Rabbits have super sensitive digestive systems that are prone to problems if they eat the wrong type of food. This can vary from mild discomfort up to issues that require emergency vet treatment.
Certain foods are outright toxic to rabbits while others are harmful if eaten too often or in too large portions. This list is a mixture of the two, and a lot of them have links to other articles where you can dive deeper into the food.
If you’re concerned that your rabbit has eaten something that they shouldn’t have, the best thing to do would be to either contact a pet poison hotline or your local vet. It’s always better to overreact than not react – as your pet’s life could be on the line.
Read on to find out what not to feed your rabbit.
1. Potato Products
The rule of thumb here is if it has ‘potato’ in its name, it should be avoided!
Rabbits shouldn’t eat any sort of potato products including raw potato, potato chips, potato plants, or any cooked potato products.
This starchy carbohydrate also contains the toxin solanine. This is in the green parts (stalks, leaves, and vines), and ingesting too much solanine can cause a bunch of problems for your pet.
To look into the signs of solanine toxicity, what to do if your rabbit eats potato, and more, check out this post.
Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are both incredibly toxic to rabbits. These two compounds stimulate the rabbit’s central nervous system thus speeding up the heart and causing dehydration.
As well as that, most chocolate contains dairy and even a small nibble on some chocolate can have a disastrous effect on a rabbit. For more information on this, check out this article.
If your rabbit does accidentally eat chocolate, or if you even suspect they could’ve had some, get in touch with a vet ASAP.
3. Dairy Products
Rabbits are lactose intolerant. They cannot digest any sort of dairy products – including milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, and more.
No types of milk (from any animal) are safe for your rabbit. The only time they should drink milk is from their mother when they’re newborn until they’re weaned off it. If you have a kit who can’t get their mom’s milk, speak to a vet for advice on what to do next.
Keep away from dairy products, and if your rabbit does manage to eat some, look out for diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and anything out of the ordinary that indicates that they’re having digestional issues.
As herbivores, a rabbit’s digestive system is designed for digesting plant-based products. As such, they physically cannot digest foods like meat.
High levels of proteins and fats found in meat are also harmful to rabbits in large quantities. This includes both raw and cooked meat, no matter what animal it came from.
Just from eating meat, your rabbit could develop kidney issues, gut obstruction, diarrhea, and more. If you suspect that your rabbit is struggling with any of these problems, speak to your vet for advice.
For more information, check out this post.
5. Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is often mistaken as a snack rabbits can have.
As well as offering little nutritional value, iceberg lettuce contains a natural opiate called lactucarium. In large doses, it can have a dangerous sedative effect on their central nervous system.
Your rabbit might be okay if they’ve just had a small amount of iceberg lettuce. Keep a close eye on them and feed them plenty of hay as part of a balanced diet. You can read up more on this here.
Be careful not to confuse the different lettuces. It’s perfectly safe for rabbits to eat romaine, dark leaf, and rocket lettuce.
This colorful mixture of grains, seeds, maize, peas, and pellets can be bought from pet stores. However, it’s actually bad for rabbits!
Muesli has high sugar content and very little nutritional value for rabbits. Eating it can cause a range of problems for your rabbit like dental issues, weight gain, digestional problems, and more.
A far better alternative for your rabbit would be fiber-rich pellets or nuggets from the pet store. As long as it’s limited to around one egg cup worth per day, it’ll top up their diet with minimal risk of any health problems.
For further reading, check out this post.
7. Onions, Turnip, Beet, and Tomato Greens
The greens from on top of vegetables such as beets, turnips, tomatoes, and onions contain solanine – a toxin that is poisonous to rabbits.
This makes it tricky if you grow vegetables at home, as rabbits won’t be able to resist eating the greens – not knowing that the more they eat, the sicker they’ll get.
Keep your rabbit far away from your vegetable patch, and when preparing these foods make sure to cut off the green parts to reduce the risk.
As well as being a choking hazard and having the potential to cause blockages, corn also offers no nutritional value for rabbits. This counts for fresh, dried, and cooked corn.
