When you think of rabbits, cheese is not the first food that comes to mind. Yet cheese has many important nutrients, so you might wonder if it’s suitable for rabbits. So can rabbits eat cheese?
Rabbits should definitely not eat cheese. Rabbits require a strict vegan diet and also cannot tolerate the lactose in most cheeses. Cheese also contains too many fats and proteins to be healthy for rabbits. In addition, rabbits need lots of fiber, which cheese does not provide.
Giving your rabbits cheese is a bad idea for many reasons. As laudable as it is to think about providing a varied diet for your pets, cheese is just not right for rabbits.
In this article, we’ll explain in more detail if rabbits can eat cheese and also explain each of the reasons why they shouldn’t. Then we explain what happens when rabbits eat cheese.
In addition, we will also tell you some other foods that are not so good for rabbits.
Can Rabbits Eat Cheese?
Rabbits are not allowed to eat cheese, because their digestive system is designed only for a vegan diet. They also do not tolerate lactose.
Cheese contains many nutrients, but they are also not in the right composition for rabbits. While a small piece of cheese won’t kill a rabbit, it probably won’t do it much good.
Basically, it’s the same as eating something that doesn’t agree with you. It will cause stomach aches, digestive problems, and in the long run, it can cause more serious health problems.
But all this is true not only for cheese but for all dairy products. Rabbits in general should not be given dairy products. Whether it is cheese, yogurt, cream, or milk, they are all not suitable for rabbits.
This can become a problem for you when you buy treats from the pet store. Many manufacturers don’t care about the needs of the animal and add dairy products to their treats.
So pay attention to what ingredients are present in the treats, and if there are any traces of dairy products, better leave them in the store. There are so many healthy snacks for rabbits, they don’t have to rely on these products.
Rather, give your rabbits vegetables, herbs, or flowers as treats. Pea flakes are also a good choice if you want to spoil your bunnies. These are also often offered in pet stores and are far more suitable for rabbits.
Why Rabbits Should Not Eat Cheese
When you look at it more closely, there are many reasons not to include cheese as part of a rabbit’s diet. Each of these reasons alone is actually enough to keep cheese off the menu.
Let’s take a detailed look at each reason.
Rabbits Are Vegan
The first and most important reason against feeding cheese to rabbits is that rabbits are strictly vegan. They do not need animal proteins for a healthy diet.
In fact, animal protein actually harms them. Their digestive system is not designed to process these proteins.
As a result, your rabbits will have problems with their digestive system. They will get stomach discomfort and bloating, and diarrhea is also a possible result.
Rabbits Are Lactose Intolerant
Another argument against cheese is that rabbits are lactose intolerant. However, cheese contains lactose in most cases, as long as it is not highly processed and matured.
To process lactose, living creatures have a special enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose in the small intestine into galactose and glucose so that these can be further processed in the large intestine.
Rabbits, however, only produce lactase as long as they are breastfed by their mother. As soon as they are weaned, they no longer have lactase available.
As a result, the lactose enters the large intestine undigested, leading to bloating and diarrhea. Even small amounts of dairy products are sufficient for this in rabbits.
It is often recommended that yogurt has a positive effect on the intestinal flora of rabbits. However, this is not true. Yogurt contains good and important bacteria, but unfortunately also lactose.
Especially if your rabbit already has intestinal problems because of lactose intake, yogurt would not calm the intestine but worsen the problems.
Cheese is Too High in Fat for Rabbits
Rabbits are designed to eat low-fat foods such as grasses. However, cheese is anything but low-fat compared to their normal diet. Even reduced-fat products have a comparatively high-fat content.
The rabbit’s digestive system cannot cope with this high-fat content. The result is bloating, stomach upsets, and indigestion.
Cheese is Too High in Proteins for Rabbits
In their normal diet, only vegetable proteins are present, and even in relatively small amounts of up to 17%. But cheese contains animal proteins, and also in much larger quantities.
The digestive system of your rabbits cannot cope with both the amount of protein, which is about 25% or more in cheese and the structure of animal proteins.
The amino acids in animal proteins are different from those in vegetable proteins. However, the rabbit’s digestive tract is not designed to process these amino acids, nor is it designed to handle the larger quantity.
This in turn leads to digestive problems in rabbits that eat cheese.
Cheese is Too Low in Fibre for Rabbits
Rabbits usually eat grasses, hay, and other plants. These foods are full of fiber, which rabbits need for a well-functioning digestive system. The fiber pushes the food further through the digestive tract, so to speak.
However, there is much less fiber in cheese than in their natural diet. This can result in the food not being able to move through the intestines as usual.
When rabbits eat a low-fiber diet, it can lead to constipation. Constipation is something that should not be taken lightly in rabbits.
Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can be fatal in rabbits. So, if you discover constipation in your rabbit, you should see a veterinarian immediately to have it treated.
What Happens When Rabbits Eat Cheese?
