Newspaper is a popular material used to line rabbit hutches because it’s inexpensive and readily available in large quantities. Some people also enjoy the idea of reading their morning paper and then recycling it by using it to line their rabbit’s hutch.
However, if you do this, you might notice your rabbit shredding and eating the paper and wonder, can rabbits eat newspaper?
Rabbits should not eat newspaper. Eating paper, in general, is not good for rabbits because it can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal problems. However, newspaper is particularly bad because the print ink can be petroleum-based, containing chemicals that are toxic to rabbits.
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Reasons Rabbits Eat Newspaper
Eating newspaper may seem like a quirky, natural behavior for a rabbit, but it’s usually an indicator that the rabbit is missing something important in their life and is trying to fill that void by eating newspaper.
One very common reason that rabbits turn to eating the newspaper lining of their hutch is that they’re hungry. Rabbits are animals who graze and eat all day.
If they run out of hay and other food sources to snack on in their hutch, they will turn to eating the newspaper, which can be very dangerous for a rabbit.
Rabbits need more than hay to survive; they need veggies and other foods to make up a high fiber diet. If a rabbit’s diet lacks fiber, their natural instinct is to try to make up for that by replacing it with what’s available in their environment.
If you’ve lined their hutch with newspaper, that’s likely what they’ll eat in an attempt to fulfill their need for fiber.
Rabbits are very playful animals and highly social. If there are not enough toys in their hutch to keep them entertained and they do not get enough social interaction, they may become restless and begin eating the newspaper in their hutch because they have nothing else to do.
Rabbit fleeces are a good way to line your rabbit hutch. They are far more cost-effective as they can be machine washed and are soft and gentle on your rabbit’s feet. Read more here.
Suitable Rabbit bedding
Dangers of Rabbits Eating Newspaper
If a rabbit eats enough newspaper with petroleum-based ink (think lots of pages with big ads and photos), it’s possible for them to be poisoned by the toxic chemicals in the newspaper ink.
Though, by that point, they’ve likely eaten enough paper that they’ll be facing some severe gastrointestinal problems once they’ve survived the acute phase of the poisoning.
Eating lots of newspaper does not agree with the rabbit gastrointestinal system. Even if they shred it well and it passes through their stomach and intestines, it can cause constipation because it alters the natural shape and composition of a rabbit’s stool.
Constipation is not a minor problem for rabbits. It can become very serious very quickly, requiring life-saving veterinary care. Constipation can leave your rabbit with a swollen, painful stomach full of impacted stool, and it may begin refusing to eat its food.
This condition can become fatal if left untreated. Seek veterinary care if your rabbit displays symptoms of constipation.
If a rabbit does not shred the newspaper it eats well enough to pass through its digestive system, it may get stuck in the intestines and cause a blockage.
Remember, rabbits cannot eat newspaper, it isn’t broken down by their stomachs and intestines as part of digestion. The best they can do is pass it in small, well-shredded bits.
Rabbits with intestinal blockages will not have bowel movements and will stop eating. They’ll be in extreme stomach pain and may even grind their teeth while trying to bear the pain.
You may notice a very bloated stomach and that the rabbit refuses to move. A rabbit with these symptoms requires immediate veterinary care for life-saving surgery to remove the blockage. An untreated intestinal blockage is fatal to rabbits.
While newspaper is a cost-effective way to line a rabbit’s hutch, and you can kill two birds with one stone by recycling the morning paper, you must consider whether convenience is worth the potential health detriments to your rabbit.
There are safer materials to use to line a rabbit’s hutch, like Kaytee Rabbit bedding, for example. However, if you absolutely must use newspaper, make sure that your paper’s ink is non-toxic.
Also, make sure that your rabbit is eating a high fiber diet, has lots of food and toys in their hutch, and gets lots of social interaction from you or another rabbit.
If you’re going to have newspaper in your rabbit’s hutch, these measures will aid in keeping your rabbit’s interest away from eating the newspaper.