Human Foods Toxic to Rabbits

rabbit-eatingJust like with humans, there’s a big difference between what we like to eat and what we should eat. Then there’s also those things that we may like to eat but we may be allergic or sensitive to. Rabbits are not different than humans in both regards. Rabbits like green plant matter and have a sweet tooth. Both of those traits can get a bunny into big trouble. I am not a veterinarian, so I won’t focus heavily on how to feed your pet rabbit but I will share with you a list what human foods are toxic to rabbits and why.

My list contains only those things that we humans eat and not the numerous toxic plants that should be kept away from your pet rabbit. In compiling this list of foods not safe to feed rabbits, I found a great deal of conflicting advice. I would guess like all foods that are bad for us, that some rabbits can tolerate more than others. Also, several people mentioned seeing wild rabbits eating corn, which is listed by a number of sites as being a very bad choice for rabbits. Two things come to mind there – wild rabbits are probably a bit tougher and you have no idea if they became ill or died as a result of eating the corn.

Pay attention to how your pet rabbit reacts to what you feed it. Observe your rabbit’s bathroom habits, if there is a noticeable change after it eats certain foods, those foods should not be fed to your bunny. One rabbit breeder suggested that if a food gives humans gas, it would probably give gas to your bunny too.

Additionally, as your pet rabbit ages, some foods may need to be reduced or eliminated completely. Vegetables and greens should not be introduced to your rabbit until they are at least 12 weeks old (a rabbit breeder suggested waiting until 6 months). In general, foods high in carbohydrates, sugar and calcium can be harmful or even fatal for your rabbit.

Please do not assume that just because something is not on our list of foods toxic to rabbits that it is safe for your pet rabbit. I also followed the rule that if anyone cautions against a particular item, it was included in the list of what not to feed rabbits. I figure there’s plenty of other stuff to choose from and the risk is simply not worth it.

Alfalfa Hay
High in calories and protein which will lead to your pet rabbit becoming fat. Additionally, many commercial rabbit pellets contain large amounts of alfalfa so by feeding your pet rabbit pellets along with alfalfa hay, you could be feeding them too much calcium, calories and protein.
Apple seeds and stems are not safe for rabbits to eat. The apples themselves are OK but their high sugar content means they should be given in moderation. One rabbit owner recommended removing the skin.
One of the many items we found included in at least one list of foods not to feed rabbits without any explanation of why. A second site specifically mentioned the pits as containing cyanide.
No explanation provided on the site that said to avoid them.
Limited amounts due to high sugar content. One rabbit owner left a comment on another blog that banana peels killed her pet rabbit and told everyone to avoid giving them to your pets.
Included on several other lists of foods, including the ASPCA, as a food not suitable for rabbits but they did not explain why.
One site said no beet tops, several said they are fine, another said to feed tops and beets to balance their nutritional value but to use only small amounts. Beets are high in sugar as well. My vote is to avoid beets tops or only allow infrequently and avoid beets entirely. The bright red coloring of beetroot can also turn your pet’s urine red.
Everyone agreed that the flowers and florets are to be avoided. Leaves are OK but the stems and tops can cause gas.
Can cause diarrhea and bloating.
Capsicum/Chili Peppers

Said to be safe only in moderation. Probably safer to avoid.
Carrots are one of those foods that we found mixed advice. One site mentioned their high calcium content and warned their inclusion in your rabbit’s diet should be limited. All sites listed carrot tops as a wonderful source of the vitamin A your pet rabbit requires. Most sites mentioned that carrots have a high sugar content which will make your rabbit love them but that too much sugar can be harmful.

Several rabbit owners suggested peeling them first. I would think that would be a good idea to avoid any potential pesticide or fertilizer residue that might be on the skin.

Carrots, wild
All forms of wild carrots appeared on several of the toxic plants for rabbits list. That includes wild carrots and Queen Anne’s Lace.
Celery is generally fine but cut into 1 inch long pieces to ensure the strings don’t get caught in your rabbit’s teeth. However, one site mentioned something about the high water content being harmful and another said the high water content was a good thing. It might be safer to err on the side of caution and avoid celery.
Mentioned on more than one list. One list listed several varieties and listed all parts of the plant, including the fruit, as fatal.
Chestnuts, horse
All parts should be avoided.
Just like our list of Foods Not Safe for Dogs & Cats, chocolate is not safe to feed rabbits. It was listed on every no-no list I found but no explanation. Sugar may be the culprit but I wouldn’t feed a rabbit of mine even a sugar free variety – too many are saying to avoid it to make the risk worth it.
Clover Hay
Clover Hay is too high in protein and calcium.
Coffee Beans
On several of the lists as a food not safe for rabbits.
Colored or Dyed Wooden Chew Toys
The dye is there for marketing purposes only and can actually harm your rabbits. They should be particularly avoided with breeding pairs.
Uncooked, dried or cooked corn is not safe for rabbits. They cannot digest the corn hulls and feeding your pet rabbit corn, in any form, can lead to intestinal impactions which require emergency medical care.

