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Can Rabbits Eat Cabbage?

Most rabbits LOVE their vegetable snacks and it’s just so easy to give them a piece of whatever human food you are snacking on too. However, there are some foods that are safe for humans, but can be harmful to your pet bunny. One common food, cabbage, is often in question: Can rabbits eat cabbage safely?

Dr. Jess explains the answer below:

long-eared rabbit on the floor

Check out whether rabbits can eat tomatoes here!

What Are Rabbits?

Rabbits and bunnies are small mammals that hop around from place to place.

They are commonly seen as pets with their sweet eyes, floppy ears, furry faces, and cute whiskers.

Rabbits come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, most commonly seen in shades of white, brown, black, and patches or combinations of those colors.

They can be seen with a large ear for their body size and even have long-eared varieties with even larger drooping ears.

Rabbits have long incisors (front teeth) that are constantly growing and needing to be filed either naturally or by the help of some intervention, both discussed further into this article.

What Do Rabbits Need From a Healthy Diet?

A well-balanced rabbit diet will need to deliver a multitude of things to the bunny ingesting it.

Just like humans, rabbits need the right combination of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and water to keep their organs working and functioning properly.

However, the daily nutritional requirements for a rabbit differ quite greatly from that of a human, and that is reflected in the common diet that most healthy and happy pet rabbits eat.

What Does a Typical Rabbit Diet Consist of?

An adult rabbit’s main source of food in their diet should come mostly from high-quality hay.

Hay is a forage that is low in calories and high in fiber, easy on the rabbit’s digestive system.

Other pieces of the rabbit’s diet may include commercial pellets and/or treats and snacks such as fruits and vegetables.

However, not all fruits and vegetables are safe for your bunny to have.

two white bunnies outside with sun flare

Let’s Talk Cabbage…

Cabbage is a common type of vegetable.

It is a large leafy green that is popular part of salads and other savory meals.

This vegetable comes in many different varieties, including red or purple, napa, savoy, and green cabbages. 

The cabbage plant itself grows along the ground and is a similar plant to broccoli and cauliflower. 

Cabbage Nutrition:

Just like with any other vegetable, cabbage has its nutritional value…. as well as some things to be weary of!

Vitamins:

Cabbage contains vitamin B, C, and K [source]. Vitamin C is essential to your rabbit staying happy and healthy and having a strong immune system.

Minerals:

Cabbage contains essential minerals too, such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorus, which are all needed to maintain healthy body functions.

Antioxidants:

Cabbage contains antioxidants that may help to prevent cell damage that harmful free radicals can cause. These antioxidants can help with things like preventing certain cancers and diseases.

Sugar Content:

Cabbage has a low sugar content as well.

Something to take note on and to keep in mind when feeding to rabbits who can come down with digestive upset with large amounts of sugar!

Water Content:

Cabbage also contains a high percentage of water, which is great when looking to maintain hydration. But too much water can be troublesome!

Fiber:

Cabbage contains fiber.

This fiber helps decrease the chances of constipation and improves gut motility.

Too much fiber however, can lead to too much gut motility… and that’s not a good thing either!

red and green cabbage being chopped and served

Do Rabbits Eat Cabbage?

Most rabbits will eat a cabbage when offered.

In a veggie garden, most rabbits will chose vegetables like peas, beans, beets, and carrots.

But just because rabbits DO eat cabbage does not necessarily mean that this is the best or safest choice for your pet.

Don’t be too worried if your rabbit does not eat cabbage that is offered- it’s normal. You will find another veggie alternative as a source of fresh food that your bunny can enjoy eating.

Can Rabbits Eat Cabbage Safely?

There are some foods that us humans can eat that are actually toxic to your rabbit and need to be avoided all together.

While there isn’t anything toxic to rabbits in the actual cabbage itself, you shouldn’t give them too much because problems may arise as I will discuss further down in this article.

Pet owners can chose to feed cabbage to their rabbits, but it should not make up their entire diet. Rabbits prefer munching on grass, commercial feed pellets, and hay, along with a bowl of clean, fresh water. 

You see, rabbits are herbivores and need a diet which is high-in fiber and low in sugar and fat.

They get their fiber supplied in the form of plants, such as hay which is a roughage that contains a lot of fiber.

This fiber is beneficial for two reasons:

  1. Dietary fiber keeps the rabbit’s digestive system running smoothly (it’s the same reason why some people take a fiber supplement like Metamucil!).
  2. The physical roughage (hay) helps keep the rabbit’s teeth healthy and worn down as their teeth are continually growing and need to be filed in order to prevent overgrowth.

So, long story short- Yes!

Adult rabbits can have cabbage, if offered to them safely, and I’ll cover that in just a bit.

You do not want to feed the wrong cabbage or the wrong amount or frequency, potentially making your furry friend unintentionally sick.

close up overhead shot of green and purple cabbage

Can Baby Bunnies Eat Cabbage?

Compared to their adult counterparts, baby rabbits have much more sensitive gastrointestinal systems.

Avoid feeding baby bunnies any kinds of fruits and vegetables until they reach 12 weeks of age to allow their stomachs to mature with them.

Then, when ready to introduce them to juicy vegetables, take it very slowly, waiting at least 24 hours to observe any potential adverse side effects, before moving on and trying more of the same veggie snack or a different tasty treat.

Remember – baby and young, and juvenile rabbits have more sensitive digestive systems!

