There’s a bunch of rabbit-friendly foods you can pick up from the store or grow at home to feed your furry friend.
But do you know what foods are often mistakenly given to pet rabbits?
You might be surprised to see some of these myths debunked in this article.
The Importance of a Rabbit’s Diet
Rabbits need a specific, balanced diet to be as healthy as possible. If they don’t eat an appropriate diet, they could face some serious health issues.
One of the worst issues that your rabbit can get is gastrointestinal (GI) stasis – a digestional issue where the bacteria in your rabbit’s gut is unbalanced. It causes painful gas that’ll make your rabbit’s health deteriorate to the point where they could lose their life without immediate vet treatment.
Through television, the media, and outdated practices, many people have incorrect information on what to feed rabbits.
Keep reading to find out some of the most interesting and shocking rabbit diet myths, and the truth explained.
Myths About a Rabbit’s Diet
1. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Grass Clippings
You might be surprised to see grass clippings at the top of the myth list – but it’s absolutely a myth!
Rabbits can eat fresh grass that’s still in the ground, or if it’s cut and fed to them immediately. Grass is essential for wild rabbits to get fiber, and domesticated rabbits love a feast of grass too.
But once the lawn is mown, the grass clippings quickly start to ferment. If your rabbit eats this, they’ll get sick straight away.
You should also always check that the grass has no chemicals on, and is still fresh before letting your rabbit go near it.
For more information, check out: Can Rabbits Eat Grass Clippings?
2. Myth: Rabbits Eat Carrots All the Time
Bugs Bunny is notorious for eating carrots, but you may be surprised to learn that raw carrots should only be an occasional treat for your rabbit – not a staple in their diet.
Carrots are super sugary and can cause obesity, dental issues, and digestive issues if eaten too often. Your rabbit will probably love the taste of their carrot treat, but you do need to limit the amount that you’re giving them.
A healthy, adult rabbit (average-sized) can have one-quarter of a medium-sliced carrot up to twice per week. You should then switch the carrot for a different treat for a while.
For more information – like health benefits, potential risks, and FAQ – check out: Can Rabbits Eat Carrots?
3. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Anything from the Garden
If you have a secure yard, you might put your rabbits outside in nicer weather for some grass and to stretch their legs. But while this is a brilliant habit that’s beneficial for your rabbits, you have to be extra cautious if you do this.
Not everything in the garden is rabbit-friendly, despite being plant-based (and in theory, safe). Though rabbits are herbivores and wild rabbits survive from foraging, not everything available is safe for your rabbit to eat.
Some examples of garden flowers and weeds that are harmful to rabbits include buttercups, tulips, poppies, ivy, and jasmine. There are certain foods that are sometimes grown at home that can be problematic if your rabbit eats them too – such as apple seeds and branches, potatoes, and tomatoes.
4. Myth: Rabbits Can Only Drink Water
Let me start by saying that water is essential for rabbits. Water should be the main liquid that they drink and is extremely important for rabbits to keep hydrated.
But in certain circumstances, rabbits can drink other things. For example, your rabbit can have fresh orange juice diluted with water to persuade a reluctant rabbit to drink. They can have apple juice providing that the fruit juices have no extra added ingredients too.
This home remedy is especially useful in warm weather and as a special reward or trick to make your rabbit drink. As with anything, you should check with a vet if you’re worried about your pet, and before you use home remedies like this.
But it’s worth noting that rabbits can’t have any other beverages including fizzy drinks, alcohol, or any water that isn’t still or mineral. As a rule of thumb, rabbits should just drink water, and if necessary a small amount of orange or apple juice can be added to their drink.
5. Myth: Rabbits Should Drink Water from a Bottle
Your rabbit needs water, clean drinking water that’s frequently replenished and kept topped up throughout the day (more often when multiple rabbits are sharing or if it’s particularly hot).
When choosing a container for water, the choices are usually a bowl of some sort or a bottle.
Contrary to popular belief, bowls are far better for your rabbit than bottles. It’s a more natural way to drink (mimicking the wild), allows your rabbit to drink more, and is better for your rabbit’s teeth.
As with anything, there can be downsides to bowls that might make bottles seem like a better option. For instance, bottles hold more water, can’t be tipped over, and won’t be soiled in any way.
But despite any shortcomings, bowls are better for your rabbit. Try getting a heavier ceramic bowl and placing it separate from your rabbit’s litter tray. But if all else fails, a bottle is fine.
6. Myth: Rabbits Eat the Same Food All the Time
It’s easy to fall into a rut with your rabbit’s food. Too often, rabbit owners get stuck in a routine of feeding their rabbit pellets and the same vegetables and treats day in day out.
It’s important to vary their diet. This includes switching up the treats that they have once or twice per week, for example, one-week banana, the next apple slices, and then strawberries.
Your rabbit should have up to five leafy greens mixed together for their daily vegetable allowance.
This means they’ll get a wide range of nutrients from different foods, and it’ll prevent boredom. If your rabbit has kale, spinach, watercress, and cilantro one week for their meal, then they should have different vegetables the following week.