Rabbits should also stay away from corn cobs. They can safely chew on corn husks and stalks, but you should wash them thoroughly first and monitor your rabbit while they’re eating it since they can be a choking risk.
To find out more about corn, including why rabbits can’t eat it and related questions, check out this post.
You should avoid giving your rabbit any type of nut – including pistachios, cashews, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts. Nuts are super high in carbohydrates and fats which rabbits will struggle to digest.
Nuts also have low fiber and low nutritional value so it isn’t worth giving them to your rabbit. There are far healthier snacks they can eat.
It’s worth noting that nuts aren’t toxic to rabbits, so don’t panic if they sneak a bite of one. If your rabbit is otherwise healthy, they might just have stomach pain and soft stools, but eating too many could cause more severe problems.
Silverbeet (also known as Swiss chard or chard) can cause a bunch of problems like bloating and colic in rabbits.
It’s high in oxalic acid – a toxin that is only okay for rabbits to eat in small amounts. But too much can damage their urinary tract and cause itchiness around their mouth. Make sure your rabbit doesn’t eat several foods high in oxalic acid at the same time.
Other foods high in oxalic acid include spinach, parsley, sprouts, and more.
11. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a snack your rabbit should avoid – it’s loaded with sugar and salt that are harmful in large doses. It’s also high in fat and calories, which can quickly cause your rabbit to gain weight.
As well as that, peanut butter contains minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and acid. All these minerals are harmful to rabbits and will be difficult to digest.
To learn more on the subject (including risks, related questions, and more), check out this article.
All parts of the rhubarb plant are toxic to rabbits – the stalks, leaves, and flowers all contain high levels of oxalic acid. The highest concentration of this t is in the leaves, but the whole plant should be avoided.
Common burdock (also known as wild rhubarb) is equally as deadly. Though this is more problematic for wild rabbits, it can also pop up in your yard.
Signs of oxalic acid toxicity include lost appetites, lethargy, and weakness. In more severe cases this can develop into seizures and can be fatal in the worst cases.
Avocados (despite being a green fruit) are toxic to rabbits. It contains a substance called persin that can cause breathing difficulty, heart conditions, and even death.
The entire avocado, including the branches, bark, and leaves, contains persin.
They also have a super high-fat content which makes them further unsuitable for rabbits. Avoid this fruit (and anything that contains avocado) at all costs.
Garlic plants and cloves are toxic to your rabbits due to their high levels of starch. It can also have an immunosuppressive effect on rabbits, making them more likely to pick up diseases.
Your rabbit probably won’t like garlic – the distinct smell and taste are usually repellent enough to rabbits, but that doesn’t mean a rabbit will avoid eating it.
If your rabbit eats garlic, monitor them closely and take them to the vet if you’re concerned about their health. Check out this post for more information.
Olives aren’t toxic to rabbits, but they have extremely high sodium levels that can cause problems for them. Too much salt can dehydrate rabbits, eventually causing issues with their kidneys.
If a rabbit tries to eat an olive, they could potentially choke, or face gastrointestinal issues.
Rabbits should also stay away from olive oil, and all parts of the olive plant. Only let your rabbits near olive oil if recommended by a vet for constipation. You should avoid giving home remedies where possible.
16. Sugary food
Though your rabbit would undoubtedly delight in eating sugary food, it’s not a great idea. Even fruits that are high in sugar should be given to them in moderation, and human foods like fizzy drinks and sweets are a huge no-no.
Sugar can cause a wide range of issues for rabbits, it can cause dental issues from rotting their teeth and cause them to gain weight. Once a rabbit becomes obese, they’ll suffer from limited mobility, heart conditions, and more.
For fruity treats like banana or melon, limit to only having treats a maximum of twice per week. Always check the right portion sizes so you can limit the sugar too.
No types of cereals are rabbit-friendly.
Often made up of a mixture of grains, rice, corn, and other similar ingredients. A lot of cereals have things like chocolate flavoring, sugar, nuts, and extra ingredients which make them toxic for rabbits.