Fruit sparingly but avoid the leaves completely.
Your rabbit can eat dandelion but it does have natural diuretic properties (i.e. makes them urinate more frequently). Also make sure they have not been treated with any form of pesticide.
One list identified fruit OK but all plant parts as unsafe.
False & Fool’s Parsley
On several bad lists, one identified as being fatal.
Gourmet Rabbit Treats

Save your money and your rabbit’s health. Commercial treats often contain dried fruit, nuts and seeds that are fine for birds or hamsters but can cause liver disease in rabbits. Don’t ask me why folks continue to market a product that isn’t safe, I’m just relating what I found in an article written by a veterinarian regarding these items.
Several sites listed as safe but only in small portions as a special treat due to the high sugar content. One site suggested no more than 1-2 grapes a week.
Grass from your Backyard
Even if you do not treat your grass with a pesticide or fertilizer, it is highly likely that the seeds were treated and those chemicals may still be present in your lawn.
Human Treats
If it comes from the cereal, cookie or bakery aisle of your grocery store, it’s not something you should feed your rabbit. These items along with oatmeal, pasta and yogurt drops can lead to an excessive amount of ‘bad’ bacteria and lead to a fatal case of enterotoxaemia. And no, just because that cereal or cookie is labeled ‘high fiber’ it is not food your rabbit should eat.
Listed as a safe edible but in small portions.
Ironically, when one thinks of rabbits and food, one most often thinks of lettuce and carrots. Lettuce contains lactucarium, a chemical that can cause gas and diarrhea and ultimately lead to your rabbit’s death. Iceburg lettuce contains the highest amounts of lactucarium and should never be given to a pet rabbit.

Many rabbit dietary guidelines suggest Romaine or other darker lettuces but they too contain lactucarium, just in smaller amounts. They might work in a pinch when you are running low on more suitable foodstuffs but all types of lettuce should be generally avoided as they provide very little nutritional value.

Lima Beans
One list specifically said to avoid feeding rabbits uncooked lima beans.
One site said certain varieties OK another said to avoid completely.
Mustard Greens

Safe in limited portions but another site said to avoid.
Besides running the risk of being covered in salt, almonds, Australia nuts, macadamia nuts, Queensland nuts, and walnuts should not be part of your rabbit’s diet.
Oat Hay
Young rabbits should not be given the kernels.
ASPCA lists as a no-no.
In small quantities, the fruit is safe but the rinds should be avoided completely.
Found on one list of plants unsafe for rabbits.
Cooked or dried, pasta is too high in carbohydrates for rabbits.
Listed once as a complete no-no with no explanation. Another site said only as a special treat.
High sugar content should limit intake but one site listed seeds as containing cyanide.
Another one without explanation but one that was contained on at least one Rabbit Welfare Association Website, who strangely enough included peas in one of their brochures as OK to eat. I would err on the side of caution and avoid giving peas to my pet rabbit.
Found on one list without a rationale as to why they should be avoided but listed on another list as a special treat to be given infrquently.
Potatoes and potato peels are too high in carbohydrates for rabbits. Another site listed the green parts are fatal and that the eyes should also be avoided.
One rabbit owner reported that her vet said not to feed her pet radishes.
As per ASPCA and at least one other list as unsafe; no explanation as to why it should be avoided. One site listed that the leaves are fatal to rabbits.
Rosemary & Sage
The leaves of some varieties are said to be fatal to bunnies.
Almost all of the authority sites said to avoid seeds. They did not identify any specific varieties, so it would probably be best to avoid all seeds.
Tansy & Tansy Ragwort
Any portion of the plant should not be given to rabbits.
Do not feed your rabbit tomato leaves or vines.
Wilted Vegetables
Don’t confuse your pet rabbit with a goat. Wilted or otherwise stale greens and vegetables can make your bunny sick. If you don’t like the way it looks, don’t feed it to your bunny.

There were a lot of sites that talked about proper nutrition for pet rabbits and most of them mentioned a few food items that should not be given to rabbits. As far as I know, the two most complete lists of plants that are unsafe can be found here – Toxic Plants and Sacramento House Rabbit Society – Poisonous Plants. But, My Rabbit Site has the longest list of human foods not safe for rabbits that can be found anywhere on the web.

Our sources included, but where not limited to…

Ask The Expert

University of Maryland Department of Biology

Exotic Pet Vet

Sacramento House Rabbit Society and Sacramento House Rabbit Society – Poisonous Plants

Bad Rabbit Food

Rabbit Welfare Fund

Nutrition Advice from Barbi Brown

A Rabbit’s Diet

As to what you should feed your rabbit, talk to your local veterinarian. From everything I’ve read, it would appear that some testing and patience may be in order. You could also check out some of the sites listed above as most of them also include information on how to properly feed your pet rabbit.

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