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Rabbits will chew on about anything given the opportunity and cardboard is a common household item, so it is very common for rabbits to eat cardboard or paper.
But is it safe for a bunny to eat cardboard or paper?
Chewing on cardboard is common and normally safe for your rabbit. It’s also common for rabbits to eat cardboard and it’s normally safe. However, eating too much cardboard or paper can cause intestinal blockages which are detrimental to your rabbit’s health.
Rabbits can’t easily digest cardboard and paper, and 99% of the time it passes through their digestive system harmlessly. However, if your rabbit eats a lot of paper or cardboard, it could lead to GI problems.
Later in this article, we’ll dig into how much paper a rabbit can eat before it causes them problems, but for now, you need to know that a rabbit won’t eat ‘too much’ cardboard or paper unless it’s starving or its diet is seriously lacking in fiber.
It’s also worth noting that paper is not part of a rabbit’s natural diet because there is zero nutrition in the paper.
I totally understand why pet owners often get nervous when their pets eat something other than their food, but in this article, we’re going to zero in on bunnies eating cardboard or paper and help you fully understand when you should be worried.
Why Rabbits Chew On Cardboard and Paper
Rabbits eat cardboard (or more often chew on cardboard/paper) as a chew toy in an effort to wear down their constantly growing teeth. Rabbits do not normally crave cardboard and if they do it’s because their diet is dangerously low in fiber or they are actually starving.
Rabbits enjoy chewing on things, and it’s one of the most common rabbit behaviors. However, it’s not just playfulness that drives a rabbit to chew on paper or cardboard.
They have a biological need to chew on things to wear down a rabbit’s continually growing teeth. Both paper and cardboard are high in fiber, so both make tempting things to chew on to wear down those front teeth.
Did you know that rabbits have open root canals? This is the reason why their teeth never stop growing. And the fact that a rabbit’s teeth never stop growing is why rabbits never stop chewing on things. Without constant chewing, your bunny would end up with crazy long teeth that would make it impossible to eat.
While a rabbit’s drive to chew is not a problem per se, it can develop into a bad and destructive habit. Since rabbits are innate chewers, boredom exacerbates this problem.
There is a common misconception that since rabbits tend to be laid-back and gentle that they don’t need activity and that they can be caged up all day long. This is a myth, rabbits need proper daily physical exercise and they also need proper mental stimulation. Without these things, rabbits will have pent-up energy and this will manifest into bad habits such as chewing on anything in sight (e.g. paper, cages, wires, etc.)
Thus, the key thing to remember is that owners should always work to redirect this natural bunny behavior toward acceptable things that rabbits can safely chew.
Can Rabbits Eat Paper?
Rabbits can eat paper, but just because they can doesn’t mean that they should. There are no nutritional benefits to eating paper and while the high fiber content of the paper will usually pass harmlessly through your rabbit’s digestive system, eating too much paper might cause blockages.
When you find your rabbit chewing on paper, it’s usually not because they are ‘eating’ it. Instead, your rabbit is just chewing on the paper, which will naturally lead to swallowing some of it.
Rabbits usually shred the paper into tiny bits. Some rabbits even chew the paper up just for fun and then spit out the wads of paper. This can cause a huge mess and be a chore to clean up.
Can Rabbits Eat Cardboard?
Cardboard is a standard low-cost rabbit toy/entertainment tool. For example, cardboard boxes with a few holes cut in them can provide your bunny with countless hours of playing hide-and-seek. Likewise, the cardboard center of a roll of toilet paper can be stuffed with hay and treats to create a brain-teaser for your bunny to keep them active and engaged so they don’t become a fat bunny.
Chewing on non-coated and non-colored cardboard is perfectly safe for your rabbit, even if they eat some of the cardboard in the process of chewing for fun. A rabbit will not normally choose to actually eat cardboard unless their diet is low in fiber or they are actually starving.
There is no nutritional value that rabbits can get from eating cardboard. Cardboard does have lots of fiber, which is good for a rabbit, but there are much healthier sources of fiber like hay.
