Cheese – it’s an irresistible snack for humans and rabbits alike. But can our furry friends safely indulge in a creamy bite of cheddar or swiss? What are the risks and how much is too much? Is a taste of your cheese plate a death sentence for bucks and does? Before you reach for the cheese grater, read on to learn the truth about rabbits and cheese. We’ll dig into why cheese is a dicey choice for rabbits, signs of trouble after eating it, and how much cheese is too much. You may be surprised to find out that while rabbits are crazy for cheese, they aren’t well-equipped to digest it. Find out why and how to treat your rabbit to cheese in a safer way.
Why Can’t Rabbits Have Cheese?
Cheese is not recommended for rabbits for a few key reasons. First, rabbits are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest the lactose found in dairy products like cheese. When rabbits eat lactose, it can cause digestive upsets like diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Their digestive systems simply aren't equipped to handle dairy.
Second, rabbits need to eat a high fiber diet to keep their digestive tracts working properly. Cheese lacks the indigestible fiber that rabbits require from hay and vegetables. Feeding too much cheese can throw off the balance of gut bacteria and cause issues like "poopy butt" from soft stools sticking to the rabbit's fur.
Finally, cheese is very high in fat and calories compared to the diet rabbits naturally eat. In the wild, rabbits don't eat high fat foods, so their bodies aren't adapted to processing large amounts of fat well. Too much fat and calories in a rabbit's diet can lead to obesity and related health problems like heart disease and arthritis.
While small nibbles of cheese likely won't harm an adult rabbit every so often, it should not be a regular part of their diet. Kits and juvenile rabbits are even more susceptible to digestive issues from dairy. Some good rules of thumb are:
- Avoid feeding cheese to rabbits under 6 months old
- Limit cheese to a teaspoon-sized treat once a week for adults
- Only feed high-quality cheeses, not processed cheese foods high in fat and salt
- Watch for signs of an upset stomach or loose stool after eating dairy
- Never allow unlimited access to cheese
It's far better to offer healthy rabbit-safe treats like hay cubes, strawberries, herb sprigs, or rabbit treats made with wholesome ingredients. Use fruit and veggies for training instead of cheese. With a proper rabbit diet of hay, leafy greens, vegetables, and rabbit pellets, they don't need the extra fat and calories from cheese anyway. If you really want to share a nibble of your cheese plate with bunny, just be sure to do so in strict moderation.
Help, I Fed My Rabbit Cheese
If you accidentally gave your rabbit a larger amount of cheese than recommended, don't panic. Here are some tips on what to do next:
Monitor your rabbit closely for the next 24 hours for any signs of GI upset. Look for changes in eating and pooping habits, loose stool, lack of appetite, or lethargy.
Encourage them to drink more water to help flush out their system. Try offering fresh herbs like cilantro or mint to stimulate their appetite.
Reduce pellets and treats for the next day or two to allow their digestion to rest. Focus their diet on hay and leafy greens.
If you see diarrhea, gassiness, grinding teeth, or other signs of stomach upset, call your vet. They may recommend a GI support medication or probiotic.
Never give mineral oil, milk, yogurt, or other dairy products to try and soothe an upset stomach, as this will make matters worse for a lactose intolerant bunny.
Monitor closely for the next 24-48 hours until stools return to normal and bunny iseating and acting normally again. Extended diarrhea or decreased appetite warrants a vet visit.
In the future, stick to bunny-safe treats like hay, herbs, and fruits so you won't have to worry.
The good news is that since rabbits are herbivores, their digestive systems are made to tolerate plant toxins. So while cheese may cause some upset, it’s very rarely life-threatening unless they’ve eaten a huge quantity. With supportive care at home and monitoring for the next day or two, bunny should bounce back just fine. Just be sure to limit cheese treats moving forward now that you know it doesn’t agree with your rabbit’s tummy.
Do Rabbits Like Cheese?
Given the chance, most rabbits will readily eat cheese even though it may cause digestive upset. Why is that? Here are some reasons why rabbits are drawn to cheese, even though it's not nutritionally appropriate for them:
Curiosity – Rabbits explore the world through tasting it, so a novel food like cheese is intriguing.
Smell – Cheese has a very aromatic, distinctive scent that attracts a rabbit's sensitive nose.
Fat content – The high fat content delivers a lot of palatability, which rabbits find appealing.
Salt content – The saltiness of many cheeses may appeal to a rabbit's taste preferences.
Texture – Soft, creamy cheeses are pleasing to a rabbit's discriminating palate.
Associated cheese flavors – Herby flavors like chives or pepper in cheese may remind rabbits of fresh plants and appeal to them.
So in short, while cheese may not be digestively ideal for rabbits, the taste, smell and texture of it is quite appealing to their senses. This explains why even well-fed pet rabbits will beg for a bite of their owner's cheese snack. Given their enjoyment of cheese and inability to self-regulate intake, it falls upon the rabbit owner to restrict access. With good alternatives like fruits and herbs on hand, most rabbits will soon forget about cheese once it's no longer offered. A small amount on very rare occasions as a treat for your rabbit is understandable, but cheese should never become a regular part of your rabbit's diet.
Will A Rabbit Die If It Eats Cheese?
It's very unlikely that a rabbit would die from a singular moderate ingestion of cheese. However, there are a few risks to be aware of:
Baby rabbits under 3 months old are more prone to serious digestive upset from any dairy products, including cheese. Diarrhea in very young rabbits can become life-threatening if it causes dangerous dehydration levels.
A large amount of cheese given as a single feeding is riskier than a small amount. Too much fat and lactose at once is more likely to cause acute GI issues.
Rabbits with underlying metabolic or GI issues may have a more severe reaction to cheese.
Lactose intolerance varies between rabbits based on gut flora. Some may have more significant diarrhea, making them prone to dehydration.
Extended diarrhea for more than 24 hours without treatment can potentially be fatal if the rabbit cannot absorb nutrition and becomes severely dehydrated.
In very rare cases, a rabbit could have an anaphylactic reaction and go into GI statis or shock, requiring emergency veterinary care.
So while a healthy adult rabbit would likely tolerate a small cheese treat with minimal issues, there are risks with overfeeding that warrant caution and moderation. Knowing the signs of a GI slowdown are key – if you see diarrhea, poor appetite, lethargy, grinding teeth, stomach gurgling, or other signs of discomfort, seek veterinary advice right away. With supportive care, most cheese-related GI episodes can be resolved within 24-48 hours allowing the digestive tract to reset. Going forward, stick to healthy bunny-approved treats so cheese-related risks can be avoided.
Cheese is not an ideal food choice for pet rabbits. Rabbits are lactose intolerant, need a high fiber diet, and should not eat high fat foods regularly. However, small amounts given infrequently to adult rabbits are unlikely to be harmful. If a rabbit overeats cheese, monitor them closely for diarrhea and get veterinary advice if GI upset lasts more than 24 hours. While cheese should not be a regular part of a rabbit's diet, the occasional nibble rarely has severe consequences as long as portion sizes are controlled by a diligent bunny owner. With a balanced diet of hay, vegetables, and rabbit pellets, cheese is an unnecessary addition anyway. By understanding the risks and sticking to moderation, cheese can be an occasional nibble but should not be a dietary staple for your bunny.