What Rabbits Should Not Eat: Don’t Feed These to Your Bunny!

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What Rabbits Should Not Eat

I feel like rabbits are the most sensitive pets to food. I mean, one wrong move and your next stop is at the vet.

Thanks to their digestive system, rabbits are picky vegan eaters with rules on what and what not to feed. But hey, they’re still the cutest little creatures to have around.

Luckily, you can have a smooth experience raising bunnies if you know what foods rabbits should not eat. This brings us to the business of the day, as I will inform you what to keep away from bunnies, why, and how.

Read on to learn all about them.

What Rabbits Should Not Eat and Why

Your rabbit’s diet should consist of hay, clean water, and leafy greens. You can also give her fruits as treats once in a while. 

Rabbits are herbivores, so they rely entirely on plants for their nutritional needs. Going by this, it’s fair to say that anything that isn’t a plant isn’t safe for bunnies. Again, not all plant-based foods are safe for bunnies. 

A rabbit’s digestive system is quite different from that of other animals. The first part of their digestive tract resembles that of humans, requiring high fiber content. They also have a cecum, which functions similarly to a cow’s rumen. 

However, unlike in most cases, the rumen is at the end of the digestive tract. The microbes in the cecum help break down any food that enters here. Normally, food will go to the small intestines from the stomach, where enzymes will digest it and absorb proteins, starch, and sugars.

It then goes to the cecum, then the large intestines for absorption of water, and finally excretion of poop. But since the cecum is at the end of the digestive system, fatty acids are absorbed via the cecal epithelium. Other nutrients, like vitamins, are excreted from the body as soft pellets, and bunnies eat them to reabsorb the nutrients. 

The soft pellets go through the digestive system for the second time, and because they are more digestible, it’s easier to absorb all nutrients. So you see, a rabbit’s digestive system is different from a human’s, so anything you feed should be acceptable in their system, or else your bunny is doomed. 

Let’s discuss common foods you should keep away from rabbits to avoid stomach problems or even death in extreme cases. 

14 Foods and Plants You Should Keep Away From Your Bunny

These foods may cause discomfort in bunnies and sometimes lead to serious health problems.

1. Legumes 

All types of beans, lentils, and peas are categorized as legumes. They are infamous for causing gas build-up in humans, leading to stomach upsets. Legumes do the same to rabbits, causing severe pain and discomfort, especially since rabbits can’t apply gas-relieving tricks. 

They are also less fibrous, so they are hard to digest. Besides, legumes can easily cause a blockage if swallowed accidentally.

However, all legume leaves are safe for bunnies. They are more fibrous and easy to chew, so feel free to feed them to your rabbit.

2. Cooked foods

We’ve taken a closer look at the rabbit’s digestive system and seen that rabbits need high fiber content for proper digestion. That’s why almost 80% of their diet should be hay, as it provides the required fiber.

Cooked foods have less to zero fiber as heat breaks the fiber structure in food. As a result, feeding cooked food may result in intestinal blockage since the food will not move as it should. 

Besides, they may get too many calories from cooked foods and become obese. Also, rabbits are supposed to chew food, as chewing helps with dental health. Their fast-growing teeth wear off as they chew, maintaining the required size. 

Cooked food is soft, so it requires less chewing. This goes against their natural survival habits, so never feed any cooked food at any point. Even steamed vegetables fall under this category. 

3. Meat

Grind meat in a bowl
Grind meat in a bowl

Rabbits should not eat any type of meat, as they are herbivores. They get their proteins from protein-based plants. Protein is passed out like minerals in soft pellets, so rabbits will get their protein from consuming these pellets.

Even wild rabbits are entirely herbivores, so anything made from meat should be kept away from rabbits. They cannot digest meat and will get sick if they eat some. Their digestive systems are designed to only digest plants. Besides, meat has no fiber, so it would be indigestible in the stomach. 

4. Dairy products

Milk is only favorable to rabbits when they are babies. Once they become adults, they lack the required bacteria to digest milk derivatives. Even in infancy, kittens should only have access to the doe’s milk. 

Every animal’s milk is made specifically to meet the nutritional needs of its young ones. This is to say that kittens should not have cow’s milk. Even when orphaned, try getting another nursing doe or getting help from a vet instead of feeding the baby rabbits cow milk. They may not only get zero nutritional value but also have trouble digesting it. 

Take, for example, a doe’s milk; it contains a special milk oil that fights bacteria in the kitten’s digestive system. Allowing your bunny cow milk means no ant-bacteria property, so the kitten is prone to bacterial infections.

Never give your rabbit milk or any dairy product. In adulthood, bunnies become lactose intolerant, so they can’t digest the main component of milk. This means feeding milk at an adult age only results in chaos, as in the absence of lactobacteria, milk properties accelerate stasis in rabbits. 

However, there’s one exception to the “no dairy products for rabbits” rule. A vet may prescribe diluted yogurt to rabbits suffering from intestinal bacteria. But regardless, only feed diluted yogurt under a vet’s instructions.

5. Food for other animals

I’ve heard of people who feed cat food to their bunnies. So they go to the store, pick up a bag of cat food to feed the rabbits and leave numerous rabbit food options on the shelves.

I don’t know their reasons, but it’s definitely not good for your bunny’s health. Cats are carnivores, which means their food is meat-based. And, as I said, rabbits should not have any type of meat or meat-based food.

Besides, every pet food is customized to meet the nutritional needs of a specific animal. Manufacturers also have to work with what every animal can digest. I assume there are rules and regulations that must be followed when making food for rabbits. 

