Do rabbits need bedding in the cage?
A couple of years ago, I was wondering the same because I heard a lot of controversial opinions on the subject.
So, I talked with a few vets to get to the bottom of the issue, and I'm here to share my findings with you and give you a few tips.
Just keep reading.
- Outdoor rabbits need bedding to protect against the elements, but bedding is optional for indoor rabbits.
- Straw is one of the best choices for outdoor rabbits, while paper, cage liners, and grass mats are suitable options for indoor bunnies.
- Always consider your bunny's age when choosing a suitable bedding surface for your pet.
Do You Need to Provide Bedding in the Rabbit Hutch?
When I got my first rabbit, I lined the cage with high-quality straw and provided a cozy box with hay for naps. To my surprise, the bunny pushed it aside to sleep on the bare floor.
Then, as I began finding pieces of straw scattered around my home, with the rabbit kicking it out of the hutch, I pondered not only "Do rabbits need bedding?" but also "what to put in the bottom of a rabbit cage?" to keep both my bunny comfortable and my house clean.
My friends had different opinions, so I talked to vets and read online about rabbit care and proper bedding materials.
I was surprised to learn indoor rabbits don't need traditional rabbit bedding, while outdoor rabbits should have one. But I was happy because I could get rid of the straw!
So, let's talk about why outdoor rabbits need bedding and how indoor pet rabbits can live without one!
Do Outdoor Rabbits Need Bedding?
Interestingly, rabbits tolerate cold temperatures better than heat. Their coat thickens during winter, allowing them to withstand as low as 15° Fahrenheit, provided they have access to water and food.
But still, outdoor bunnies need bedding in the habitat to insulate them against the elements and keep them warm at night. Otherwise, they may get hypothermic and get sick.
So, you should provide a thick layer of bedding on the bottom of the entire hutch and a dedicated sleeping area with cozy bedding.
However, not all bedding material suits outdoor rabbits because not all available bedding types have insulating properties! Let's see which is the best one.
What Bedding Is Best For Outdoor Rabbits?
Straw bedding remains one of the best choices for your outdoor bunnies. It's made from natural material and has excellent insulating properties, so it will keep your adult rabbits warm.
Moreover, straw is an absorbent bedding, so your bunny won't get cold and wet even if it has an accident outside the litter tray. It's also comfortable and less dusty than wood shavings.
While straw can be messy to clean from the litter box, it's a safe option because it won't cause digestive issues if ingested.
Just ensure the straw is fresh and organic. Old straw is brittle, so it's not as good at insulating against the cold, and it can hurt your bunny's paws and eyes.
Paper-based bedding can also work for outside rabbit habitats but is not as insulating as straw. And paper pellets are best used for the litter area, not as a sleeping surface.
Towels, blankets, or fleece bedding are not the best options for outdoor hutches. They're cozy and warm but not enough to protect your adult rabbit from freezing temperatures.
And now, let's talk about why indoor rabbits don't need bedding in their cage!
Do Indoor Rabbits Need Bedding?
Bedding for indoor rabbits is optional, especially if your bunny is litter-trained. Indoor rabbits aren't exposed to the elements and rarely need extra warmth during the night or winter.
Surprisingly, lining the cage with straw or other traditional types of bedding can have unexpected consequences:
- It's harder to litter-train your pet because the bunny sees the entire hutch as its toilet. It's also harder to maintain proper hygiene.
- You'll have to replace the bedding every couple of days and clean the cage several times per day to keep it clean and prevent unpleasant smells in the house.
- Soiled bedding can attract insects and bugs, putting your pet's health at risk of diseases like flystrike.
While indoor rabbits don't need traditional bedding, it's still a good idea to line the bottom of the cage to protect your bunny's sensitive feet. And to ensure no urine soaks to your floors!
But what's the best type of bedding for indoor rabbits? You've got more options than you can imagine!
What's the Best Beeding for Indoor Rabbits?
As specialists from VCA say, "Many rabbits seem to appreciate the addition of a soft towel to sit on, which may also help decrease the incidence of sore hocks." (1)
When it comes to finding the best bedding for indoor rabbits, there are several popular choices to consider:
- Cage liners. I love using cage liners like Luftpets small pet liners because they're waterproof, non-slip, and made from extra-absorbent material.
- Grass mats. Mats made from non-toxic materials encourage natural behaviors (such as chewing/digging) and provide a soft sleeping surface.
- Bath mats. If you're looking for something cozy, comfortable, and easy to clean, you should go for bath maths. But they're not super absorbent, so you'll have to machine wash them often.
- Fleece blankets. Fleece has wicking properties, great for absorbing urine, and its soft material is perfect for your pet bunny's sensitive feet.
- Aspen shavings. If you're looking for something cost-efficient, aspen bedding has strong absorbent properties and excellent odor control. But it's a bit messy for indoor rabbits.
