Avoid aromatic woods as bedding at all costs.

Most of us grew up seeing mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other pets frolicking in cedar or pine shavings at pet stores. We make mental notes as we grow up, “this is the proper bedding for these animals.” While it is now known that cedar shavings and other aromatic woods lead to higher liver enzymes due to the toxicity of the hydrocarbons and phenols, there are still bags of cedar and pine shavings available at local pet stores with illustrations of rabbits and other pets laying on the aromatic wood shavings… with no warnings on the label.

The hydrocarbons and aromatic phenols in the aromatic woods that make them smell so good are actually lethal. Studies have been done with people working in woodmills being exposed to the phenols over time, and they have had elevated liver enzymes. How much more so, a small animal living 24/7 on the shavings!

Cedar and piine have long been hailed for their nice smell and natural insecticide ability… it is even put in some dog beds. I owned cedar dog beds and after I found out about the problems with cedar, I threw them away. Any mammal is in danger of getting liver cancer when exposed to aromatic woods over time. It is simply not worth the risk.

In addition to the risk of liver damage, a rabbit’s hocks (bottoms of their hind legs) are prone to infection where there is not proper bedding and coushioning. The hocks are little more than fur and skin wrapped around bone – there is very little natural padding there. Any splinters or irritants on the hocks can lead to crippling or even deadly infections. Rex rabbits are especially vulnerable to problems with the hocks due to their fur sticking straight out instead of laying flat against the skin.

Once a rabbit is litterbox trained, having a bedding litter all along the bottom of the cage is no longer a necessity. Weber’s cage is lined with faux wool. I have two pieces of this that I cut to fit around his litter box and the shape of his cage. Every month, I take it out and launder it and put the other clean one in the cage. Weber urinates only in the litter box, so it’s only an occasional drop of water from his water bowl combined with food that will leave small stains – otherwise, he keeps his bunny bungalow quite pristine.

Some people use Aspen shavings – another soft wood that has a lower phenol count. Frankly, I don’t see it worth the risk. If your rabbit is not litter trained, read the article on litter training. It is quite simple, natural and makes cleaning your rabbit’s cage a snap. The rabbit is healthier and happier and it’s easier on you in the process.