Variation is key here, and your rabbit will thank you for it.
7. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Leftovers
With other pets, you might be able to feed them your leftovers with little ill effect. This isn’t a habit you should apply to your rabbits, however.
Most human food won’t agree with your rabbit’s digestion, including anything cooked, any meat products, anything dairy, and so much more. Your rabbit would eat pretty much anything you offered them – they eat even if they’re not hungry and don’t differentiate between healthy food and food that’s toxic to them.
If anything, any food you share with your rabbit should be chopped up raw vegetables that you’ve checked are suitable for rabbits to eat.
Find out more on this topic in this post.
8. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Iceberg Lettuce
A lot of people think rabbits can eat iceberg lettuce as a snack. This isn’t the case though, as iceberg lettuce contains a natural opiate called lactucarium that has a sedative effect on your rabbit’s central nervous system.
It also offers little nutritional value for your rabbit and has an extremely high water content. Though water is essential for hydration, too much can lead to bloating and diarrhea. If your rabbit eats iceberg lettuce, they might end up with issues from eating the wrong diet and suffering from stomach pain, which could eventually require vet attention.
There are some types of lettuce that are safe for rabbits to eat – like romaine and dark leaf. These can be incorporated into your rabbit’s diet as long as they’re washed and the portions moderated. Both types of lettuces are packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals and your rabbit will enjoy this tasty snack.
You can learn more in this post.
9. Myth: Muesli is Good for Rabbits
You’d be forgiven for thinking that muesli – food you can buy in pet stores that claims to be food for rabbits – is actually good for them. But despite these claims, muesli is harmful to your rabbit if eaten regularly.
It can cause gut and dental problems, obesity, and reduce their hay intake dangerously.
Muesli is marketed heavily as a good choice for rabbits, and pet stores are assumed to be trustworthy sources for pet products, but in this case, you should steer clear. You can pick up age-appropriate rabbit pellets from the store to top up your pet’s diet, but these are nuggets that are distinctly different from muesli in color and appearance. For reference, the image above shows rabbits eating pellets.
10. Myth: Pet Store Treats Are Good for Rabbits
You might be surprised to read that treats that are readily available in pet stores are actually not that great for your rabbit.
A bunch of recognizable treats like yogurt drops, dried fruits, and mixes, have tons of sugar added to them and some even contain ingredients that are difficult for rabbits to digest (like nuts, seeds, and corn). Always double-check what these treats contain before giving them to your rabbit, and consider that the negatives often outweigh the benefits.
If you’re looking for alternatives for treats, healthier alternatives include fresh fruit. Certain fruits have nutrients in them and are extra tasty for your rabbit, and as long as they’re served in moderation they’re safe for your rabbit to eat. Examples include cantaloupe melon, grapes, apples, and cranberries.
11. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat All Greens
Rabbits do eat greens, they need to have a variety of vegetables in their diet to get all the nutrients that they need.
These vegetables should be raw, and suitable for rabbits to digest, they’re often leafy green vegetables. Food like kale, carrot tops, and raspberry leaves are great examples of greens that your rabbit can eat.
However, there are several greens that need to be avoided by your rabbit, at the risk of serious health issues should they eat them. These include potato and tomato greens. These parts of the plants look like they would be okay, but in reality, contain high levels of the toxin solanine.
This toxin can cause solanine toxicity and signs of it include breathing difficulty, abdominal pain, lethargy, lost appetite, and diarrhea. Always check whether the greens in your garden are safe in case your rabbit sneaks a bite of them.
12. Myth: Rabbits Can Only Eat Store-Bought Food
Rabbits can and should eat pellets from the store, that much is true. But the part people often miss is that store-bought food is a tiny fraction of your rabbit’s overall diet.
A daily bowl of pellets is a welcome addition to your rabbit’s diet for some extra nutrients, just make sure that the pellets are age-appropriate (e.g. baby rabbits have specific baby rabbit pellets). This should account for around 5% of your rabbit’s diet.
Altogether, pellets shouldn’t be the main bulk of your pet’s diet. As well as high-quality hay, rabbits should be eating a wide range of vegetables. You can pick these up with your grocery shop (organic is best if it’s available) or you can grow your own at home. Either way, your rabbit needs daily portions of vegetables, occasional treats, and plenty of hay.
13. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Other Pet Food
If you have rabbits and other pets like dogs, cats, chickens, guinea pigs, etc. you might not bat an eyelid if your rabbit sneakily eats some of your other pet’s food and vice versa.
These foods are not interchangeable, the only crossover would be the vegetable and fruit parts that might be appropriate for the different animals.
The closest animals to rabbits are guinea pigs (though they shouldn’t be kept together), but guinea pig food has vitamin C supplements that would be harmful to rabbits since rabbits naturally make all the vitamin C that they need so any more is excess. An occasional bite probably wouldn’t hurt, but the two species’ food should be kept separate where possible to avoid future health problems.
