Treats

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All treats on this page should be considered as candy to your rabbits. They are delightful to your rabbit but provide no significant useful nutritional content and increase the amount of calories and fat in the diet. If overdone, they may cause digestive upsets. Most rabbits can tolerate treats in small amounts. You have the option of never feeding any of the food listed on this page if you wish and stick with pellets, fresh herbs, and vegetables as treats -- a much healthier alternative. This page only hopes to consolidate all foods that are safe if fed occasionally and in very small amounts.

Remember, while these are not necessarily immediately deadly to your bun, treats may cause long term health problems if fed too often because of wrong flora developing in their gut. Consider the activity level of your rabbit to adjust treat amounts appropriately. Stop treats immediately if you notice any diarrhea. Also, take a look at the ingredients in your pellets before deciding what additional treats to feed your rabbit.

Each of the feeding recommendations below are based on daily consumption of only one type of treat. If you decide to feed multiple types, feed less of each. Omit the following treats if your rabbit is overweight.

Fruits

Fresh fruits are a better alternative as treats to rabbits than most commercial brands. In the wild, these would be special high calorie foods obtained only at certain times of the year.[1] Fruits should be no more then 10% of the diet or about 1/2 teaspoon per pound of body weight per day.[1][2] Because these are high in natural sugars, it is important to limit their consumption no matter how much your bun begs for more.

Do not feed any to rabbits under 12 weeks of age.[3] Stop fruit treats if there are any signs of GI upset and/or diarrhea. Leave the skin on fruits for more nutrition unless otherwise noted or you are worried about chemicals.[1] Also, do not feed any cooked items or fruit seeds and pits unless otherwise noted.

A list of acceptable fruits are the following:[1][4][5][6][7][8]

  • Apple (any variety) - remove the core with stem and seeds
  • Apricot
  • Banana - remove the peel; no more then about 2 1/8 inch slices a day for a 5lb rabbit
  • Blackberries + leaves
  • Blueberries + heath
  • Cherries (any variety)
  • Cowberries + heath
  • Cranberries (fresh or dried)
  • Craisins
  • Currants
  • Kiwi
  • Grapefruit - can include peel
  • Grapes
  • Lemons - can include peel
  • Mango
  • Melons (any) - can include peel and seeds
  • Nectarine
  • Orange (any) - can include peel
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pear - remove the seeds
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple - remove skin
  • Prickly pear
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries + leaves
  • Star Fruit
  • Strawberries + leaves
  • Watermelon

Below are some links with more information about safe fruit treats to feed your rabbit.

See Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Data for more information about the nutrition content of fruits.

Grains

In the wild, rabbits do not normally eat large amounts of grain, except for certain seasons.[9]

If your rabbit has digestive problems, do not feed any grain treats. Be forewarned,[10]
These.. grains are also rich in starches. While some of this starch is digested in the small intestine, much of it is not accessible until it reaches the cecum. There it becomes a potent energy form for the cecal bacteria; unlike cellulose fiber, which slows fermentation, starch in the cecum is fermented rapidly and can lead to bacterial overgrowth, bloat, and gi stasis.
Additionally, [11]
These foods are high in carbohydrates and can easily upset the delicate balance in a rabbit’s GI tract. Carbohydrates can also lead to excess cecal production, soft stools, and unhealthy weight gain.

If you decide to continue to feed these foods to your bun, heed the following advice. Do not feed any to rabbits under 12 weeks.[3] Rabbits may have no more than 1/2 teaspoon per pound of body weight per day.[2]

Some safe treats are the following:[2][3]

  • Rolled oats or barley
  • Unsugared whole-grain cereals such as Corn Chex, Cheerios, and bite-sized Shredded Wheat
  • Dried whole-grain bread and whole-grain crackers

A table of appropriate cereal treat feedings has been obtained from the Colorado House Rabbit Society.[3]

Cereal Treats Dwarf
(~3 lbs)
Avg
(~6 lbs)
Large
(~10+ lbs)
Cheerios 3 6 10
Chex types 2 4 6
Rice Crispies 1 tsp 2 tsp 4 tsp
Shredded Wheat 1 2 4

Seeds

Seeds are very high in fatty oils and are usually only eaten by wintering animals. An indoor house rabbit has no such need.[10] As a result, seeds should be fed very rarely. Do not feed at all if your rabbit is overweight.

Be warned that[10]

Rabbits appear to be more sensitive to fat than are humans, and in addition to obesity, the excess fat can accumulate in your rabbit's liver and arteries (atherosclerosis). Veterinarians have reported that rabbits fed seed-rich diets have a much higher incidence of fatty liver disease (hepatic steatosis), which is often fatal.

If you decide to feed seeds, the following types of seeds are safe.

  • Flax
  • Melon (e.g. watermelon, cantoloupe)
  • Pumpkin
  • Sunflower
  • Squash

Make sure that these seeds are unsalted. Feed no more than one or two seeds a day to prevent weight gain and an imbalanced digestive system. Make sure that the seeds are part of a balanced diet with plenty of hay and veggies.[12] You may wish to hull the seeds since the shell is indigestible.

Below are some relevant discussions about feeding seeds to rabbits.

Dairy

We do not recommend feeding any dairy treats such as yogurt drops to rabbits as treats. Rabbits are strict vegans in the wild and never have access to milk and other dairy products.

Adult rabbits do not naturally have the right bacteria to process dairy in their cecum and intestines and can consequently accelerate the onset of GI stasis in the absence of the bacteria.[13] These yogurt treats are also extremely high in sugar content, and as the House Rabbit Society states,[10]

...excessive sugar is converted to fat, or will pass into the cecum where the bacteria will use it for energy and then rapidly overgrow, possibly leading to bacterial imbalance and gi stasis.

However, MediRabbit does note, [13]

Yogurt diluted in water can nevertheless help rabbit suffering from intestinal bacterial disturbances et diarrhea, by protecting the endemic bacterial flora and allowing it to grow.

Homemade Recipes

Further Reading

See Also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 House Rabbit Society, Suggested Vegetables and Fruits for a Rabbit Diet
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Colorado House Rabbit Society, Treats for Rabbits
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Colorado House Rabbit Society, Nancy J. LaRoche, Diet Details
  4. San Diego House Rabbit Society, Suggested Fruits
  5. Kathy Smith, Fruit Treats
  6. kanin.org, Rabbit-safe fruits and berries
  7. MediRabbit, Camilla Bergstrøm, Feeding the house rabbit 4: Fruit and Berries
  8. Michigan Humane Society, MHS Rabbit Care
  9. House Rabbit Society, Elizabeth Te Selle, Natural Nutrition Part I: The Importance of Fiber
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 House Rabbit Society, Susan M. Smith, Ph.D., FAQ: Treat Foods
  11. Kathy Smith, Treats to Avoid
  12. Sherwood Forest Natural Rabbit Food, Can Rabbits Eat Sunflower Seeds?
  13. 13.0 13.1 MediRabbit.com, Can rabbits eat yogurt or dairy products?