Is your home a haven or a house of hazards for your pet rabbit? Rabbits may seem harmless balls of fluff, but their incredible agility and curiosity can lead them into dangerous situations within our living spaces. From chewing cords to eating houseplants, inhaling scented oils to getting trapped in plastic bags, our homes conceal countless risks for inquisitive bunnies. But don’t despair! With some rabbit-proofing and vigilance, you can eliminate these hazards and keep your long-eared friend safe. Read on to learn about 9 common household dangers and how to bunny-proof your abode, so you and your rabbit can both rest easy.
Rabbits have a natural tendency to chew on things, and this can often get them into trouble in a home environment. One of the biggest hazards for pet rabbits are wires. Phone chargers, lamp cords, computer cables, and more can all be tempting chew toys for a curious bunny. If your rabbit chews through the plastic coating on a wire, they can easily electrocute themselves or cause a fire.
It's important to fully rabbit-proof any area your bunny has access to by covering or hiding wires. Use plastic cord covers or flexible tubing to prevent access to wires. Block access behind furniture or appliances where cables are hidden. Be sure to also watch for signs your rabbit is chewing in prohibited areas and redirect them to appropriate chew toys instead.
Chewing on live wires can cause everything from burned mouths, to electrical shocks, to electrocution. At high enough amperages, biting a live wire can cause severe burns or cardiac arrest. Rabbits have very delicate digestive systems as well, so electrocution can cause deadly gi stasis. Even non-lethal shocks are extremely painful and traumatic.
If your rabbit seems to have been shocked or burned, get them veterinary care immediately. Signs of electrical injury include singed fur, burns on the body or mouth, breathing issues, or loss of consciousness. Your vet will provide pain management, antibiotics for burns, and supportive care. Quick action greatly improves chances for recovery.
Protect your bun by being vigilant about wire exposure. Keep all cords out of reach or covered. Do not allow rabbits free access to rooms with many exposed wires. Rabbits can climb behind furniture to access hidden cables. Use cord covers even for baseboard wiring. Check often for any new chewing damage. And provide ample alternatives like untreated wood blocks, cardboard, sea grass mats, and tunnels. With some preparation, you can eliminate this hazard and keep your rabbit safe.
Houseplants help purify our air and liven up indoor spaces, but many popular varieties can be toxic to pet rabbits. Lilies, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other bulbs contain dangerous substances that can harm your bunny’s digestive tract. Leafy plants like philodendrons, pothos, dieffenbachia, and peace lilies contain insoluble calcium oxalates that irritate the mouth and esophagus when ingested.
Never allow your rabbit free access to areas with houseplants. The ASPCA lists over 90 types of common houseplants that are poisonous to one degree or another. While a nibble here or there of a non-toxic plant is no big deal, rabbits will rapidly consume large quantities if given the chance.
Symptoms of plant poisoning include excessive drooling, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, and difficulty breathing or swallowing. Some toxins cause almost immediate reactions while others take 12-36 hours to show problems. If you see your rabbit ingest a significant amount of leaves or plant material, contact your vet. They may advise gastric decontamination or other treatment depending on the substance and quantity eaten.
When keeping houseplants, opt for rabbit-friendly varieties like basil, lettuces, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, petunias, roses, snapdragons, spider plants, and zinnias. Move hazardous plants well out of reach or consider using hanging planters. Also provide plenty of appropriate foods and chew toys to prevent boredom chewing. Be vigilant when allowing rabbit play time around plants and redirect any interest. A bit of training can help teach your bunny which plants are off limits. Stay alert and keep all potentially dangerous vegetation safely out of paw's reach.
We may be tempted to share bites of our meals with cute pet rabbits, but many common human foods can cause gastrointestinal, liver, or bladder problems for bunnies. Chocolate, cookies, chips, ice cream, nuts, pasta, pizza, and other junk foods are too high in carbs, sugars, and fats for a rabbit’s digestive system. High salt foods like chips and fast food can also cause excessive thirst and urinary issues.
