My bunnies keep eating newspaper and cardboard

Discussion in 'Nutrition and Behavior' started by Morgan L Challingsworth, Sep 17, 2019.

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  1. Sep 17, 2019 #1

    Morgan L Challingsworth

    Morgan L Challingsworth

    Morgan L Challingsworth

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    Hello, sorry if I do anything incorrectly here but I have never used a forum before. I just wanted some advice since I am completely strapped for cash for the next couple weeks and want to avoid any unnecessary vet visits if this isn’t super urgent. (I tend to get over-worried and bring my animals in to the vet too much when they are fine, which is good to know but it costs me a fortune.)
    I am a first time rabbit owner, I recently moved into a small house with my fiancé, who has owned rabbits for a while, and he convinced me to get some as pets instead of a dog. We now have two 5 month old giant rabbits from the same litter, one male and one female. They are growing pretty quickly, the male is already about 15 pounds while the female is a bit smaller than him.
    I should mention that the male is neutered but the female is still too young to get spayed according to most vets we’ve talked to. We will be getting her spayed as soon as she is old enough and we have the money. Unfortunately this wait means we have to keep them separated in play pens for now instead of free roaming them in the living room like we had hoped, because our female gets aggressive with the male and instigates fights because she is territorial. We let them out a few times a day to exercise and play with us, but I mention this living situation because it could have something to do with why they are having this behavior.
    We use large litter boxes for them because they are being litter trained. We usually line the bottom with newspaper to soak up the urine because it’s very cheap and easy to get old newspaper. We make sure to fill up their boxes with hay every morning so they have plenty to eat. Even so, they (especially the female) like to dig to the bottom and tear up the newspaper. At first this didn’t bother me because it seemed like they just liked to play with it, since I know rabbits love to destroy stuff like dogs do.
    But today I noticed that not only was my female ripping up the newspaper, she was ingesting it. I was afraid because the chemicals in the ink could probably hurt her if she ate too much. I took the newspaper away and put the big pieces back underneath her hay pile, and gave her some more hay to distract her. Then I noticed the male eating some of the scraps that had floated over to his pen, so I did the same with him.
    I have had the same problem with cardboard. I used to give them cardboard boxes to play in, but my female would just tear them up and eat the little pieces, so I sadly had to take the boxes away for fear of her eating too much of it and hurting her tummy. It would be fine if she just tore it to shreds, but he fact that she kept eating it worried me too much.
    I’m guessing they may be bored because of the unfortunate living circumstances, but we make sure to give them stuff to chew on other than paper—they each get a few wood branches a day and we replace them when we see the bark is all gone. They also have toys like those little Timothy ropes. But they choose to chew on their newspaper instead, and eat it, despite having tons of hay and other stuff to chew.
    I am an inexperienced owner, and especially since we lost our first rabbit to a sudden illness, I am really paranoid about my rabbits and tend to worry about things a lot even when my fiancé says they’re fine. He says his old rabbits used to eat cardboard all the time and they were fine, but I keep reading things online about it making rabbits get blockages in their tummies, and newspaper has that ink on it that I feel like could be poisonous to them.
    I have taken my female rabbit to the vet twice when it wasn’t needed, and the bill was not pretty, so I don’t want to just keep doing that whenever something happens, but I am worried about my rabbits getting sick because I don’t want them to die too. My fiancé is getting a bit annoyed at me for being so worried because he doesn’t think it’s a cause for concern. But I think I’m so traumatized from the loss of our first rabbit that I couldn’t stand anything happening to our other ones, and when I see anything that could potentially hurt them, I start panicking.
    Another thing to note is that I have not noticed any changes in their behavior or digestion. They are both eating a lot of hay and having regular poops. They do sleep a lot, but they are growing rapidly so I suppose that is to be expected, plus they perk right up whenever it’s playtime so I don’t know if that’s really anything to be concerned about.
    Am I being a helicopter pet parent, or is this really something to be concerned about? Is there anything I can do to keep my rabbits from eating the newspaper without having to use something else (that costs money) to soak up the urine? If I have to use something else, is there anything that I can get super cheap? Do I just not use anything to soak and fill the boxes with only hay? (It’s hard to clean that way but if it would keep them from getting poisoned I would do it.) I feel bad because my rabbits seem to like tearing up the paper but I’m just really afraid of it hurting them.
    Any advice from other rabbit parents?
     
  2. Sep 18, 2019 #2

    Imbrium

    Imbrium

    Imbrium

    Jennifer

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    I'm sick and overdue for bed, so my apologies for sort of skimming your post and getting straight to the point... but here's what to avoid/worry about:
    ~ No glossy paper (like in magazines)
    ~ No colored ink
    ~ Remove tape, staples and/or glue from cardboard

    Plain cardboard, plain/matte paper, paper with black ink ONLY, newspaper with black ink, B&W or B&Yellow phonebook pages are all not only okay but are preferred "destruction" toys for rabbits.

    Also, best/cheapest substrate for litter boxes is kiln-dried pine pellets (the link is to what I buy, just as an example). You can buy them at feed stores/livestock supply stores (usually marketed as equine bedding) or sometimes at hardware stores (usually marketed as wood stove pellets - make SURE the bag doesn't say anything about added lighter fluid, etc.). A 40 lb bag costs me about $6 and lasts around a month for four rabbits.
     
  3. Sep 18, 2019 #3

    JenGibs

    JenGibs

    JenGibs

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    Welcome to bun-hood and being a helicopter bun-parent! It happens to us all.
    I agree with Imbrium- I get the 40lb bags of equine pine pellets for $6 at my Tractor Supply store too. There is a layer of them at the bottom of the litter box with hay on top. I tip off the hay once a day. They do have a separate hay box for eating. Mine have never eaten the pine pellets and I don’t read that any really do. Super cheap, I dump the whole box once a week and they are good. The pine pellets soak up the pee and it doesn’t really smell (like pee). I do love that pine-y smell though!
    I also get the compressed bales of Timothy hay at Tractor Supply. It’s $20 for a compressed bale and lasts me about 2 months! I do shake it out as I pull it from the bale bc of any loose dusty pieces that can get up in their noses. They have Alfalfa and Orchard Grass bales too. I like the compressed bc it’s smaller, in a bag (reduces mess) and stays fresh longer.
    I would say that the litter box and hay can be expensive- if you let it. Look for your local Tractor Supply store or livestock place.
    I have attached pictures of what I get.
    Good luck and thanks for being a great bun-parent!
     

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  4. Sep 22, 2019 #4

    Butterscotch

    Butterscotch

    Butterscotch

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    I also use the horse stall pine pellets in place of newspaper in my bun's litter boxes. I don't fill the boxes with hay right away though, I scatter a handful of hay over the pellets and then add one handful at a time about 3 times a day. It takes about a week to fill the box (but my buns are dwarf rabbits, not giants like yours). This allows my buns to have fresh hay several times a day and encourages them to use the litter box. My doe used to eat the newspaper too and even though it may have been safe, it made me uncomfortable. I have no worries with the pine pellets. Plus they're super cheap and they last forever! They expand as they soak up urine so I only use just barely enough to cover the bottom of the box.
     
  5. Sep 22, 2019 #5

    Shasta Smith

    Shasta Smith

    Shasta Smith

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    Wow...glad I read this thread. We have been using kaytee bedding which is absorbent but super expensive. I'm totally going to try the pellets!.
     
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