Pine cones. They always seem to be everywhere. At least if you have conifers in or around your property. But what would happen should your rabbit get access to them? Would/can they eat them? Is this something you can even give to your bunny? Here is all you need to know.
So, can rabbits eat pine cones? Rabbits cannot eat pine cones, nor will they attempt to do so. Instead, a rabbit is likely to chew them. And while they can make effective chew toys, it is essential to clean wild fallen cones first to remove any dirt, sap, pests, or diseases that the cone might have been carrying. Treated pine cones should also never be provided.
Not as simple as just letting your rabbit have access to them.
Well, you could, but it’s generally not a good idea.
And this will mean you need to be mindful of where your trees are and where the pine cones fall.
In fact, you’re going to need to either pile them up or move them.
Especially if your rabbit free roams in your yard.
Nevertheless, this can be a particularly useful, practical, and highly affordable treat for your rabbit.
As you will soon discover if you keep on reading!
Are Pine Cones Toxic To Rabbits?
Pine cones can be toxic to rabbits, especially if they have been painted or treated with a wood preserver. Generally, any pine cone you buy for decorative purposes is likely toxic to your bunny.
For this reason, you should only purchase pine cones labeled safe for small animals, such as rabbits.
Often, these are natural pine cones that have already been inspected and cleaned.
This leads me to the next point.
While not toxic, even naturally falling pine cones can prove toxic too.
Some wild-collected pine cones may be carrying bacteria (if the tree was diseased), or the cones could be carrying harmful chemicals like pesticides.
At the same time, the cones can also carry the sap of the tree, which rabbits should not ingest.
And lastly, there could be insects (which could be carrying all sorts of potentially harmful things). Common insects include mites, beetles, maggots, thrips, and midges.
All of which you are going to want to keep away from your rabbit!
So if you intend on offering wild pine cones, you’ll need to examine, scrutinize, and then clean.
But more on that shortly.
Why Give Rabbits Pine Cones?
So long as they are prepared and free from any harmful substances, pine cones can be a cost-effective and mentally stimulating toy for rabbits.
In fact, chewing is an activity that you should actively promote.
Take this quote from the House Rabbit Society, for instance:
In fact, there is actually a biological reason behind this behavior – to grind their teeth.
Besides, their teeth grow continually for the duration of their lives.
Chewing is the simple, effective, “natural” way to trim them back and keep them at a comfortable and healthy length.
That doesn’t mean that they should chew anything and everything though.
Some things and items can be particularly dangerous.
Which is where pine cones come in.
And better yet, rabbits typically love them.
Rabbits will not just chew pine cones but they will play with them when provided.
So not only are you keeping them entertained, helping them maintain their dental practices, but you are also inadvertently preventing them from chewing things that are effective, inappropriate.
But as already mentioned, pine cones need to be prepared ahead of time.
Let’s now look at how to do so.
How Do You Give Rabbits Pine Cones?
You can simply give your rabbit an entire pine cone or two once it has been properly inspected and then prepared. For pine cones sold specifically for small animals, it may be as simple as taking it out of the packet and offering it.
First and foremost, if you are contemplating offering a wild-fallen pine cone, you should try to inspect the tree in which it could have fallen.
Try to get an understanding of the health of trees. Furthermore, try to clarify whether the tree could have been sprayed or treated with any chemicals – such as insecticides.
If you do discover the tree has been treated, chances are the pine cones could carry toxins and should not be given.
The journey ends there I’m afraid. You’ll need to find another suitable chew toy.
But assuming the tree is safe, it’s then a good idea to prepare the pine cones ahead of time.
Start by collecting several pine cones in a large box or container.
Now, you need to sterilize them.
Below is a recommended and safe method.
Step One: Fill a sink with lukewarm water and add a cup of distilled white vinegar (like this from Amazon). Be sure to submerge all of the pine cones and use your hands and fingers to remove any dirt, debris or anything else you find on the cones.
Step Two: You now need to leave your pine cones to dry. In a warm place, by a sunny window, by the radiator, or outside (and out of the reach of your bunny) are all good options here. Drying can take anywhere from 2-5 days depending on where you leave them.
Step Three: Bake your pine cones in the oven at a high temperature (260 degrees Fahrenheit for 1.5 hours. This will destroy any lingering bacteria, insects and help to solidify any sap that may remain.
Step Four: Let the pine cones sufficiently cool in a safe place. They should cool down to room temperature.
Step Five: Drop one or two down for your rabbit, and watch them begin to chew and play!
So, it’s not too difficult or time-consuming.
And by the end, your bunny will have a new toy they can enjoy right away.
While rabbits do not eat pine cones, they certainly chew on them.
That being said, while it is very tempting to just let your rabbit access those that have naturally dropped to the ground – it is not a good idea to let them do so.
You should intervene.
And while that does not mean pine cones are entirely forbidden, it does mean you need to inspect and clean them first.
Prepare them and do a large batch ahead of time.
That way, you’ll always have something on hand to give your rabbit to chew and play with.
And you’re going to want to.
Keeping a rabbit entertained, and their teeth naturally trimmed, is essential for their wellbeing and health.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.