Most rabbits LOVE their snacks and it’s just so easy to want to give them a piece of whatever human food you are snacking on too. However, there are many foods that are safe and healthy for humans, but potentially harmful to your bunny. One common food, the tomato, is often in question: Can rabbits eat tomatoes safely?
Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
What Are Rabbits?
Rabbits and bunnies…
They are small mammals that hop around from A to B.
They are commonly seen as pets with their cute, furry exterior.
They 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.
They 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.
While many people think or consider tomatoes a vegetables, it’s actually a fruit.
More specifically, tomatoes are a type of berry which grows on a vine, AKA, the tomato plant and are a part of the same family as potatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.
The most common varieties of tomato are those that are commonly used for cooking and are large, red, and juicy.
However, you can get them in different colors (such as yellow, green, orange, and even purple!), sizes from grape and cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteak tomatoes, and funny shapes!
Let’s look a little deeper into what tomatoes are comprised of so that we can better decide if they should be a part of your rabbit’s diet.
Tomatoes can offer a range of important nutrients and health benefits to your friendly rabbit friend, such as:
- High water content (about 95% water) which is good for keeping well hydrated
- A good source of vitamins A, C and B6
- Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals
- Low in fat
- Source of fiber (helps in digestion and reduces some GI issues)
- A good source of potassium (helps prevent hypokalemia in rabbits, low potassium levels in the bloodstream)
Do Rabbits Eat Tomatoes?
Most rabbits will eat a tomato when offered one.
But just because rabbits DO eat tomatoes does not necessarily mean that this is the best or safest choice for your pet.
Can Rabbits Eat Tomatoes? Are They Safe?
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 tomato fruit itself, you shouldn’t give them too much because problems may arise as I will discuss further down in this article.
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:
- Dietary fiber keeps the rabbit’s digestive system running smoothly (it’s the same reason why some people take a fiber supplement like Metamucil!).
- 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 tomatoes, IF given to them safely, and I’ll cover that in just a bit.
You do not want to feed the wrong tomatoes or the wrong amount or frequency, potentially making your furry friend unintentionally sick.
Can Bunnies Eat Tomatoes?
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 fruits, 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 fruity 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.
Is The Rest Of The Tomato Plant Safe To Eat?
The green parts of the tomato plant – the leaves, stems, flowers, and green fruit contain a alkaloid chemical known as solanine which can produce a substance called tomatidine when digested in the rabbit’s GI tract.
This toxin has the potential to cause health issues in your rabbit if ingested.
Medical & Health Concerns of Feeding Tomatoes to Bunnies:
- Pesticides: Tomatoes should always be washed to make sure they are free of any pesticides or chemicals that could be harmful to rabbits.
- Parasites: Tomatoes should be checked over for parasites that can lead to potential parasite problems with your rabbit
- Overly Ripened: Avoid rotten fruits that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
- Processed Tomato Products: Canned or cooked tomatoes are full of sugar, can contain chemicals, and are higher in acidity if cooked, so avoid feeding any type of tomato product besides ripe and clean tomatoes to your bunnies.
- High Sugar Content: Tomatoes are also high in sugar. Too much sugar is bad for rabbits and can lead to digestive problems such as upset stomachs and diarrhea.
- Weight Problems: Too many sugary treats can lead to issues such as obesity, dental problems, and diabetes in rabbits.
- Solanine/Tomatidine Toxicity: As discussed earlier in this article, the green parts of the tomato plant is toxic to rabbits. The ingestion of the plant, leaves, flowers, stems and/or vines can manifest as diarrhea, bloat, and stomach pain in your bunny.
- Baby Bunnies: Baby bunnies have a more sensitive digestive system than adults do, and therefore you shouldn’t give your hoppy pet any fruits or vegetables until they reach around 12 weeks of age.
Can Rabbits Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
The good news is that cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and other tomato varieties are safe for rabbits to eat!
Just remember to feed them to your rabbit in moderation and none of the green parts of the plant.
I will discuss how to feed these types of tomatoes to your rabbit in the next section below.
How To Feed Tomatoes To 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 tomato portion should be about the size of one cherry tomato and should only be fed about 1-2 times per week, definitely not on a daily schedule.
Remember that tomatoes should be limited to a special treat only because of potential digestive and other assorted health problems.
Moderation is key here!
- 1 ripe tomato
- cutting board
- kitchen knife
- food-safe storage container
1. Remove the tomato stam, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
2. Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
3. Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
4. Remove any seeds.
5. Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your rabbit, keeping in mind not to feed any rabbits with health issues or whom are not full grown.
6. Place any leftover tomato you may wish to keep in an airtight food-safe storage container in the fridge until ready to use.
Consult with your local veterinarian before adding or switching up your rabbits diet.
Here are my recommended steps when feeding tomatoes to rabbits:
- Remove the tomato stam, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
- Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
- Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
- Remove any seeds.
- Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your rabbit, keeping in mind not to feed any rabbits with health issues or whom are not full grown.
- Clean up any juicy spills or splatters immediately as to not make any messes with your rabbits fur – they typically do not enjoy wet fur!
Rabbits can have small pieces of ripe, clean tomato in moderation.
Too much tomato can cause a minacherie of health problems for the bunny.
Do not feed immature rabbits or rabbits with underlying health conditions tomatoes even as a treat.
If you have concerns regarding feeding your rabbit tomatoes, contact your local veterinarian beforehand.
- Oglesbee B. The 5 Minute Veterinary Consults Ferret and Rabbit, Blackwell 2006
- Rabbit Care