Everybody knows rabbits enjoy lettuce and the occasional carrot. But can rabbits eat tomatoes?
These juicy and refreshing fruits are favorites for humans in salads and sandwiches. They are quite versatile and inexpensive, and cherry tomatoes are just the right size for a small bunny. So, what's the scoop? Can we give our rabbits a slice or two?
Can Rabbits Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, rabbits can eat tomatoes, as long as the fruit is ripe. Green tomatoes and the plant's leaves and stems should be avoided because they contain solanine, which is a toxin to bunnies. Also, follow our feeding guidelines, as too much tomato may cause mouth sores, obesity, and stomach upsets like diarrhea.
The bottom line is that tomatoes and other fruit are to rabbits what cookies are to humans. They are okay to eat once in a while, but not ideal for everyday consumption.
Tomatoes, in most forms, are okay for rabbits to enjoy. A tomato can be large or small, cherry or sliced. They can be yellow or a beautiful vibrant red color. Only green tomatoes should not be given to rabbits.
Just keep in mind that baby rabbits should NOT be given any tomatoes or fruits and veggies until they reach 12 weeks old. Even when they do hit that age group, it is best to take it slow and give them these types of food gradually. Give them a small piece of tomato, and then give them 24 hours to make sure it sits well with them.
One important thing to note is that tomatoes are high in natural sugar. The acid of the tomato is another point of concern. Also, you have to be very careful to prepare the tomato correctly. Read on to find out more.
Health Benefits: Are Tomatoes Good for Rabbits?
Rabbits need to get all vitamins except vitamin C from their diet to stay healthy. Therefore, it is important to offer them suitable food with everything they need.
Full of nutrients
Tomatoes are healthy and full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, and antioxidants.
For example, for rabbits, vitamin A is important for vision, bone development, reproduction, and immunological response, including battling infections. Potassium, on the other hand, is needed for normal growth.
High in fiber and water
Tomatoes are also high in fiber and water, which will help your bunny stay hydrated and support their digestion.
As a special treat, tomatoes are absolutely fine for rabbits to enjoy, perfect for a warm summer day.
However, they do not provide adequate nutrition for a rabbit. The primary diet of a rabbit should consist mostly of hay. Hay does a great job of protecting intestines and keeping fur chewing at bay.
It prevents hairballs and overgrowth of bacteria in the cecum (a pouch that connects the small and large intestine), which can lead to diarrhea and possibly death. Hay is also very low in calories, so rabbits are free to eat it as they like and do not have to worry too much about gaining weight.
There are healthier treats out there for rabbits, despite the fact that tomatoes are perfectly okay to eat.
Lastly, make sure you provide a constant supply of fresh, clean water. You can serve it from a water bottle, dish or crock. Even though tomatoes are mostly water, they are no substitute for actual H2O.
Related reading: Types of Hay for Rabbits
Health Risks: Are Tomatoes Bad for Rabbits?
Tomatoes on their own aren't bad for rabbits. They will certainly not harm your rabbit if eaten. Stalks, stems, leaves, and vines of tomatoes are toxic to your rabbit, and it is all thanks to a compound called solanine.
You do have to worry about the stalks, stems, leaves, and vines of these plants.
Tomato plants are members of the nightshade family of plants. It includes veggies like peppers, aubergines, and potatoes. All of the nightshade family members contain the alkaloid solanine in their stems, roots, and leaves.
Why is it there? Well, it serves as a natural pesticide of sorts. Solanine is the plant's own method of preventing being eaten by animals and thus preventing the plant's reproduction. Solanine tastes quite bitter and is quite poisonous, even when consumed in small doses.
Green tomatoes are also high in solanine and should be avoided when feeding to rabbits. Up to 500 mg of the compound can be found in just 1 kg of the green fruit, so it is not a healthy choice for your bunny.
When it comes to red tomatoes, the solanine content is low, measuring in at just 5 mg per 1 kg of tomatoes. Even so, certain types of tomatoes are better than others. For example, hothouse (those grown in a greenhouse/hothouse) tomatoes have a higher solanine content compared to vine-ripened tomatoes, so opt for the latter.
The acid in fruit is another force to be reckoned with. Too much acid can lead to mouth sores or an upset stomach for your bunny. Tomatoes are relatively high in acid, so it's best to keep your bunny's intake limited.