Wait 24 hours to see their reaction.

If everything is fine, you can move to the next treat.

chart of watercolor vegetables

Is The Rest Of The Cabbage Plant Safe To Eat?

Stalk: You can give your rabbit cabbage stalk pieces.

Roots: Your rabbit will likely not eat the cabbage root when offered other parts of the plant. Do not feed the root to your pet.

Leaves: should be offered fresh and cleaned.

Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Cabbage?

Do not give your rabbit any cooked cabbage.

Any cooked or processed cabbage is not recommended since your rabbit is an herbivore and they rely on raw foods to get their nutrients.

Everything a rabbit needs can be provided in fresh and raw form. Your rabbit’s stomach is just not made to handle cooked food, including cabbage.

One big advantage with offering raw vegetables is that it’s not only healthier for your rabbit, but it is much less effort on your part!

backend of bunny with fluffy tail

Medical & Health Concerns of Feeding Cabbage to Rabbits:

Are there any circumstances when cabbage might be bad for your pet?

Yes, some of the common issues seen with feeding cabbage to rabbits include:

  • Pesticides: Cabbage should always be washed to make sure they are free of any pesticides or chemicals that could be harmful to rabbits.
  • Parasites: Cabbage should be checked over for parasites that can lead to potential parasite problems with your rabbit
  • Overly Ripened: Avoid rotten fruits and vegetables that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
  • Baby Bunnies: Baby bunnies have a more sensitive digestive system than their adult counterparts do, and therefore you shouldn’t give your rabbit friend any fruits or vegetables until they reach around 12 weeks of age.

How To Feed Cabbage To Your Rabbit:

First off, you should always purchase high-quality cabbage for your bunny from a reputable food source.

All fruits and vegetables will need to have a visual inspection done to make sure that you are giving your pet a ripe, healthy food to eat.

Next, you will need to remove the stalk, cut, slice, chop, or dice up the cabbage so that your rabbit can safely eat it.

They will need food in bite-sized pieces at first. When first introducing your rabbit to cabbage, you want to see how they do after giving them one small piece!

You may need to consider mixing the cut cabbage with vegetables, up together to help discourage picking through their food bowl and eating only the preferred items in their dish.

Food should be presented in a shallow clean dish that is not easily tipped over.

Fresh water should always be available in a shallow dish that can’t be easily tipped over. This water dish should be washed and cleaned daily.

Any food left in your rabbit’s enclosure that is not eaten up will start to get old and become unsafe for your bunny to eat, if they will even touch it at all.

This could lead to some major health issues, as well as a smelly enclosure and a bug problem – things you definitely do not want to deal with.

So, it is very important to clean out any foods that your rabbit leaves behind in a timely manner.

How to Feed Your Rabbit Cabbage

How to Feed Your Rabbit Cabbage

Active Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 2.00

Materials

  • 1 head of fresh store-bought cabbage

Tools

  • large kitchen knife
  • large cutting board

Instructions

    1. Pick a fresh head of cabbage that is free from pests, dirt, chemicals, bacteria, and fungus by doing a thorough visual inspection and washing.
    2. Chop the leafy head from the stalk using a kitchen knife and cutting board.
    3. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces according to your rabbit's size.
    4. Offer your bunny a bite-size piece of cabbage. Observe them to see if they eat it and if so, keep watch to make sure that no adverse side effects occur. If they do, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Notes

Contact your local veterinarian before changing or adding to your pet's diet.

Serving Size of Cabbage To Feed A Rabbit:

First step to focus in on is the serving size that you are giving your fur baby.

Depending on your rabbit’s size, the average cabbage portion should be up to 1/3 of its total fruits and vegetables for the day.

When first introducing your rabbit to cabbage, offer one small piece of cabbage and wait at least 24 hours to see if any adverse reactions occur before offering your pet more cabbage.

They should only be fed cabbage up to 3-4 times per week at most, but not on a daily basis or any two days in a row. Work up to this frequency and amount however!

Remember that cabbage should be limited to a special treat only because of potential digestive and other assorted health problems.

Moderation is key here!

head of cabbage chopped in half on cutting board

How Much to Feed:

Fresh vegetables should be as a supplement to your pet rabbit’s already well-balanced diet.

These fresh fruits and veggies should make up about 10-15% of your bunnies diet.

Depending on your rabbit’s size, the average cabbage portion should be up to 1/3 of its total fruits and vegetables for the day.

When first introducing your rabbit to cabbage, offer one small piece of cabbage and wait at least 24 hours to see if any adverse reactions occur before offering your pet more cabbage.

Keep in mind that too many vegetables can cause digestive distress.

Common Signs of Adverse Reaction:

  • lethargy
  • diarrhea/loose stool
  • anorexia
  • excessive or increased itching/scratching/licking of skin or paws

Summary:

Rabbits can have ripe, clean cabbage in moderation.

Too much cabbage can cause a multitude of health problems for your bunny.

Do not feed immature rabbits or rabbits with underlying health conditions cabbage even as a treat until they are of correct age to have it or their condition has improved and cabbage-eating has been approved by your veterinarian.

If you have concerns regarding feeding your rabbit cabbage, contact your local veterinarian beforehand.

Article Resources:

  • Oglesbee B. The 5 Minute Veterinary Consults Ferret and Rabbit, Blackwell 2006
  • Rabbit Care
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The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

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