If a rabbit eats just a small portion of cheese by mistake, it will probably feel uncomfortable for a while, but will not suffer more serious effects.
The situation is different if your rabbit eats a larger portion of cheese, or is given cheese on a regular basis.
Rabbits have a delicate digestive system that can be severely damaged by an improper diet. The consequences can be diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and stomach pain.
This sounds harmless at first, but it is very dangerous in rabbits.
Bloating can cause death from stress in rabbits within a few hours. Diarrhea can dehydrate your rabbits, causing other health problems. And constipation is also life-threatening in rabbits.
So if you notice any signs of any of these problems in your rabbits, be sure to see a vet. He or she can examine the animal and determine exactly where the problem lies.
He will then recommend appropriate treatment, be it antibiotics or antispasmodic medication. Depending on the cause, the treatment is very different, so you should not try self-medication.
However, you can support your rabbits by offering them the right food, which in this case consists only of hay, maybe some greens, and dried herbs. Do not give your rabbits vegetables in such a situation.
You also need to make sure that the rabbit drinks enough water. Also offer fennel tea, caraway tea, or peppermint tea to relieve cramps.
However, if problems persist, a visit to the vet is inevitable.
Other Foods That Rabbits Should Not Eat
However, besides dairy products like cheese, there are a number of other foods that rabbits do not tolerate well.
In most cases, rabbits themselves are able to evaluate their food and eat only what suits them. However, this requires that they are offered a sufficiently large selection of foods.
If they do not have a choice or if their senses are disturbed by a disease, they may eat bad foods. Therefore, it is important to know what you should and should not offer your rabbits.
Of course, there are many plants that are poisonous. We won’t go into those here at all but will discuss some foods that are sometimes considered suitable for rabbits.
- Bought treats: Purchased treats are often what candy is to humans. They may taste delicious, but they are not really healthy. Sometimes they even contain bad ingredients such as dairy products, which rabbits should not eat under any circumstances. Therefore, it is better to use vegetables, herbs, or flowers as treats.
- Dairy products: The fact that dairy products are not suitable for rabbits, we have already discussed in detail. So keep your hands off anything that contains milk if you want to do something good for your rabbits.
- Meat: Rabbits eat a vegan diet. Animal products have generally lost nothing on their menu. Unlike other small pets such as hamsters, they also do not eat insects. Their digestive system is not designed for this.
- Bread: Stale, hard bread is often used so that rabbits can grind their teeth on it. However, the bread is not really a challenge for the teeth. Rather use hard twigs from trees or bushes for this. Bread contains many ingredients that are unhealthy for rabbits. Baking agents, salt, preservatives and flavorings can damage the kidneys and liver. In addition, rabbits don’t actually need the large amount of energy derived from the starch in the flour.
- Cabbage: Most types of cabbage, such as white cabbage, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts can cause severe bloating and diarrhea if overfed or if they are unfamiliar to your rabbits.
- Bulbous plants: Bulbous plants such as onions, leeks, or chives are too pungent for rabbits and can cause bloating. Onions are even poisonous for rabbits.
- Legumes: Legumes such as lentils, peas, or beans can cause flatulence when raw. Beans are even toxic to rabbits when raw. However, rabbits tolerate fresh sweet pea pods well.
- Avocado: Avocados cause diarrhea in rabbits when unripe. Some avocado varieties are even severely toxic to rabbits. So it’s best to leave avocados out altogether.
- Potatoes: Potatoes in the raw state contain starch poorly digestible for rabbits. The green parts, the shoots, and the potato green are even toxic.
- Radish: Radish is a little too spicy for rabbits. if anything, you should only give radish in small amounts. But check how well your rabbits tolerate it if you feed it.
- Rhubarb: Rhubarb contains too much oxalic acid. It is even classified as slightly toxic. But for your little rabbits, even a small amount of poison can be dangerous, even if people do not have a problem with it. So leave out rhubarb.
- Stone fruits: Stone fruits such as cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, mirabelle plums, etc. contain too much sugar. In larger quantities, and especially together with water, they can cause severe diarrhea in rabbits.
- Exotic fruits: Exotic fruits such as cherimoya, curuba, pomegranate, guava, physalis, kumquat, lychee, mangoes, papaya, etc. can cause severe digestive upset if consumed. You should not give your rabbits such fruits.
Conclusion: Rabbits Should Not Eat Cheese
Rabbits should not eat cheese. They do not tolerate it well and it is not one of their natural foods.
Rabbits have a vegan diet and also do not tolerate lactose. Both of these factors speak against offering them cheese.
But cheese also contains too many fats and proteins and too little fiber to be good for rabbits.
While a small piece of cheese won’t kill your rabbits right away, it can cause stomach pain, bloating, and indigestion.
Some of these consequences of eating cheese can even be fatal to rabbits. so do your rabbits a favor and give them something you can tolerate better. With vegetables as a treat, your rabbits will have more fun.