Onions, garlic, fruits, beans, seeds, nut butters, and hot peppers contain substances linked to red blood cell damage, kidney failure, or digestive upset in rabbits. Dairy products are tricky as well. While small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are ok for some bunnies, milk and ice cream are too high in lactose and fat. Also avoid rhubarb leaves, raw potato or sweet potato skins, and the pits of stone fruits which contain oxalates, glycoalkaloids, and cyanide compounds respectively.
Introduce new human foods slowly and watch for any diarrhea, loose stools, decreased appetite, or lethargy afterwards. These are signs of intestinal discomfort. Stick to occasional treats like a bite or two of banana, melon, peach, blueberry, apple, carrot, cucumber, or lettuce. Always research a new food thoroughly before sharing with your bunny.
Feed your rabbit a consistent diet of good quality pellets, hay, and fresh greens instead of human foods. The House Rabbit Society has great resources on proper rabbit nutrition. Offer healthy chew toys as well to satisfy chewing urges. While it’s tempting to share our meals, rabbits have very different nutritional needs. With an appropriate diet and some restraint, you can keep your bunny happy and healthy without hazardous human food.
From soaps and detergents, to disinfectants and stain removers, our homes are full of strong chemicals that can harm curious rabbits. Cleaning products contain corrosive ingredients like alkalis, acids, solvents, and alcohols that irritate mucosal tissues. Ingestion can burn the mouth and esophagus or even perforate the stomach. Some concentrated chemicals are also toxic if absorbed through the skin.
Always store household cleaners securely out of reach. Use childproof latches on cabinets bunnies could access. Never leave cleaning products unattended, especially when diluting concentrations in a bucket or spray bottle. Also be cautious of residues on cleaned floors and surfaces. Thoroughly rinse any cleaner residue before allowing bunny play time.
If you witness or suspect your rabbit has had contact with a cleaning product, rinse their face and paws with lukewarm water immediately. Call your vet to describe the product and determine if treatment is required. Be prepared to take your bunny in for a health assessment. With rapid response, most minor exposures can be treated with supportive care, but gastrointestinal burns or lung irritation may need medicating.
Provide good chew toys so your rabbit is less apt to nibble inappropriate objects. Use natural cleaning products when possible or switch to pet-safe brands like BioKleen. With some adjustments, you can get a clean home and keep your rabbit safe from the dangers of chemicals.
Standing Fans and Space Heaters
Fans and space heaters make indoor environments more comfortable for our pet rabbits in summer and winter. However, these electrical appliances can also pose safety hazards for curious buns. Rabbits may stick their noses or paws into fans out of curiosity. The blades can cause lacerations and injuries, especially to the eyes. Unprotected hot surfaces and wires associated with fans or heaters also risk burns or electrocution.
When using these devices around rabbits, take proper precautions. Choose thermostat controlled ceramic heaters over exposed heating coils. Always leave fans and heaters plugged into a wall outlet instead of an extension cord to reduce fire risk. Place appliances on surfaces that cannot be accessed by jumping or climbing. Never leave a running fan or heater unattended.
Ideally, block off access to rooms with fans and heaters in use. A free-roaming bunny and an unattended space heater are a dangerous combination! If your rabbit does suffer an injury from a fan or heater, get veterinary care right away. Thermal burns, electrical burns, and blade lacerations all need prompt treatment. In the future, keep electrical appliances secured away from curious pets. With some simple management, you can continue using fans and heaters safely in homes with rabbits.
Rabbits rely on traction and grip to hop about, but smooth slippery floors can pose a hazard. Hardwood, tile, laminate, and linoleum provide very little paw traction compared to carpet or grass. A bunny trying to dart across a slippery surface may slide, fall, and injure themselves. Splaying legs to the side, hopping cautiously, or refusing to move are all signs your rabbit doesn’t feel secure due to insufficient paw grip.
