General

Can rabbits eat apples safely?

Can rabbits eat apples safely?

Imagine a big pile of apples. Really big. Not just five, ten or twenty.

Imagine having over a hundred apples stacked up in front of you. 

Would you give all of that in one go to your bunny?

Neither would I, or anyone. It’s far too much – the pile of apples would be much larger than the bunny.

Unless you are crazy enough to give over a hundred apples all at once to your bunny, giving apple to your rabbit friend is safe.

Rabbits can eat apples safely, including the core, pips (apple seeds) and stem. Apple is a great treat to feed rabbits. As with all fruit, the portion size should be small as too much of the sugar found in fruits is unhealthy. A portion size for a rabbit of 6lb (3kg) is about half of a small apple.

You might have come across a myth that apple cores and stems are dangerous for your bunnies. 

Sites on the internet warn of all sorts of potential nasty symptoms and even death. 

These sites are well-meaning, but not based on any science (and often just repeat the same warnings found on other sites).

Why is there a myth that apple seeds are dangerous to rabbits?

apple core and seeds (also known as pips)

The myth that apple seeds are dangerous to bunnies has come about because they contain a substance that breaks down into cyanide.

Cyanide?! But that’s a deadly poison, isn’t it??

We react strongly and emotionally to this chemical, because it makes us think of James Bond, and spies, and deadly poison.

Bond and M face up to nasty effects of cyanide in Skyfall

But quantities matter, and you need 144 apples to have seeds for the quantity of cyanide to be dangerous to a rabbit.

The Science – how dangerous are apple seeds to rabbits?

If you’ve ever bitten into an apple seed, you’ll know how sour and bitter it tastes.

That bitter taste is cyanide. (Yes – you’ve tasted cyanide and lived). 

It comes from a chemical inside the seeds called amygdalin.

More formally, amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside. That’s a posh term for a chemical that breaks down, forming hydrogen cyanide as a result.

And hydrogen cyanide, in enough quantity, is dangerous. It can cause nausea, convulsions, heart problems and in extreme cases death.

To find out how many apples might be dangerous to a rabbit, we now need to find out three things:

  • How many apple seeds in an apple
  • How much amygdalin in an apple seed
  • How much amygdalin is dangerous to a rabbit.

How many apple seeds in an apple

I’m going to use 8 apple seeds in an apple as a reasonable average. 

Of course, each apple may vary (and each type of apple), but 8 is reasonable.

Each apple contains on average 8 apple seeds

How much amygdalin in an apple seed

Apple seeds contain, on average, 2.96 mg/g of amygdalin (research paper here). But apple seeds weigh less than a gram. On average, a typical apple seed weighs about 0.7g.

So each apple seed contains about 2.072mg of amygdalin.

How much amygdalin is dangerous to a rabbit

No-one (to my knowledge) has actually fed amygdalin to rabbits to find out what the lethal dose might be (thank goodness).

But scientists have done this with rats, who are similar enough to give us a good idea of what a lethal dose would be. (I’m glad I’m not this kind of scientist, but you can find the research paper here.)

For rats, the lethal dose of amygdalin is 880mg/kg. Let’s assume that it’s about the same for rabbits.

Now, bunnies come in all sorts of sizes, from Netherland Dwarfs through to Flemish Giants. Our bunnies, minilops, fall somewhere in the middle.

So I’m going to assume that the rabbit is about 4lb, or 2kg in weight.

This means that the lethal dose of amygdalin would be 1,760mg.

The maths

Maths of how many apples would be needed to be dangerous to a rabbit

Number of apples to be dangerous = lethal dose / (apple seeds in apple x amygdalin in seed)

Number = 1,760/(8×2.072)

Number = 106.2

So you need to eat all the apple seeds from over a hundred apples to reach a lethal dose for an average bunny.

Can cyanide build up over time in a rabbit?

The short answer is, no. Cyanide is extremely reactive. While that makes it dangerous (in enough quantity), it also means that it breaks down quickly. Cyanide can’t build up inside the body.

But I heard that far fewer seeds were dangerous?

You may come across calculations that imply that far fewer seeds are dangerous for rabbits. These are based on the theoretical amount of cyanide that amygdalin could, in absolutely ideal lab conditions, produce. (A gram of amygdalin can theoretically produce 59mg of hydrogen cyanide).

And you can then carry out calculations based on lethal doses of hydrogen cyanide for rabbits (sadly, these experiments have been carried out – it’s 0.66mg/kg of bodyweight).

But this is much less useful or applicable than experiments carried out directly with amygdalin, which is the chemical actually found in the apple seeds.

Could an even higher number of apples be safe?

Short answer – yes.

I’ve taken an extremely conservative approach, by assuming that all the amygdalin in the apple seeds gets extracted by a rabbit.

But how often have you swallowed an apple seed by accident?

Apple seeds have evolved to be eaten. The hard, shiny, smooth shell is there so that it can pass intact through animals’ intestines to be left elsewhere. That’s how the seeds spread. And if it was dangerous to animals, it wouldn’t have succeeded. 

In real life, very little amygdalin is likely to be released from the apple seeds. You would need to extract the apple seeds and grind them into fine powder to get anywhere close to the result I gave above (clearly – I don’t recommend you do this).

Are there any cases of rabbits being poisoned by apple seeds?

To the best of my knowledge, there are no known cases of rabbits being poisoned by apple seeds (not surprising, given the above). 

And that’s not just me – it’s also the opinion of a vet who specialised in dealing with rabbits.

There are no reported cases of a rabbit dying from eating apple pips. In the autumn, wild rabbits feast on windfalls, including the pips, with no ill effects.

Frances Harcourt-Brown FRCVS, author of Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, European and RCVS Recognised Specialist in Rabbit Medicine and Surgery

How do apples fit into a rabbit’s diet?

