Before you allow your rabbit to roam freely in a place, make sure that the location has been bunny-proofed! This will protect the bunny from being potentially injured and protect your belongings from being irreversibly damaged. Rabbits are very curious and can get themselves into mischief that you couldn't imagine!
Most rabbits will not pass up the opportunity to take a nibble or chew up a wire left unprotected in their reach. This can be dangerous if they decide to chew a live wire. Additionally, whatever cord they take a bite out of will most likely be unable to be fixed. It only takes one nibble!
There are several options available to protect your cords:
- Cover all exposed wires.
- Various types of tubing can be found in stores and online. Split-loom tubing for cars is popular and is available cheaply on Amazon.com. 1/2" is enough for most cables like ethernet and power cords. 1/4" is appropriate for cell phone chargers and other thinner cords. Other types of tubing such as vinyl can be found at hardware and home improvement stores, auto supply stores, and electronic stores. With a sharp utility knife, cut the tube length-wise and push the electrical cords inside. Tape can be used to keep the tubing stationary and connected. You can also use PVC tubing from a home improvement store as cord protectors.
- If you're too lazy to buy cord covers but have old clothing lying around, you can also try threading the wires through pant or sleeve holes. The fabric will need to be tough enough to stand up to a bunny's chewing.
- If the wires must be attached to the floor or the wall, look into using floor cord protectors that can be taped.
- Keep all wires out of reach by blocking access or nailing them high off the ground. X-pens and zip-tied NIC squares work great as a fence.
- Hide wires underneath rugs or behind furniture. Be careful of hiding power cords under rugs, however, as they can pose a serious fire risk if they overheat.
Some people have had success with training their rabbits from chewing wires, but of course, you will undoubtedly lose some before they get the point.
This is also a rather dangerous lesson to learn from if the wire they choose to chew is a live wire. They may burn their mouths and electrocute themselves. Injuries that result range from burnt mouths and tongues to singed fur and whiskers. See a story with images here.
The following are some links with more information on how to protect your cords and wires.
Digging and destroying carpet
Rabbits can dig for several reasons:
- To get to the other side of an obstruction (e.g. doors, walls)
- A scent they want to get at
- Unknown bunny reasons
Regardless of the reason, you will not want your rabbit to dig at or ingest the house carpet.
There are several ways to mitigate the damage.
- Toys - A bored bunny will do whatever he wants to amuse him. Providing ample toys that he likes to play with can help distract him from digging at your carpets.
- Scented deterrents. Rabbits and animals in general do not like strong scents. You may try spraying strong odors in the area to deter your rabbit from touching the carpet. Do note that your mileage may vary. See the section Repellents below for more details.
- Edible deterrents. If your rabbit chews the carpet, some rabbits will dislike the taste of bitter sprays for pets, hot pepper sauce or flakes, vinegar, or rubbed-in Ivory soap, but they can be a hit and miss. Some bunnies will not care or even love the taste.
- Covering the area. If nothing seems to work, you can cover the victim area with other materials that can easily be replaced. Some options include plastic chair mats, tile, towels, carpet scraps, blankets, mats, rugs, NIC grids, and phone books. If the item seems to be falling apart and may not protect your carpet any more, replace it. Be careful if you use towels or other fabric. Make sure your rabbit is not ingesting the fibers. One suggestion from Jennie Langdon to protect your carpet and other surfaces is CarpetSaver.
If you have not tried to mitigate the damage in the area a rabbit has chosen to dig or chew, or the rabbit ignores your mitigation tactic, be consistent on clapping your hands very loudly, shouting no, or using other methods to distract the rabbit from the carpet every time you catch him. This gives a mild negative reinforcement that digging or chewing in that location is not going to be pleasant for him. However, be sure to have appropriate chewing and digging objects nearby, and treat the rabbit for taking an interest in those instead.
