Q. I have an 18-month-old neutered dutch house rabbit called Ben. I rescued him about a year ago and he is a delight, but we have a very big problem. He chews the sofa and we can't seem to stop him. We tried bitter apple spray but it hasn't worked. Any ideas would be really helpful. Henry, Wimbledon, London SW18
A. Rabbits are the third most popular pet in Britain, but there are still more than 30,000 in rescue centres (so well done for taking Ben into your home). It's no surprise that Ben likes your sofa: bunnies can spend up to 70 per cent of their active time eating! This keeps them healthy, and is essential to wear down their constantly growing front teeth. As you've got an indoor rabbit, he will have limited space to run around, so perhaps he is getting bored. This could be one of the reasons he is chewing the sofa. What you need to do is provide him with things you want him to chew. Great natural alternatives are branches from apple and willow trees, or the internet will have endless supplies of rabbit toys.
Since he likes chewing, make sure your house has been rabbit-proofed. Take away any unwanted temptations like electrical cords for a start. You could also try covering the chewable areas of your sofa with tin foil to discourage him, although this is not the most aesthetic option. A more practical idea is to clap your hands and firmly say "no" if your bunny chews the sofa, giving him a toy to chew instead. There are elements in the sofa's fabric that could be harmful if consumed in large quantities, so another plan is to buy a small playpen for "time out". When you've said "no" and Ben still goes back to chew the sofa, put him in the play pen for a couple of minutes. Good luck!
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended