Rabbits love eating leafy greens and fruits. You might have seen videos online of rabbits enjoying these seemingly healthy treats, and you may be wondering if you can give your pet rabbit the same. Tomatoes are one of these fruits that people often feed their rabbits.
Tomatoes can be either a healthy food or a dangerous and toxic addition to the diet of some animals. Which group do rabbits fall into? Can rabbits eat tomatoes? Does the addition of tomatoes to your rabbit’s diet cause harm? Can your rabbit eat tomato greens? Let’s find out!
In this article, we’ll look closely at:
- What amount is beneficial and healthy for your animal companion
- Why you should keep an eye on how much treats your pet gets
- Effects of too much tomato
- What alternatives there are to giving tomatoes to your pet as a snack
We have it all covered, and hope you’ll leave the article an armchair rabbit diet expert!
Can rabbits eat tomatoes?
Yes, adult rabbits can eat fresh tomatoes, provided you prepare them properly. Remove the stems, greens, and seeds, leaving just the skin and flesh of the tomato.
Don’t feed a rabbit unripe or green fruit, as these contain toxins.
Don’t give tomatoes to rabbits under 4 months of age, as they have sensitive stomachs.
What are the benefits of tomatoes in rabbits?
There are good reasons to give bits of tomato to your rabbit. Let’s get into them one by one.
Rabbits enjoy eating tomatoes
The first reason is pretty obvious; they love them! In general, it’s not hard to get your rabbit to eat any fruit or vegetable that isn’t something they get to indulge in regularly.
Rabbits are herbivores, and they love to eat fruits and vegetables!
Tomatoes contain vitamins and other nutrients
The second is that tomatoes are chock-full of vitamins, particularly vitamin C, which helps with stress regulation in anxious or sick bunnies, and vitamin A, which benefits both the skin and immune system of a rabbit at any age.
Tomatoes are a great source of fiber
Tomatoes, like any fresh fruit or vegetable, have good amounts of fiber in them. Rabbits need a diet high in fiber, so feeding them a small tomato now and then can contribute to that.
However, tomatoes cannot provide the same kind and quality of fiber as hay or grass, so don’t give them too many tomatoes at the expense of these.
Why are tomatoes dangerous to rabbits?
Although there are benefits to feeding your rabbit tomatoes, there are some dangers to bear in mind.
Tomato plants contain glycoalkaloids
Tomato leaves, seeds, and unripe tomatoes contain high levels of glycoalkaloids, compounds that cause serious health issues even in humans.
These include tomatine and solanine. Tomatoes have been associated with tomatine poisoning, which can cause hypertension, seizures, lethargy, neurological fog, and even death.
Scientists have also found that green tomatoes contain high levels of solanine. In humans, ingesting too much solanine can lead to nausea and vomiting, inflamed joints, burning when eating or drinking, and neurological issues like persistent nightmares.
For rabbits, the accidental consumption of an unripe tomato or the green parts of the tomato plant can lead to diarrhea, lethargy, sluggishness, and signs of confusion or behavioral changes.
Tomatoes may have been sprayed with pesticides
Like any fresh fruit, tomatoes need to be carefully washed, since any pesticides lingering on the skin can be extremely detrimental to your rabbit’s health.
Before cutting, wash the fruit you’re planning to feed to your pet under cold running water for at least ten seconds, making sure all the skin is cleaned.
Too much sugar
This caution is most applicable to canned or cooked tomatoes, which are usually processed and packed with unhealthy preservatives and added sugar.
Canned or cooked tomatoes may also choke your bunny if not sliced into smaller pieces that are easy for it to chew.
Can rabbits eat whole tomato fruit?
Rabbits should not eat whole tomato fruits because the seeds contain glycoalkaloids. When you feed tomatoes to your rabbit, remove the seeds first.
Don’t freak out if your rabbit gets a seed or two by accident, though. The amount of glycoalkaloid in seeds is notably less than that in other parts of the plant.