Just like paper, cardboard can safely pass through a rabbit’s intestines but if ingested in large amounts it can cause intestinal blockage.
Rabbits Eating Newspaper
Newspapers are often used around and in a rabbit’s hutch, and this means that there will come a time when your rabbit chews on and eats some newspaper.
Newspapers are often used in rabbit litter boxes as the bottom layer. Usually, newspaper is layered with rabbit litter and then layered again with hay, However, there are times wherein the shredded paper is used instead of rabbit litter. And thus, there is a possibility that your rabbits can ingest some of it.
Most people clean their rabbit’s litter box at least a few times a week but more often if more than one rabbit.
Here is a link to a research article where we asked thousands of rabbit owners how often they clean their rabbit’s littler box.
By including hay as a top layer in a litter box, you can avoid your rabbits getting into the newspapers. However, there are times that they just do. Maybe they dug around the hay and found the newspapers and were curious enough to check it out.
Newspapers are very rarely toxic to rabbits but in large amounts, they can cause blockages in your bunny’s digestive system. If ingested in large amounts, the ink used on newspapers can upset your rabbit’s tummy. Most rabbits will not choose to eat a lot of newspaper unless they are starving or bored.
Rabbits Eating Paperbags
However, in time, your rabbit is going to chew on that paper bag to see what it’s all about.
Paper bags are perfectly safe for your rabbit to chew on, even if they swallow some of it, as long as those bags are coated with plastic or heavily colored. Rabbits love to chew on paper bags, but they won’t eat paper bags in bulk unless their diet is too low in fiber or they are starving.
Also, keep paper bags that were used to carry chemicals such as bleach, detergent, fabric conditioners, soap, shampoo, etc. away from places that your rabbit can reach. These household necessities sometimes leave chemical traces in paper bags, particularly powder detergents. If your rabbits ingest or inhale these particles then they could suffer from poisoning and other digestive tract problems.
Rabbits Eating Toilet Paper or Tissue Paper
Toilet paper and tissue paper seem to draw all small animals and even our young kids like magnets. There is something about that thin paper that is just so much fun, and then you add the joy of unrolling toilet paper and you have an irresistible toy for everyone in the household who doesn’t have to clean up the mess.
When your rabbit gets into the toilet paper roll, they are going to make a huge mess. They are going to claw and chew at the toilet paper until they have a mess of tissue paper all over the room. However, you need to remember that your rabbit isn’t trying to eat the toilet paper.
A healthy bunny who is being fed a healthy and nutritious rabbit diet is not going to be actively eating toilet paper. Even if they are chewing on it, they are going to spit out most of the paper creating a huge mess.
Eating a little toilet paper or tissue paper isn’t going to harm your rabbit. Both are high in fiber, which your bunny’s digestive system is designed to deal with effectively and efficiently. This assumes that the tissue paper was clean and not contaminated with chemicals like nail polish remover or pesticides.
To this end, we encourage you to do your best to keep soiled tissue paper well away from your bunny. Keep your trash cans with a closed lid and put them in a place not easily accessible to your rabbits to reduce the chance of them knocking it over and eating things that they shouldn’t be.
What If Your Rabbit Ate Paper Or Cardboard
Sometimes, pet rabbits just get into things and they chew on those things when you aren’t looking. It happens with every pet rabbit that isn’t confined to a rabbit cage 24-7. I mention this so you know what you’re experiencing right now is a normal new rabbit owner experience.
If your rabbit ate some cardboard, they are probably going to be just fine. I have personally never seen a rabbit harmed by eating cardboard or paper, though I’m sure it’s possible. Honestly, it’s likely that your bunny ate way less paper than you think. They probably were just chewing and spitting.
With that out of the way, let’s make a quick list of what you should do if you are worried that your bunny has eaten paper or cardboard.
10 Things To Do When Your Rabbit Eats Cardboard Or Paper
- Do Not Panic. Panic will not help you think clearly. Breathe and assess the situation, then you’ll decide what to do next.
