When many people think of rabbit food, the first thing they usually think of is the processed pellets of food sold in many big box and pet stores. The reality is that rabbits, regardless of whether they are pets or wild, can consume a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and other plants. Those who are new to feeding rabbits or have only been feeding with pellets may wonder, can rabbits eat tomatoes? What should a rabbit’s diet look like?
The Basics of a Rabbit’s Diet
In general, many of the fruits and vegetables that you eat rabbits can eat. A rabbit’s diet can depend on several factors, including whether they are pets or wild. The diet of an adult rabbit has some differences to the diet of a baby rabbit. Let’s look at the dietary needs of a rabbit from birth to about twelve weeks of age.
Like all mammals, baby rabbits initially need only their mother’s milk. Feeding of solid foods should not begin until the rabbit is about three weeks old. At three weeks, baby rabbits can have a few bites of alfalfa and rabbit pellets. They should not have regular access to these foods until they are a month old. At four weeks, baby rabbits can have access to pellets and alfalfa, but the amount should be controlled. From about seven weeks to seven months of age, babies can have unlimited access to pellets and alfalfa.
Vegetables, including tomatoes, can be introduced to the rabbit’s diet starting at about twelve weeks. Make sure to introduce these gradually, and only in small quantities. From seven to twelve months of age, timothy hay and other types of hay can be given. The number of pellets can be reduced and the number of vegetables increased if the rabbit can tolerate it. These vegetables can include tomatoes, but do not feed any rabbit the leaves of the tomato plants. Baby rabbits can also eat some fruits at this age.
Adult Pet Rabbits
Adult pet rabbits should have unlimited access to different types of hay. Based on size and metabolism, a quarter to a half a cup of pellets is sufficient, provided they are given fresh vegetables and fruits daily. Rabbits love leafy vegetables, such as spinach. Contrary to commonly held belief, lettuce isn’t good for rabbits.
Many people choose to feed wild rabbits. With human habitation expanding into rabbit habitat, wild rabbits may be at a nutritional deficit. Wild rabbits will eat any food that adult pet rabbits will eat, including rabbit pellets. However, they may not be used to eating a lot of vegetables, so introduce them slowly. They will also enjoy eating your grass, so please do not spray chemical pesticides on grass that the rabbits will eat.
Fruits and Vegetables
A variety of vegetables can be fed to adult rabbits, whether wild or a pet. Like Bugs Bunny, rabbits do really enjoy eating carrots, but you don’t have to feed them carrots daily. Rabbits also enjoy celery, fresh parsley, and bananas. Tomatoes can be fed to rabbits as a treat. Rabbits can eat all different kinds of tomatoes, such as cherry or yellow.
Nutritional Benefit for Rabbits
Tomatoes are a terrific source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. They also contain potassium and important antioxidants. A word of caution, however, the leaves, stalks, flowers, stems, and green fruit are all toxic to rabbits. Before feeding tomatoes to your pet rabbit or a wild rabbit, be sure to remove all parts that may be toxic. Wash the tomato and remove the seeds. A cherry tomato is more than enough for one rabbit, as their stomachs are not large.
Tomatoes are acidic and surprisingly high in sugar, so only a slice or two of tomato in a day is enough, and no more than a serving of tomato a week. Sugar from fruits, including tomatoes, is bad for rabbits. Sugars can increase the amount of bad bacteria growth and affect their digestion. Also, avoid feeding a rabbit canned tomatoes, use only fresh. Of course, every bunny is different, so if any food produces signs of distress in a rabbit, you should avoid offering them that food in the future. Like many humans, rabbits love foods that taste sweet and will overeat. It is your responsibility to limit the number of sugary foods you give your pet rabbits or even wild rabbits. Tomatoes are one small part of a well-balanced diet for any rabbit above the age of twelve weeks.