Here at the RWAF we are often asked about the safety or other wise of various plants in the garden.
However, one garden item I hadn’t considered until someone asked us recently about, is grass, not real grass, but the plastic artificial stuff which is becoming more and more popular recently. There are several issues with it from environmental and other perspectives, but this is all from a rabbit health and welfare angle.
In hot weather, specifically in direct sun, it can get extremely hot, whereas natural grass and earth are a substrate which moderates extremes of heat and cold. This could lead to foot injury in extreme cases. It doesn’t permit normal digging behaviour-in fact it actively prevents it! Any digging may damage it, and either digging, scratching at it, or finding a loose edge of it, provides material which, if chewed and eaten, could be harmful to rabbits. So, as an alternative to natural grass, we would advise against it.
However, it does have potential uses as an alternative to other solid outdoor floor materials, in that it is gentler on the underside of their feet than concrete, and may lift their feet partly off the floor, reducing the amount of weight borne by their hocks. It can also be power-washed and disinfected in a way that natural grass cannot, although that can lead to the area underneath becoming damp, mouldy and unpleasant.
It is horrible stuff for wildlife, from invertebrates up to rabbits and more, but it might have a role as a concrete cover for limited areas, in the shade, with care that it does it cause problems for any rabbits trying to dig it or eat it.
Dr Richard Saunders
BVSc DZooMed MRCVS