IngredientNutrional value per 100gComments
Water85.6gApples have a lot of water in them. This is helpful on hot days for bunnies.
Energy52 kcalThis is mostly from the fruit sugars, which are types of carbohydrates. Like most sweet things, too much is bad for you.
Fibre2.4gRabbits need a lot of fibre – hay, which is best for them, is nearly 20% fibre. So apples on their own don’t provide enough. Much of the fibre is in the skin, so don’t peel the apple to give to your bunny,.
Carboydrates13.8gMuch of this are sugars – see the next entry.
Sugars10.4gHalf of the sugar is fructose, the rest sucrose and glucose. The sugar content is why apples taste sweet to us (and to our furry friends).
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)4.6mgRabbits don’t need vitamin C – their bodies can make it themselves.
Vitamin B complexSmall amountsRabbits don’t need vitamin B – their bodies can make it themselves.
Vitamin A54 IUApples provide a little vitamin A for rabbits, but they need far more (6-10,000 IU daily).
Vitamin E, D & KSmall amountsThe amounts of these vitamins is not significant for bunnies.
Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Potassium, Sodium, Manganese, SeleniumLowApples don’t provide significant amounts of any of these minerals for rabbits
Information on apples (skin on) from USDA

Apples make a great treat for rabbits. But the bulk of their diet should always be hay (see our post on Timothy hay for more information on why this is the best food).

Check out the nutritional table above. Apples on their own don’t provide enough fibre, minerals or vitamins for rabbits. That’s why rabbits need lots of hay, and to have apple as a treat.

It’s best if bunnies have unlimited access to hay.

You can also give rabbits a handful of greens a day, and a small amount of nuggets a day (about an eggcup). 

Always make sure that your bunny has plenty of water to drink.

Don’t give too much apple to your pet bunny – not because of any worries about the seeds, but because apples, like most fruit, contain fruit sugars.

This is why apples taste sweet. They contain fructose, and in lesser amounts glucose and sucrose.

Just as too much sugar is bad for us humans, too much sugar is bad for rabbits.

That’s why apples should be a treat, and portion size controlled for your bunny.

A suitable portion size is about half a small apple for a medium sized rabbit.

You can find more about rabbit nutrition here, and more about how rabbits digest food here.

Can rabbits eat apple skin? 

Rabbits can eat the skin on apples (and it’s good for them – extra fibre). 

Can rabbits eat apple leaves or twigs?

Rabbits can safely gnaw away at apple leaves and twigs. This will also help their teeth – rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, so bunnies need to chew away on rough food to keep their teeth to a healthy length.

Conclusion – can rabbits eat apples?

Rabbit eating slice of apple
Peach enjoying a slice of apple as a treat

Rabbits can eat all parts of an apple safely. Don’t believe myths about apple seeds that are not based on science.

You can check out what other fruit are safe for rabbits to eat at our comprehensive post covering this.

We also have an article checking out which herbs are OK to give your bunny.

If you’re worried about your rabbit’s health, make sure that you have insurance so you can cover any vet bills. For UK readers, I did a comparison of the pet rabbit insurance providers.

And if you want to keep your bunnies entertained, check out our favourite toys for rabbits.

Posted by Jonathan in General
Can rabbits eat mangetout?

Can rabbits eat mangetout?

We all love to give our bunnies food that they both enjoy and is good for them. And you probably already know that green vegetables can be a healthy part of a rabbit’s diet. But are all vegetables OK?

In particular, what about mangetout? 

Mangetout (sometimes called snow peas) are types of garden peas that are picked for eating whilst still young. The small peas are left in the flat pod, and the whole pod can be eaten (mangetout is the French for ‘eat all’).

Sugar snap peas are similar to mangetout (you eat the whole pod) but have a rounder shape and are crunchier than mangetout (they have a ‘snap’ to them).

Rabbits can eat mangetout safely, and also sugar snap peas. These green vegetables provide both vitamins such as vitamin K, minerals such as iron and manganese, and fibre, which is good for your rabbit’s teeth and gut. Rabbits can have up to about a couple of tablespoons a day as part of a mixed diet that is mainly hay based.

How much mangetout should I give my rabbit?

You should give a mature rabbit (over 1 year old) about 2 cups of vegetables a day. For mangetout, this means about 200g, or 8oz. You should mix up which vegetables you give your bunny, so don’t give your furry friend mangetout every day. They need the variety.

If you have a younger bunny, this may need adjusting.

Very young rabbits (kittens) won’t need any vegetables until they are 12 weeks (3 months) old. Introduce them one at a time. So no mangetout for the youngest.

From 3 months to 6 months old, you should be slowly increasing the amount and variety of vegetables in your bun’s diet. And this then continues over the rest of the year.

If you introduce mangetout into your rabbit’s diet this way, and keep it as part of a varied diet of some vegetables but mainly based on hay, then you can know that you are doing your best to keep your rabbit healthy.

If you want to see further advice about rabbit diet, check out the advice from the House Rabbit Society, or from a vet who specialised in rabbits, Francis Harcourt-Brown.

Why is mangetout good for rabbits?

Mangetout, like most green vegetables, is a good choice as part of your bunny’s diet. 

This is because it contains a variety of fibre, protein, and minerals that rabbits need to be healthy.

ComponentAmount per 100g
Fibre2.6g
Protein3.6g
Vitamin C54mg
Thiamine (B1)0.15mg
Vitamin K25μg
Iron2mg
Magnesium24mg
Manganese0.244mg
Phosphorus54mg
Zinc0.27mg
Mangetout nutritional information (sources: Wikipedia, Sainsbury’s, Tesco)

These different components all help your rabbits to grow and keep their bodies healthy. 

Fibre is critical in a rabbit’s diet (which is why hay should always be the main part of the diet). Fibre helps keep the gut moving – rabbits can suffer badly if food starts piling up inside (gut stasis). If your rabbit ever stops eating and pooing, contact a vet straight away.

Protein enables the rabbit to make its own protein (which is used, for example, to build and repair muscles and skin).

Minerals are needed in small quantities too – hay and vegetables ensure that the bunny gets enough for a healthy body.

Rabbits also need some vitamins – in particular A, D and E (see more here).

However, mangetout are not high in these vitamins, but in vitamin C, B1 and K.

Rabbits don’t need these in their diet because they can produce them themselves – for example, the rabbit intestines make vitamins B and K from microbes.

Some other vegetables are higher in the vitamins that the rabbits need. This is why we need to give a variety of vegetables to our pet bunnies to ensure that they end up with a balanced, healthy diet.

What if my rabbit doesn’t like mangetout?

Should you be worried if your bunny turns up their nose at mangetout? 

No.

