While the typical cute rabbit is usually portrayed as one with large front teeth, this can actually be dangerous. These oversized teeth are a big reason why rabbits bite their cages
Rabbits bite their cages due to their constant need to maintain their teeth. Rabbit teeth continue to grow for their entire life, and if their teeth are not worn down, it will lead to a serious illness called malocclusion. Rabbits should be provided with alternatives to chew on such as hay or wood.
There are many reasons rabbits stop themselves from having large teeth. There are also many simple solutions to the problem of them chewing or biting their cage.
Why Your Rabbit Bites Their Cage
When was the last time you cut your nails? Last week? Last month? Our nails grow constantly, and if not well maintained, they can cause several different health risks. Rabbits’ teeth act very similarly to human nails, in that they are growing constantly.
Rabbits belong to a group of animals called lagomorphs. These lagomorphs are known for their “teeth [which] are unrooted and grow continually.” Source
Rabbits belong to the family of lagomorphs, which are related to the rodent family of animals, such as rats and squirrels. The main difference these two groups is that rodents are omnivores who eat meat and plants, while rabbits are herbivores and only eat plants.
A common trait among lagomorphs and specifically rabbits is their ever-growing teeth. This makes it necessary for their chompers to be well maintained and trimmed just like human nails. Chewing is necessary for rabbits because “in the act of chewing, the teeth wear against each other, which keeps them trimmed.” Source
By always grinding their teeth, rabbits have found a way in which they can keep their teeth at a reasonable length.
The problem that rabbit owners run into is that this grinding and chewing needs to happen almost 24/7. According to Peta’s website, “even 12 hours without food can be deadly.” Source
They explain that the important part of rabbits eating is not always necessary for nutrition. Letting them eat is a good way of letting them chew in a non-destructive way.
With all of this in mind, rabbits likely chew and bite their cage because they need to grind down their teeth. If they are not provided with something to chew on, they will chew and bite whatever is nearby, and this can include the cage.
What Happens If They Don’t Chew Enough?
A lot of vague problems have been mentioned already if rabbits don’t chew enough. With this being said, there are very specific and dangerous problems that can come if a rabbit does not chew or bite or maintain its teeth well enough.
Simply, when a rabbit’s teeth are not maintained well enough, malocclusion takes place. Below is a table describing the causes symptoms and treatments for the dangerous problem.
|Maloclusion||Inherited condition. Occasionally can be due to accidental tooth breakage.||Elongated upper or lower teeth. May prevent the animal from eating.||Clipping of teeth is a temporary solution. Affected animals should be culled.|
This happens in humans as well, but it is a very serious and common problem for rabbits. Which if not well watched can lead to serious issues.
There are two very specific problem areas that rabbit owners need to look out for in a rabbit’s mouth. The front teeth and the molars are the typical problem areas when it comes to the overgrowth of teeth.
Above is a veterinarian checking a rabbit’s teeth and gums for some sign of dental disease. To see what serious malocclusion looks like, all it takes is just one Google search.
As mentioned by veterinarians when speaking of dental disease in rabbits, “Rabbits have easily visible incisors (front teeth) plus molars in the back of the mouth for grinding and chewing.” Source
Typically, if the teeth get too bad, especially in the front or back, they will need to be clipped by a veterinarian.
Worst Case Scenario
Many issues and problems come with the overgrowth of teeth in rabbits. These all range from mild to extreme.
To start with the extreme, “Without the proper attention, overgrown teeth can cause serious trauma, anorexia (lack of appetite), and even death from the inability to chew and swallow.” Source
Rabbits can die if their teeth are not maintained well enough. It is the extreme, but it’s a possibility in the long run.
When rabbits have overgrown teeth and malocclusion forms, extreme pain and discomfort can occur. This extreme pain and discomfort can lead the rabbit into doing drastic things to avoid the pain. This makes it hard to see the problem sometimes.
Veterinarians are in consensus that rabbits “try to hide pain and discomfort because showing any sign of weakness in the wild would make them a target for predators” Source
Because of the pain of their now overgrown teeth, eating and chewing altogether is usually avoided. This obviously can lead to extreme weight loss and eventual death.
The mouth of a rabbit needs to be constantly reviewed and maintained. If they are not chewing enough, it can be extremely dangerous, and there is no way to tell unless someone is paying attention.
What To Look Out For
The worst-case scenario is that your rabbit grows out their teeth, you don’t get help, and they die early. With that being said, rabbit owners need to know what to look out for and whether or not their rabbit is healthy or needs caring for.
According to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, there are several tell-tale signs of dental disease in rabbits.
- Weight loss
- A dirty bottom (grooming becomes difficult and painful)
- Diarrhea or soft feces
- Reduced appetite
- Weepy eyes
- Teeth grinding
- A bumpy jawline
- Long/deformed/broken teeth. Source
The key is to look out for these symptoms and get the proper help when noticed. Any one of these could be a sign that your rabbit has not been chewing enough and that they need medical help.
So, we know that chewing is a necessity for a rabbit, but you still don’t want the little guy to be chewing and biting the cage that they’re in.
There are a ton of easy and simple solutions that rabbit owners can take to make sure they are not biting or chewing on certain things.
The first would be to get a bitter spray. This is probably the easiest solution to the problem and can be done in a matter of minutes. After buying a bitter spray for rabbits, spray it on whatever you don’t want them to chew on. The spray will leave a bitter taste on the object and will make the rabbit stop chewing or biting on it.
Second, get them good alternatives to chew on! According to a nonprofit rabbit website, some good alternatives could be “hay, branches, pine firewood, cotton towels, fresh pine lumber… [or] compressed alfalfa cubes.” Source
Third, provide them with some food. Giving them food to chew on and eat kills two birds with one stone. You give them the nutrition they need to survive, and the chewing problem is solved temporarily.
Fourth, keep them busy. This can be done in a lot of different ways. This could be getting them a toy that they can play with. When they are biting the toy, they won’t be biting the cage!
Fifth, get them some rabbit friends. Rabbits can be social creatures who rely on others for a healthy disposition. When you add another rabbit into the situation, they will spend more time on each other rather than have time to bite their cage.
Sixth and finally, play with them. There is no better solution to the problem. If you take the time to play and interact with them, the better and more easily your rabbit will behave. This better behavior will come with less cage biting and chewing in the long run.
What To Do Now?
If you happen to be reading this much about why a rabbit is biting or chewing its cage, chances are that you are living through it right now.
This is actually a good sign. If your rabbit is chewing or biting the cage, that means they are taking care of their teeth themselves. Despite that, you probably don’t want them biting and chewing certain things in their cage or around the house.
Simply follow the above steps and precautions in order to help them stop chewing on their cage.
First and foremost, make sure that they are healthy and happy. After doing this, go ahead and get started on helping your rabbit stop biting its cage.
If you do notice a problem with your rabbit’s teeth, whether visibly or by using any of the signs above, please contact a veterinarian to assist you in keeping your rabbit healthy, happy, and safe.
Hopefully, as you implement these solutions, you won’t continue to find rabbit teeth marks around the cage and house.