- ID The Paper/Cardboard’s Previous Use. The biggest danger to your rabbit when they chew on paper or cardboard is contaminants that might have been on that paper. Did the cardboard previously hold a chemical or poison? Did the paper towel have nail polish remover on it? If there might have been toxic material on the paper, get your rabbit to their rabbit veterinarian ASAP.
- Examine The Surface Of The Paper. Cardboard that is coated with plastic poses a greater danger to your bunny. Please note that I said ‘greater’ not ‘great’. Rabbits chew on plastic things all of the time, and they are almost always fine. If your rabbit has been chewing on coated cardboard, you’ll just need to pay closer attention to their health and behavior for the next day or so. We’ll cover that in more detail below.
- How Much Did They Really Eat? Now that you know the extent of the danger of your rabbit eating cardboard, it’s time to try to figure out if she actually did eat a lot of that cardboard. The chances are that she didn’t eat much at all, but instead just tore it into tiny little pieces. Gather all those pieces up and try to estimate how much she actually ate. If it wasn’t over a cup worth of chewed-up paper, then I’d consider it ‘not much’ and my worry level would drop.
- Give Lots Of Water and Hay. Regardless of how much paper your bunny ate, make sure you give them plenty of water and hay to help them flush what they swallowed through their digestive system more quickly. Water will keep their intestines lubricated and the fiber in hay can help break down the paper into passable particles.
- Monitor Their Eating and Drinking. One of the first signs of a rabbit having serious digestive problems is when they stop eating and drinking. For the next 48 hours, make sure your rabbit continues to eat and drink as normal. If your rabbit stops eating or drinking, visit your vet.
- Monitor Their Stomach. Watch for bloating in their stomach and signs of discomfort when you touch their belly. This can be an early sign of a blockage in their GI tract.
- Monitor Their Behavior. Watch your rabbit for signs of discomfort or pain. These include rapid breathing, lethargic behavior, or unusual sounds. If you see any of these, visit your vet right away.
- Monitor Their Poop. Watch their stool (poop) for changes. The most extreme change is no poop, which is a very real sign of a plugged-up bunny. In that case, you’ll need to get your bunny to their veterinarian right away.
- Contact Your Vet With Any Concerns. If you have any concerns, contact your vet. They are there to help your bunny and you!
How To Stop Your Rabbit From Eating Cardboard Or Paper
The first thing to do when your rabbit won’t stop eating/chewing cardboard is to identify the cause of the behavior. There are multiple factors that can cause your rabbit to chew on paper/cardboard including boredom, dietary fiber needs, pregnancy nesting behavior, or starvation.
Once you know why your rabbit is chewing on cardboard and potentially eating it you can address that cause.
Causes Of Rabbits Eating Cardboard
If your rabbit is bored then provide him with daily exercise. Play with your rabbit. Rabbits are social animals and they thrive better with constant social interaction. Besides, playing with your bunnies will help you form a strong bond with them.
You can also provide them with rabbit-safe chew toys to keep them busy and to keep them from chewing other things in your house. You can also hang hay baskets around their living space to mimic the activity of foraging. You can build digging boxes to mimic the activity of burrowing. All of these will help curb your rabbit’s penchant for chewing paper/cardboard.
Training is another activity that is mentally stimulating and will help build a bond. Not only is it entertaining but it leaves your rabbits contended and tired enough to even think about chewing paper.
Dietary Fiber Deficiency
Rabbits need lots of fiber for their digestive system to work right. If you’re not feeding them a healthy diet that’s high in natural fiber, they might eat paper to try to up their fiber intake.
Here is a link to an article about the ideal rabbit diet.
Nesting/hormone-driven chewing can be curbed by having your bunnies spayed or neutered. Not only does sexually fixing your rabbit help eliminate bad behaviors but it also removes the risk of them ever developing reproductive cancers.
Here is a link to an article about rabbit pregnancy and nesting behavior.
Rabbits don’t actually want to eat paper or cardboard. Sure they want to chew on it (and everything else) but they don’t want to eat it.
Paper and cardboard have no nutritional value, but a starving rabbit might try to eat them regardless. Make sure your rabbit
Here is an article where you can learn how to feed your rabbit properly.