Just like you and me, rabbits have their own food preferences. Most bunnies love bananas – one of ours (Peach) isn’t bothered at all, and turns away.

In the same way, not all bunnies will like mangetout.

Neither do all humans – confession time – including me. 

If I won’t eat mangetout I can hardly complain if my rabbit won’t.

Just try other vegetables until you hit on some that your bunny loves.

What about sweet peas?

You should avoid giving your rabbit decorative sweet peas or dried peas.

Decorative sweet peas are poisonous. 

While your bunny is likely to be fine if they nibble a small amount, in large quantities the leaves can produce lathyrism, with effects similar to scurvy, affecting collagen production. (Find out more on the research, done on rats, here).

Conclusion

You can safely give mangetout or sugar snap peas to your rabbit as part of a varied diet. The rabbits can ‘eat-all’ of it.

As you are interested in food for your rabbit, check out our other posts in this area:

Happy reading!

Posted by Jonathan in General
How fast can rabbits run?

How fast can rabbits run?

If you’re like me, the first time your rabbit sprinted around the house or garden, you were amazed at how fast they zoomed around, from a standing start, turning corners sharply, before coming to an abrupt halt. It seems like they go from 0 to a million miles per hour in a nanosecond. So I investigated how fast rabbits do run, and how they get so fast. And then, I measured how fast one of my rabbits can run.

How fast can rabbits run?

A rabbit can run at speeds of up to 35 mph (56 km/h). Some breeds of wild hare can run even faster – the jackrabbit can reach speeds of 45 mph (72 km/h). Domestic bunnies can run faster than humans – a human’s top speed (Usain Bolt while breaking the world 100m sprint record) is 27.78 mph (44.72 km/h). Rabbits (unlike hares) can’t sustain their speeds for very long – they are sprinters, looking for a quick getaway to a nearby burrow or shelter from a predator. 

But how fast is your bunny likely to be? How do they run? And how do they get to be so speedy? Keep reading to find out more.

How fast do domestic rabbits run?

Wild rabbits may run faster than pets – their survival depends on it. But how fast can your pet rabbit go?

I saw a few figures bandied around the internet, but I couldn’t track down any reliable source for most of them (many just seem to copy the same initial information). 

Can a pet rabbit really run as fast as 30mph? 

I decided to find out by measuring one of my bunnies.

How I measured the speed

To measure speed, you need to measure how long it takes a rabbit to cover a known distance. But how do you go about this?

You could try to use a stopwatch, but if your rabbits are like mine, they don’t run to order, and it’s difficult to start and stop at the right time.

Fortunately, many modern mobile phones can help out through videoing your bunny in slow motion. Here’s what I did.

  1. I took a video of one of our rabbits (Yoshi) zooming around the garden (Yoshi likes doing this for fun).
  2. I then measured the distance between two spots that Yoshi had sprinted past. I did this after I had taken the video – it means you don’t have to hope that your bunny runs past specific areas or markers.
  3. I checked out the video. On my phone, the video takes 30 frames every second. Yours may be different, so check your phone’s settings.
  4. I calculated how many frames it took for my rabbit to travel between the two spots I had measured. This gives me the time Yoshi had taken to cover this distance (you could also check this in a video program like iMovie).
  5. Speed is distance divided by time. So I divided the distance between the spots by the time Yoshi had taken to travel that distance.

My results

Results
Distance1.6 metres
Time0.2 seconds
Speed (Distance/time)8 metres per second
or…29 km/h
or…18 mph

This was a young bunny just playing in the garden, not going flat out. So your own rabbit, scampering around, is probably also doing about 20mph.

Do rabbits run, or hop?

Rabbits hop, rather than run. 

When sprinting, both back feet push off the ground together, lifting the rabbit forward, and then the front paws are used in turn (not together) for extra momentum. 

You can see this in action by watching this slow-motion of Yoshi running forward.

This is actually similar to how some other fast animals run, like the cheetah, who use their hind legs nearly simultaneously.

The hop is so powerful that bunnies can cover up to 10 feet (about 3m) in a single hop.

How do rabbits run so fast?

Rabbits can reach these speeds despite their small size because of their powerful hind legs. Rabbit also have muscles that have evolved to enable them to sprint fast. 

Rabbit muscle fibre

Muscle fibre can come in two types – fast twitch and slow twitch.

  • Slow-twitch muscle fibre is good for endurance and tasks needing stamina. (These types of muscle fibres would help a marathon runner – up to 80% of their muscle is slow-twitch).
  • Fast-twitch muscle fibre is good for speed and acceleration. (These types of muscle fibres would help a sprinter – up to 80% of their muscle is fast-twitch).

But there are two types of fast-twitch muscle – red ones which use oxygen (fast-twitch oxidative) and white ones which don’t (fast-twitch glycolytic). The fastest type of all are the fast-twitch glycolytic. [Source].

Rabbits (unlike hares) have a high proportion of fast-twitch glycolytic muscle fibre (up to 50% of fibres are fast-twitch glycolytic – source).

Hares are the opposite – they are built for greater endurance, with up to 55% more fast-twitch oxidative fibres.

This means bunnies can reach their top speeds quickly because their leg muscles can generate tremendous force near instantaneously, but they can’t run very far.

Rabbits have more powerful muscle fibre than cheetahs

Incredibly, rabbit muscle fibres are even more powerful than those of the fastest land animal, the cheetah. Researchers isolated fast-twitch muscle fibres from a cheetah, and compared experimental results with those of muscle fibres from rabbits.

The cheetah’s muscle fibres could generate 92.5 W/kg (a measure of how much force the fibres could produce.

Rabbit muscle fibres could generate 119.7 W/kg – over 29% more powerful.

So your bunny has (relatively speaking) more powerful muscles than a cheetah! [Source]

How rabbits use their speed

In the wild, the fast turn of speed enables them to reach a burrow or other place of safety quickly if they sense a predator nearby.

How fast are rabbits compared to other animals?

Rabbits are one of the faster land animals, about matching the speed of greyhounds, and horses, but some other animals are faster. Cheetahs can reach speeds of around 70mph. 

But if you really want speed, go for the peregrine falcon, which can reach a velocity of over 200mph when diving (stooping) [source].

Domestic rabbits have similar turns of speed as cats, dogs and foxes.