When you decide to feed cat food to rabbits, you’re risking your bunny’s health. Their digestive tracts are not meant for such foods, so they will be hard to digest. Besides, even if they could digest the food, it wouldn’t meet their nutritional needs. 

6. Any vegetable in the onion family

A bunch of onions on a table
A bunch of onions on a table

They include garlic, onions, chives, and leeks. All these vegetables negatively affect bunnies as they interfere with their immune systems, leaving them prone to illnesses. 

Avoid feeding any vegetables in the onion family to your rabbit. This applies to their leaves as well. All parts of these plants should be kept away from bunnies. 

7. All sugary processed foods

Most processed foods contain refined sugar, which is not suitable for bunnies. Candies and chocolate should also be kept away from bunnies. While they will enjoy eating these sweet treats, too much can lead to obesity or other health issues. 

If you must feed your bunny a sweet treat, go for healthy options like carrots, as they contain natural sugars (which are less harmful). However, you should only feed all treats occasionally and in small amounts.

8. Poisonous plants

Deadly nightshade tops the list of poisonous plants for rabbits. As the name suggests, the plant is deadly to most animals, including rabbits. It is used to make poison, so you can imagine the amount of poison it contains.

The poison may cause less harm if ingested in small amounts and by accident. But if rabbits nibble through several of these plants, it may cause severe health problems or even death. 

Other poisonous plants in this category are lilies and poppies, among others. All lilies contain a toxic substance that can lead to serious gastrointestinal conditions, whether calla or may lily. 

9. Iceberg lettuce 

Though rabbits are herbivores, some plants remain unsafe for their consumption. For example, iceberg lettuce, which is a type of lettuce that contains concentrated amounts of lactucarium, is not good for rabbits. 

Other types of lettuce, like the red leaf and romaine, are okay, so feed these instead. Rhubarb is another complicated vegetable you should keep away from rabbits. It contains loads of complex minerals and molecules and is almost indigestible in rabbits.

Unidentified plants are also termed “unsafe for rabbits.” Never offer any unidentified plant, no matter how lovely or healthy it looks. 

10. Caffeinated drinks

A coffee cup on a table
A coffee cup on a table

From tea to coffee, hide all your caffeinated drinks away from your furry friend. The tiniest amount of caffeine can accelerate a rabbit’s heart rate to a high level, which can be fatal for her. 

These creatures are more sensitive, and what appears insignificant to you might cause chaos to their health. Just like caffeine causes anxiety in humans, it may make your bunny anxious for no reason, tampering with how she behaves. 

11. Grains

This includes processed grains. Processed grains, i.e., bread and pasta, are more starchy and sugary with fewer nutrients. This combo is the worst in your bunny’s diet. Apart from weight gain and finally obesity, nothing good comes out of feeding your rabbit processed grains.

Besides, processed grains contain no fiber, which makes them hard to digest. 

12. All cereals 

Most rabbit owners are tempted to offer cereals to bunnies. They are not a healthy snack, so keep them away from rabbits, no matter how cute they look at you when you’re having your cereal for breakfast. 

Besides, cereals are grain-based, and because rabbits are not allowed grains as well, the more reason to keep them away. 

13. Commercial rabbit treats

While most of these treats contain colorful pieces that appear healthy, most ingredients contain added sugar that is unsuitable for rabbits. Apart from that, some include corn, peas, and nuts, which are harmful to rabbits.

Most of us assume they are the healthiest treats for bunnies, but if you pay attention to the ingredients, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The healthiest commercial treats are probably flavored hay, as they are basically spiced hay, so they retain all the fiber, which is the cornerstone of your bunny’s diet.

I also prefer dried fruits or veggies as treats instead of store-based treats. At least these are foods that rabbits can eat, so they will have no problem digesting them. Besides, they’ll still get nutritional benefits from dried fruits and veggies compared to commercial treats.

However, remember to offer all treats occasionally as most contain excessive sugar content that is not healthy for bunnies. 

14. Seeds, including fruit seeds

Though most fruits like watermelons and apples are safe for bunnies to eat, their seeds should be kept away from rabbits. This is because some seeds contain a concentration of harmful substances to rabbits.

Take apples, for example. They are safe for bunnies, but their seeds contain higher amounts of cyanide, which can cause health problems in rabbits. Also, seeds can easily get trapped in the tract and cause blockage. 

Discussing the foods that you should never feed to your rabbit

Bottom Line

Though rabbits are herbivores, certain plants are unsafe for them. Some include iceberg lettuce, nightshade, and lilies. 

Also, not every store-based treat with a cute bunny picture is healthy for your rabbit. Most contain foods not meant for rabbits, which may compromise their health. Stick to healthy rabbit treats like carrots and observe feeding guidelines.

Again, keep in mind that rabbits are sensitive animals, so monitor everything they eat for any unexpected changes; if you’re not sure about what to or what not to feed them, check with your vet so you can work from a professional opinion.

Photo of author


Jennifer Bourassa is a passionate animal lover and the founder of The Rabbit Retreat, a website dedicated to educating rabbit owners and providing them with the necessary resources to care for their furry friends. With over a decade of experience in rabbit care, Jennifer is a knowledgeable and compassionate advocate for these beloved pets. Jennifer's love for rabbits started when she adopted her first bunny, Thumper, and quickly realized the joy and challenges that come with rabbit ownership. Since then, she has made it her mission to help other rabbit owners navigate the ins and outs of bunny care, from feeding and grooming to housing and more. With The Rabbit Retreat, Jennifer hopes to build a community of like-minded rabbit enthusiasts who can share their experiences and support one another in providing the best possible care for their furry companions.