Rabbits are a family of herbivorous mammals. They consume a wide variety of plants. Unlike the majority of the wild critters, they neither do feed on meat nor their guts are designed to digest it. Therefore, a rabbit’s diet should ideally consist of fresh hay or grass.
Alfalfa hay is more suitable for young rabbits, but they can feed on pellets too. Pellets are rich in proteins and necessary for the baby rabbits’ growth and development. For adult rabbits, fresh timothy hay, rich in fibers, is an ideal choice to wear out their continuously growing teeth and to keep their digestive health in check. Besides these, oat hay is also a healthy option.
For rabbits, diet may change depending upon the season. Usually, wild rabbits are more inclined to eat flowers and fresh vegetables in the spring and summer. However, in addition to grass, hay, and vegetables, rabbits may feed on woody plants like twigs, branches, and even the bark of the trees throughout the autumn and winter. If you also feed your rabbit branches and twigs, beware of some twigs (for example, cherry twigs) that can be poisonous for a bunny.
If a hay diet is not available, rabbits can eat seeds, herbs, and shrubs that are visible on the ground. A rabbit won’t go too deep into the ground in search of food but will feed on exposed roots and root vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are also fine for rabbit consumption, but they should never be fed in large quantities. Fruits are high in sugars and are not suitable as a part of their regular diet. Grass, hay, and freshwater should make up the majority of the rabbit’s diet.
Apart from all the plants mentioned above, can rabbits eat leaves as well? Yes! Rabbits consume leafy greens too. They’re beneficial for a rabbit since he has to eat fresh foods that are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates and proteins to keep his digestive system in good shape. So, this category is well-suited to leaves and leafy green vegetables. But, can rabbits eat all types of leafy greens? Learn which leaves are good for rabbits and which aren’t in this article.
Carrot tops are not only safe for rabbits to consume, but they also contain a lot of nutrients. In fact, both carrots and carrot greens are nutritious. But large quantities of carrots should be avoided when feeding your bunny because root vegetables, fruits, or seeds are not the constituent of a rabbit’s diet naturally; unlike depicted in cartoons, fresh hay and not carrots is the staple diet for the rabbits. Carrots are also high in sugars, which can cause different health problems such as digestive disturbance and weight gain in a rabbit.
On the other hand, carrot tops are loaded with beneficial nutrients, and you can feed them to your rabbit more often. Not only are they healthy for them, but also rabbits love eating carrot greens. Being rich in Vitamin A, they prevent eyesight problems. High contents of potassium regulate nervous coordination and blood pressure. Their detoxification ability keeps the rabbit kidneys in a good shape. High concentrations of dietary fiber are what make them a perfect rabbit diet.
Spinach has beta carotene that gets converted into vitamin A in the body. It is helpful in boosting the immune system and improving the vision of rabbits. But feed your rabbit with spinach in small quantities only because of the high oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid gets the other nutrients, mainly minerals, to bind with it. The end product is either calcium oxalate or potassium oxalate, both of which are insoluble in the body fluids.
In the urinary system, the oxalate molecules accumulate and result in bladder sludge or stones suppressing kidney and bladder function. Not only do the stones cause pain but also obstruct the pathway of excretion. In addition, the stones may perforate the internal lining of the kidneys or the associated organs like the ureter resulting in a condition called hematuria (presence of blood in urine).
Radish leaves are safe for the rabbits along with the vegetable. Feeding the rabbit with these fresh greens can bring a lot of health benefits. They provide a balanced diet. They are high in fibers aiding the digestion process and keeping the weight gain in check. The same greens are a rich source of vitamin C. It is an antioxidant that helps reduce oxidative stress by eliminating the free radicals from the body.
In this way, the radish leaves can protect the rabbit’s body and cellular structures from damage. They also protect DNA, proteins, and lipids from an impairment that could have led to fatal diseases like cancer. Vitamin C also helps generate collagen in the body. Collagen helps maintain blood vessels by retaining their elasticity. They are particularly good for arthritic rabbits as they can restore the collagen at joints to a great extent.
Sweet Potato Leaves
Rabbits love to eat potatoes but are unable to digest their high-carb content. Rabbit owners often think that feeding them with sweet potatoes would be safe. Though it’s safe as an occasional treat, multiple feedings result in digestive problems. For some time, rabbit owners have abandoned everything related to potatoes and sweet potatoes as a part of the rabbit’s diet. But here goes good news for them. Rabbits can eat sweet potato leaves along with other leafy greens. Rabbits can eat these greens raw. All you need to do is to make sure they are taken from a pesticide-free area and washed thoroughly.
All parts of the pumpkin plant are safe for rabbits. The fruit and the seeds, leaves, and flowers are safe for them. But feed your rabbit in moderation. As pumpkin flesh has too many sugars and carbohydrates, too much consumption of it can result in stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Similarly, seeds are rich in fatty acids. Eating too many pumpkin seeds can put the rabbit at risk of obesity and associated diseases. The same goes for the flowers and leaves. Eating too much can not only upset the digestive system but can also increase body weight.
Raspberry leaves are an excellent choice for rabbits. They are high in fibers and can help the rabbit wear down its ever-growing teeth. In fact, they are good for healthy teeth. If your rabbit has a sensitive stomach, just feed him a handful of these. Most of the time, rabbits seem to like raspberry leaves, but it would be better to start feeding a small amount to check whether the rabbit likes the new food or not.