Why do rabbits seem so fast?

Rabbits seem to zoom around so fast for a few reasons. Here are some of them:

  1. They are fast – 30mph is faster than any human could manage
  2. Compared to their size, their speed is even more impressive.
  3. Rabbits not only run fast, but can accelerate quickly. 

Humans take a while to reach our top speeds. When Usain Bolt broke the world record in 2009, he took 60m to reach his top speed. Rabbits can get there in a couple of yards or metres. 

And rabbits can not only accelerate quickly, but also turn on a dime. You may have seen this yourself – bunnies can corner and change direction really speedily.

This quick turn of speed and ability to zigzag also helps them to evade being caught by any predators.

Have a look at how quickly rabbits accelerate, turn and jump in this video:

Conclusion –  how fast do rabbits run?

Rabbits are fast runners. Your pet bunny may be able to hop at up to 35mph, and reach that speed within a few yards. 

Rabbits don’t only rely on their speed to evade predators, their eyesight and hearing are also specially adapted. Find out more about how rabbits see the world and hear the world.

Rabbits enjoy being stimulated, and get bored easily. See what toys our bunnies enjoy playing with.

Posted by Jonathan in General
Bunny Eye Care: Rabbit Eye Problems & Treatments

Bunny Eye Care: Rabbit Eye Problems & Treatments

By Kristin Woodbury, Education Director at the San Diego House Rabbit Society

The vast majority of people would agree the bunnies are among the cutest pets you can have. Their fluffy fur, floppy ears, and big eyes captivate young and old alike. Interestingly, the placement and size of rabbits’ eyes enable them to see predators coming from both sides. Rabbits are also usually farsighted, so they can glimpse a danger coming from far away. Unfortunately, because of the eye anatomy rabbits are susceptible to the whole array of eye conditions. Here we’ll discuss bunny eye care, including common treatments and solutions.

Bunny Eyesight

Regardless of being able to see danger coming from afar, rabbit eyes have blind spots directly in front of them, directly behind them and under their chin. Moreover, their eyes are so big it makes them quite open to injuries. Rabbits are also partially colour blind and their eyesight considerably decreases in very bright environments. That’s why, sadly, so many rabbits die when they get blinded by the headlights of cars.  

Common Eye Issues

The most frequent eye problem among the rabbits is associated with their tear ducts. Rabbits’ tear ducts are prone to inflammation and they can get watery. There’s also a sticky discharge that gathers around the eye and fur around it. To make matters worse, tear duct issues are connected to poor dental health. The reason for this is the fact that rabbit tear ducts run just above their top teeth. Overgrown front teeth press the tear ducts, making them closed and infected. 

If you think your floppy-eared friend may be suffering from this, take him or her to your veterinarian, who will flush out the ducts with saline solution and drive the pus and infected substance out. Rabbits are also susceptible to foreign bodies in their eyes, like pieces of bedding, food or anything else that doesn’t belong inside or around the eye. These are usually small and light, so they easily get stuck. To treat a foreign body you will need cotton wool and cooled boiled water. If the soreness persists after you cleaned your rabbit’s eye, you should consult your vet. 

Serious Eye Issues

Physical wounds around the eye can cause serious distress in the eye area. The most common form of eye damage is swelling directly under the eye which forms an abscess as a result of the wound around the eye. The abscess appears in the form of a bump that suddenly appears. On the other hand, rabbit eye ulcers happen when something gets stuck in the rabbit’s eye, or the eyeball suffers some form of trauma to the cornea, the clear, outermost layer of the eye. 

An ulcer is a defect in the cornea and it’s usually very painful. If you see your bunny scratching the eye or holding it shut, that’s the indicator the eye is painful or irritated. Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye” is the inflammation of the pink tissue around the rabbit eye. Rabbits can catch conjunctivitis from an environment rich in bacteria, such as dirty water, or a dirty cage. Proptosis is the worst and thankfully the rarest rabbit eye problem. Basically, proptosis is the eyeball popping out of your rabbit’s head, and it usually takes severe trauma to happen.

Eyes, Teeth, and Health 

Close up of rabbit
Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash

If you notice that your bunnies have bright and healthy eyes with equal pupils and without any discharge, you can make sure that their teeth are in good condition too. The best way to keep your rabbits’ teeth healthy is through feeding your pet a diet rich in fibre, such as hay, grass and raw vegetables. High fibre is the best rabbit food for teeth health. Chewing high fibre food will prevent bunny teeth from growing too long and blocking tear ducts. Generally speaking, if rabbits eat well they will be healthy.

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to maintain your rabbit’s eye health is to feed them with proper levels of roughage and long fibre, such as grass and hay. That way you will prevent teeth from overgrowing and blocking tear ducts. Just in case, examine your rabbit’s eyes frequently for any anomalies. Keep your bunny in spacious living quarters with access to open space where it can run. A lot of room to run around will keep your bunny fit and happy. 

Don’t forget to clean out your rabbit repeatedly. That way you will decrease bacteria and ammonia levels built from soggy paper, sawdust or straws, which is usually used for lining. If you have more than one bunny, they will help each other clean their eyes by grooming and licking the fur around their companions’ eyes. It’s also very important to keep your bunnies vaccinated. Some serious conditions, such as myxomatosis, can be mistaken for an eye condition. And it goes without saying that you should always seek the vet’s help whenever you are worried about your bunny’s eye health. 

Conclusion

Bunnies are really cute, but also prone to various illnesses. Their eyes are especially sensitive because of their size and position. There are many ways in which bunnies can hurt their eyes, from light to severe ones. Thankfully, there are many ways to help and treat your fluffy friends’ eyes and to prevent bad things from happening by taking good care of them. 

More articles…

Take a look at our article on how rabbits see the world.

You might also like to find out more about how rabbits hear the world.

We also have a look at when and how rabbits sleep.

And if you’re looking for some boredom busters for your bunnies, we’ve tried ten different toys that were a success.

The main feature image on this page was by Gary Bendig on Unsplash.

