Rabbits can be remarkably fussy when it comes to their living quarters. In the wild, rabbits face a constant string of uncertainty and predation from everything from foxes to falcons and so much more. Out in the fields, rabbits constantly have to be on the lookout for danger, whereas once they return home, they are met with security and the warm embrace of whomever they happen to be sharing their warren with.
In short, their home is one of the few sources of refuge they have, and they like it to remain just so.
As a result, it might not be too surprising to see your rabbit fussily tending to its bedding. However, you might wonder why it needs to make a mess of things as it moves its bedding all over the place.
There isn’t one answer to this, but several possibilities, most of which once again drive home the point that rabbits simply care a lot about their homestead and want it just perfect.
Why Rabbits Mess up Their Bedding
One potential reason why rabbits may mess up their bedding is that they’re not actually trying to mess it up but dig through it. Rabbits are notorious diggers, and in the wild they typically dig holes for themselves so they can live underground. This area is often warmer and far more sheltered from rain and snow than above ground, and obviously provides far better protection from would-be predators.
Your rabbit probably doesn’t have to worry about predators while living with you, but it doesn’t know that. To your rabbit, when a wrong guess about security may mean an ignominious end as someone’s appetizer, it makes sense to be safe and try to burrow.
Of course, neither the bedding nor the cage in which you’ve placed them is meant for that, meaning all they end up doing is making a mess.
The problem may also be the bedding itself. Rabbits are highly meticulous when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of their living quarters. If they feel the bedding you have given them is unclean, they may try to move and kick it away. They see this bedding as unsanitary and don’t want it anywhere near them.
This points to another potential reason why your rabbit may reject its bedding – it has soiled the bedding itself. Just as you wouldn’t want to live with your own waste, rabbits don’t want to do so either. They know it’s unsanitary, and with their highly-attuned sense of smell, it’s all the more disgusting to them. In the wild, they would try and remove this foul bedding themselves, or else move to a new warren. In captivity, domestic rabbits rely on you to do this for them.
Finally, rabbits are nothing if not voracious, and so they may sometimes move the bedding around as they eat it. For this reason, you should not give rabbits bedding that can cause digestive distress.
Best Bedding Choices
Now that we have a better idea of why rabbits mess up their bedding, let’s take some proactive steps toward preventing that. The two most important things you can do to ensure that your rabbit doesn’t mess up its bedding, or to at least minimize the practice, is to make sure it isn’t disturbed in its home and to use the best bedding available.
To take the second point first, you’ll want to make sure that you are using bedding that is bunny-friendly. While a soft bed is always a good start, you also need to make sure that the materials are agreeable to rabbits in terms of their texture and scent. The latter point in particular can be tricky. Rabbits experience the world in large part through their sense of smell, and if something smells off to them, they’ll be put off by it – hence one reason why they may kick strange-smelling bedding away.
As mentioned, you should also make sure that rabbits’ bedding is safe to eat. You may not intend for their bedding to become dinner, but rabbits may decide to turn it into a snack nevertheless, and if they do, you don’t want the materials blocking their intestines or poisoning them.
Some attributes that make for good rabbit bedding include:
- Comfort: Rabbits will nearly always prefer softer materials to harder or pricklier ones.
- Distinction: Make completely sure that your rabbit’s bedding is completely different from its litter box, since you definitely don’t want it confusing the two.
- Temperature balance: On the one hand, rabbits’ bodies are cooler when they sleep, meaning they’ll need bedding that can help keep them warm. On the other hand, you don’t want them to get overheated, either.
- Absorbent: Rabbits like dry bedding, and will reject it if it becomes too moist. You should thus work to make sure that they have dry bedding at all times. If they have an accident, you need to change their bedding as soon as possible, both for this and the aforementioned point about rabbits needing clean living areas.
For baby rabbits, you need to make sure that the bedding is especially soft and comfortable. They are quite fragile, so you don’t want anything even remotely sharp poking them. They also need to be kept extra warm.
Adult rabbits are a bit hardier, but that doesn’t mean that bedding is any less important to them. If they reject a bedding material, try another one. Keep in mind that, like humans, some rabbits simply have different preferences than others.
Older rabbits tend to stay in bed much more, which means you should focus on comfort. That said, you also don’t want them to get bored, so you should also try and find ways to sneak a couple toys in there so they can remain stimulated. Older rabbits also have weaker immune systems, so you need to be even more careful about what kind of materials you use for their bedding.
Some of the best bedding options for rabbits include:
- Shredded paper, though you will need to be careful to make sure that it does not have any toxic ink that your rabbit might ingest
- Hay, which is the biggest part of a rabbit’s diet and should be a mainstay in any rabbit owner’s home already
- Cellulose, which is affordable and a common bedding source for many small mammals
- Pellets, though these can be more expensive, and you’ll want to be careful that they don’t look like their normal food pellets
- Aspen, which are very absorbent and ideal for rabbits with bladder issues
- Old towels, as long as they are soft and are made from nontoxic materials
Conversely, some materials you should never use for your rabbit’s bedding are:
- Cat litter
- Wood shavings
Rabbit bedding typically lasts for a few days. After that time, you should change it out for fresh bedding. That said, if there is any urine or waste present, you should remove the bedding immediately.
Needless to say, that will likely mean many bedding changes in a month, so you’ll need to make sure to balance cost with care here and not overspend on bedding only to see it replaced in a couple days. If you do spend extra for something such as pellets, it better come with special features, such as being highly absorbent or controlling odor well.
If you’re a gardening type, you may be able to recycle old rabbit bedding as compost.
Build a Dig Box
Finally, if your rabbit continues to mess up its bed even when it is clean, there is a fair chance that it is indeed trying to dig through it as mentioned above. If this is the case, one of the best ways of alleviating that behavior may be to build a dig box for them. This gives you and your rabbit the best of both worlds. Your rabbit will stop messing up its bedding, and you get to stop prematurely replacing and worrying about it.
To build this, take a box and cut a hole in it big enough to fit your rabbit. Fill the space with diggable materials. Take a PVC pipe and attach it to your rabbit’s cage, and voila. The rabbit should be able to enter the dig box via the tube, dig there, and then go back up to its bedroom with its digging fixation satisfied. Make sure to check the dig box periodically to make sure the rabbit isn’t using it as a litter box.
There are many possible reasons why your rabbit may be intent on messing up its bedding, but you should always remember that it isn’t doing so arbitrarily. If a rabbit is messing up its living quarters, the place it cares about the most, it must have a reason. Maybe the quarters are too wet or foul-smelling. Maybe your rabbit isn’t comfortable. Maybe it is just looking to dig.
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to account for this when erecting your rabbit’s sanctum sanctorum. Make sure your rabbit’s bedding needs are met, and it will reward you with all its cutesy cuddling in kind.