The raspberry plant is easy to grow. It not only increases the beauty of the house but makes great fresh food for the bunny. They are easy to maintain, and the rabbit poop can be used as a fertilizer for the plant.
Although the ripe fruits of the tomato plants are generally safe for rabbits, unripe tomatoes, tomato leaves, stems, and seeds should never be fed to them. If they eat any of these green bits, it can be dangerous for them. It is because they contain a toxic substance called solanine which is actually an alkaloid. It can cause solanine poisoning in rabbits. The symptoms of this poisoning are abdominal pain, diarrhea, cardiac dysrhythmia, itching, and bloating. If rabbits eat such foods which are high in alkaloids in substantial amounts, it can also result in their death.
If you were not letting the rabbits eat cauliflower leaves, you can let them do so now. Cauliflower florets and the leaves and the stem are safe for rabbits. You can carelessly add it to the list of safe new foods for the bunny. Though all the parts are safe for rabbits, there is a high possibility that rabbits don’t like all the parts. Let them enjoy whatever part of the vegetable they like the most. Never force the rabbit to eat something you think is healthy for them as they have their tastes and likes. You can always find some alternatives.
Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family, the same family the tomatoes belong to. These are rich in essential minerals, vitamins, fibers, and antioxidants and are thus healthy for rabbits. Eggplants can be served raw as fresh food or in the cooked form to your bunny. Although the fruit is itself safe for consumption, eggplant leaves or eggplant tops should never be fed to the rabbit.
Just like tomatoes, all the green parts of the eggplant are rich in glycoalkaloids (like solanine), which can lead to poisoning, as mentioned earlier. The persistent condition of diarrhea, vomiting, and cardiac dysrhythmia resulting from the poisoning can ultimately lead to mortality.
Yes, rabbits can eat dandelion leaves. In fact, many rabbits find them tasty and love to eat them. They have not been found to contain any toxic substances, but moderation is the key. Dandelion greens are rich in vitamin A, C, E, and K, along with fibers and proteins. In addition, being low in fats and calories, they can serve as diet food. In a nutshell, dandelion leaves are rich in nutrients and can fulfill the daily requirements of the rabbit’s diet.
Sensitive humans are allergic to dandelions. Rabbits are also allergic to many foods, so the owners wonder if rabbits can show allergic reactions to dandelions or greens. You can rest assured and feed the pet with these foods as they are usually not allergic to them. In fact, dandelion greens have been found to soothe inflammation caused by other allergies in rabbits due to the presence of chemicals called polyphenols.
Lettuce and Cabbage
Both lettuce and cabbage are leafy green vegetables that are safe for rabbits. No doubt these vegetables make a rabbit healthy, but some people consider them rabbit foods which is nothing but a misconception. Rabbits can feed on these vegetables but only in small quantities and not as regular foods. Cabbage is rich in sulfurous compounds that can cause bloating and diarrhea if the rabbits love the crunchy texture and eat too much of it. Talking of which mini versions of the cabbage, I mean Brussel sprouts are also safe for rabbits in moderate amounts.
Lettuce is also among the healthy foods for a rabbit. But all varieties of lettuce are not safe for him. For example, iceberg lettuce, which is lighter in color and resembles cabbage, is not safe for the rabbit. This is because iceberg lettuce has relatively higher lactucarium, calcium, and oxalic acid concentrations in it. Lactucarium is toxic for rabbits, and high oxalic acid levels can lead to kidney stones and other health problems. Some other varieties like romaine lettuce, butterhead lettuce, and lamb’s lettuce are healthy and can be fed in small portions. Generally, the rule of thumb is: the darker the leaves are, the healthier is the lettuce. Some red and green varieties like bok choy and swiss chard are also safe for rabbit consumption.
General Nutrition of Leafy Greens
On average, a rabbit should consume one cup of the above-mentioned fresh foods per two to three pounds of their body weight, 2 to 3 times per week. Greens can give numerous benefits due to their nutritional value, thus keeping rabbits healthy.
Low in Calories
The organic produce of the leafy greens is low in its calorie content. If you think your rabbit is obese, feed him these greens and keep a check on their body weight daily. Obesity in rabbits can be fatal enough to cause heart diseases. So, it is important to feed the bunny with low-calorie food.
High Fiber Content
Almost all the greens are rich in dietary fibers that aid the rabbit’s digestion. Chewing high-fiber foods can help them wear down the teeth that grow continuously at the rate of approximately 1 millimeter per day.
Different greens are loaded with different varieties of vitamins. Including all types of leaves, along with the hay and pellets in their diet, help them get all the vitamins required by their body.
Leaves are reservoirs of various minerals, and all of them are necessary for rabbits. For instance, calcium in leaves helps maintain healthy bones and teeth. In addition, phosphorus is required for their growth and development and is essential for pregnant does. Similarly, magnesium is required to balance the amount of calcium in the blood and bones to avoid kidney problems.
Rabbits can eat all types of greens, and leaves are no exception. But pet parents need to know which leaves are safe for them and which ones can pose health hazards. Some are safe enough to be added to their regular diet, while some can cause poisoning in them.