Posted by Jonathan in General
How rabbits hear the world: in-depth guide

How rabbits hear the world: in-depth guide

Everyone knows that rabbits have distinctive ears (what shape are your bunny’s ears?) – but how well do bunnies hear? You can find out below detailed answers to your questions, based on scientific research. But here’s a quick summary of how rabbits hear:

Rabbits can hear in a range from 96Hz to 49,000Hz (humans can hear lower-pitched noises, but rabbits can hear much higher-pitched noises). They hear noises best whose pitch is between 1,000-16,000Hz. But rabbits don’t only use their ears for hearing – they also use them to communicate, to help them stay the right temperature, and to keep their balance.

This post covers:

The range of frequencies that a rabbit can hear – from low to high notes

Rabbits can hear a different range of frequencies from us humans (though with much overlap).

The frequency of a sound is its pitch – low frequency sounds are low-pitched noises like the bass on a guitar, or the lowest note on a piano, or the rumbling of thunder. High frequency sounds are high-pitched noises like a whistle, or the top note of a piano, or a mosquito buzzing around.

Rabbits can hear very high pitched sounds better than humans (they can hear sounds that are beyond our ability to detect).

But humans can hear very low notes better than rabbits.

Rabbit hearing range
Rabbit hearing range compared to humans

The range that rabbits can hear is 96Hz to 49,000Hz [source].

Humans can hear from 12Hz to 20,000Hz.

How well can rabbits detect low pitched sounds?

The pitch of a sound (whether it sounds high or low) depends on its frequency (measured in Hertz or Hz) – how fast it is making the air vibrate as the sound travels. Low sounds have low frequency – high sounds have high frequency.

Rabbits can hear sounds as low as 96 Hz. [Source]

You can check here what this sounds like:

This is about the lowest sound your bunny can hear

This is better than most other mammals, but it isn’t exceptional. For example, it’s about the same as cats. 

But humans can detect even lower sounds – in laboratory conditions down to 12 Hz. [Source]

This may be partly to do with us having bigger heads! As the frequency of a sound wave gets lower, the wavelength gets longer. 

It becomes an advantage to be able to have more distance between your ears as the pitch gets lower and the wavelength gets longer. 

Humans have more distance between their ears than rabbits, so find it easier to hear low pitched noises.

This is part of a pattern in mammals – the smaller the mammal, in general the worse their hearing at low frequencies.

How well can rabbits hear high-pitched sounds?

Rabbits can hear sounds as high as 49,000 Hz.

This is much better than us. Most humans struggle to hear anything above about 20,000 Hz. 

You can check out how high a frequency you can detect here (and compare yourself to your bunny!)

See how high a sound you can here – your bunny can go beyond 40,000Hz!

So our bunnies can hear high-pitched noises that we can’t detect.

What is the best range of sound for rabbits to hear?

Although rabbits can hear noises as low as 96hz, and as high as 49,000Hz, they hear best between the range of 1,000 to 16,000Hz. These are the frequency ranges that they are most sensitive to.

How do their ears help rabbits hear?

Rabbits have large ears – this helps them to hear better. The ears funnel sound waves into their ear canals, and into the middle and inner parts of the ear, which transform these vibrations into signals to the rabbit’s brain.

This is just like humans – except our ears are shaped differently. 

You can get some idea of the advantage of a bigger ear by standing some distance from a friend and asking them to whisper. It’s easier to hear them if you cup your hand behind your ear. This mimics having a larger ear.

It’s a bit like if you imagine trying to collect rainwater – you’ll collect more with a wide bucket than a narrow bottle. In the same way, larger ears can collect more sound waves.

What is the structure of a rabbit’s ear?

Rabbits have three main parts to their ears – the outer ear (the bit we can see); a middle ear (inside their head) and an inner ear (also inside their head). This is similar to humans.

Diagram of ear structure
Ear structure in mammals
Sunshineconnelly at en.wikibooks / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Outer ear

The outer ear is called the pinna, and it directs the sound into the ear canal. This starts off vertical, and becomes more horizontal as it gets closer to the skull.

The ear canal leads to the ear drum (also called the tympanum or tympanic membrane).

Sound waves make the ear drum vibrate.

Middle ear

Three small bones are attached to the ear drum. These small bones (also called ossicles) are called the malleusincus and stapes, which is the Latin for the hammeranvil and stirrup (because the bones look a little like these). 

The vibrations in the ear drum are passed from one to another – from the malleus to the incus to the stapes.

The middle ear is filled with air. If a sound wave hit a fluid directly, much of the energy might be dissipated. Having these three small bones in an air cavity means that the energy of the sound isn’t lost as it’s transferred.

You want to be able to keep the air pressure the same on both sides of the ear drum. Rabbits and humans both have a tube that connects to the throat – the eustachian tube. It allows air to come or go to the middle ear cavity to keep the pressure the same. 

This is why going up to a high altitude quickly (or down) can hurt our ears – the air pressure on either side of the ear drum is different, stretching the ear drum. Swallowing can help as it enables air to flow in the tube to the middle ear, bringing everything back into equilibrium.

Inner ear

The stapes or stirrup bone connects to the cochlea, a fluid filled spiral tube. The cochlea has a membrane running along it (the basilar membrane) that gradually changes in its stiffness and thickness as you travel along it. This means that each part of the basilar membrane reacts to a different frequency (just like different lengths of string will vibrate at different pitches).

The vibrations enter the cochlea and travel along it. Certain parts of the basilar membrane will vibrate if they match the frequency of the vibrations (low frequencies near the middle or apex of the spiral, higher frequencies towards the outside of the spiral). 

Little hairs (called cilia) on the basilar membrane move and trigger nerve cells, sending electrical signals along the auditory nerve to the brain.

The whole process is the same as in humans (and most mammals).

Rabbits can move their ears independently

Rabbits can move their ears, unlike humans (though some of us can waggle ours a tiny bit). But not only can they move their ears, bunnies can also move each one independently of the other. 

This helps them to hear better (just like if you turn towards a noise you can hear it better). 

So if the rabbit either hears a noise, or sees something (you can read more about how rabbits see, including how they can see all around them, in our post here), they can move an ear so it can pick up what’s going on better.

In the wild, this helps them to hear any predators who may be trying to sneak up on them.

What else do bunnies use their ears for, besides hearing?

Rabbits don’t only use their ears to hear the world better. They also use them for three other purposes: to communicate, to control their temperature, and as part of their sense of balance.

