Rabbits require a specialized diet to thrive, but well-meaning pet owners can sometimes feed unsafe foods. Knowing exactly what NOT to feed your bunny is key to preventing serious digestive issues, weight problems, or even poisoning. While carrots and lettuce might seem like obvious choices, certain elements can cause more harm than good. Even pre-packaged rabbit treats and foods may contain questionable ingredients. This definitive guide details the most hazardous foods, plants, and additives that could put your rabbit’s health at risk. We’ll also cover healthier alternatives so your furry friend can still enjoy treats and variety in their dining experience. Ready to rabbit-proof your kitchen? Let’s hop to it!
Unhealthy pellet mixes
Many commercial rabbit pellet mixes contain unhealthy fillers and additives. Look for pellets made from plain timothy hay or grass hay without added sugars, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, or colored bits. These extra ingredients can lead to obesity and digestive issues in rabbits. Stick to plain pellets in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Bad vegetables: potatoes, onions, and more
Certain vegetables should be avoided or limited for rabbits. Potatoes, both white and sweet, are high in starch and sugars which can cause blood sugar spikes. Onions, leeks, shallots and related veggies contain compounds that can damage a rabbit’s red blood cells. Iceberg lettuce provides little nutritional value. Other veggies to limit include parsnips, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and summer squash which have higher glycemic indexes.
Cereal and processed grains
Grains like wheat, rice, oats, corn, and processed cereals should not be fed to rabbits. The high starch and calorie contents promote weight gain and GI problems. Rabbits strictly require hay and greens for their fiber and vitamin needs. Avoid breads, crackers, oatmeal, granola, cereal mixes, and other grain-based products.
Store-bought rabbit treats
Many commercial rabbit treats are packed with added sugars, salt, oils, dairy and unhealthy grains. Stick to wholesome homemade treats in moderation, such as:
– Small pieces of fresh fruit like apple or banana
– Plain air-popped popcorn
– Herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil
– A few rolled oats or dried timothy hay cubes
Iceberg lettuce is very low in nutrients with high water content. It provides minimal nutritional value for rabbits. Choose leafy greens that offer more vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, fiber and antioxidants instead, like romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, mustard greens and bok choy.
Most nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds tend to be calorie and fat dense, causing weight gain in rabbits. They also contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid that prevent absorption of some minerals. Avoid peanuts, almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Small amounts of rolled oats are ok.
Beans, peas, lentils, soy and peanuts have moderate protein but the high lectin content can damage the rabbit’s GI tract lining when eaten regularly. Also limit starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, parsnips and squash that are higher in lectins.
Rabbits are lactose intolerant like most mammals, lacking the enzyme needed to properly digest milk sugar. Never feed products with lactose like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream or butter which cause painful gas and diarrhea. Rabbits also cannot process the proteins in dairy.
Toxic plants: Lilies, Ivy, and more
Many household and garden plants are toxic to rabbits and can cause organ failure or death. Lilies, daffodils, foxglove, oleander, ivy, philodendron, cyclamen, and yew plants are extremely dangerous. Research non-toxic vegetables, herbs, flowers and houseplants for your bunny’s environment.
What to feed rabbits in very small quantities
Sweet fruits and vegetables
Fruits like bananas, grapes, melon and apples are healthy for rabbits but contain natural sugars. Limit to 1-2 tablespoons per 5 lbs body weight, 2-3x per week. Carrots and beets have more sugars so feed smaller portions.
Leafy greens with oxalic acid
Some leafy greens like spinach, beet greens and swiss chard are nutritious but high in oxalates which bind minerals. Feed no more than 1 cup 2-3x per week. Provide plenty of other veggies low in oxalates like kale, romaine and cilantro regularly.
Timothy hay pellets provide balanced protein and vitamins but excess pellets lead to obesity. Limit to 1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight for a medium sized adult rabbit, adjusted for age and size. Feed alongside plenty of hay and greens.