Which rabbit-friendly foods should you keep to one side so that you can feed them in moderation over the festive season, and which should go straight into the bin? Check out our handy guide to rabbit-safe foods.
Download our infographic for a quick overview on which foods are safe for rabbits at Christmas
Christmas overindulgence often leads to leftovers for humans, and you may be tempted to share this festive fare with your rabbits. But the contents of our plates are rarely suitable for them and, in some cases, they are even poisonous to rabbits.
‘A healthy diet for a rabbit should consist of 85% unlimited grass and hay, 10% vegetables and herbs, and 5% pelleted feed,’ says Richard Saunders, vet specialist adviser to the Rabbit Welfare Association.
‘You need to bear this in mind if you decide to give your rabbits a treat at Christmas, because sudden changes to the amount or type of food they eat can lead to digestive problems – and that can quickly become fatal if left untreated.’
So, what food is poisonous to rabbits, and what is the best food for rabbits at Christmastime? Let’s take a look at some specifics of seasonal eating.
Rabbit Christmas dinner: the don’ts
Your plate might be loaded up with all the trimmings, but that doesn’t make it rabbit-friendly food. What should you keep away from your bunnies this Christmas?
Meat and gravy
Remember, rabbits are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. You might be tempted to throw them a little leftover turkey or ham, but it’s best to keep that for the compost. As for the gravy? It’s full of salt and meat juices, so keep it well away from your rabbits.
If rabbits are herbivores, then your leftover veggies must be rabbit-friendly food, right? Wrong.
Cooked vegetables are too rich for rabbits, and too soft to be of any use for wearing down their teeth. If you’d like them to have a little nibble on some broccoli or cabbage for Christmas, make sure you keep some aside before cooking. And while peas are a good source of protein for us, they can cause digestive problems if used as rabbit food.
Honey-glazed carrots and other sweet treats
We already know that cooked vegetables are not rabbit-friendly food, but an important word here on some of the sweeter versions that humans like to have at Christmas. Any vegetables glazed in honey or other sweet sauces could lead to life-threatening colic in your bunnies. This is because ingesting any processed sugar can create a fatal build-up of gas in rabbits’ stomachs.
The same goes for the sauces used in Christmas dinner. Cranberry sauce is high in soluble sugars, so could be fatal if eaten by rabbits. If you’re making your own sauce – not using a jar from the store – you could keep a couple of fresh cranberries aside to share with your rabbit friends as a treat.
Carbohydrates and starches
One of the best things for humans about a good, hearty traditional Christmas roast can be the stuffing and roast potatoes. Yet, breadcrumbs are too high in carbohydrates for rabbits – and they probably wouldn’t enjoy the seasoning – while potatoes are generally not recommended as rabbit food. Even when raw, potatoes are too rich in starch and sugar for a rabbit’s delicate digestive system.
One last don’t…
These poisonous foods – which may be eaten by humans at Christmastime as well as other times of the year – should never be fed to your rabbits:
- Allium vegetables, such as chives, garlic, onions and shallots
- Fruit pips
- Potato leaves
- Sugary, processed foods
If your rabbit ingests any of these foods, get them to the vet immediately. Remember, pet insurance can help to cover the cost of emergency care should your pet need it.
Don’t miss our Petplan advent calendar
See what treats are behind each door every day from 1st December until Christmas.
Best food for rabbits at Christmas: the dos (in moderation)
While some Christmas foods are bad for rabbits, it doesn’t mean your bunnies need to miss out on all treats during the festive season. There is plenty of rabbit-friendly food that they’ll love as a delicacy – including some of the stuff that’s going onto your plate.
If you want to make these treats more seasonally appropriate, consider cutting the regular veg into different shapes, like carrot stars or broccoli Christmas trees. Remember, raw vegetables should only be fed to your rabbits as part of an appropriately balanced diet that also includes grass, hay and pellets.
- Carrots. Popular culture would have us believe that carrots are a staple food for rabbits, but they’re actually high in sugar and should only be given occasionally. That, of course, makes them a perfect Christmas present.
- Broccoli is irresistible to rabbit taste buds, and it’s fine to feed it to them regularly.
- Cabbage. Varieties of cabbage are rabbit-friendly food. Try them on a mix of dark-green varieties, red cabbage or bok choi.
- Brussels sprouts. Sprouts might be the love-or-hate-them choice on the human Christmas table, but as rabbit food they could be gobbled up. Just be sure to feed them to your bunnies in small amounts. If too many are consumed, sprouts can cause gas to form in a rabbit’s stomach, which can be dangerous for them.
- Cauliflower. Rabbits especially like cauliflower leaves, so keep these to one side when prepping your Christmas dinner.
You could also try your rabbits on some of the stronger-tasting herbs, such as dill, mint, parsley and thyme. Leafy green veg, such as kale, are great food for rabbits all year round.
Specific treats for bunnies: What do you feed rabbits for Christmas?
Not all of the best food for rabbits will come from the human table this festive season. There are plenty of foods for rabbits that we wouldn’t dream of touching.
Try some sweet-smelling alfalfa hay as a treat. It is higher in protein than regular grass hay, which makes it too fattening to feed as part of the main diet of an average adult rabbit. The higher calcium content can also lead to kidney and urinary problems. A small amount can be a delicious treat, however.
Finally, some pet shops will have Christmas-themed treats and toy bundles for sale at this time of year. Make sure you read the labels carefully, though, as some things that are safe for other small animals are not meant for rabbits, and vice versa. If in doubt, ask your vet for advice.
For a quick overview of what’s safe to feed your rabbit this festive season, download our fun infographic and fix it to your fridge so that you have it handy at all times.
What will you feed your bunnies for Christmas dinner? Post a picture of their festive bowls on Instagram or X, tagging @Petplan_UK with the hashtag #PethoodStories.