Both dry cereal and cereal with milk are bad for rabbits – though milk is undoubtedly worse since rabbits are lactose intolerant.
Bread (and all bread products) are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. This starchy snack is also high in sugar, the combination making it unideal for rabbits.
It’s also high in calories, which means if your rabbit does eat it they’ll likely gain weight.
To learn more on why rabbits can’t eat bread, and what to do if they do eat bread (amongst other things), check out this post.
As a food super high in carbohydrates, pasta is not a good choice for your rabbit’s snack.
It has no nutritional value but can cause plenty of gastrointestinal problems. It also contains durum wheat flour that is difficult for rabbits to digest.
Plain pasta is bad enough, but any sort of sauces or added ingredients make it even more problematic for your rabbit’s digestion.
Try to avoid any foods high in carbohydrates, including pasta, potato, and bread. Your rabbit should get the right amount of carbs that they need from their balanced diet.
Nightshade grows wildly in the United States, and all parts and types of nightshade are highly toxic to rabbits. You should be extra vigilant to make sure this purple or red plant isn’t anywhere near your rabbit.
The stem and leaves are equally as toxic, as are both types of nightshade (woody nightshade and deadly nightshade). Check out the different types of nightshade here.
Ingesting too much nightshade can be fatal, so it’s doubly important to keep your rabbit as far away from it as possible.
21. Store-Bought Treats
You may be surprised to see treats from the pet store on this list.
But, the vast majority of treats marketed for rabbits are sugary and full of ingredients that can cause issues for rabbits.
Some of the worst treats from the pet store are yogurt drops – they’re packed full of sugar and fat and also contain dairy which is particularly problematic as rabbits are lactose intolerant.
The best treats you can give your rabbit are fresh fruits! As long as you follow the recommended portion sizes and limit them to a treat no more than twice per week, your rabbit can enjoy treats with no problems.
22. Grass Clippings
Watch out for this one!
Rabbits can (and should!) eat fresh grass. But once it’s been clipped, it’ll quickly ferment and become toxic to rabbits.
Grass is also sometimes treated with various chemicals like weed killer and repellents. These chemicals would cause a great deal of damage to your rabbit.
To look into this further, check out this post for everything you need to know about grass and steps to ensure the grass you feed your rabbit is safe.
23. Food From Other Pets
Rabbits must stick to food that is rabbit-friendly. They can only have certain vegetables, store-bought pellets, hay, and treats.
All other foods designed for animals other than rabbits aren’t suitable for their digestion. A lot of dog and cat food has meat in it, which rabbits can’t tolerate. Hamster food and chicken feed are all designed for different species so won’t provide your rabbit with the nutrition they need either.
Watch out especially for guinea pig food, which is extremely high in calcium. Rabbits naturally make all the calcium that they need so eating extra will cause an excess.
Try to feed your pets separately, and prevent any swapping of foods where possible – your pets will thank you for it!
24. Common Houseplants
While flowers make a colorful and beautiful addition to your home, some types can be dangerous for rabbits to be around.
Carnations, tulips, irises, and daffodils are all examples of flowers you might keep inside and not realize how harmful they can be.
Eating these flowers can cause immediate problems in rabbits. If they eat even a little part of the flower you should speak to a vet (remembering to note down the type of flower and quantity eaten).
Try to keep flowers high out of your rabbit’s reach or even better – keep them in a room your rabbit doesn’t have access to. You should also be quick to collect and dispose of any dropped leaves or flowers and wash your hands after handling them.
25. Garden Plants
Garden plants are something you need to keep an extra close eye on because some of them can grow in your yard without you planting anything – like buttercups.
There are a bunch of plants that are toxic to rabbits. Some common examples include lilies, ivy, poppies, ragwort, buttercups, rhododendron, and bluebells.For a full list, check out this poisonous plants article.
If you’re unsure whether a plant is safe, it’s better to err on the side of caution. You could get a pen to keep your rabbits in one part of your yard to eat grass and stretch their legs while keeping them away from anything potentially dangerous.
