Rabbits are herbivores, but does that mean that all plants are safe and healthy for them to eat? The surprising answer is no! There are plenty of things that you should not be feeding your rabbit that might seem perfectly healthy.
The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is fiber. They absolutely need cellulose (plant cell walls and vegetable fibers) in order to survive. Fiber is such an integral part of their diet that they have a special organ called the cecum, whose sole purpose is to help process all that fiber. In the cecum, the fiber is exposed to healthy bacteria & yeasts which helps break down & ferment the materials.
The fermented materials are then excreted in cecotropes, which the rabbit eats to absorb all the vitamins & fats from the fiber. It’s a delicate system that can easily be disrupted by excess sugars & starches causing bloating, constipation, or out of whack gastrointestinal bacterial growth. Click here to read more about preventing rabbit GI Stasis
Following is not an all-inclusive list of things you shouldn’t feed your rabbit, but just some of the major foods to avoid. If you are unsure if a food is safe for your bunny, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Remember fresh hay should make up the largest part of your rabbit’s diet, followed by quality rabbit pellets (about 1/2 cup per rabbit per day), with fresh veggies as “treats” or supplemental.
What Not to Feed Rabbits
Bread, crackers, cereal, rice…..none of these are healthy for your rabbit friend. Anything high in carbohydrates should be avoided.
Chips, cookies, candy….these aren’t healthy for humans and they are extra unhealthy for rabbits. Foods that are high in sugar or artificial ingredients can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in their gut, throwing their whole digestive system out of whack. It could even cause the digestive system to shut down entirely which will result in death. Especially do not allow your rabbit to eat chocolate. While we might find this a tasty treat, it is poisonous to rabbits.
Meat & Eggs
It may seem obvious as your rabbit is a herbivore, but it bears mentioning. Please don’t feed meat to your bunny, they are not equipped to digest it! The same goes for eggs and any other animal products.
Milk & dairy products like yogurt, butter, & ice cream can lead to a deadly case of enterotoxemia (a toxic overgrowth of harmful intestinal bacteria). They are also really high in natural sugars that could cause teeth or digestive problems. Click here to learn more about caring for rabbit teeth
Nuts & Nut Products
While rabbits can digest nuts and small amounts are not fatal, they are very high in fat which could give your bunny an upset tummy. They also offer no nutritional value for rabbits so it’s best to just avoid them.
This one might be shocking, but light-colored lettuces like Iceberg contain high levels of lactucarium which can cause runny stools. Iceberg lettuce is also mostly water and has very little nutritional content. Stick to darker leafy greens like romaine lettuce or kale.
Another shocker as rabbits & carrots seem to go hand in hand. Carrots aren’t poisonous, but they are really high in calcium & natural sugars which is bad for gut health & teeth. Carrots should be given as only a rare treat. The leafy carrot tops are great for rabbits though, can be eaten daily, and they love them!
For most animals, eating plants from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant to name a few) can be toxic and rabbits are no exception. They should not eat the leaves or stems of the plants. You should also avoid feeding them raw potatoes or peels. Cooked potatoes are not toxic but are high in carbs & starch so don’t make a healthy treat. Tomatoes and peppers themselves are fine to feed in small amounts.
Rhubarb leaves contain dangerously high levels of oxalic acid which can cause serious kidney damage leading to death. All parts of rhubarb & rhubarb plants should be avoided.
All parts of the avocado are poisonous to rabbits. The skin, leaves, and seeds are the most toxic parts, but the actual “meat” of the avocado is also toxic.
Not toxic, but high in sugar & phosphorus, they are not a great treat for bunny friends. Pea shoots are healthy for them though – and they love them!
Again, not toxic, but cauliflower can give your bunnies gas and make them bloated and uncomfortable.
Rabbits can’t digest the corn hull (the part that surrounds the kernel), and they could become lodged in the GI tract.
Apples themselves make a good occasional treat, but make sure the seeds have been removed as they can contain toxic levels of arsenic for a tiny bunny body.
So what can you feed your rabbit?
While hay & rabbit pellets should make up a large portion of your rabbit’s diet, fresh veggies should also be offered on a daily basis (about 1 cup per rabbit per day). Click here to read more about feeding wool rabbits. Some great everyday options include:
- romaine or dark leaf lettuce
- carrot tops
- collard greens
- celery & celery leaves
- broccoli leaves
- bok choy
- clover or dandelion leaves & flowers
- mustard greens
- herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, or watercress
For special occasional treats, you can offer fruit like apples, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pears, mango, papaya, peaches, pineapple, or grapes.