The bulk of a rabbits diet should be made up of fibre grass and hay, with vegetables and other plants making up a smaller proportion of the overall intake. However, whilst some plants are safe to feed, others should be avoided and knowing which category each falls into can be confusing.
Plants – safe or dangerous
Rabbits are unable to vomit so if they eat anything that is poisonous, they may not show an initial reaction but may suffer from subsequent problems. Poisonous plants can affect rabbits in different ways and with varying severity, ranging from increased salivation, skin allergies, heart and breathing problems, stomach problems and even death.
If you suspect your rabbit may have eaten something poisonous, keep it warm, quiet and ensure it has access to plenty of fresh water and hay. You should also telephone your vet if you believe your rabbit has eaten something potentially poisonous. If your vet suggests you bring your rabbit to the surgery try to take a sample of the suspect plant along to help your vet come to a diagnosis.
The lists of plants below are not comprehensive they include the most common plants, vegetables and fruits. If a plant is not listed, don’t assume that it is safe for your rabbit, and if you are unsure if something is safe to feed or not, then it is best avoided to be on the safe side.
Introduce any new plants gradually as rabbits can develop gastrointestinal problems in response to abrupt changes in their diet. Conditions such as diarrhoea or bloat may occur. Also after a couple of hours remove any uneaten plants from the cage as they may become mouldy and begin to ferment which can cause bloating.
All plants should be rinsed with water to remove any residues. Also remember that the fruits and vegetables given to rabbits should be free from pesticides and avoid plants collected from parks, roadsides or fields they may be contaminated by exhaust fumes leaving lead deposits, pesticides, herbicides and faeces and urine from dogs, cats or wild animals.
Grass clippings must not be fed – they start to ferment very quickly and can cause digestive disturbances.
Many houseplants are also poisonous so if you have a houserabbit, keep all plants out of their reach.
Plants safe to feed to your rabbit:
- Beet tops
- Brussel sprouts
- Carrot (tops and root)
- Fresh grass
- Green, red and yellow peppers
Plants that are safe in the garden:
- Clover (but not red clover)
- Dandelion (small amounts as it is a diurectic/laxative!)
- All plants grown from bulbs, including Daffodil, Snowdrop, Tulip, Anemone, Arum, Bluebell
- Dog Mercury
- Deadly nightshade
- Evergreens, e.g. yew
- Fools parsley
- Frozen or wet greens/vegetables
- Ground ivy
- Jerusalem Cherry
- Leyland Cypress
- Lily of the Valley
- Lords and Ladies
- Love in a mist
- Marsh marigold
- Monk’s hood
- Morning Glory
- Plum branches
- Potato tops
- Red clover
- St John’s wort
- Tomato leaves
- Woody nighshade
Treats should only be given to your rabbit in small amounts. Overfeeding of treats and/or food low in fibre can lead to obesity, dental problems, heart and gastrointestinal problems. Treats can, however, be a useful training aid as a reward for good or required behaviour. Avoid giving foods that are high in sugar, fat or starch.
Treats to be given in small amounts
- Brussel sprouts
- Cabbage; savoy and kale
- Corn on the cob
- Carrot tops
- Raspberry canes
- Sweet potato
- Strawberry leaves
- Bread (must be dried or very well toasted)
Treats to avoid
- Raisins (very high in sugar)
- Refined sugar
In the wild rabbits eat mainly grass and the bulk of your rabbit’s diet should also comprise mainly grass or hay. Don’t forget to provide fresh water – although if you rabbit eats mainly grass then less water is likely to be drunk than if it eats mainly pelleted food.