If your rabbit gnaws on the cage, you should investigate the cause, because this behavior indicates a grievance and should be taken seriously.
In addition, nibbling on metal or plastic is dangerous to health.
In this article, we will reveal common causes and give you our best tips to eliminate nibbling immediately and permanently.
Possible causes for nibbling
Rabbits are rodents. Therefore, just like hamsters and guinea pigs, mice and rats, their upper and lower nail teeth grow throughout their lives.
Given this, they need regular roughage to wear down the teeth.
Therefore, one of the most common causes is lack of healthier nail opportunities.
Other causes may include:
Boredom or inadequate exercise
Excitement and stress
Problems with the teeth or gums.
Let’s take a closer look at these causes together….
1: Boredom and lack of exercise
With a very small cage and lack of appropriate materials to gnaw on, your rabbit may gnaw on the bars or floor tray out of boredom and frustration.
If the gnawing happens mainly while you are away, this is a clear indication.
The advantage to this cause is that it is very easy to find a solution: Give your rabbit objects in the cage to occupy himself with and satisfy his gnawing instinct.
2: Nibbling on the cage due to excitement and stress.
These causes can be both positive and negative.
If your rabbit is so excited about your arrival because it will get affection, free run and treats, it may literally want to gnaw its way through the bars. So, in part, the behavior in this case speaks to an animal that is tame and strongly accustomed to you.
Equally, however, it may be boredom and lack of occupation during your absence or stress that is responsible for the behavior.
You should check the cage and the housing conditions in this case.
For a long time, rabbits were usually kept alone because they are supposed loners.
However, this is not true!
The animals like to live in groups, are very social, groom each other and play with each other.
Even when kept as a pair or with several animals, however, the rabbits may not get along with each other and may feel lonely, be more focused on you, or feel stressed by conflicts with other animals.
The latter is usually only the case if there is not enough space and the rabbits cannot avoid each other or retreat.
4: Obsessive-compulsive disorder
When there is a lack of exercise or stress, your rabbit may not just gnaw on the bars occasionally. Instead, it will nibble on them for so long that it may even injure itself in the process.
One sign of compulsive behavior is the duration of the action and another is your rabbit’s fixation. It can hardly be distracted and reacts poorly even to tempting food.
If an obsessive-compulsive disorder has already crept in, it can usually only be eliminated by a lot of patience and may require appropriate protective measures.
5: Problems in the area of the teeth or gums
Toothache or gum inflammation, as well as abscesses, can cause your rabbit to have an increased need to gnaw, not sparing the components of the cage.
Not only in view of this it is important that you check the teeth and the mouth area of your animal thoroughly. If you notice redness, swelling or damage to the teeth, a visit to the vet is essential.
Caution: Potential Dangers
When your rabbit gnaws on the bars or the plastic floor tray, it not only makes an annoying noise. It also poses some risks and dangers.
First and foremost among these dangers is the ingestion of substances that are detrimental to health.
Often, the bars are coated, so the protective layer of plastic is eaten away during gnawing. If your rabbit gnaws on the bottom tray as well as the bars, more splinters of the material can be swallowed.
This not only introduces substances into the body that can cause illness. The shape of the splinters is also problematic. They can injure the oral mucosa, bore into the esophagus and cause injuries in the stomach or intestines.
Another hazard is the hardness of the materials.
Even though rabbits are designed to crush hay, straw and wood, metal and plastic are too hard for them.
The teeth suffer as a result – but are not ground down in the process.
It is more likely that cracks will form or the teeth will break off. The strong stress can also irritate the roots of the teeth and cause them to become inflamed.
The same applies to the gums.
The pressure from metal or plastic can strain the tissue, causing inflammatory processes, sores, infections and pain. If nothing else, for these reasons, you should check the mouth area regularly and see a veterinarian if necessary.
Development of obsessive-compulsive disorder
In addition, rabbits that start gnawing on unsuitable materials or the boundaries of their cage can develop obsessive-compulsive disorders. Addressing and eliminating this is difficult and usually takes a long time.
It is therefore crucial that you react as quickly as possible, find out the cause of the gnawing and solve the problem.
What you can do
In many cases, two simple measures can help:
More opportunities to move
Nail material and roughage
Tip 1: Create more gnawing opportunities
Fresh twigs and branches, a dried corncob now and then, as well as hay and straw that are always available offer your animal a choice and are part of a species-appropriate husbandry. They are also important for the health. This is because the nail teeth can wear off in a safe way and roughage is needed for digestion.
Tip 2: Provide for more movement
It is similar with the movement.
Rabbits are very active in nature and can travel many miles in search of food. As a pet, they don’t have to. Still, it’s recommended to incorporate as much exercise as possible into your pet’s daily routine.
Unfortunately, commercial cages are usually far too small even for an individually kept animal. The rabbits cannot run, hook or jump in them. Therefore, on the one hand, choose a model with as large a floor space as possible, so that the animals can at least run well in it. This can also prevent conflicts between the rabbits, as they have more space to get out of each other’s way if necessary.
On the other hand, daily free running should be possible, where the rabbits can let off steam physically. It is ideal if you have a garden available and a larger outdoor enclosure can be set up here.
As an alternative or in addition, you can practice walks on the leash.
For physical and mental exercise, you can also do sports together, such as rabbit hop. You can exercise both indoors and outdoors, strengthening the bond between you and your pet.
Tip 3: Find the right location
When gnawing on the cage out of stress, you should reconsider the location of the cage.
If your rabbit can’t sleep or rest in peace, is constantly startled by loud noises or rapid movement in the environment, it can be detrimental to health and affect behavior.
Tip 4: Find the right partner
If your rabbit is alone and nibbles the cage out of loneliness, you should think about another animal. Keep in mind that acclimation requires patience and time and should be done gradually.
In addition, a larger cage is necessary.
A final piece of advice
If the rabbit continues to nibble at the bars or other elements of the cage despite all these measures and attempts, you should think about changing the accommodation for its safety.
It would be possible, for example, to install plexiglass screens and thus prevent direct contact with the bars.
Another option is a rabbit house made of wood and Plexiglas.
The advantages of this are not only that there are no bars. It is also visually appealing, can be bright and open design, as well as have several floors.
Variants for the apartment can even be matched in color, so they can easily stand in the living room, among other things.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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