Bunnyproofing Cords and Cables

Shadow relaxing, protected from cords and outlets

Outlet with nightlight plugged into the top, bottom hidden by litter box ... cords behind the TV stand, all bunny safe now!

There are two goals in bunny proofing:  protecting your rabbit in the space and protecting your space from the rabbit.   Last week I wrote about basic bunnyproofing.  This post deals with a very specific area of bunnyproofing, protecting your cords and cables.  I don’t know why rabbits love cords so much.  They don’t look tasty to me, but rabbits just love to chew cords.

Look at any area your rabbit will roam in freely and locate all the cords:  electric, TV cable, telephone, and electronic or computer.  If a rabbit chews through a live electric cord, there is a danger to the rabbit of burns or electrocution and a danger to your home if a short sparks a fire.  Even if no one is harmed, you will be aggravated, inconvenienced, and out some money for repairs or replacements.  You also might be embarrassed having to explain to a repairman or utility company just why your cord or cable needs replacing.

One of the best protections for cords is to place them behind large pieces of furniture where the rabbit cannot fit to get access.  However, if the outlets are under windows or on a wall above furnace or air conditioning vents, you may not want to place large furniture pieces there.  In that case, you will have to protect the cords and outlets. 

You need to decide whether you want something flexible and movable, or something that will permanently attach to the wall.  Also, will you be covering cords individually, or trying to cover several cords together?  Note that electric power cables and data or telephone cables should not be enclosed together.  Data or telephone cables are sensitive to interference from electric power.

Cord Covers:  Split loom is a continuous flexible tube that is split along the entire length. We currently double protect exposed cords by using two different sizes of split loom to form two layers.  We use a smaller diameter of split loom for the inner layer and then make sure the split on the larger outer layer  is on the opposite side, making getting to the cord a real challenge for our rabbits (they haven’t).  Click to see split loom examples on Amazon.com.

Cable Race: For the décor conscious bunny owner, this is a permanent and professional installation.  It is available in either adhesive-back or screw mount.  There are color choices.  Some can be painted to match the wall color.  There is a plastic trough that snaps shut, completely covering one or more cables.  For bunny proofing, it may be used in combination with one of the flexible materials.  It is generally available only from electrical or electronic suppliers, but you can see what one example looks like here on Amazon.com.

Outlet Plugs:  Outlet plugs are the simple plastic plugs that fit into unused outlets and are widely available for child proofing. Example on Amazon.com

Outlet Covers:  These are typically meant to keep babies away from plugs and outlets.  They cover the whole outlet protecting the plugs from being knocked or pulled out and you can run a cord protected with plastic split loom right into the outlet cover.    Some rabbits have cleverly realized that the point where a cord cover and plug meet is vulnerable.  Covering the whole outlet removes access to that vulnerable spot.  Here are three examples on Amazon.com: Safety 1st, Safety 1st, Kidco.   

Send your rabbit a clear message that cords and cables are not on their menu of available chew toys.

Bunnyproofing Basics – Part 2

Tigger chewing up cardboard

We put down a huge piece of carboard over the carpet inside a large dog pen style enclosure. You can see Tigger is really getting into chewing and tearing it up!

Tigger napping on cardboard

Nap Break ... Zzzzzzz

Basic Bunnyproofing Continued …

Cardboard, Acco Binder Clips and Jumbo Paper Clips:  You can protect many things using cardboard and Acco binder clips or jumbo paper clips (big 3-5″ ones).  You can create a wall of cardboard if necessary by simply binding cardboard pieces together with clips.  When our bunnies were little, we protected whole walls of baseboard by making a cardboard wall around the room that they could chew on.   We called it “The Great Wall of Cardboard”.

Cord / Outlet Covers:  Rabbits love to chew on electrical cords.  To give the best protection, we used the split hard plastic cord covers in two sizes and put two levels of protection on each exposed cord.  Wherever possible, we hid cords behind furniture that the rabbits cannot fit behind or under.  For extra protection, we bought outlet protectors at a baby store.  You can run a protected cord right into the outlet cover and then there is no gap at the plug between the cord cover and plug where a rabbit can chew the cord.

