Knowing what's safe in a rabbit's environment is an important part of caring for the pet. Rabbit owners typically place a bed of wood shavings or litter in a rabbit pen that they can easily dispose of once the bedding becomes fouled. However, it's important to be aware that some of the chemicals present in different kinds of wood bedding can affect a rabbit's health.
Types of Bedding
A rabbit pen is much easier to clean if you have covered the floor of the enclosure with some kind of disposable bedding. There are many different options available to pet owners, including different kinds of wood shavings, pellets made of paper, wood or grain, cat litter and paper strips. Each of these materials offer drawbacks and advantages, so the best option is to explore the different pros and cons of each material and experiment with which one best meets you and your pet's needs.
One advantage of using soft wood bedding is its price. You can purchase a large bag of pine shavings from a pet store or farm store for under ten dollars. Another advantage of using pine for rabbit bedding is that the plant chemicals present in pine can cover the ammonia scent given off by the excrement of your rabbit. However, a major drawback to using pine is there is a potential link between liver failure and cancer in rabbits and the use of pine as their bedding. Cedar is another soft wood that may cause illness and premature death in rabbits.
Spruce is a kind of bedding that can be found at pet stores as an alternative to soft woods. Spruce is listed as a non-toxic plant for rabbits, and has in no way been linked to causing illness in rabbits when used as a bedding. Spruce bedding can be found as either shavings or in pellets, alone or mixed with other hardwoods. The advantage of using spruce is that this plant does not exude volatile plant chemical like pine does.
Some alternatives to soft and hardwood bedding for use in your rabbit's pen are cat litter, wheat pellets or paper. The advantage of using either clay or wheat-based cat litter is that these absorbent materials also absorb or cover the smell of ammonia from rabbit urine, however, they can be more costly. The advantage of using either paper pellets or paper strips as bedding for your rabbits is this bedding material is very low cost, however paper does not cover odours and must be changed frequently.