Why Would Rabbits Choose to Eat Something Bad for Them?
They say cats are curious, but for curiosity, it’s difficult to top a rabbit. On top of that, rabbits love to chew. In fact, they’ll chew just about anything.
You’d think that a rabbit would have an instinct about plants that are bad for them, but you shouldn’t rely on that to protect them. Curiosity and the urge to chew can overpower good sense.
Better safe than sorry. Remove toxic plants from any area where your rabbits will run free. Even better, decorate your rabbit run with plants safe for rabbits to give your bunnies a natural treat.
But which plants are toxic to rabbits and which are safe?
We’re glad you asked.
Plants Poisonous to Rabbits
The following plants are toxic and can harm or even kill your rabbit. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Apple Seeds and Stems
The fruit of the apple is excellent for an occasional treat, but the seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which are poisonous and could harm your rabbit if they eat them.
Apple seeds can produce the following symptoms: upset stomach, diarrhoea, convulsions, respiratory congestion, and reduced heart rate.
Christmas Rose (Hellebore)
All parts of the Christmas Rose are poisonous to rabbits, but especially the leaves. Fortunately, this is one of the plants that rabbits typically avoid.
Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna)
There are several different types of nightshade, including woody nightshade, red nightshade, and bittersweet nightshade. All of them can harm your pets, though deadly nightshade is the most toxic of the group.
Ingesting poisonous nightshade plants may give your rabbit difficulty breathing, drooling, inflamed stomach, weakness, trembling, and paralysis.
Different types of bulbs and the flowers that grow from them can harm or kill your rabbit, should your rabbit eat them. The same goes for the flowers that grow from those bulbs. Look out for:
- And others
When it comes to bulb flowers, assume that all parts of the plant are poisonous for pets to eat.
Who would think that the innocent-looking buttercup would fall on a list of poisonous plants? But for rabbits, it’s true. Though buttercup toxicity is rare, eating any part of the plant can result in digestive irritation, drooling, and sores in the mouth.
Foxglove, on the other hand, is one of the poisonous plants that should be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, it’s also one of the plants that rabbits tend to dislike eating. Still, some curious buns may not be able to resist a nibble. And all types of foxglove can be toxic to a rabbit.
All parts of the hemlock plant are poisonous for a rabbit. Unfortunately, hemlock looks a lot like cow parsley, which rabbits absolutely love. If eaten, hemlock will result in a quick and unpleasant death. Rabbits may exhibit drooling, dilated pupils, seizures and coma.
Holly berries and plants contain ilexanthin, ileicin and illexic acid. These plants are definitely poisonous for rabbits to eat. Symptoms of holly poisoning may include irregular heartbeat, seizures, respiratory distress, and inability to swallow.
Every part of the hydrangea is extremely toxic for a rabbit. Hydrangeas contain amygdalin, which is a type of cyanide. If eaten, hydrangea can cause severe digestive upset and diarrhoea, both of which can be fatal to a rabbit.
Every part of the yellow iris is potentially toxic for a rabbit and other animals, too. Other types of iris can cause irritation if ingested, but may not be as dangerous to your pet. Still, beware of this family of flowers.
The Lily Family
Most types of lilies are toxic to rabbits in different degrees. Some of the most common ones include the following.
Calla Lily plants are highly toxic to rabbits and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
Peace Lily contains chemical compounds that cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract. You might observe drooling, sores in the mouth and on the tongue, and difficulty swallowing.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley is also poisonous for rabbits. All parts of the plant are extremely toxic, and can cause severe digestive symptoms.
Morning Glory, also called bindweed, commonly grows wild in many areas. All of the parts of this plant can be dangerous for your pet, and unfortunately, this is one of the plants that rabbits love to eat.
Poppies are also very toxic to rabbits.
Rabbits should not eat any part of the potato. Potato leaves, peels, and sprouts are highly toxic to your rabbit’s system. The potato itself isn’t toxic, however, it’s too high in starch to be a healthy part of a rabbit diet.
A diet too high in starch is a primary cause of GI stasis and other problems of the digestive system.
Privet is a very common garden plant. Unfortunately, it also makes our poisonous plants list, as it is quite poisonous to rabbits.
Death from rhubarb is rare, but rhubarb still makes our poisonous plants list, as it contains irritants that can cause your rabbit a lot of pain and distress if eaten.
Symptoms of rhubarb poisoning in rabbits include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea, abdominal tenderness, dehydration, and sores in and around the mouth.
Tomato leaves and roots contain solanine, which is toxic to rabbits.
Every part of the yew has the potential for toxicity, save for the flesh of the berries. The main poison is alkalide taxine, which can cause rapid heart rate, tremors, convulsions, and difficulty breathing. There may also be poisoning with no symptoms.
What to Do if You Think Your Rabbit Has Eaten a Toxic Plant
The RSPCA says never “watch and wait.” We agree. If you suspect your rabbit has been poisoned by poisonous plants or by anything else, contact a rabbit vet immediately and follow their advice.
When to Call the Vet
Rabbit illnesses can get bad quickly. Moreover, rabbits are prey animals and will try to hide their symptoms as long as they can.
Whether you suspect poisoning or not, contact your vet immediately if you observe any of these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation (a sign of GI Stasis)
- Unexplained behaviour changes
- Difficulty breathing
In fact, if your rabbit just seems “off,” that could be reason enough to give your vet a call.
Garden Greens That Are Safe For Your Rabbit to Munch
If you have an apple tree, your bunnies will love to chew on the twigs. It’s fun and it’s good for their teeth, too. But remember, apple seeds are toxic.
Some kinds of berries make a lovely treat for a bunny. These include strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, and raspberries.
Just be careful not to give them too many. Berries are high-sugar foods, and too much sugar isn’t good for anyone.
Rabbits love cucumber, and it’s a good food for them, too. They can eat the peel, the flesh, the leaves and flowers, and even the seeds. Careful, though. Cucumber contains a lot of water, so too much may cause diarrhoea.
All parts of the dandelion are fine for bunnies to eat: flowers, stems, and leaves. In fact, you’ll often find dandelion in rabbit foods and food mixes.
Can rabbits eat plain old grass? Certainly! Just make sure it’s free of fertilizer, pesticides, and other types of poison.
Lavender plants are safe for bunnies to nibble. And they make your garden smell lovely, as well.
Marigold flowers are a common ingredient in rabbit foods and food mixes. They’re safe for your bunny to eat.
If you’re growing parsley plants for your own use, why not put down some extra plants for your bunnies? They’ll love them, and parsley is excellent for rabbits to eat.
Peas and pea plants are also healthy snacks for your bunnies.
Keep Your Garden Safe
Garden safety means more than predator-proofing and keeping your bunnies inside. It’s also important to protect your bunnies from anything that may cause them harm.
Before setting down your rabbit run or other exercise area, make sure to clear away any poisonous plants. Do your research, as poisonous plants that are harmful to rabbits may be innocuous to us, or even to other pets.
At the same time, planting rabbit-safe plants can provide foraging fun and enrichment for your bunny.