Baby / Dog Gates and Exercise Pens:  Baby gates / dog gates or exercise pens can be used to create barriers.  Just be aware that even a small rabbit has amazing hopping ability and consider this when deciding what height you need.  Both our small rabbits could leap over a 27” high baby gate.  Also watch out for gates that have lightweight plastic mesh inserts.  A rabbit can chew through these.

Be aware as you are rabbit proofing and creating barriers to also look for potential problems at the height your rabbit would be standing up on its hind legs.  We had a barrier in a hallway that was flush with the floor and the walls for a foot up and then there was a gap.  Tigger sat up on her hind legs, put her head through that space and then started to sit back down, trapping her neck and head in the space.  Fortunately, we were there and rushed to the rescue before she strangled herself.

Hardware Cloth:  This can be used to protect things or barricade areas.  It can be attached to furniture like the bottom of beds to create a fence between the bed and floor and prevent a rabbit from getting underneath beds or other furniture pieces.  It can also be wrapped around things to make it harder for the rabbit to chew.  Since it is a lightweight metal mesh, it can be flexible in use.  Don’t get the plastic mesh kind; the rabbit will probably be able to chew through that.

Final Thoughts on Basic Bunnyproofing:  If you have an area where your rabbit continues to misbehave, put belled toys in the area that will alert you that the rabbit is there.  Keep lots of toys in the area to redirect the rabbit’s attention to an acceptable item to play with or chew on.

Remember after you have bunny proofed an area; it is not truly bunny proofed until it has been fully rabbit tested!  Supervise your rabbit until you are sure that you have adequately protected both your rabbit and your space.

More articles will follow on coming Wednesdays on better protecting cords and bunnyproofing ideas beyond the basics. 

Bunnyproofing Basics – Part 1

Shadow chewing newspaper

A plastic pan filled with newspapers for Shadow to chew = a happy bunny not chewing something else instead

Know up front what a rabbit might try to get into and chew on. The answer is anything and everything! Get the rabbit’s eye view by laying down on the floor on your stomach and looking at everything in the room. Are there any rabbit sized spaces that will need to be blocked? A small rabbit can fit in a space that is only 2” x 3”. Look for things that are exposed and likely to be chewed: carpet, electrical cords, baseboards, and furniture. Also be on the lookout for things the rabbit will try to hop on.

There are two goals with bunny proofing: protecting your rabbit in their new home and protecting your home from the rabbit. You may have some supplies already on hand, things you can repurpose for bunnyproofing. Supplies don’t have to be expensive. Check out discount stores first. Then move on to pet supply, baby, or home and hardware stores.

Using Throw Rugs / Grass Mats / Plastic Floor Protectors: When bunny picks a particular area of carpet as a favorite chew spot, you can place an inexpensive throw rug (read sacrifice rug) there or put down sea grass or dragon grass mats so that they can chew on something safe. We used a rectangular plastic mat used typically in offices to protect the carpet under their cage area since somebunny likes to overshoot his litter box and aims outside the cage.

If your rabbit hops up on furniture and digs or chews on the seat, you can use a throw rug as protection. A runner sized rug will protect the seat of a sofa, a standard sized rectangle rug will protect a loveseat, and doormat sized rugs will protect the seat of a chair. Each of these is easy to roll up and put away when friends and family come to visit.  A more expensive alternative is to have slip covers for the furniture. Slip covers can be used as the sacrifice to rabbit teeth or kept in reserve to cover damaged furniture when company comes.

Washable throw rugs can be put under litter boxes to catch near misses or overshots and will be easy to clean by just throwing them in the washer. We also used a series of small throw rugs to make the surface of a plastic patio bench safe for the bunnies to hop on (it was too slippery). We held the throw rugs in place on the bench with sheet holders and jumbo paper clips. Our bunnies also insisted on hopping on top of their cages. The grid on the cage top was too large for their feet. First we used binder clips to hold a piece of cardboard to the cage top, but this was  slippery. We then used jumbo paper clips to hold small throw rugs to the cardboard. Now the bunnies have a safe place to jump, and they love to hang out on their cage tops when they are out.

