My Lilac rabbit’s teeth kept growing and growing – even after all the high-quality hay I’ve been feeding her.
I then started researching rabbit-safe chew toys to see what else I could give my bun to help her wear down her teeth which seems to grow at an exponential rate.
As I walked into my garden one day, I picked up a pine cone. I loved playing with these as a kid.
Would my bunny like playing with a pine cone too, and can rabbit chew pine cones?
Can Rabbits Chew Pine Cones?
Yes, rabbits can chew pine cones.
Chewing pine cones comes with important benefits: Pine cones are good for a rabbit’s dental health, and they last long as a chew toy, which is good for your wallet.
But are pine cones safe for rabbits?
It’s best not to give rabbits pine cones you pick up from your garden or the park.
Pine cones need to be sanitized to clean them of any sap residue, chemical treatments (pesticides and insecticides), bacterial growths, and fur mites.
Lucky for you, I dive into all the reasons why rabbits can chew pine cones and should be chewing them.
I’ve also got a guide on how you can make pine cones safe for your rabbit to chew and play with.
Why Rabbits Chew Pine Cones: 3 Reasons
Pine cones bring many benefits to your rabbit’s life.
In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret now: pine cones even benefit you as the rabbit owner. Let’s look at this one first!
1. Pine Cones Are Long-Lasting
If you’ve owned bunnies before, you know exactly how much rabbits need to chew during the day and how expensive chew toys are or can be.
I remember how I got a really cute chew toy for my bunny, Lila, a few years ago and how beyond disappointed I was later that day to discover that the chew toy had been destroyed.
It was quite a pricey little chew toy, but I’ve since learned my lesson. I can make inexpensive chew toys and get pine cones for my bunny.
As a chew toy, pine cones are long-lasting.
They are kind on my wallet, and now I can smile while I watch Lila chew away on the pine cones.
2. Pine Cones Are Good for a Rabbit’s Dental Health
At a dental growth rate of 3-5 inches annually, that’s quite a lot if your rabbit can’t naturally wear down their teeth.
If your bun’s teeth overgrow, it leads to your bunny not eating, their gastrointestinal tract slowing, and other serious health complications that can end in death.
Thus, it’s essential for your rabbit to continuously chew to wear down their teeth.
Pine cones are a natural material that can help your rabbit improve their dental health by wearing down their teeth.
3. Pine Cones Make a Great Rabbit Toy
Apart from being a fantastic chew toy for your rabbit, your bunny also likes to play with them.
Your rabbit can toss these cones into the air, throw them around, and even chase them.
You can even teach your rabbit a bunny version of “fetch” by throwing the pine cone and then asking your rabbit to bring the pine cone back to you.
Rabbits are highly intelligent animals and need plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
Aside from exercise, letting your rabbits play with toys allows them to exercise their body and mind in other ways.
This keeps your rabbit healthy and entertained.
Also read: Are Rabbit Toys Safe for Birds?
Why Pine Cones Aren’t Always Safe for Your Rabbit
Picking up a pine cone and giving it to your rabbit to chew and play with isn’t safe for the following reasons:
While there isn’t any research on the toxicity of pine cone sap to rabbits, as a rabbit owner, I am concerned about the contaminants that have found their way into the pine cone and its sap.
These contaminants can be harmful to my rabbit, and I’d much rather be safe and not expose my rabbit to unknowns.
With the contaminants, there can also be bacterial growth on the pine cone.
Rabbits are fragile animals that have sensitive digestive systems.
If harmful bacteria found their way into a rabbit’s digestive tract, it could lead to diarrhea, gastrointestinal stasis, which is a severe health problem for rabbits, and other complications.
White fur mites can make their way into pine cones.
If your rabbit chews or plays with a pine cone that’s infested with mites, these pests can make their way onto your rabbit.
The mites are small, so they’ll easily hide among your bun’s fur coat.
But they’ll irritate your rabbit’s skin and cause walking dandruff, which is contagious – to other rabbits, pets, and even humans.
Insecticides and Pesticides
The pine tree the pine cones fell from may have been treated with harsh pesticides and insecticides.
These chemicals affect the tree long-term and cause irreversible changes.
If your rabbit chews on pine cones that come from a chemically treated tree, your bun could develop cancer, tumors, or growths.
How to Make Pine Cones Safe for Your Rabbit: 7 Steps
Given the various reasons why pine cones may not be safe for your rabbit if you pick one up from the garden or a public park, how can you make these pine cones safe for chewing?
Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure the pine cones you give to your rabbit are safe:
Step 1: Gather the Pine Cones
The first step is picking up pine cones.
If you suspect or know that the pine tree has been treated with insecticides or pesticides, then don’t pick up these pine cones.
There is nothing you can do to make these safe for your rabbit.
Step 2: Boil the Pine Cones
The next step for the non-chemically treated pine cones is to first boil them or treat them with rubbing alcohol.
If you suspect that there are harmful bacterial growths on the pine cones, it’s recommended to do a rolling boil for 5 minutes to kill at least 99% of all the bacteria on the pine cones.
Boiling will also remove any fur mites that have infested the pine cones.
However, you can dip the pine cones in rubbing alcohol to more effectively kill mites and any other soft-bodied pests.
Step 3: Wash the Pine Cones
After the alcohol dip, be sure to thoroughly wash and scrub the pine cones in 1 cup of vinegar and warm water.
Alcohol is poisonous to rabbits, so be sure to remove all traces of this on the pine cone.
Step 4: Soak the Pine Cones
Leave the cones to soak for 20-30 minutes.
Any sap that’s stuck to the pine cones will come loose.
Step 5: Rinse the Pine Cones
Next, rinse the pine cones with non-soapy water.
Step 6: Dry the Pine Cones
Place the pine cones on a few sheets of paper towel. Let them thoroughly air dry for 3-4 days.
Alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 200-250℉, line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place the pine cones on top of the foil or paper.
Bake the pine cones for 1-2 hours.
Be sure to keep an eye on the pine cones in the oven – you don’t want to start a fire or see smoke coming out of the oven.
Once the pine cones are open, take them out of the oven. Let them cool on a cooling rack.
Step 7: Serve the Pine Cones to Your Rabbit
Once the pine cones are thoroughly clean and dry, you can give one to your rabbit.
Watch as they enjoy their new chew toy.
Can You Buy Pine Cones for Your Rabbit?
You can buy pine cones for your rabbit at the store but make sure the label explicitly states it is safe for small animals.
Can You Use Decorative Pine Cones for Your Rabbit?
If you have pine cones in a box because you use them for decorative purposes around Christmas and want to use these for your bun, think again.
Most decorative pine cones have been treated with chemicals, painted, or varnished, making them unsafe for your rabbit.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits Chewing Pine Cones
Pine cones are an excellent chew toy for your rabbit who needs to naturally wear down their teeth.
But it’s essential that the pine cone is safe for your rabbit buddy – don’t use pine cones that have been treated with pesticides or insecticides at all.
Boil, alcohol-dip, and wash pine cones to get rid of excess sap, fur mites, and bacterial contaminants.
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