A simple solution is providing traction mats, runners, or area rugs on hard flooring. Soft cotton mats allow better grip while also protecting foot pads. You can also apply non-slip sticky mesh strips to ramps, stairs, and other problem areas. Avoid waxing or polishing floors to a high gloss. Damp mopping is better than wet washing. Limit access to rooms with tile or linoleum if possible.
If your rabbit seems hesitant to move on slick floors, coax them gently or carry them to carpeted areas. Prevent slips by limiting running and roughhousing indoors. Trim nails to prevent splaying and improve traction. Finally, check paw pads often for signs of dryness or cracking which can further reduce grip. With some adjustments, you can make hard flooring safer for bunnies.
Cedar and Pine Furniture
The pleasing scent of cedar and pine woods unfortunately spells danger for pet rabbits. Oils naturally present in softwoods like cedar and pine release fumes that cause respiratory irritation. In confined hutches or cages, prolonged exposure can cause sore hocks, runny eyes, coughing, and breathing distress. In severe cases chemical pneumonitis and lung inflammation may develop.
Never use untreated pine or cedar chips as litter or bedding. Even solid wood cages or hutches can be risky due to volatile fumes contacting your rabbit's sensitive respiratory tract. When choosing furniture, toys, and housing, opt for safer hardwoods, manufactured woods, or other non-toxic materials. Look for kiln-dried, heat-treated, or laminated products that minimize risks.
If your rabbit shows signs of respiratory irritation like watery eyes, nasal discharge, wheezing, coughing, or lethargy, remove them from the bothersome environment immediately. Consult your vet to assess their condition and provide supportive treatments. With removal from the source and good supportive care, mild cases often resolve on their own. But pneumonia may require antibiotics. In the future, stick with rabbit-safe materials to avoid this hazardous respiratory risk.
Plastic Bags and Packaging Materials
Plastic bags represent an under-estimated choking and suffocation hazard for pet rabbits. An inquisitive bunny may stick their head into a bag to explore or forage. But this can quickly turn tragic if the plastic sticks to their face or tightens around their neck. Even loose bags pose a tangling and suffocation risk.
Never leave plastic grocery bags, trash bags, food packaging, or shopping bags within reach. A crinkly bag presents an irresistible temptation. Instead, keep plastic stowed away in drawers or hampers. Always supervise playtime around loose bags and promptly remove any that pose a risk. Also be vigilant when taking out the trash or grocery shopping. Rabbits are masters at sneaking into danger before you notice.
If your rabbit has gotten head or neck stuck in plastic, stay calm but act immediately. Carefully cut or tear the plastic away while supporting their body. Perform rescue breaths if they are not breathing. Get emergency veterinary care even once they seem recovered; delayed effects like aspiration pneumonia are possible. Prevention is key to avoid this scary scenario. With vigilance, you can make your home safer.
Scented Sprays and Oil Diffusers
Scented spritzes and essential oil diffusers have become popular for creating a pleasant ambiance at home. However, these products often contain volatile compounds that can irritate a rabbit's respiratory tract. Fragrances and botanical oils release microscopic aerosolized particles into the air. Inhaling these vapors can cause respiratory distress for bunnies.
Never use perfumes, air freshening sprays, or cleansing products around your rabbit. Avoid reed diffusers, scented wax warmers, and ultrasonic or evaporative aroma diffusers as well. Products labeled "natural" or "essential oils" are still risky. Instead opt for fragrance-free and use scent sparingly.
If your rabbit is showing signs of respiratory irritation like sneezing, wheezing, coughing, or nasal discharge, discontinue any scented sprays or diffusers and contact your vet. They may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatories depending on severity. With removal from the irritant along with supportive care, minor cases often resolve. But chemical pneumonia is possible if exposure was prolonged. In the future, stick with unscented products and natural ventilation.
Rabbits make delightful pets, but their curious natures can lead them into hazardous situations within our homes. With vigilant bunny-proofing and removing known dangers, we can prevent tragedies and keep our furry friends safe. Provide ample enrichment, schedule plenty of exercise, and never underestimate their ability to get into mischief. With a rabbit-savvy home, your bunny can thrive for many happy, healthy years as part of your family.