Why do I need to bunny-proof my house?
New rabbit parents often wonder how these innocent-looking fuzzy creatures could possibly cause destruction. Experienced rabbit parents know exactly how much trouble our adorable furry companions can get into! For your bunnies’ safety and your sanity, it will be necessary to bunny-proof any part of your home that your rabbits will be able to access. The ancestors of our domestic rabbits dug warrens in the ground. In addition to the digging, they needed to chew through roots and other obstructions to clear the way, so digging and chewing are natural behaviors that humans need to learn to work with.
First: Preventing danger to your bunnies
Some items that bunnies like to chew and dig in our homes are merely cosmetic in nature, but there are some items that bunnies get into that are dangerous to their health. Every bunny parent should be aware of the following:
Electrical cords: Don’t take any chances! Even if you have a bunny who “has never even tried” to chew a cord, they can start at any time. Keep cords covered and/or out of reach. Keep in mind that bunnies can and will chew through plastic cord covers, so check these regularly. You can use plastic cord covers or aquarium tubing that has been slit down one side. Hardware stores also have decorative wire concealers. Gates and other physical blockages (like storage cube grids) can be used to block access. In addition to being an electrocution hazard for your bunnies, chewed wires at best ruin appliances and at worst can be a fire hazard.
House plants: Many house plants are toxic to bunnies. If you care for house plants, ensure that they are bunny-safe or completely out of reach if you are not sure or if they are known to be toxic. RMHRR recommends not keeping any known toxic house plants. Bunnies often surprise us with what they can reach! Try keeping an indoor herb garden for your bunnies! Hibiscus is also bunny-safe, and bunnies love the flowers as a treat!
Carpet: Digging carpet is not dangerous in and of itself, but if your bunny ingests the carpet fibers it can cause a dangerous gastrointestinal blockage. None of us want ruined carpet even if the bunnies don’t ingest it! If you have a carpet digger, pay attention to their patterns. Do they have a favorite spot? If so, purchase a large tile from a home improvement store and place it over the spot. Provide plenty of digging toys for your carpet digger. One inexpensive option is to cut a door in a plain cardboard box (big enough for the bunny) and place digging materials (plain packing paper, hay, etc.). Hide occasional treats in it to encourage them to use it. “Snuffle mats” are another option – you can hide pellets and treats, and this will help keep bunnies occupied. Grass digging mats are readily available at the RMHRR shop, online, and at many pet supply stores. Keeping your bunnies distracted with appropriate digging materials is key.
Second: Keeping the humans sane
We love our bunnies, but we also don’t want them to destroy our furniture and our homes! As pet owners, we must accept the fact that pets will usually end up ruining a few items, but there are precautions we can take to help prevent this. For wood furniture, baseboards, and the like, make sure to provide appropriate chewing materials (apple sticks, bunny-safe wood, chew toys). Rubbing a bar of plain Ivory soap on these surfaces will prevent many bunnies from chewing (although not in all cases). You will likely want to block off the areas underneath couches and beds – bunnies love to hang out in these places and will also chew holes on the undersides of these items. Provide hidey boxes so they have an appropriate place to hide and chew. You can find clear plastic panels and other useful items at home improvement stores. If you have a bunny who is determined to chew/get into/dig in a certain area, wander around a home improvement store and you may find the perfect item to deter your bunny!
Also – we need to use common sense. Keep phone chargers, shoes, purses, and anything else you don’t want chewed up by sharp bunny teeth far out of reach. Your bunny is not going to care that you just bought that new designer bag – they just think it will be a fun thing to chew!
The rabbit community
If you’re on social media, house rabbit groups can be a great place to look for bunny-proofing ideas. Chances are that someone else out there has been through the same difficulty that you are going through and might have an out-of-the-box idea. Reach out to your local rescue and rabbit community. Just like having a puppy or a toddler, rabbits get into trouble and it can be frustrating. Bouncing problems and ideas off other house rabbit folks can be a huge help.