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Rabbits/Feline Pine Still Safe If No Longer Kiln-Dried?

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Hi Dana

Thanks in advance for your expert help. I've used Feline Pine in my bunny litter boxes for twelve years. About a year ago, I noticed a much stronger smell from the litter than usual. Concerned, I phoned the company (the phone number on the bag) and asked if they were still kiln-drying their litter. (I had been told Feline Pine was safe to use with rabbits because it had been kiln-dried, and that pine that has not been kiln-dried is not safe).

The company customer service rep answered that the company had recently been sold, and she could not confirm that the manufacturing process was still the same. She contacted their product specialists  for an answer (I was not allowed me to speak to them directly). The answer that came back was that they cannot recommend Feline Pine for rabbits and that they cannot confirm kiln-drying. I felt I'd received a incomplete or mistranslated response, so I tried phoning again some time later and asked the same question of a different customer service representative. Once again, I was not allowed to speak with a product specialist, and the answer came back ambiguous, but again with the implication that kiln-drying is not being performed.  

At that point, I switched to another composting litter, then to yet another, but neither one could control the urine odor for my multiple rabbits. Since no one on the forums was complaining about Feline Pine, I finally shrugged and went back to using it.

Now it's a year later, and the pellets in my three most-recently-purchased bags of Feline Pine are distinctly more aromatic and oily even than before. I'm really concerned about the fumes, and wonder if Feline Pine has changed its processing procedures yet again.

Dana, is Feline Pine still safe to use, even if the company's been sold, the smell is strong, and the new owners will not confirm that the product's still being kiln-dried? What do you think about wood stove pellets or Woody Pets, for use with rabbits? If there is a strong pine odor on opening a bag of litter, should that be a concern for us rabbit people?

Thanks again for your insights.

Jessica

Answer
Dear Jessica,

We've been using horse bedding for many years, since Feline Pine (and offshoots) are so expensive.  Not really sure if our bedding is kiln-dried, either.  But they do smell of pine, to some degree.

I think that people's concern over plant aromatics is valid, but sometimes overblown.  If the litterbox is in a well-ventilated area and the bunny doesn't spend all day in the litterbox, there is little reason to be concerned.  If you've been using the pellets for a year or so, I'd recommend you have your bunny undergo blood work to check his liver enzymes, which are the main thing we'd expect to be affected by low-grade exposure to toxic substances.  My guess is you won't see a problem...but I could be wrong.

We cover the pellets with a layer of soft hay, which will help mask the aromatics.  

I have never seen a study that showed whether pelleted sawdust was harmful or not, but that doesn't mean it's completely benign.  Still, I have no intention of stopping use of these pellets, as I think the benefits far outweigh any slight risk.

The jury's still out.  But I, for one, do not believe that a well-ventilated litterbox area with pine pellets poses a serious health risk.

Hope that helps.

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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