Be aware that the rabbits will also chew sacrifice rugs or plastic mats and that you will need to make sure that chewing doesn’t include swallowing.  Rabbits can cause themselves a hairball problem by chewing up and swallowing too many household fibers.  Hard plastics are better than soft plastics since they are harder for the bunny to chew pieces off.  Rugs made from seagrass, dragon grass or jute are going to be safer for the rabbit to chew than fabric carpet fibers. Look for grass / jute rugs that haven’t been treated with chemicals and don’t have a latex backing.  A rug that can be flipped over will have double the use if one side starts to be a little chewed.

I’ll post another article later today with some more bunnyproofing basics.

Bunnyproofing – Start by Knowing Your Rabbit

We have a Tigger in our kitchen!

Never underestimate a highly motivated rabbit’s ability to get into places and things that they shouldn’t. We found the biggest key to successful bunnyproofing was getting to know each of our rabbits really well.  Then we knew whether to bunnyproof for a chewer, digger, thrower, jumper, burrower or combination rabbit.  Knowing what your bunny is most likely to do can help you to make areas of your home safer for them or protect cherished things in the home from rabbit damage. 

We read the  recommendations to have open roam times be in smaller controllable spaces at first, like kitchens or bathrooms. That made a lot of sense to us because unless a new rabbit has already been litter box trained, these spaces usually have floors that are easier to clean up accidents.  Small throw rugs can allow the rabbit to run some and usually the rugs used for kitchen and bathroom spaces can be easily washed too.

These smaller home spaces usually have doors or entries that are easier to block and cabinets down to the floor which don’t allow bunny to get into too many places they shouldn’t.  We stuck cardboard boxes or plastic bins in any open spaces so that they were a tightly wedged fit that Tigger couldn’t easily dislodge.  We thought we had done well in the kitchen with a planting bin stuck into the space beside the refrigerator that blocked it for 3 feet up.  However, with Tigger we learned quite rapidly that things needed to be at least 4 to 6 feet tall if we didn’t want her to try to hop on or over them.

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen with Tigger.  While we litter box trained her, we also learned she loved to run, was an awesome jumper, a so so chewer, but loved to throw her toys.   Tigger from the start was suicidal in her stunts to go everywhere a bunny could possibly go and do everything a bunny could do.  She really tested all the limits of our ability to stay one step ahead of her with bunnyproofing, even in the confined and controlled kitchen.  Her energy level was absolutely exhausting. 

The most important thing we learned about Tigger is that where she looked, she would next run or leap.  Once we left the kitchen with her and started expanding her space that was an important key in bunnyproofing.  If she spent any amount of time looking at something, it was going to be next on her bunny to do list.

We knew from Tigger’s sit up looks that she planned on hopping on her cage top. She had hopped up on her carrier in the kitchen which was at the outer limits of safety for the spacing of the bars to the size of her paws.  We didn’t want her hopping on her big cage top or she could have easily broken a leg, since the bars there were too far apart to land safely.  Fortunately we heeded her looking at it and when she did leap, we already had a piece of flat cardboard held in place by clips.   She did skid a bit on the cardboard, so we found a small throw carpet that was the same size as the cardboard and then clipped that on top of the cardboard giving her a safe and comfy landing-place.  Over the years it has become a place she loves to use as her high ground to survey her bunnydom.

We learned with Tigger, then Shadow many ways to keep them safe by being observant and staying one step ahead of what they might try next and either blocked access or made the area or item safer for them.   On coming Wednesdays, I will share some of what we learned that really helped us bunnyproof over the past ten years so that they survived safely to be elder buns.  I will also share some of what we are learning now to adjust both ourselves and them to the limitations that are coming with their older age.