things to encounter as far as cleaning goes, even more so if your bunny’s paws and fur already have urine stains.
We discussed ink in general in the section above, but what about the ink in Newspapers? Is it safe?
As you may know by now, newspapers are one of the most popular materials for lining a rabbit’s home. It’s certainly very convenient to read your newspaper in the morning and use it to line your pet’s hutch by the evening.
It’s an efficient way to do some recycling, but is it safe enough? We’d like to think that nowadays it is.
Like the majority of modern paper-based communications, the ink used in printing newspapers is a lot safer than before. Older inks used back in the day contained petroleum as a base. Newer types of ink use water and soy as a base more commonly.
If you’re not this is the case with your newspaper, you can always test it before exposing your bunny to the printed material. Here’s how:
- Rub the ink with one of your fingers.
- If it smudges the paper, deposits color on your finger, and doesn’t easily come off when you try to wash it, then you’re dealing with petroleum-based ink that you mustn’t expose your pet rabbits to.
This happens because petroleum-based ink doesn’t fully dry. Additionally, it’s made with the same sort of oils that mechanics use in cars. No wonder it’s toxic.
Rabbits usually have lots of fun with paper bags. You can use these as toys for your furry pet, where it gets to shred, chew, and hide inside the paper bag.
As entertaining as it can be to add a paper bag to your rabbit’s cage, this decision comes with a set of disadvantages.
For one, paper bags are quite difficult to digest. They’re large, tough, and generally a pain to deal with.
As with all paper products, they entail a risk of causing your rabbit to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The best way to introduce a paper bag to your pet’s home is to stuff it with hay or straw beforehand.
This way, your rabbit can enjoy all aspects of the paper bag without resorting to munching on it as you already provided them with a safe source of food. It’s perfectly fine to let your rabbit enjoy some playtime with a paper bag, you just need to be careful.
If your pet seems too eager to eat the paper bag more than their actual food, then remove it from its hutch.
Out of all the types of paper products out there that your rabbit can munch on, toilet paper is probably the least dangerous to their digestive tract. Now, we don’t mean that it’s beneficial for your bunny, so don’t go replacing celery with toilet paper as a snack for your pet.
The point is, nothing serious will happen if they do munch on some of it. This is because toilet paper will drastically reduce in size when consumed compared to a conventional sheet of paper, making it a lot easier for small animals like rabbits to pass.
Another way you can use toilet paper is by giving your rabbits the tube as a toy. They can roll it, push it around the cage, and chew on it. You can also try filling the tube with hay, treats, or straw to add interest and increase safety.
In short, the answer is yes. Cardboard can be a lot more harmful to your cottontail to eat because it’s sturdier and thicker than paper, which also makes it more difficult to digest.
Luckily, this decreases the likelihood of your bunny eating too much cardboard. With all the energy and time it’ll take them to chew and tear apart the cardboard, chances are they get too tired too quickly to eat.
That said, cardboard can double as a nice toy for your pet and it can keep them busy for hours. Chewing on the cardboard can also help them trim their growing teeth so they don’t become too sharp.
There you have it, a complete guide to answer the question: why do rabbits eat paper? The main reason is that they’re only playing. Other than that, your bunny could be too hungry, bored, or in need of some fiber in their diet.