There are many plants that are toxic to your bunny. The best way to keep your rabbit safe is to keep these out of reach on tables or bookshelves that are completely unable to be jumped to. You may be surprised at the places that your rabbit can reach! Remember to also take care of any falling leaves.
Additionally, you may want to keep your pretty flowers from being consumed. In this case, the same advice holds - block all access to the plant by boxing it, moving it, etc.
Furniture and walls
If a rabbit is intent on chewing baseboards of walls and parts of furniture, a wooden board, bumper, or dowel can be placed over favorite locations. It will block access while also giving the rabbit an acceptable alternative chewing surface. Another idea you may try is to rub some bitter non-toxic soap like Ivory to deter them. Also see the FAQ question "How do I encourage a rabbit to chew on toys and not unacceptable items?"
Rabbits that chew or tear into the wall can be blocked using clear plastic or plexiglass panels from a hardware or plastic supply store.
Blanket throws can protect against toenails and teeth when placed on beds and upholstery. Otherwise, make the area unpleasant to be on in general like using these training mats, cat repellent spikes, overturned office chair mats, etc.
To prevent rabbits from running under upholstered furniture and burrowing up the soft underside, block access using cardboard or wood. You can cut or trim them to fit underneath the furniture to be invisible from a human glance. Leftover wire cubing from NIC cube housing can also be used as a fence. Warning: Rabbits can die from overheating if they burrow in a sofa or bed and are unable to make their way back out. Ingested filling material can also be a serious risk and cause GI stasis.
Furniture can be moved to cover up already damaged spots and prevent further chewing.
If there is any location that you would like to deter your rabbits from, you can also try wiping some deterrents.
A multipurpose surface covering suggested by Jennie Langdon is CarpetSaver.
Rabbits loooooove to chew. Anything left within reach of a rabbit will most likely have some nibbles taken out of it or even suffer some digging. Keep all clothes, shoes, pillows, and other personal materials out of a rabbit's access and never leave them lying around on the floor. It would also be wise to make sure you close your closet doors to make sure a rabbit cannot jump in and wreak havoc.
Remember, it is not the rabbit's fault if items were left on the floor unattended and were consequently destroyed.
Repellents are any odor that bunnies find repulsive and can be used in a variety of ways for bunny-proofing. Some ideas include the following:
- shaving lotions
- lemon oil
- dog and cat repellents
Smells from the garage like carburetor cleaner and motor oil can also be effective, but the inhalation danger of the fumes to humans and rabbits in general make these items not recommended.
Please remember not to overdo it. Dense atomizing will keep both you and your bunnies away from the area. Be careful of rabbits actually ingesting the repellents.
Repellents should be reapplied daily until the bunnies have lost interest in the object or area.
The simplest solution to all of these situations you can tell is to block complete access.
Ideas of materials to use to block your rabbit:
- zip-tied NIC panels
- exercise pen. See here for an idea on how to break apart an x-pen to use as smaller gates.
- baby gates
- plexiglass sheets
Some links to read for more information on blocking access have been listed below.
- Kathy Smith, The “Gated Community”
The following are links to help you try to repair damage that your bunny has caused.
- Cindy Scheel, Home Repair Stuff Every Bunny Slave Should Have
- Cindy Scheel, Tips for Repairing Carpet Damage
- Cindy Scheel, Tips for Repairing Electrical Cords
- Cindy Scheel, Tips for Repairing Baseboard Damage
- Cindy Scheel, Tips for Repairing Sheetrock/Drywall Damage
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Rabbit Proofing
- OntarioRabbits.org, Hazards
- BinkyBunny.com, Bunny Proofing your Home
- San Diego House Rabbit Society, Bunny Proofing Tips and Tricks
- Kathy Smith, Bunny Proofing Revisited
- Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group, Bunny proofing your home
- About-pet-rabbits.com, Rabbit Proofing
- Examiner.com, Phyllis O'Beollain, Holiday threats to your small pets
- Harriman, M. (2005). House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit. (4th ed.).