In terms of other household pets, they’re mostly omnivores and their food is usually high in proteins and carbohydrates. These aren’t appropriate for rabbits as they have sensitive digestive systems, designed specifically for plant-based products.
You can look into it further here and here.
14. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Potatoes
Rabbits can’t eat any sort of potato product. Though it’s a classic food source for humans, insects, birds, and plenty of other animals, it should be avoided at all costs for your rabbit.
The green parts of potato can give your rabbit solanine toxicity and the main potato has little fiber and plenty of starch. This combination will upset your rabbit’s digestion.
No type of potato is safe – including boiled, baked, or things like potato chips. Rabbits require a totally different diet than other pet animals, and the only human food that they can safely eat is raw vegetables and certain fruits. Other than these food groups, stay away from letting your rabbit eat human food.
15. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Canned Vegetables
Rabbits shouldn’t be eating any food that comes from a can. Almost all the fruits and vegetables that are canned have gone through a process of having preservatives and salts added to them, this makes them unsuitable for your rabbit.
Always stick with fresh fruit and vegetables for your rabbit’s snacks. The best nutrients are from the freshest, raw fruits and vegetables. For one step further, try and get organic foods either from the store or grow them yourself without chemicals.
16. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Frozen Vegetables
Though there are a few exceptions to this rule (such as kale), but the vast majority of frozen vegetables are unsuitable for rabbits. The freezing process changes the texture and alters the nutritional value for the worse.
There are plenty of fruits that are safe for rabbits to eat when they’ve been frozen, and this is a handy trick to keep food from spoiling and always have a supply of treats. You’ll need to let any frozen food thaw before serving it to your furry friend.
The best form of vegetable that you can give your rabbit will always be fresh, raw vegetables.
17. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Cooked Vegetables
Very few food groups are eaten raw. However, you need to get used to leaving your rabbit’s snacks uncooked for them to have the most nutritional value and to be the best texture for their teeth.
Cooking vegetables (no matter how they’re cooked) will raise issues for your rabbit. The odd one here or there wouldn’t be terrible, but long term it would cause teeth overgrowth and could lead to nutritional deficiencies and digestion issues.
Although it doesn’t feel right to give your beloved pet cold, hard vegetables, they’ll absolutely love sinking their teeth into the snacks. Keep the cooked food on your own plate, even if your rabbit is begging for a bite.
18. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Dairy
A lot of people believe that rabbits can have milk to drink. This would be harmful to your rabbit as they are lactose intolerant – so if they have any dairy products they’d have upset tummies right away.
This covers all types of dairy – cheese, yogurt, cream, and more. The same goes for whichever animal or place the milk came from – cow, goat, or almond for example.
Stay away from milk unless specifically advised by a vet, or if you have a baby rabbit still needing their mother’s milk, but in this case, you should get advice from a professional.
To find out more, check out this post.
19. Myth: Rabbits Can Eat Food Straight from the Packet or Garden
Once you’ve decided what vegetables your rabbit will be eating this week, you might be tempted to measure the portion and serve it to them immediately – but you’ve missed an important step!
Before serving food to your rabbit, it’s extremely important to thoroughly wash and inspect the food.
You need to rinse it to remove any lingering chemicals or pesticides that could be on the vegetable (or fruit) and also check for parasites or signs that the food is rotting. Some foods have specific requirements on how to prepare them (e.g. needing the root cut off or seeds removed).
It’s always worth checking how to properly prepare vegetables and fruit for your rabbit, these preventative measures are way better than vet treatment that may be required if there was a problem with something your rabbit ate.
20. Myth: Rabbits Can Vomit
Many people are surprised to learn that rabbits don’t have the ability to vomit. Their digestion is a one-way system that doesn’t allow food to come back through their mouth. This is why it can be so serious when they eat the wrong food because they can’t bring it back up – it has to go all the way through their body.
Your rabbit is at increased risk of intestinal problems after overeating, choking, and won’t be able to purge toxins out of their stomach. This is because they don’t have a gag reflex, and their diaphragm muscles are too weak to push food upwards through the throat.
You need to be super careful about what your rabbit eats, particularly the portion size, and that the food is cut into bite-size pieces to avoid putting them in a situation where they can’t vomit and will struggle to resolve the problem.
If you’re worried that your rabbit has a blockage or similar issue, get them to a vet ASAP.
Last Words: Rabbit Diet Myths
It’s very easy to accidentally give your rabbit the wrong sorts of food. If you’ve been giving your rabbit anything from this list, don’t worry – you’re not a bad bunny parent! Now you’ve learned some new things, adjust your rabbit’s diet accordingly and make better habits. Your furry friend will thank you for it in the long run, and they’ll thrive on the right diet. Even if your rabbit has been eating the wrong sort of food up until now but hasn’t had any ill effects as yet, they’d still benefit from switching to healthier options and avoiding foods that can cause negative effects.
If you’ve enjoyed or found this information interesting, check out some of our other articles on rabbits to learn some more!