Also, keep in mind that tomatoes are quite high in sugar compared to leafy green vegetables and hay. Not as sugary as other fruits like watermelon or apples, tomatoes still contain sugar, which can cause health issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Related reading: What Fruit Can Rabbits Eat?
How much and how often
Make sure the amount you feed your pet is appropriate. When it comes to tomatoes, less than 1/4 of a cup no more than once a week is a suitable serving size for rabbits
How to prepare tomato for your rabbit
1. Choosing the tomato. Make sure you choose a tomato with a deep, vibrant red or yellow color. No green tomatoes! Pick a slightly soft but not hard fruit – not so soft that it is overripe. Those tomatoes should be discarded.
2. Wash the tomato as soon as you get home (and remove any stickers).It will make sure you don't forget when it is time to cut it up for your rabbit. Washing the tomato will remove any remaining pesticides.
3. Prepare the tomato.If you are ready to serve the fruit, get yourself a sharp knife and cutting board. (Kids make sure an adult helps you). Then, cut off the stems, leaves, and anything that is essentially not the flesh of the fruit.
Make sure the leaves, stem, and vine of the fruit are completely cut off as these are harmful to rabbits.
4. Cut evenly sized strips. Place the tomato on its side and cut slices that are evenly spaced. Start at the stem and end toward the bottom. Now you have sliced tomato. Place them next to each other or stack them on top of one another. Now cut them into evenly-sized chips/tomato fries your rabbit can enjoy easily.
5. Place the pieces of tomato into a serving dish and let your rabbit enjoy a few pieces.
6. Remove uneaten pieces. Make sure you remove any uneaten pieces after feeding time is over, so they don't form mold and make your pet sick.
A quarter cup of diced tomato once per week as a treat is okay for a rabbit. But what are the nutrition facts? And what health benefits, like vitamins and minerals, does the fruit contain?
Let's take a look.
In One-Quarter Cup of tomato, here's what you get:
- 8 Calories
- .4g protein
- 107 mg potassium
- 5.7 mg Vitamin C
- 0.12 mg iron
As you can see, a tomato is healthy and relatively nutritious food for your rabbit to enjoy. They are packed with helpful Vitamin C and are loaded up with antioxidants, which help in the fight against free radicals, which cause cell damage and may cause cancer.
Tomatoes are also rich in a compound known as lycopene. It is another excellent antioxidant and is known to provide sun protection. If your rabbit loves to be in the sun, tomatoes could be helpful to his well-being.
If your rabbit is having trouble pooping, you should talk to your vet in the first instance. However, tomatoes may help get things moving in the right direction. Tomatoes are high in fiber and water content and can also help them to maintain proper hydration.
Tomatoes are also high in beta-carotene, yet another powerful antioxidant—these aid in keeping the eyes protected against light damage, cataract development, and macular degeneration.
Now you know that rabbits can have tomatoes, but just as a once a week treat, in limited amounts.
- Serve your bunny no more than 1/4 of a cup of tomatoes weekly
- Don't offer green tomatoes and choose fruit that is deep red, and slightly firm.
- Wash thoroughly before serving.
- Make sure to cut off all leaves and stems before serving, as these are toxic.
- Dice the tomato into small pieces, so it is easier for your rabbit to consume.
- Serve it and make sure to remove any uneaten tomatoes after your rabbit is finished.
These are an excellent snack to enjoy with your rabbit - just keep it in moderation.
What happens if a rabbit eats tomato leaves?
Tomato leaves are toxic to rabbits because they contain a toxin called tomatine. If your rabbit eats tomato leaves, what happens is that small amounts cause mild tummy upsets while large amounts may cause ulcers in the intestines. For severe health problems, the amount eaten needs to be considerable, but it's always better to contact a vet if you feel worried about your pet's health.
Because rabbits can not vomit, there is not much you can do but to keep an eye on your bunny if they have ingested tomato leaves. If you see symptoms like decreased appetite, diarrhea, or drooling within 24 hours of consuming tomato leaves, take your rabbit to the vet to be treated for the intestinal upset.
When we think of bunnies, we think of them munching on crisp, green leaves, but when it comes to tomatoes, that's a bad thing.
Green tomatoes and the leaves and vines all contain a compound called solanine, which is toxic to our furry buddies.
The occasional ripe tomato chunk is a delicious and hydrating treat for your rabbit. Just remember to check they eat all of it and don't leave some to go moldy, which can introduce infections.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your rabbit’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.