Eating paper is a common behavior for pet rabbits, but is it safe? This comprehensive guide explores why rabbits eat paper, the risks of your bunny ingesting different types of paper products, and how to stop this behavior.
Why is My Rabbit Eating Paper?
There are a few key reasons why your rabbit may be drawn to nibble on paper in their environment:
- Boredom – Rabbits are intelligent, active pets that need mental stimulation. Eating paper provides entertainment.
- Curiosity – Rabbits explore the world through tasting and chewing. Paper provides a novel texture and taste.
- Attention seeking – Chewing paper makes noise that gets a reaction from you.
- Dietary fiber – Paper provides fiber rabbits need to promote good digestion.
- Teeth maintenance – Gnawing wears down continually growing teeth.
- Lack of alternatives – If rabbits don't have adequate chew toys they may turn to paper.
- Medical condition – Dental disease or gastrointestinal issues may cause unusual chewing.
Understanding the motivation behind your rabbit's paper chewing habits will help you address the behavior.
Will Eating Paper Make My Rabbit Sick?
Eating small amounts of plain paper generally does not pose a major health risk to rabbits. However, certain types of paper and other factors can cause problems including:
- Paper toxicity – Some colored, treated, or coated papers contain toxic compounds.
- Intestinal blockage – Swallowing large pieces of paper may obstruct the intestines.
- Dehydration – Excessive fiber intake from paper can absorb intestinal fluid.
- Nutritional deficiency – Replacing hay and greens with paper reduces essential nutrients.
- Weight loss – Paper has low nutritional value so may not sustain body weight.
- Choking hazard – Loose pieces of paper could partially block the airway.
While most paper nibbling does not make rabbits acutely ill right away, the risks above mean it's best to discourage this habit.
How Can I Stop My Rabbit Eating Paper?
There are several tactics you can try to make your rabbit lose interest in eating paper:
- Provide amply hay and greens – A proper high fiber diet makes paper less appealing.
- Give acceptable chews – Redirect chewing urge to wood, straw, cardboard.
- Increase exercise – Bored rabbits kept alone chew more. Allow daily active playtime.
- Add mental stimulation – Rotate safe toys. Provide digging areas. Hide treats.
- Discourage access – Block off or cover vulnerable paper items. Use bitter spray deterrents.
- Remove uneaten fresh food – Hungry rabbits may turn to paper.
- Clean living area – Remove soiled litter, droppings, urine that attract chewing.
- Address medical issues – If dental disease or GI tract problems, seek veterinary care.
With persistence and providing proper alternatives, you can curb your rabbit's paper eating habits.
Can Rabbits Eat Paper with Ink?
Letting your rabbit chew on paper with ink is dangerous because:
- Printer ink contains toxic chemicals like ethylene glycol, iron oxide, formaldehyde, and isopropanol.
- Newspaper ink may have heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper, and zinc.
- Soy-based vegetable inks are safer but still pose intestinal blockage risk if swallowed.
- Colored inks are more likely to contain heavy metals and toxic compounds than black ink.
- Ingested ink can cause gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, neurological signs.
- Chewing printed paper introduces ink chemicals directly into the bloodstream via tiny cuts and tears in the mucous membranes of the mouth.
It's best to completely avoid letting your rabbit chew on any type of printed, colored, or coated paper to be safest.
Is Newspaper Ink Toxic to Rabbits?
Yes, rabbit owners should not allow their pets to chew on newspaper due to potential ink toxicity, including:
- Older newspaper ink contained higher levels of lead, cadmium and other heavy metals absorbed through chewing.
- New soy-based inks have reduced toxicity but still contain phenols, formaldehyde, and mineral oil.
- Black ink is less hazardous than brightly colored inks which may contain heavy metals.
- Newspaper print also introduces microbes and bacteria into the mouth.
- Eating large amounts of newsprint can also cause intestinal impactions.
- Prolonged exposure to newspaper ink is hypothesized to potentially cause cancer or organ damage in rabbits.
While the odd nibble may not be immediately harmful, it's best to be cautious and not allow regular newspaper chewing.
Can You Put Shredded Paper in a Rabbit Hutch?
It's best not to put shredded paper in your rabbit's hutch or enclosure, for these reasons:
- Loose paper pieces pose major intestinal blockage risk if eaten.
- Paper bedding contains inks, chemicals, and microbes from paper processing.
- Shreddings lack proper absorbency for urine, causing wet hocks.
- Damp paper bedding fosters bacterial and fungal growth.
- Paper dust from shavings can irritate respiratory airways.
- Ink and chemicals can rub off on rabbit's coat and paws.
- Rabbit may eat paper bedding due to boredom or hunger.
Safer hutch lining options include dust-free wood shavings, hay, straw, recycled paper pulp litter, or fleece blankets. Provide shredded paper only for supervised playtime chewing activity.
Can Rabbits Eat Paper Bags?
Paper shopping bags and sacks are not safe for rabbits to eat. Potential risks include:
- Bleaches, dyes, glues used in bag production may be toxic if ingested.
- Plastic handles and grommets pose intestinal blockage and choking hazards.
- Ink from logos or printing could contain heavy metals.
- Microscopic bag fibers could clump in stomach.
- Rabbits have died from eating large portions of paper bags.
- Bags harbor molds, bacteria and chemical residue from contents.
- Multi-wall construction has higher blockage risk.
Supervise your rabbit closely if loose paper bags are in their environment. Remove and replace with healthier chews toys.
Can Rabbits Eat Toilet Paper?
Letting rabbits eat toilet paper is not recommended because:
- Some toilet paper contains small amounts of chemicals like alcohol, aloe, or perfumes.
- Dyes, inks, and bleaches used during production may be present.
- The thin, soft nature poses major choking and intestinal blockage risk.
- Toilet paper can unravel into long strings clogging the digestive tract.
- Cleanliness cannot be guaranteed; may harbor microbes from bathroom use.
- Eating large quantities provides no nutrition and replaces healthier foods.
Supervise your pet closely if toilet paper is accessible in their space and redirect chewing to safer options.
Can Bunnies Eat Paper Towels?
Paper towels are not recommended for pet rabbits to eat because:
- Some brands use bleaches and additives during manufacture.
- Thin, soft sheets pose major choking hazard if swallowed.
- Chemical residues from cleaning uses may be present.
- May harbor bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella from food contact.
- Fibrous texture can cause intestinal impactions if large pieces are eaten.
- Nutritionally deficient and may displace healthier foods.
- Ink colors and dyes if present on printed paper towels could be toxic.
It's safest to keep paper towels away from pet rabbits to avoid potential health problems.
Is Cardboard Safer for Rabbits to Eat Than Paper?
Cardboard is generally safer for rabbits to nibble in moderation than most types of paper because:
- Thicker cardboard is less likely to cause choking or blockage when swallowed.
- Recycled cardboard contains lower levels of toxic inks and additives.
- Natural unbleached cardboard has less chemical processing.
- Cardboard chew toys are available, avoiding tape, staples, and glue.
- Corrugated texture provides dental health benefits.
- Doubles as a dig box and hideaway when empty cardboard boxes are offered.
Plain cardboard in safe sizes and amounts can make an engaging, edible chew toy. Still supervise your rabbit to prevent overconsumption.
In summary, while paper products are enticing, they present risks like choking hazards and toxicity for pet rabbits. Provide ample edible alternatives and supervise any paper access to ensure your bunny's safety.