It’s a bit of a cliché isn’t it? Feeding rabbits lettuce seems like the obvious thing to do. Since Beatrix Potter created Peter Rabbit and described the soporific effects of the leaves, lettuce has been firmly on the menu for pet bunnies. But did you know that too much lettuce will transform your rabbit into a drugs bunny?
Lettuce gives rabbits a high
Pet experts are warning that lettuce is a poor choice for your rabbit. This is because some varieties, notably popular iceberg, contain a chemical called lactucarium. We could get technical here but the best way to describe the effect of lettuce is to say that it gives rabbits a high!
Little nutritional benefit
Lettuce varieties which are lighter in colour are the poorest choice for rabbits. In addition to containing lactucarium, these veggies are high in water and so offer little nutritional benefit. Darker, more leafy and fibrous varieties such as romaine lettuce can be fed to bunnies, as they are higher in fibre and nutrients.
Lettuce should be introduced gradually to avoid digestive problems. Even the darker varieties of lettuce can cause upsets in rabbits which are unused to eating this food.
A favourite pet
There are over one million households with pet rabbits in the UK, making bunnies one of our favourite pets. But many owners are not aware of the correct diet for their furry friends. It’s not only lettuce which can be problematic, carrots are also an issue.
The veggies that cause a sugar overload
Carrots are full of sugar which will cause rabbits to gain weight. The sugar also rots their teeth and so should only be given as an occasional treat. Rabbits love carrots like people adore chocolate and so these sugary delicacies should be provided only rarely.
More dangerous fruit and veg
Another treat to avoid is avocado which can be deadly to rabbits. Chard is also a bad idea as this can quickly cause colic and bloating. Radishes and alfalfa are much better options. If you grow rhubarb in your garden, protect the plants from your rabbits as raw rhubarb is poisonous. Finally, don’t feed cauliflower to your rabbits as it causes bunnies to bloat and become gassy.
It is important to note that rabbits do not eat fruit and vegetables in the wild and so their digestive systems are not adapted to these foods.
Healthy choices for rabbits
A healthy rabbit diet is 90 per cent hay and grass. This can be supplemented with dandelion leaves, basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, pear and apple leaves and carrot tops. The hay ensures that their teeth and stomachs remain in good condition and encourages foraging. Grazing and foraging is important because it keeps rabbits active and fends off boredom.
Rabbit diets can be supplemented with propriety rabbit foods. Avoid hamster foods and mixes evolved for other animals as these will not be formulated to offer the correct nutrition. Feeding your bunny isn’t as straightforward as you might have thought.