Is Mulch Safe For Rabbits?

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Though they came from wild rabbits that could thrive in the great outdoors, domestic rabbits have evolved the way dogs have and are not equipped to handle many environmental issues anymore. 

So, what about mulch? Is it safe for rabbits?

While many traditional mulch products you frequently find at gardening shops aren’t safe for rabbits, some are okay to put in an area where your rabbit can get to them. 

Keep reading to learn more about mulch and which ones your bunny can handle best. 


Why are some mulches not safe for rabbits?

There are various reasons why mulches may not be safe for rabbits, but it breaks down into four main categories; particles, toxicity, risk of injury, and bacteria. 

Particles

Particles of any kind are dangerous for rabbits. It goes into the lungs and can lead to irritation, at the very least. At the worst, it can cause pneumonia.  

Toxic

There is a lot that is toxic to domesticated rabbits, especially in types of mulch.

Certain types of wood, for example, are pretty much always harmful to your bunny. Even wood that isn’t inherently toxic to your bunny can be harmful based on how they are treated. 

Other ingredients commonly found in mulch that can be toxic for rabbits are:

  • Ink. Cheap pamphlets and newspapers are the worst, as it contains a mix of chemicals such as lead, ethanol, and propanol, which are toxic. 
  • Rubber. Rubber has a lot of chemicals that can harm your rabbit, whether ingested or inhaled. This is true, especially for regular rubber, but eco rubber can also be dangerous. 
  • Sugar. Like with people, rabbits having too much sugar can be harmful. However, they are a lot smaller, so even a bit of sugar can hurt a rabbit. 
  • Cocoa. Like dogs, methylxanthines in chocolate and cocoa are very toxic to rabbits.

Injury

Other items can cause injury as your rabbit tries to move around. Wood chips, rocks, and sticks are the most common examples when it comes to mulch. 

Bacteria

Animal waste, such as that from a raccoon, can also cause harm as the bacteria or parasites there can make your rabbit very sick


Types of mulch (safe vs. unsafe for rabbits)

Types of mulch

Rubber

While many companies say that rubber chips are safe for pets, they generally mean more common pets like dogs or cats. 

With rabbits, there is always the worry about a rubber smell and chemical odors, especially with poorer quality products.

Even with quality rubber products, you have to be careful about your rabbit trying to eat them

Rabbits have sensitive stomachs and struggle to even pass natural foods, much less things like rubber. 

Cocoa

When you think about cocoa, you think of chocolate, but any part of the cocoa plant can pose a health risk to your rabbit. This includes the husks of cocoa that make up a lot of mulch.  

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Make sure that none of the mulch you look at has cocoa hulls, or you may risk your rabbit getting very sick. 

Rocks

The little gravel pieces that are common can cause injury to your rabbit if they are sharp.

Even bigger rocks can cause injury if they aren’t stable because they can wobble or cause your bunny to slip and injure themselves. 

Flat, stable rocks can cause an issue known as sore hocks, where a rabbit gets bacterial infections due to unsanitary or unmalleable flooring. 

Compost

Compost may be good to help plants grow and give them the nutrients they need, but for rabbits, it isn’t good at all. 

Compost is full of bacteria and bugs that can harm your rabbit. 

Also, unless you have been paying very close attention to what is going into your compost, there may be feed in there that can be harmful to your bunny even under normal conditions. 

Sugar cane

While sugar cane might sound like a natural, healthy alternative, it is still a bad idea for rabbits. Rabbits have a sweet tooth like people do. 

However, too much sugar can cause their teeth to rot, and they can gain far too much weight.

Sawdust

No matter the type of wood, sawdust is a bad idea to keep around rabbits. 

It is made from small, dust-like particles that can severely irritate your rabbit’s nose and injure the lungs, causing respiratory issues. 

Wood and bark shavings

While wood shavings can be a little sharp, some are a bit softer and aren’t a bad idea for an area in which a rabbit will be playing. 

If you are using wood shavings, ensure you stay away from all pine and cedar wood. 

Both of these are severely toxic to rabbits, no matter what form they are in or how they are treated. 

Also, ensure there isn’t a lot of dust, and it wasn’t chemically treated. Then, it is safe for your rabbit to eat with little to no harm. 

A lot of rabbit owners tend to prefer bark shavings over wood as it tends to be a little more malleable, and there aren’t as many chances of rabbits getting splinters as there would be with wood shavings.

Leaves

Leaves are pretty pet safe. They will become part of the garden if you live in a humid climate. 

However, in dryer climates, they tend to break down into tiny particles that can harm your rabbit. 

Hay

Hay is an excellent mulch, both for your plants and your rabbit. Hay is always safe for rabbits, so long as it hasn’t been damp for a long time.

Straw

Straw is another good option, though not as good as hay. 

It doesn’t come with as many nutrients as hay, so your rabbit can’t eat it in unlimited quantities. You also need to find one that doesn’t have a lot of dust. 

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Pine needles

Pine needles are not a good idea, as they are sharp and can cause injury to a rabbit. Also, pine is toxic to rabbits, and that includes the needles. 

Paper

Paper is a fine mulch, especially if you get stuff without too much ink, or at least one that uses soy-based ink. 

It can host bacteria if it stays damp for too long but isn’t as dangerous as some other products. 


Preventing rabbit from consuming unsafe mulch

How to prevent my rabbit from consuming unsafe mulch

Rabbits are naturally curious ad will explore (and chew) on new things in the area to get a better feel for them. This does include items on the ground like mulch. 

There are a few things you can do to help keep your rabbit safe if there is harmful mulch in the area.

Keep them away 

The easiest way is to just not let your bunny in the area. If you have the space, designate a different place for your rabbit to play around in and explore. 

You can also use a fence or a wall to keep them out of that area. 

Watch them closely

If your rabbit is going to be in the same area, never leave them outside unaccompanied. It is best to ensure they are only out playing when someone can watch. 

Even if you keep an eye on them, don’t let them play in those areas. 

This is because even if they aren’t chewing on it, they can walk and get chemicals, bacteria, and particles on their paws that they then lick

Use rabbit deterrents 

There are also plenty of rabbit deterrents out there. There are natural and unnatural ones that work for both domesticated and undomesticated bunnies. 

  • Vinegar
  • Cayenne powder
  • Irish Spring Soap
  • Owl decoys
  • etc

What to look for when buying mulch?

What should I look for when buying mulch

Low Dust

It is essential to ensure there is little to no dust in whichever product you purchase. 

No Odor

Scents can easily overpower your rabbit and cause nasal and respiratory problems. To keep your rabbit safe, don’t get anything with a lot of scents. 

Organic

Organic is always better, as it is made from good ingredients that don’t contain harmful chemicals. 

No Pesticides

Pesticides and chemicals harm rabbits, so it is essential to find mulch without those things included. 

Whether or not they eat something with pesticides in it, it doesn’t matter because your rabbit can get it on its paws and then clean them.

Material

Always ensure you don’t get anything dangerous or toxic for your rabbits. You always want to assume that your rabbit will eat, or at least chew on any material you may use. 


Conclusion

Trying to find a balance between space for your rabbit and space for your garden isn’t easy, especially if you are already low on space it is. 

The best solution is to find a way to blend them together. However, to do that, you must first figure out what mulches and garden materials are safe for your rabbit.