Rabbits communicate with their ears

Lid up on hutch
A curious bunny…

Bunnies also use their ears to communicate – and if your rabbit isn’t a lop, you’ve probably seen this yourself. Even with lops, you can still see similar movements of the ears near the head.

If a rabbit is frightened, the ears go back, almost flat along their back. Their body will also tense up.

However, the ears can also go back if your bunny is relaxed.

If a rabbit is curious or interested, the ears prick up and forward.

Rabbits control their temperature with their ears

Rabbits don’t sweat. Their only sweat glands are in their mouth, and bunnies mainly breathe through their noses, so the sweat glands aren’t much help.

Unlike dogs, rabbits don’t pant much either (though they will in hotter weather, along with licking their face and forelimbs to try to keep cooler).

With their thick, warm fur coat (see our article on whether rabbits feel the cold at night), rabbits need a way of cooling down (getting too hot, also called hyperthermia, is dangerous for rabbits).

Rabbits use their ears for this. The ears provide a large surface area that also isn’t too furry.

The ears have a large blood supply going to them.

In hot weather, more blood is pumped around the ears, where it can be cooled down in contact with the air around them. In cooler weather, less blood is sent to the ears.

So the ears provide a main way that rabbits can lose heat and maintain the right temperature in hot conditions.

In fact, rabbits can lose up to 50% of their heat just through their ears [source]!

Rabbits aren’t the only mammals that use large ears for air conditioning – this is also why elephants have such large ears.

Rabbits’ sense of balance is linked to their ears

How rabbits balance is also part of their ears – but not the part you can see. Of the three parts (outer, middle and inner), the inner ear controls balance.

Alongside the cochlear, the spiral tube that converts vibrations to electrical signals for the brain, lie three semi-circular canals at right angles to each other – these are part of what is sometimes called the vestibular organ. 

These canals help detect rotational movements. As your bunny moves their head, fluid in the canals swoshes around. This move hairs in the canals, which then send electrical signals via nerve cells to the brain.

Rabbits (like humans) also have otoliths. These help them detect how fast or slow they are going. Little bits of calcium carbonate move in fluid in the vestibule. As they move, they trigger more hair cells, which then trigger signals through nerves to the brain.

The entire inner ear structure – cochlea, vestibule and semi-circular canals – are sometimes called the labyrinth.

Head tilt

If the inner ear of a rabbit gets infected, then it can affect their balance. The signals being sent from the semi-circular canals or otoliths are being scrambled.

The result can be that a rabbit keeps trying to tilt their head to one side.

Inner ear infection is only one possible cause of head tilt.

If your rabbit shows signs of head tilt, take them straight to a vet.

Conclusion

Rabbits are famous for their ears – and rightly so. 

  • Their ears help them to hear, including high pitched noises beyond human hearing. 
  • Their ears help them to communicate.
  • Their ears help them to control how hot or cold they’re getting.
  • And their ears help them to balance.

So next time you stroke your bunny, take a moment to appreciate how much they use their ears.

You can find out how rabbits see the world from our article here. (We also have an article on bunny eye care.)

We also have an article on how and when rabbits sleep.

And if you want some suggestions for some toys to keep your bunny happy and busy, take a look at our top ten.

References

Heffner, H., & Masterton, B. (1980). Hearing in Glires: Domestic rabbit, cotton rat, feral house mouse, and kangaroo rat. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 68(6), 1584-1599. doi:10.1121/1.385213

Kluger, M., Gonzalez, R., & Stolwijk, J. (1973). Temperature regulation in the exercising rabbit. American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content, 224(1), 130-135. doi:10.1152/ajplegacy.1973.224.1.130

Posted by Jonathan in General
Compare pet rabbit insurance UK [2020]

Compare pet rabbit insurance UK [2020]

In this post, I compare the five main insurers for pet rabbits in the UK, so you can make a better informed choice, and see what is the best pet rabbit insurance for you.

If our bunny is poorly, we want to make sure they get the best veterinary help. But medical costs can be high – hundreds or thousands of pounds. That’s why pet insurance is a good idea.

But when I looked into pet insurance for our rabbits, I was surprised.

I wanted to know how much pet rabbit insurance costs, but the comparison websites didn’t give any choice or comparisons. They just directed you to one company. I had to dig around to find what options and what differences there were between the providers.

You can see here the five main UK pet rabbit insurers: what they offer, how much they cost, and which to get quotes from. It should make your search for rabbit insurance easier.

But here’s my quick summary:

Best budget option for pet rabbit insurance:

Agriapets.co.uk – Get a quote here

Best all-round option for pet rabbit insurance:

4Paws.co.uk – Get a quote here

What the article covers:

Comparison of pet rabbit insurance providers

ProviderSample quote
1 yr old
Cost per month
Sample quote
4 yr old; (4 yr old with
KT18 postcode)
Vet coverExcessMultipet discount?
Agria
(Lifetime with 10% excess)
£10.10£10.10
(£9.42 for KT18)
£1,500£65 + 10% of claim5% discount
Agria
(Lifetime no 10% excess)
£12.20£12.20£1,500£655%
Agria
(Lifetime Plus with 10%)
£15.12£15.12
(£14.06 for KT18)
£2,500£65 + 10% of claim5%
Agria
(Lifetime Plus no 10% excess)
£18.19£18.19£2,500£655%
4Paws
(NCI & Insureandgo)
£12.79£12.79
(same for KT18)
£2,000£55?
Petplan£12.86£15.57
(£19.47 for KT18)
£2,000£55
(20% of claim once rabbit over 7 yrs old)
Yes
Exotic Direct£12.80£12.80
(same for KT18)
£2,00065Yes
Helpucover£13.71£17.41
(£18.85 for KT18)
200050
(25% of claim once rabbit over 5 yrs old
8.33%

How I carried out the comparison

I carried out the searches on 26th February 2020, asking for cover from 1st March 2020 for a 1 year old mini-lop, a 4 year old mini-lop, and a 7 year old mini-lop, for a Manchester (M14) postcode. For the 4 year old mini-lop, I also asked for a quote for a different postcode (KT18) located in Surrey, to see if being in the South East would give a more expensive quote.

