When people think of rabbits, the first image that pops into their mind is one of Bugs Bunny snacking on a carrot. This leads people to believe that carrots are the main food source for rabbits, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, most people don’t realize that there are a lot of foods that rabbits should and shouldn’t eat, and some of them will surprise you. Certain vegetables and commercial food can cause health problems for rabbits, but we’re here to help you realize what is safer food for rabbits and what you should keep far away from them.
Just like with any animal, there are rules to follow if you want to keep them happy and healthy.
Lettuce Isn’t Their Friend
While not all lettuces are bad for rabbits, it is a general rule that you shouldn’t give any lettuce to your rabbit and you shouldn’t have it as the base of their diet. Certain types such as iceberg lettuce contain a chemical called lactucarium and when it is eaten in large quantities it can be harmful to rabbits.
As well as this, many of the variants that are light colored contain a lot of water and aren’t very nutritional, making them pointless. However, if you do want to give your rabbit lettuce you are better off giving them romaine lettuce, which is darker and high in fiber.
Common Vegetables Can be Bad
We’ve already touched upon the fact that rabbits don’t naturally eat carrots out in the wild and can be bad for them as they are high in sugar. Every so often they will suffice as a small treat, but they shouldn’t be a staple in their diet.
Other common vegetables that should be avoided are cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, swedes and tomato leaves. Avoid giving them spinach, mustard greens, and parsley as they contain high levels of oxalic acid and can be dangerous. Onions, leeks, and chives are also bad as there is a chance it can cause abnormalities in the blood.
If you want to give them vegetables then make sure to include Brussel sprouts, celery, watercress, bell peppers, broccoli and kale in their diet. Fruit can be given as a treat but should be limited to apple and banana, and only in small amounts.
Be Careful When Roaming the Garden
When the weather is warm outside, a lot of owners will put their rabbit in a pen or let them roam the garden freely. This allows them to exercise and enjoy the fresh air, as well as eating the fresh grass. However, there are certain plants and flowers that could be dangerous to rabbits which might seem harmless to us.
Plants like buttercups, clovers, daffodils, foxglove, hemlock, honeysuckle, ivy, poppies and tulips shouldn’t be eaten by rabbits. Only allow your rabbit on the grassy areas that have no plants, especially the clovers, which can cause gas. This is bad for rabbits as they have no way to release the gas and it will eventually lead to bloating and a trip to the vets.
Hay Isn’t Just for Bedding
Many people think that hay is only good for rabbit’s bedding, but it is actually their main source of food as it is available to them all the time. It should be fresh and dust-free, with Timothy hay being the choice for many as it contains a lot of nutrients.
However, alfalfa hay isn’t a good choice as it contains too much calcium and can be bad for your rabbit’s health. You should always check the levels of hay in your rabbit’s hutch every day and top it up when needed.
Don’t Give Them Lots of Commercial Food
When we talk about commercial food, we are referring to pellets, nuggets or muesli, which is often suggested to be included in a rabbit’s diet. The problem with this food is that it can cause weight gain in rabbits and prevent them from eating good food, such as hay.
Muesli, in particular, is bad as it can cause teeth and tummy problems in rabbits, but a small number of pellets/nuggets should be given each day. This is to help ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need, which might not be in their other food.
Looking after and feeding a rabbit correctly doesn’t have to be difficult. You can offer them variety in their diet with a mixture of safe fruit and vegetables, a small number of pellets, time outdoors eating grass and plenty of hay. They’ll be jumping of joy when they get a taste of it all.