- Paper bedding. It's soft, absorbent, and dust-free, so shredded paper and other paper-based bedding are suitable for indoor or outdoor rabbits.
Many owners also worry about their pet bunny's comfort when they don't provide comfortable bedding in the cage. So, what's the best sleeping surface for rabbits? Let's find out!
Should You Place a Bed in the Rabbit Cage?
Specialists from RSPCA say, "Rabbits are a prey species, so (they) need to hide in secure places, away from the sights and smells of predators." (2)
Your bunny should have a safe place to nap. It can be a simple box with hay, fleece bedding, towels, or a blanket. But you can also get your rabbit a comfy cat bed or a basket.
However, not all rabbits like comfortable bedding, so you shouldn't be surprised if your pet rarely uses its fabric bed or basket.
And now, I've got a couple more tips to help you avoid some common mistakes pet owners make when using rabbit bedding.
5 Tips for Using Bedding for Rabbits
When choosing the best bedding for your indoor or outdoor bunny, the most important thing is to ensure it's made from comfortable material. But that's not the only thing to consider.
#1 Consider Odor Control
If you use the bedding in an outside enclosure, odor control doesn't matter much. But for indoor bunnies, it's an important feature to consider.
Towels, mats, and fabric beddings are cozy, but don't do much to conceal the stink of urine when your pet has an accident outside the litter tray or sprays in the cage.
If you're worried about smells, it's better to go with paper or aspen bedding, lining the cage's bottom with liners to keep your rabbit dry.
#2 Bedding vs. Rabbit Litter
Even if you don't use traditional bedding options in the cage, you must provide your bunny with a litter box and suitable substrate.
The best choice is recycled paper, aspen shavings, and wood pellets (but avoid pine and cedar because they can be toxic to rabbits)!
Fortunately, rabbits are relatively easy to litter train because they use one area of the cage as a toilet, and all you have to do is place the litter box there. Watch this video for more information.
However, if you want to use bedding and litter in the cage, pick one material for bedding and a different one for a substrate to avoid confusing your bunny.
I usually use cage liners for the bottom of the cage and plain paper pellets for the litter box. The liners absorb any accidents, while paper pellets are easy to clean.
#3 Not All Bedding Types Are Safe
Rabbits chew all the time because their teeth don't stop growing. So, whatever bedding or litter you put in the cage should be made from natural materials. Here's what you should avoid:
- Cat Litter. Clay cat litter can cause intestinal obstruction if ingested, and it's so dusty it can cause respiratory problems.
- Cedar and pine shavings. They contain oils that can cause liver damage if the shavings aren't kiln-dried to remove the dangerous chemicals.
- Sawdust. It's dusty and can contain traces of dangerous phenols.
- Newspapers. Plain paper is suitable bedding for rabbits, but newspapers have ink that can cause digestive problems.
- Cardboard. While some owners use cardboard, it's dangerous because it can cause intestinal obstruction if your bunny eats a large amount of cardboard.
#4 Consider Your Rabbit Age
Baby bunnies need cozy bedding to keep them warm and not allow their body temperature to fall below 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
And since babies pee often and aren't litter-train still, you need absorbent bedding for baby rabbits, such as paper, straw, or aspen.
On the other hand, senior rabbits are prone to arthritis, so they need extra soft bedding. And it should be dust-free because senior animals have a weak immune system.
Most disposable bedding types, such as paper and aspen, are relatively cheap. But the cost accumulates since you have to change the bedding every week.
On the other hand, fleece and cage liners are expensive. But since you won't throw them away after the first week, they are more cost-efficient in the long run.
1. Does an indoor rabbit need a bed?
Indoor rabbits should have a secure area in the cage where they can hide, but providing a special bed is unnecessary.
2. What do you put on the bottom of a rabbit cage?
You can put cage liners, straw, and paper-based bedding at the bottom of the cage to absorb urine and keep your bunny's feet warm.
3. What bedding should you not use for rabbits?
Avoid pine and cedar shavings because they contain toxic oils, which can cause liver damage in rabbits.
Do rabbits need bedding? Outdoor rabbits need insulating material to keep them warm when the temperatures fall, but indoor rabbits can do without traditional bedding.
But you can still provide a soft surface for your bunny to sleep and burrow, such as paper, fleece, or cage liners. Just consider your bunny's surface preferences and its age!
What do you think about this topic? Do rabbits need bedding in their enclosure, according to you? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
1. Housing Your Rabbit | VCA Canada Animal Hospitals [Internet]. VcaCanada. Available from: https://vcacanada.com/know-your-pet/housing-your-rabbit
2. RSPCA. The environmental needs for keeping a rabbit | RSPCA [Internet]. Rspca.org.uk. 2017. Available from: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits/environment