When we think of rabbits, most of us picture a soft fluffy, long-eared, white-tailed, cute animal – right? What happens when we keep rabbits on the homestead and need to give them daily care? How do we look after a rabbit’s daily needs? Do we really know what to feed a rabbit? Grabbing a hand full of dry pellets at the petting zoo or leaving out a few carrot tops at a vacation farm might be fun, but what human food can a rabbit actually eat?
Some human foods are suitable for rabbits. Foods like snap peas, watermelon, oranges, leafy greens, and carrot tops are suitable for rabbits to eat, while others, like iceberg lettuce and avocados, are toxic for rabbits. These foods are best fed to the rabbits in their raw state rather than cooked.
While there are plenty of fresh foods for rabbits to eat, some foods that are consumed by humans are just not good enough or healthy enough for rabbits to eat! Some are more obvious, like burgers, but what about simple everyday foods like bread?
Human Foods That Rabbits Can Eat
As Humans, we often refer to lettuce, carrots, and generally any type of fresh salad ingredients as “rabbit food.” Does this mean that rabbits can eat what Humans eat and vice-versa? Indeed, rabbits can eat Human foods, but in moderation! What Human foods can a rabbit eat without causing itself harm?
A rabbit should primarily eat fresh, healthy foods, and although most of its daily dietary requirements should be made up of fresh grass and hay, 10 -20% of its daily diet can consist of fresh fruit and vegetables – Human foods. Always make sure that at least 75% of the fresh produce is made up of leafy greens as these provide most of the nutrients, antioxidants, and moisture that rabbits require.
As a rule, most leafy greens that are good for humans to eat are safe for rabbits to eat, with a few exceptions.
A good healthy diet for a rabbit should include plenty of fiber, minerals, and vitamins while being low in sugar. Dark green vegetables, apples, carrot tops, and generally any fresh fruit and vegetables will provide your rabbit with all the nutrition that they need to stay healthy. Always make sure that your rabbit has a full bowl of freshwater every day.
Here is a quick list of readily available human foodstuffs that most people have in their fridge that can be fed to rabbits:
- Snap Peas. Should only be given to a rabbit as a treat and only one pod per 4lbs (1.8 kg’s) of body weight at a time.
- Watermelon. A sweet treat but high in sugar, so only in moderation.
- Oranges. Remove the peel first; oranges help to eliminate toxins in the colon.
- Carrots. Carrots contain a lot of sugar, so don’t allow the rabbits to eat too many – carrot tops are a healthier option.
- Lettuce. Stay away from lighter lettuce like Iceberg. Iceberg lettuce is toxic to rabbits! Rather opt for darker lettuce leaves as they are healthier.
- Broccoli leaves. An excellent choice that is considered a superfood for rabbits and humans as they are rich in vitamins and minerals! Most vegetable leaves are super healthy for rabbits.
- Bell peppers. Remove the core of the pepper and the seeds before feeding to your rabbit and only feed in moderation, once or twice a week.
- Celery. It can be included in your rabbit’s daily diet.
- Cilantro. An excellent source of magnesium but introduce slowly to your rabbits’ diet and watch out for an irritated tummy.
- Apples. No more than 1 to 2 slices a week as they have high sugar content.
- Pineapple. Fresh pineapple centers contain an enzyme beneficial to a rabbit’s stomach.
- Blueberries. Low in sugar, but only feed 1 or 2 to your rabbit at a time.
- Bananas. Rabbits love bananas but don’t give them too many as they are high in sugar. They may also grow accustomed to the taste and prefer eating them over grass or hay!
- Pellets. A good source of vitamins but only give a rabbit about a tablespoon a day.
- Tea leaves. Used tea leaves can be fed to rabbits immediately after use.
When introducing new fruits and vegetables to your rabbits’ diet, try small portions first as some rabbits can be allergic to certain foods and may develop a rash or an upset tummy leading to diarrhea.
Can My Rabbit Eat Bread?
While bread is a favorite food amongst humans, it should never be given to your rabbit to eat! The main culprit in bread is starch, which rabbits cannot digest. Feeding bread to a rabbit will result in stomach and intestinal problems such as stomach ulcers and diarrhea.
Some people do feed small pieces of bread to their rabbits as a treat, but this should only be on occasion and should never be white bread due to the complex carbohydrates which the rabbit will have a hard time digesting. Better choices are brown or wholemeal bread.
In addition to stomach problems, rabbits could also develop weight and health problems if they eat bread too often. They could become obese and inactive.
Can I Feed My Rabbit Scraps?
Your rabbit can eat kitchen food scraps if they are on the list of foodstuffs that a rabbit would naturally eat. Most fresh kitchen scraps are acceptable, with onions, garlic, and raw beans being the exception.
Introduce kitchen food scraps in moderation to your rabbit’s diet and always make sure that the majority of their daily food intake is grass, hay, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A varied diet can include treats and scraps from time to time.
Be careful with the veggies that cause gas – cabbage, kale, cauliflower, etc., as some rabbits can digest them properly while others will become bloated and uncomfortable.
As an extra special treat for your rabbits, but no more than once or twice a week, chop up apples (no seeds), bananas, a handful of berries – blackberries, strawberries, oranges, and grapes into a fruit salad and feed to them! A great way to use up your older fruit!
What Should I Not Feed To My Rabbit?
While many fresh fruits and vegetables are safe for rabbits to eat, there are some human foods that rabbits cannot tolerate and could possibly be fatal to your rabbit:
- Avodaco. Avocado is certainly one of the most dangerous foods for rabbits, causing breathing problems and possible heart failure.
- Meat. Rabbits are vegan and will get sick if they eat meat.
- Dairy products. Should not be fed to rabbits.
- Potatoes. High in starch and difficult for a rabbit to digest.
- Rice. Although not poisonous, rice can cause bloating and tummy troubles.
- Coffee beans. Caffeine is toxic, so no chocolate either!
Other foods such as dog and cat food, muesli, and nuts are not toxic, but they can lead to potential digestive problems such as diarrhea if a rabbit eats these foods too often.
Can My Rabbits Eat Cooked Vegetables?
In moderation, cooked veggies are fine for rabbits, depending on how they are cooked. If you are feeding your left-over cooked veggies, swimming in butter, sauce, spices, and garlic to your rabbits, then you will have some very sick rabbits on your hands! Steamed or boiled veggies that are on the list of acceptable veggies should be ok – again, no sugars, salts, or spices, and always in moderation!
Much of the inherent nutritional value is lost during the cooking process, so fresh is always best for rabbits!
It is our duty and responsibility as humans to care for and love the animals, whether domestic, farm or wild, in our care.
This includes taking care of their dietary requirements on a daily basis and providing for their needs. We must diligently make sure that they have access to fresh food and water as well as health care when they need it.
There are many commercially produced foods available for animals, but if we can feed them healthy, natural food as much as possible, then we will reap the benefits of having our animals around to enjoy and love!
Fresh foods can be as beneficial to animals as they are to humans and can contribute to a long, healthy life!