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In short, it depends on your rabbit.
Some are completely unfazed by them and will continue chewing regardless, others are horrified by the foul new smell/taste and will henceforth leave your baseboards alone.
Rabbit repellants shouldn’t be used instead of proper rabbit proofing. The general rule of thumb to follow is that if you don’t want it chewing, don’t let your rabbit have access to it.
But if your rabbit is hellbent on chewing something it shouldn’t and you’re running out of ideas, you can give rabbit repellants a try.
Also, there’s no telling when a rabbit is going to suddenly change their mind and decide that their end goal of chewing that delicious-looking corner of the sofa is worth it, no matter how foul it tastes.
You’ll be forever rubbing soap along the edges if the carpet, only for your bunny to decide one day that it doesn’t actually taste that bad.
What house rabbit repellants are available?
You can get commercial rabbit repellants, designed for that purpose, the most common being bitter apple spray, which you can buy on Amazon.
I advise you to read the reviews – they’re mostly either 5 or 1 star – some animals (it was mostly to get dogs to stop chewing) hate it, and some seem to be actually attracted to it and chew more.
I’ve actually heard rumours that rabbits don’t have bitter taste receptors, which goes some way to explain why this isn’t more successful. Many people do swear by it.
Some people have had success with using Ivory soap – bunnies don’t like it and it lasts longer than a lot of sprays that you have to frequently reapply.
White vinegar is widely recommended as a rabbit deterrent, and whilst I haven’t had any success in using it to stop chewing, it is good for stopping them peeing where they shouldn’t (and it’s great for cleaning up pee).
There are a few other DIY options you could try – bunnies reportedly hate the smell of garlic and chilli and there are bunny caregivers that swear by using hot sauce to protect their stuff.
DO NOT let your rabbit eat garlic- it is NOT good for them, and can cause an anaphylactic reaction.
To be honest, I don’t want hot sauce on my couch. I’ll just stick to shooing Holly away from it.
How should I apply house rabbit repellants?
If you’re using ivory soap (probably a good one to start with) you can just rub over anything you don’t want chewing.
Everything else just needs to be sprayed on. The issue with sprays such as bitter apple is that they need to be sprayed pretty much daily to retain any of their rabbit repelling properties. Kind of a ballache, tbh. And you can guarantee that the first day you forget, olf Flopsy is going to destroy 8 feet of baseboards. That’s called Sod’s Law.
So do house rabbit repellants actually work?
It really comes down to how stubborn your rabbit is, and how interested they are in chewing.
Sometimes, a yakky taste in their mouth is they need in order to go back into their pen and decide that maybe they’ll just chew their toys, rather than, for example, a square foot of drywall. But this is in no way a guarantee.
How do I know this? BECAUSE I’VE EXPERIENCED THE SAME TRAINING.
(I mean, I didn’t chew the drywall or baseboards or anything. That I’m aware of.)
As a child, I sucked my thumb. A lot (and yes, I did need braces).
My mum bought me some nailbite solution to put on my thumb, and that stuff is FOUL. It sucks all the moisture out of your mouth and makes you feel really nauceous.
Did it stop me sucking my thumb?
It just meant I was miserable every time I sucked my thumb.
You see, oftentimes thumb-sucking and chewing is a habit that can’t just overnight. It’s practically involuntary. I don’t consciously decide I’m going to suck my thumb – it just happens. Usually when I’m feeling a bit warm and snoozy. BAM that grim nailbite stuff used to wake me right up.
But, crucially, by the time I’d/rabbits learned that if we suck our thumb/chew the sofa it’ll taste grim WE’VE GOTTEN USED TO THE TASTE. It’s not ideal, but thumbsuckers/rabbits are nothing if not stubborn.
Not because we want to be; we’re just wired that way. Such behaviours release endorphins, and our brain likes those, so we repeat those behaviours.
I’m aware that this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear. You wanted me to say ‘rabbit repellent? Sure! Buy this spray, spray it on your furniture every day for a week and your bunny will never chew anything again.’
I’m afraid bunnies don’t work that way.
They MAY grow out of the chewing phase. Younger bunnies are certainly more destructive than older ones, but ‘wait 10 years’ isn’t exactly useful advice.
Another common piece of advice is to redirect their behaviour onto something they can chew – this can works, but it’s not a guarantee they will only chew things they’re allowed to. Bunnies aren’t great at following rules.
I have discovered that a big cushion on the floor wrapped in a towel is VERY entertaining to rabbits, but there’s no way of telling when Holly will decide that cushions are passé and return to trying to get behind the sofa.