Rabbit Bedding: Everything you need to know

By Link the Bun
Published on: May 30th, 2021

Rabbit Bedding is a hot topic in the rabbit care community, some people use litter as bedding, some use bedding as litter etc. Traditionally bedding was only used for outside hutches to keep your rabbit warm however as time has gone on this has changed for both indoors and outdoor rabbits.

Whilst you don’t actively need bedding for an indoor rabbit its perfect if you have hard flooring as it gives your rabbit an area to stay comfortable. For outdoor rabbits, bedding is used as insulation rather than comfort to keep them warm during the night or during winter.

One thing to note is that using bedding in an area that you don’t need it can actually create bad litter training habits, hence the confusion between bedding and litter. If you have an indoor rabbit, try to keep bedding to your rabbits litter box and no where else, for elsewhere use soft mats or square carpet tiles.

What is the difference between bedding and litter?

This is actually a more common question than you would think. You can use bedding for both sleeping and as litter in most cases, but you can’t really use specific litter as your rabbits bedding. When litter training your rabbit you should identify a spot that they like to use as a loo and put in a cat litter box with a safe litter base.

One of the more common options for both bedding and litter is Aspen Shavings or if you’ve run out, just using normal hay with some newspaper underneath.

If your rabbit is extremely well trained with litter training, you could use a blanket or old shirt for bedding instead.

Does your indoor rabbit need bedding?

Simply put, no. Your indoor rabbit doesn’t necessarily need bedding in their enclosure as they should be out of the wind and in a room temperature location constantly. You can use bedding as rabbit litter but there are lots of alternatives out there which absorb urine etc much better.

Typically, rabbit bedding would have been used for winter days, cold weather and staying warm in the winter.

If you have a pair (Male & Female), bedding is perfect for a doe which is pregnant as it allows them to create a secure nesting area.

With an indoor rabbit if you have a particularly cold room they stay in, can simply have a heatpad wrapped in a blanket or old shirt to keep them warm. These usually last a few hours and as long as they have some form of bedding they should be fine.

If you don’t have a dig-box, definitely check out some of the wood-shaving bedding alternative as these can be used along with hay, treats and shredded paper to make a fantastic dig-box boredom breaker.

Is comfort important?

Is rabbit bedding comfortable?
Our rabbit Link loving an ice pack and lay down on his carpet tile

Rabbits typically prefer to sleep on a flat surface, we have hundreds of photos of this as proof. This is why flat carpet tiles are perfect as it gives them a specific area to make smell their own and relax.

You’ll often find in the summer they’ll prefer a big hardwood area or ceramic tile as this will not only keep them a lot cooler but for owners is a much cheaper option to regularly cleaning out bedding!

If you do provide bedding, blankets etc be prepared for them to be thrown everywhere as not every rabbit wants it! Let them design their sleeping space and get comfortable how they want to. At the end of the day, your rabbit knows what is best for themselves and if that includes making a very big mess, so be it!

Why else should I avoid bedding indoors?

There’s quite a few reasons to avoid your standard bedding whether it’s straw, wood shavings or a blanket. It can actually confuse your rabbit into thinking that their bedding area is the same as their litter area which results in more cleaning, a terrible smell and potential attraction of bugs which can lead to fly strike and other diseases.

Here’s a list of reasons as to why you shouldn’t be using bedding indoors:

  • Certain types of bedding can confused your rabbit and result in poor litter training – Using traditional bedding material for your rabbits comfort can often trick them into thinking this is no different to their litter box. As training rabbits is mostly done via habit and persistence, this is an easy way to get them to make a mess in the completely wrong areas.
  • Requires regular cleaning – Bedding can be a massive area for bacteria and bugs to collate, you’re going to want to be cleaning this regularly to avoid diseases and a potentially deadly fly strike. The last thing you want is your rabbit contracting RHD2 or Myxomatosis due to lack of cleaning.
  • Bedding isn’t always easy to clean – Depending on the type of mess your rabbit makes along with the bedding type you’re using, you can easily spend over a over putting it all in the bin and then thoroughly scrubbing away with vinegar water and after rubbing alcohol.
  • Bedding gets everywhere – Even if you clean the bedding regularly and thoroughly, you’re going to find it everywhere in your home. It is easily trampled into carpet and carried around but not only us but your rabbit. It can become a real pain to clean if you don’t have a powerful vacuum!

Outdoor rabbit vs Indoor rabbit bedding types

After having 3 rabbits, majority being indoors I can safely say that having an indoor rabbit is much better. Their life expectancy is much higher, they’re a lot more social and it’s nice to just have your furry friend around the house.

If you do however have an outdoor rabbit, it’s important to understand that they need bedding for cold nights and winters. There’s plenty of different types of bedding that you’ll need to consider, some insulate heat and others help keep your rabbit comfortable.

What bedding to use for my rabbit:

  • Using Hay as bedding – A very expensive choice but great for your rabbits health and it works well as a heat insulator. If you have an outdoor rabbit this will need changing regularly to avoid dampness and mold which can cause severe health issues.
  • Wood Shavings – You’ll only want to use Aspen wood shavings for health reasons, pine, cedar and other sources should be avoided entirely. If these wood shavings get wet from rain or urine they will need changing ASAP to avoid bacteria build up.
  • Shredded Cardboard or Recycled Paper – This is perfectly fine to use, although you’ll want to keep an eye and make sure your rabbit isn’t eating too much of it. We use it for our digging boxes and it’s perfectly safe. You can often get this from pet stores or from packaging in boxes.
  • Blankets, Towels and old shirts – Old shirts is a particular favorite of ours as it keeps your scent in the area your rabbit is in to help them feel safe but also provides something to nibble on (In small quantities) for comfort as well as being soft!
  • Straw – Honestly not really worth it. It’s a good insulator but has no nutritional value or benefits if your rabbit does eat a bit. There are better options and can become moldy just as quick as hay does.

What bedding & Litter should I avoid?

  • Clay based Litter – These are notoriously known as cat litters and can cause serious respiratory issues with your rabbit. Unfortunately, rabbits like to try eating this litter which can result in stomach blocks and following GI Stasis.
  • Non-Aspen based wood shavings – If you’re looking at Wood Shavings you should avoid Pine & Cedar Wood Shavings. Phenol’s withing these shavings have been found to lead to liver problems with rabbits.
  • High quantity dust based litters – Anything which has sawdust or small particles can be particularly bad for your rabbit as it results in respiratory issues and damage to their lungs. Definitely avoid this one!

Despite what some Facebook groups say, there’s most definitely some litters & bedding that you shouldn’t be using for your rabbit as it can cause a lot of damage and extremely high vet bills.

Should I give my indoor rabbit something else to sleep on?

Some of us like to pamper our rabbit a stupid amount so we’ll often be questioning how we can make them even more comfortable. Each rabbit will have its own choices and desires, ours prefers to sleep on a flat surface and chooses to ignore all the beds we’ve purchased over time.

If you can, try out some of these alternatives:

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