I also checked whether a different breed would give a different quote. None of the insurers gave different premiums for the different breeds I checked (mini-lop, Netherland Dwarf, mixed, Angora), but if you have an uncommon one, that may make a difference.

No insurer would give an online quote for a rabbit over 5 years old.

In the individual reviews, all sample quotes are for a 1 year old female, mini-lop rabbit based on an M14 postcode.

Agria – best budget choice

Agria are my best budget choice. But they offer a range of cover options.

They are also the company that we chose to insure our rabbits.

Agria are an award-winning specialist pet insurance company that are Swedish in origin. They have been operating in the UK since 2009, and have a UK based team.

All their insurance is offered on a lifetime basis – if your pet develops a condition, the insurer will continue to pay out each year for treatment so long as you keep paying the premiums.

They have two different options: lifetime; and lifetime plus.

Lifetime

Sample quote£10.10 per month
(includes 10% excess)
Vet fee cover£1,500 per annum
Excess£65

Lifetime Plus

Sample quote£18.19 per month
Vet fee cover£2,500 per annum
Excess£65
Advertising£250
Travel or accommodation£300
Death from illness/injury£50
Boarding fees£250

Agria are also the only insurance company to offer a variable excess. You can choose to pay a fixed amount (£65), or this fixed amount plus 10% of what you claim (eg vet fees) for that year. 

So if your rabbit has an operation which costs £800, you would pay £145 excess (£65 + £80). 

Choosing this variable excess means lower premiums, but potentially higher bills.

Agria’s quotes didn’t change either with age of rabbit (under five years). 

But Agria did change with postcode – the quote for Surrey was slightly lower than that for Manchester (the opposite to Petplan). 

Agria also offer a discount for insuring more than one rabbit at a time.

Agria’s website was easy to use and navigate. 

Overall, Agria has an easy to use website, choice about what cover to take, and the cheapest quotes. Recommended.

Click here for a quote from Agriapets.co.uk

4Paws – best all-round choice (also NCI online, and Insureandgo)

4Paws and Insureandgo are different brands of NCI, so all offer the same insurance package. I used the 4Paws website, as that is tailored for pet owners.

4Paws are a good, solid choice for reasonable premiums and good cover. For about the same level of cover, they are cheaper than Agria (though Agria offer cheaper options with less cover).

Sample quote£12.79 per month
Vet fee cover£2,000 per annum
Excess£55
Advertising£250
Boarding fees£250

4Paws seem to offer the same quote regardless of age (under five), postcode or breed. 

Their website is easy to use. 

Overall, 4Paws is a good all-round choice. Recommended.

Click here for a quote from 4Paws.co.uk

Petplan

Petplan is a popular insurance option, and recommended by Pets At Home. It is a solid, safe choice, with the greatest cover for boarding fees or advertising costs if your bunny goes missing.

Sample quote£12.86 per month
Vet fee cover£2,000 per annum
Excess£55
Advertising£2,000
Boarding fees£2,000
Complementary treatment£750 per annum

Once your bunny reaches the age of 7 years, the excess typically increases to 20% of the vet fees.

Petplan’s premiums changed with both the age of the rabbit and also the postcode.

Their website is easy to use and navigate.

Overall, Petplan is a good choice, but may cost more for older rabbits or depending upon where you live.

Click here for a quote from Petplan.co.uk

Exotic Direct

Exotic Direct offer good value insurance, similar in price and cover to 4Paws. 

Sample quote£12.80 per month
Vet fee cover£2,000 per annum
Excess£65

Exotic Direct premiums did not vary with age or postcode. Exotic Direct also offer a separate deal where you can insure up to 3 rabbits either by sharing the total vet fee cover over all three (which can lower individual monthly cost to below £10) or by keeping £2,000 per animal, but still with slightly lower costs. 

The website was the hardest to use. It requires you to register with them to get a quote (which the other insurers don’t require), and if you need to go back to change any information you have to start over again from scratch.

Their payment plan is actually spread over 10 monthly payments, not 12, but I have adjusted the cost to make the comparison fair (ie divided their yearly cost by 12). 

Overall, not a bad choice, but with a difficult to use website. Check them out if you are insuring more than one rabbit.

Click here for a quote from Exoticdirect.co.uk

Helpucover

Helpucover are the pet insurance brand of Pinnacle Insurance. They have the lowest excess of any insurer, but the highest premiums (but not by a lot).

Sample quote£13.71 per month
Vet fee cover£2,000 per annum
Excess£50
Advertising£250
Boarding fees£250
Involuntary unemployment or loss of incomeUp to 6 months of premiums waived

Their premiums vary with the age of your rabbit, and with your postcode. The cost for Surrey was slightly more than that for Manchester. 

Once your rabbit reaches 5 years, the excess becomes the higher of £50 or 25% of the vet fees.

They are the only provider who offers any protection against losing your job, through offering a premium waiver for up to six months.

They have a straightforward website, which seemed easy to navigate. 

Overall, Helpucover is an option if you want the lowest excess.

Click here to get a quote from helpucover.co.uk

What is covered in pet insurance

All the rabbit insurance above is offered on a lifetime basis – if your rabbit develops a condition which needs treatment year after year, you are still covered so long as you continue to pay your premiums. 

Vet fees

The amount paid towards veterinary fees each year.

Excess

The amount you will have to pay towards any vet fees for treating a condition.

Complementary therapy

Acupuncture, aromatherapy etc (only if recommended by vet).

Advertising

Help towards finding a lost or stolen rabbit, including advertising and reward cost.

Travel & accommodation

Travel and accommodation expenses if a vet refers your bunny for treatment to a different vet.

Death from illness or injury

Covers the purchase price of your rabbit if it dies or has to be put to sleep as a result of illness or injury.

Boarding fees

Covers boarding fees for your rabbit if you or a close family member unexpectedly needs to go into hospital.

What isn’t covered?

Always check with the provider. But generally, vaccinations, neutering and spraying, and pre-existing conditions aren’t covered.

Do I need to insure my rabbit?

You aren’t required by law to have insurance, and many people don’t. But vet fees can be large. Investigating weight loss might rack up over £500 in vet fees. And if your rabbit develops an ongoing condition, you might be looking at substantial amounts each year.

