Friday, September 17, 2010

Eating Baseboards: A Love/Hate Story

Walter loves to chew on our apartment’s baseboards. His appetite for baseboards is voracious. Paul’s and my enjoyment of fixing the walls every six weeks is not. We have tried all sorts of things to deter our rabbit from nibbling on the walls, to no avail.

We put down double-sided tape, so he would get annoyed with his whiskers getting stuck in the glue while chomping. Walter resolved this by simply eating the tape, too. (We quickly abandoned this strategy and removed all the tape.)

We bought an over-priced bottled of lemon oil, but haven’t used it yet out of sheer laziness and the fact that I no longer remember where I stored the bottle. I read mixed reviews about lemon oil: some sources say that putting it on the wood will deter the rabbit entirely; some say that the rabbit will enjoy the taste and thus chew more. The same goes with bitter apple spray, which we have not yet purchased.

We tried teaching Walter the word “no” by filling a spray bottle with water and spritzing him while shouting “NO!” every time he started gnawing. Walter was unfazed by the water and just noshed away.

I finally decided to ascribe to the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Walter wanted to chew a baseboard, so I’d give him his very own baseboard to chew. I debated the method for accomplishing this for a while, unsure about how to affix wood blocks to the wire sides of his cage. Fortunately, my coworker came up with a clever idea: Using cable ties to secure chunks of wood between the slotted sides.

I bought a pack of 10 white plastic cable ties, and a pack of 10 stainless steel ones, too. I wasn’t sure which ones to use at first: the stainless steel ones would ensure that Walter wouldn’t eat the cable tie, but the sharp edge could be dangerous and, as it turned out, they were hard to pull tightly enough around the wood blocks. I decided to use the plastic ones, and fortunately Walter's teeth hasn't come near them (yet).

I also spent a while pondering what to use for the wood blocks. I read many conflicting articles about rabbit-safe woods, until I finally settled on the majority opinion: untreated pine. After wandering aimlessly in the lumber section of Home Depot for half an hour, I stumbled upon a bin of pine wood shims. They were untreated, about eight inches long, and could be grouped together to make a block thick enough to satisfy Walter’s need to chew.

I got home and set to work. I made three “baseboards” that were four shims thick. One was placed at rabbit-mouth-level in front of his litter box, the other at rabbit-mouth-level if he chose to sit on top of his wooden bungalow, and the third was set vertically in the other corner of his litter box, in case Walter felt like getting creative while chewing.

My hope was that Walter would spend enough of his cage-time while we’re at work chewing on these rabbit-friendly baseboards, and then no longer have the urge to chew on our actual baseboards during out-of-cage time. And it worked! ..For about three days.

Six weeks later, Paul and I got out our wood filler and paint cans and set to work on the baseboards.


  1. Hi there! I love this post. :) What was the outcome, did Walter stop eating your baseboards? How did you guys fix them? I kinda just want to paint ours but there are still chunks eaten out of them in some places.

    1. Hi Lilibeth,
      Walter was a baseboard chewer until his very last day. Lemon oil worked as a deterrent, but only temporarily. Sometimes I was successful in re-routing his attention to one of these hay logs, but I don't think it was a great solution since the logs didn't help him stay at a healthy weight.

      In the end, it took a lot of wood filler and sanding, and in some cases, actual reconstruction of a corner that he chewed down by an inch or two using wood shims. I've read that some people have success in putting up plastic wall shields along their baseboards, but that can certainly be an eyesore.

      Walter chewed a lot of furniture, but never went near anything from IKEA, so maybe using that type of material (MDF?) to cover your baseboards and then painting over it is a solution.

      Best of luck!

    2. "Until his very last day"? Did he die?! :'( Why didn't you post about it?

    3. He did :( I didn't post about it at the time because it was too sad and too hard for me to talk about. He picked up something during a weekend stay at the vet (of all places!) and didn't get treated in time. It was almost two years ago, and I still miss my wascally wabbit!