Can Rabbits Eat
April 5, 2022
Rabbits and cats both make adorable pets. They usually have strong personalities, but many individuals are still cuddly and social.
Actually, it’s quite common for pet owners to have both cats and rabbits. As cats are usually allowed to roam free in the house and rabbits also need a lot of time outside of their cage, it’s not unusual for bunnies to find cat food and want to have a taste.
After all, rabbits are curious creatures that will nibble on anything interesting that they come across. If there is cat food in a bowl on the floor, they will most likely find it and take a bite.
So, what if your bunny gets its paws on some cat food? Is it harmful, or could you even feed cat food to your pet rabbit? Can rabbits eat cat food?
Let’s find out.
Can Rabbits Have Cat Food?
Differences In Diets Explained
First of all, let’s have a look at the dietary need of both species to determine whether they eat the same type of food.
To start with, rabbits are herbivores, while cats are carnivores. What this means is that rabbits get all of their energy from plant-based sources. A bunny diet is mostly based on hay or grass with the addition of rabbit pellets, veggies, leafy greens, and fruits. Bunnies don’t eat meat in any form.
Cats and rabbits have profoundly different diets.
Cats, on the other hand, are carnivores. Their diet should be based mainly on animal protein to keep them healthy and to ensure they get essential nutrients like taurine, arginine, niacin, and thiamine. Cats rely on a meat-based diet to get these nutrients they couldn’t survive without.
Cat foods may contain grains and vegetables, and your cat may want to have a taste if you’re eating a tasty vegetable or fruit. Still, in the end, the majority of their diet should come from animal protein to keep them happy and healthy.
As you can see, cats and rabbits have profoundly different diets. But can rabbits eat cat food regardless of these differences?
Can a Rabbit Eat Cat Food?
No, rabbits cannot eat cat food. As herbivores, rabbits cannot digest cat food that is high in animal protein and fat. Eating cat food can cause many health issues for rabbits, including diarrhea and kidney problems.
Cat food is not toxic to rabbits as such, so if your bunny finds your cat’s food bowl and nibbles of a few kibbles, no harm is done. However, rabbits should not be fed cat food intentionally, as it could lead to various health concerns.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why your rabbit should not have cat food.
4 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Feeding
Cat Food To Your Rabbit
1. Cat foods contain too much protein
Compared to the nutritional requirements of rabbits, cat foods are too high in protein. And not only are they high in protein, but that protein also comes from animal sources. At the same time, rabbits are used to getting their energy from plant materials.
Also, getting too much protein with the daily diet is hard for the kidneys and may cause kidney issues.
2. Cat food has too much fat
Cat foods are also high in fats when you compare them to the natural diet of rabbits, which consists mainly of low-fat items like hay and veggies.
Consuming elevated amounts of fat will lead to weight gain and obesity, which are issues vets too often witness with pet rabbits. In addition, rabbits aren’t used to digesting fat, and therefore it may cause digestive upsets.
3. Cat food contains too little fiber
Although especially dry cat foods contain grains, they are usually very low in fiber. On the other hand, rabbits need a lot of fiber to keep their digestion functioning and avoid a life-threatening condition called gut stasis.
By feeding cat food to a bunny, you risk serious gastrointestinal problems.
4. Cat food isn’t nutritionally sufficient
In the end, because cat food is specifically formulated to offer cats a balanced and healthy diet, it is not suitable for rabbits. It is always important to offer any pet species-specific foods as they have been tailored with that specific animal’s dietary needs in mind.
What this means is that you should not feed your rabbit cat food but stick to rabbit food instead.
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Can Rabbits Eat Wet Cat Food?
No, rabbits should not have wet cat food. Rabbits are herbivores, and their digestive system is not designed to handle meat. Wet cat food, on the other hand, is mostly made out of animal protein and designed for carnivorous cats.
Because wet cat food is high in protein and fats but low in fiber, it can easily cause severe gastrointestinal issues for rabbits. Because rabbits eat mostly hay, their digestion depends on fiber. Not getting enough of it can quickly lead to diarrhea or gut stasis, which is a condition where the bowel movements slow down or stop altogether, causing a severe health risk.
Having a taste of wet cat food is not likely to harm your bunny in any way. Still, it may damage both the digestion and kidneys in larger amounts or if fed regularly.
Can Rabbits Eat Dry Cat Food?
No, rabbits should not eat dry cat food either. Although dry cat food is usually not as high in protein and fats, its main component is still animal protein. As herbivores, rabbits have digestive systems that have evolved to handle only high-fiber plant-based food, so high-protein dry cat food will cause digestive issues and problems with the kidneys.
Because dry cat food is not as high in protein as wet cat food, it is not as likely to cause issues.
A few small kibbles will not harm your pet rabbit, but we highly recommend keeping your cat’s food out of reach. If your bunny gets its paws on cat food too often, it may replace some of the all-important hay in their diet and lead to tummy troubles.
What Happens If a Rabbit Eats Cat Food?
If your rabbit eats a small amount of cat food, it is unlikely to cause any serious harm. However, because bunnies often have delicate digestive systems and are not used to eating animal protein, cat food may cause stomach upsets and diarrhea.
In the case of gastrointestinal upset, monitor your bunny closely. If they stop eating or drinking, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. A tummy upset should clear in a day or two, but a trip to the vet may be necessary if the symptoms continue to last.
Symptoms you should look out for are
- soft stools or diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
In the long run, if your rabbit continues to eat cat food, it may also suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Cat food does not provide your pet bunny with the vitamins or minerals they need, so eating too much of it will cause malnutrition.
Again, a trip to the vet is needed if you witness symptoms of malnutrition. These signs include:
- dull or rough coat
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
Also, because cat food contains very little fiber, feeding it to your rabbit could cause a severe condition called gut stasis. Bunnies rely on high-fiber hay to keep their bowel moving. Not getting the fiber they need throughout each day may quickly lead to their digestion slowing down or even stopping altogether.
Gut stasis can be fatal, and it calls for immediate veterinary care, so if you suspect your bunny may be suffering from it, contact a vet right away.
Related reading: The Real Risk Of Gut Stasis
Bottom Line – Can Bunnies Eat Cat Food?
To sum it up:
If your rabbit eats a small amount of cat food, it is unlikely to do any harm assuming your bunny is being fed a balanced and nutritionally sufficient diet otherwise.
Although cats and bunnies have very different dietary requirements, having a taste of cat food doesn’t affect your rabbit’s health when the amounts are tiny, and it only happens accidentally and occasionally.
However, you should not feed cat food to your rabbit knowingly. Cat food is too high in protein and fats and too low in fiber. Also, it is based on animal protein, while bunnies use plant-based proteins for energy.
Feeding cat food may cause many severe health issues for rabbits, including kidney problems, diarrhea, malnutrition, and gut stasis.
As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to ensure your pets don’t get their paws on anything that could harm them. Foods are a major concern because many items in human homes are not suitable for animals.
If you own a cat and a bunny, it’s important to make sure cat food is out of reach when your rabbit is out of its cage. This way, you can rest assured your curious bunny will not find its way to the food bowl and eat your cat’s food.
A single kitty food kibble is unlikely to derail your bunny’s carefully curated diet, but you should avoid your bunny getting access to your cat’s food where possible as it can cause tummy upsets which are a big deal for bunnies.
Rabbits are herbivores that need a diet high in fiber to maintain their digestive functions. Sudden dietary changes or treats too high in protein or sugars can upset their gut motility and lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as gut stasis. This occurs when their gut essentially stops moving their food along to the next stage of digestion, allowing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria within their gut.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.