However, if they eat a large amount of tomato seeds, or small numbers on a regular basis, the compound can cause them harm. Always check in with your vet if your animal’s behavior or appearance changes suddenly.
Another reason to avoid feeding your rabbit whole tomato fruit is the risk of choking. Like horses, rabbits are unable to vomit. This means they cannot unblock a barrier to their breathing forcefully. If this happens, call a vet immediately.
Even if you think your rabbit has recovered from the incident, call the vet. Rabbits can aspirate their food and get infections from choking events.
Can rabbits eat tomato plants?
No! Never feed your rabbit part of a tomato plant. This goes for other members of the nightshade family as well, such as potato and eggplant greens.
These plants all produce glycoalkaloids as part of their natural defense mechanism to keep garden pests (which includes rabbits!) from eating them.
Wild rabbits keep away from other parts of the tomato plant, somehow knowing instinctively that they are dangerous.
However, domestic bunnies are often curious enough to try anything we give them as food. If you think your rabbit has eaten any part of a tomato plant, call your vet for advice on how to proceed.
Can rabbits eat tomato leaves?
Rabbits love green vegetables, but just like other parts of the tomato plant, tomatine is present in the leaves.
If you have tomato plants in your garden, build a fence around them to prevent your bunny from nibbling them while exploring.
How to prepare tomatoes for rabbits
If you’re going to feed your rabbit tomatoes, make sure you follow these steps.
- Wash the fruit thoroughly, making sure it is under running water for at least ten seconds.
- Remove the leaves and stems.
- Slice the fruit. This step will depend on what kind of tomato you’re going to give to the rabbit. If it’s a grape tomato, you can cut it in halves. If it’s a larger variety, like beefsteak or Roma, you’ll have to slice the fruit and give your rabbit the same amount you would use within a sandwich.
- Remove the seeds. Using either a spoon or a knife, separate the seeds from the part of the tomato you plan on giving the rabbit.
After feeding tomatoes to your rabbit, keep an eye on its behavior and droppings. If there’s diarrhea, you’ll know that your rabbit is sensitive to tomatoes and should not give the fruit as a treat again.
Can rabbits eat cherry tomatoes?
Yes, rabbits can eat cherry tomatoes and other varieties, so long as you prepare them properly and limit the amount. One cherry tomato is enough to reward your pet rabbit. You should squeeze the seeds out first.
How many tomatoes can you feed to rabbits?
Fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables should only form 10% of a rabbit’s diet. More than 80% of the diet should be a grass hay such as Orchard Hay, and around 10% should be high quality rabbit pellets.
Too much tomato can prevent the rabbit from consuming its main diet, so look at tomatoes as snacks or treats. One-quarter cup of tomatoes is enough for a day.
However, baby rabbits have sensitive stomachs and should not be fed tomatoes or other vegetables until they are at least 4 months old.
What are alternative rabbit snacks to tomatoes?
If you’d like to feed your rabbit snacks from the garden, there are a lot of options.
Sunflowers, for instance, are a delicious snack that rabbits are typically happy to receive. Dark lettuce and Swiss chard are beneficial greens as well.
Examples of rabbit-friendly fruits and vegetables are apples, broccoli, and strawberries. Despite popular opinion, carrots are not particularly beneficial or necessary in a rabbit’s healthy diet.
Learn more about foods that are safe to give your rabbit, in our Rabbit Diet 101.
If you’d like to give your rabbit fruits and vegetables, remember to give them as treats and not as a staple of the diet. If you feed your rabbit too much snack food, it might not eat enough hay and can get sick.
Tomatoes should be treated as vitamin-rich snacks, but not a staple of your pet’s diet. Go ahead and feed your rabbit an occasional tomato, making sure that it’s ripe, washed, and cleared of seeds. You can sneak it in with the rest of your pet’s food, or give it separately as a treat to enjoy on its own.
Keep in mind that anytime you add in new food to your pet’s diet, you should do so slowly, in small amounts, and keep an eye out for any unwanted changes caused by the new addition.
If you still have questions about “can rabbits eat tomatoes,” please let us know in the comments!