Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Cabbage?

Can Rabbits Have Cabbage?

People who have never shared their home with rabbits can afford to be blissfully ignorant of rabbit nutrition. American culture casually refers to all things green and leafy as “rabbit food,” every cartoon bunny on the planet lives exclusively on carrots, and the Internet is full of videos of cute white rabbits staining their fur gorging themselves on juicy, brightly colored fruits. For those who actually have a pet rabbit, however, blissful ignorance is no longer an option—they have to become masters of rabbit nutrition, and fast. This task becomes even more daunting when we discover that not all vegetables can be fed to rabbits interchangeably. The pet store gives us plenty of hay, but what else do they need?

When in doubt, we hit the refrigerator, and one of the more common crisper-dwelling veggies is cabbage.  While we often need half a head of cabbage for soups or salads, it’s not uncommon to find the other half languishing in the bottom of the fridge. So, can we pass off the leftovers on our bunnies? 
Can you give your rabbit cabbage?

The answer: yes, rabbits can (and should!) eat cabbage. Because it is nontoxic, high in fiber, and mild in flavor, cabbage is a favorite among bunny parents and veterinarians. Rabbit diets are supposed to consist of at least 5% green leafy vegetables, so cabbage is an excellent choice for those who are averse to the flavorful, strong-smelling choices like herbs. If your rabbit is especially prone to gas and bloating, however, you may want to opt for non-cruciferous vegetables.

Health Benefits of Feeding Your Rabbit Cabbage

cabbageWhat’s so great about cabbage? Though we associate flavor and brightness with health—and cabbage is both bland and pale in color—this vegetable is a suitable option for our cotton-tailed herbivores. Cabbage is loaded with Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6, which are all important for rabbit health. Vitamin K plays a key role in the blood clotting process, which helps prevent excessive bleeding and ensure proper wound healing.

Vitamin C, on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are thought to benefit the health of most animal species because of the role they play in combatting the negative effects of metabolic waste products called free radicals. Though free radicals are perfectly natural (they come about as a natural product of breathing, digestion, exercise, and other simple functions), they are highly reactive.

Free radicals cause damage to many of the cells they encounter, which can result in genetic mutations that later lead to disease. Some of the diseases thought to be caused (or exacerbated) by free radical activity are arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and even many forms of cancer. Antioxidants can protect body cells because they destroy free radicals, which heads off cell damage altogether. Because they can be rather prone to uterine cancers, antioxidants may be particularly helpful for female rabbits. It is worth noting, however, that the best way to protect your female bun from cancer is to have her desexed before she is six months old. No amount of cabbage can replace proper veterinary care!

Cabbage is a nontoxic and even beneficial food for most rabbits, but it is worth noting that some pet owners have reported problems with feeding it to their furry friends on a regular basis. Cabbage, along with foods like broccoli and beetroot, are known to cause gas in many animals. Small amounts of gas are no problem, but if too much gas develops in the gut, it can cause two bigger problems in rabbits. The first is bloat, which can cause severe discomfort. The second, diarrhea, can cause other more severe gastrointestinal problems if it persists.

When introducing any new food to your bunny, it is important to start small. Give them a small amount of cabbage with their usual diet, then wait several days to see if there are any changes in their behavior or in the appearance of their fecal pellets. If their feces changes in shape, color, texture, or frequency, it may be wise to offer them a food that is less upsetting to their digestion. While cabbage can be a great option, it is by no means a necessity—there are plenty of other vegetables that can provide just as much nutrition as cabbage.

Things to Consider

Cabbage, as well as any other leafy green, should not be the main part of your rabbit’s diet. To keep their digestion in working order, rabbits need to eat mostly hay. If your rabbit eats an excess of cabbage and other vegetables, they may suffer from a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, which can be fatal.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, cabbage is a safe food to give to rabbits in moderation. It is high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that can support your bunny’s health throughout their life. As a cruciferous vegetable, however, it may cause gas and bloating. If your bun has trouble with cabbage, pick another green!


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