Did you know that commercial
pine or cedar litter or bedding can be VERY DANGEROUS and sometimes
fatal to rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, etc.?? Did you know that
sand and clay kitty litters can cause and/or aggravate respiratory
problems? Read on.
SOFTWOOD BEDDINGS: PINE
AND CEDAR LITTERS
In 1989, House Rabbit
Society (HRS), the premier national rabbit rescue organization,
made a curious discovery (Harriman 8-9) following the unfortunate
death of a young, healthy rabbit after a routine spay operation.
HRS ran blood work and discovered that the rabbit's liver enzymes
were far higher than normal. Excess liver enzymes in the blood indicate
leakage from the liver, which is not handling toxins adequately;
a defective liver cannot properly filter anesthetics, or other toxins.
Originally HRS had advised
that all rabbits over two years old have blood tests run on them
prior to any surgery. Because they could find no cause for the above
rabbit's death they lowered that age recommendation to 18 months.
As they began testing ALL rabbits prior to surgery, a disproportionately
high number of rabbits showed elevated liver enzymes. Thus began
a long process of elimination.
SEARCHING FOR A CAUSE
After searching through
all sorts of data (breed, body type, age, weight, etc.), no common
factors were found. They finally looked to the bunny home—the cage—for
clues, and that is where they found their answer: all of the rabbits
who had elevated liver enzymes were using pine shavings in their
individual litter boxes and/or cage trays! Of the group of rabbits
tested only those that used alternative litters were found to have
normal blood panels.
PHENOLS, LIVER DAMAGE
AND RESPIRATORY AILMENTS
In order to verify their
suspicions, HRS removed the pine litters from the rabbits to be
tested; nothing else in their environment was changed. After one
month the rabbits were re-tested and all of them had liver panels
within the normal range!
Phenols—the stuff that
makes pine and cedar smell good— are the reason that the softwood
shavings are dangerous. Phenols are caustic (n. A substance that
corrodes and destroys animal tissue), poisonous, acidic compounds;
the very things which are routinely diluted and used in over-the-counter
disinfectants. And since phenols are caustic, their direct connection
to respiratory ailments (pneumonia, etc.) In rats, mice [rabbits]
and guinea pigs is [also] clear. The constant irritation to the
nasal passages, throat and lungs gives harmful bacteria an easy
opening (TeSelle, AFRMA Rat and Mouse Tales, July-Oct 1993).
The above data—plus
the fact that an animal with a damaged liver will also have a depressed
immune system—are sufficient evidence to lead to the conclusion
that wood litters and beddings must be avoided.
SO WHAT ARE THE LITTER
AND BEDDING ALTERNATIVES?
There are many alternatives
to using pine or cedar litters. At the Zooh we use three products
which we highly recommend: Clean 'N Comfy, which is made of ground
corncobs, slightly less absorbent, but according to the bunnies,
just as comfy; Yesterday's News, a pelleted newsprint, which is
very absorbent and controls odors well; Care Fresh, a paper pulp
product that is absorbent and very comfy. There are many other products
out there that are safe, absorbent and comfortable alternatives.
If you have any questions, contact
We do not recommend
commercial sand and clay [kitty] litters for litter boxes, though
using them in the catch trays is ok, because your bunny cannot come
into contact with it. These litters are dusty and may contain silicates.
Bunnies enjoy scratching about in their litter, which raises a lot
of dust (even in "dustless" litters), and this can cause irritation
to the eyes and respiratory tract.