26. Cooked Food
The rule with rabbit food is to serve raw vegetables only. Once you cook food, the texture changes (usually to become softer) and the nutritional value decreases.
Eating softer food is problematic for rabbits’ teeth, as they’re designed for biting into hard, raw vegetables so they will often chew too hard on soft food. It also does nothing to help wear down their ever-growing teeth either.
The rule to follow here is to stick with raw food for your rabbits. If it’s already cooked then it isn’t suitable for your furry friend.
27. Processed food
Processed food can cover dried, frozen, canned, and other forms of processing. Though there are exceptions to every rule, if a fruit or vegetable isn’t fresh then it probably isn’t the best for your pet.
Most processed food will have a bunch of added ingredients and additives – making even fruit or vegetables unhealthy for rabbits. Changing the form can change the texture and decrease the nutritional value too.
Your best bet is to stick to fresh food and to use it before it starts to deteriorate and rot.
28. Rotten food
With fresh fruits and vegetables, there’s a short window of time where you need to serve the food before they go off. This can be going moldy, turning brown, becoming softer, and more.
You should always wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under water to clean off any dirt and pesticides and then inspect the food. Checking for parasites and any obvious imperfections will reduce the chances of accidentally giving your rabbit rotten food.
Also, keep the use-by date in mind if it’s food bought from the store. These guidelines can often indicate the time frame you have to use the food.
29. Certain Seeds
The vast majority of seeds are harmful to your rabbit.
A lot of seeds are a choking and blockage risk and might be hard for a rabbit to chew and digest. A way to avoid seeds is to get seedless fruit or remove any before serving the food to your rabbit.
Some seeds, from fruits like apples, plum pits, and peaches, contain cyanide. This makes them even more dangerous than regular seeds. Ingesting too much cyanide would quickly cause stomach pain and discomfort for your rabbit that could develop into more severe issues.
The seeds that are safe for rabbits to eat are usually exceptions – like in grapes for example. It’s worth checking out whether the seeds are safe before letting your rabbit near them.
Rabbits need to have plenty of drinking water, to make sure that they stay hydrated at all times. In certain situations, they can drink orange juice or apple juice – like if they’re dehydrated and can’t or won’t drink.
But anything other than water should be a rarity for your rabbit. Quite simply, they don’t need anything other than water.
Fizzy drinks, alcohol, hot drinks, and any others should be kept out of reach of rabbits and any spillages cleaned up to minimize the chance of any liquids reaching your rabbit.
Signs of Poisoning in Rabbits
If your rabbit has eaten something that they shouldn’t have, there’s a chance that they will have been poisoned by it. Rabbits can very quickly deteriorate, so you should get in touch with a vet if you’re at all concerned about their health.
It’s worth noting that rabbits are notorious for masking their pain (a prey instinct). This means that they might be silently suffering. This is when you’ll need to pay extra attention in case for any signs of something being amiss.
Some common signs to look out for include:
- Lethargy or reduced movement.
- Loss of appetite (not even being tempted by their favorite treats).
- Not pooping or diarrhea.
- Acting out of character.
- Seizures or shaking.
- Drinking too much or no water.
And remember, you don’t need to wait for a symptom of poisoning – if your rabbit has eaten something they shouldn’t, that’s a reason in itself to get in touch with a vet.
What You Should Feed Your Rabbit
So we’ve covered some of the things that you shouldn’t feed your rabbit.
But that may leave you wondering…. what can you feed your rabbit?
- The first part of your rabbit’s diet should be plenty of good-quality hay. That’ll keep your rabbit’s gut moving, help their teeth, and allow them to get all the fiber that they need.
- Your rabbit should also have a variety of fresh, raw vegetables every day. The best ones are usually leafy greens. You can check out this post for a list jam-packed with the best vegetables you can give your rabbit.
- They should also have an egg cup worth of pellets each day, and a constant supply of drinking water. Up to twice a week, they can have treats too – rabbit-safe fruits are better than store-bought treats.
If you’re interested in learning more about what rabbits shouldn’t eat, you might find this post.