Here’s an example. One of our rabbits suddenly stopped eating, and wouldn’t move much. We needed to take him to the emergency vet that night to be checked over – this cost nearly £200. If he had needed to stay the night, that would have pushed the cost close to £1,000.

Fortunately, we could take our bunny home, and he recovered rapidly.

But it shows how rabbit insurance could end up saving you from shelling out a large amount of money at once.

The alternative is putting aside some money each month, and hoping that that will cover any costs. But this won’t be enough if you and your bunny are unfortunate enough to land a large vet bill. 

Getting insurance while your rabbit is young and healthy may save you from expensive surprises later on.

Other posts

If you are looking into the cost of buying a rabbit, take a look at our post at how much it all adds up to.

Wondering what happens if you get your rabbit spayed? This post gives our experience from the owner’s perspective.

Trying to keep your bunny entertained? Here’s an article on the toys we found worked best.

I’m not an insurance specialist, and this shouldn’t be considered legal advice. I’m just trying to give helpful information. Always check details and quotes with a provider directly – terms and conditions can change.

This comparison page is free to use. Getting a quote from links on this page helps to support this site.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Reviews
Do rabbits get cold at night? How cold is too cold?

Do rabbits get cold at night? How cold is too cold?

By Craig, bunny lover and HVAC expert at Appliance Analysts.

While we’re sitting cosy and warm at home, it’s easy to worry about how our bunnies are faring out in the cold.

But how cold is too cold for a rabbit?

Rabbits are cold weather animals. They’re highly temperature resistant, and can handle temperatures down to almost 30oF (-2oC). With a well-insulated hutch, they’ll be fine even in near-freezing conditions. You can always check by measuring their temperature – which should be between 101-103oF (38-39.5oC). If it’s under 100oF (37.8oC), it’s time to warm them up. And if that doesn’t help, get in touch with your vet.

Do rabbits feel the cold?

Even if it’s freezing outside – your teeth are chattering, you can’t get enough layers on, and you’d give anything from a hot cup of tea – your bunnies are probably A-OK.

Rabbits are made to survive the winter. They’re found all over the coldest parts of the world – from Antarctica to Russia. Their winter coats make them much tougher than they are cute. (Which is pretty darn tough).

That said, there is a chance that one of your rabbits gets too cold. Either from illness, or from extreme temperatures. 

A quick way to check if your rabbit’s feeling the cold is to feel their ears. Overly hot or cold ears are a tell-tale sign of a bunny’s fever. If in doubt, give your vet a shout. (Same goes for their other extremities, like their paws.)

What if it gets too cold? How can I help?

Even the hardiest rabbit won’t enjoy sub-freezing temperatures. And they’ll get pretty frustrated at their water bottle becoming frozen!

Consider moving (The rabbits!)

Your best bet is to simply move them into a shed or garage. Moving them straight into the home isn’t a good idea. It’s likely too warm, and the sudden temperature change may shock them

Have you ever been in a major city’s underground system during winter? Above ground you have about 5 layers on – hats, scarves, gloves, everything. Then you go onto the metro or underground, and you’re suddenly overheating, feeling dizzy, and can’t focus. That’s what it’s like for a rabbit when they suddenly get brought indoors. Except they can’t take their jacket off!

Your goal isn’t to make them as warm as you would need to be. Instead, it’s just to keep them above freezing. I know – it can feel harsh and even cruel. But it’s their natural environment, and they’re used to it. 

A touch of refurbishment

Being small wooden structures, rabbit homes can easily deteriorate over the years. One of the most important things in winter is to make sure there’s no water getting into the hutch itself. Reapplying coating, or even sealing off gaps can go a long way.

Make sure they’re also elevated above the ground to avoid the base becoming damp from the ground. This can be as simple as placing bricks underneath the edges.

A note on wind and dampness

A bigger culprit than the cold will be wet and dampness. Rabbits can handle cold – but being overexposed to wet conditions with strong winds can make them uncomfortable. Their hutch should always be dry and comfortable – just like their natural burrows would be. Soaking in icy damp bedding and wood isn’t comfortable for anyone!

Wrap them up!

A go-to should always be a combination of an old blanket (or even carpet) underneath a waterproof material (like a tarpaulin). This will help keep your buns safe, dry, and warm at very little cost or effort. Some hutch manufacturers sell custom-made covers for their hutches.

Do make sure they can still get plenty of sunlight during the day. I know, the days are short and dark, but every little helps!

Making sure that they’ve got plenty of thick bedding can also go a long way. Adding an extra layer of newspaper beneath their standard bedding can go a long way.

Share the love

One way that rabbits naturally deal with the cold is to face it together. Such internally warm animals know to cuddle up against each other, and produce a ton of heat this way. Having multiple rabbits, and making sure they’re happy to snuggle with each other, is an easy way to check they’re dealing with the cold well.

Consider a heated pad

Heated pads are becoming incredibly popular in the bunny-keeping world. These are simple, small pads that provide a gentle heat for a bunny to enjoy.

They can make a real difference, and the best part is that your rabbit can decide whether they need that heat or not.

(Jonathan writes: we use the Snugglesafe heat pad, which goes in the microwave for a few minutes then stays warm for around 10 hours. You can have a look at it on Amazon US here, Amazon UK here).

One of the most difficult parts of looking after animals can be figuring out what they need, and what they’re thinking (other than about food). Giving them the option to heat themselves is a great way to get over this.

What about getting too hot?

This is where the issue becomes a little serious. Rabbits can tolerate plenty of cold, but they’re not made for the heat.

Their bodies are like wearing the biggest coat you’ve ever tried on – all the time. Maybe even two of them.

Temperatures much higher than 75oF (24oC) can start to cause them problems. Now while you wouldn’t be buying them their own portable air conditioner, there are a few you things you can do to help. Including:

  • Make sure they have plenty of shade
  • Put down hard flooring like slate, marble, or tile
  • Buy a second water bottle and freeze it overnight. Alternate between the two.
  • Clean their hutch more often to avoid their droppings getting… funky.

Conclusion

Animals are different from us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t worry about their wellbeing.

It’s hard to imagine spending endless dark nights in cold weather, but that’s what rabbits are used to. So although it feels harsh, it’s important to let animals be animals. Keep that warm cosy bed to yourself!

I hope this article has helped answer whether or not your outdoor conditions might be too cold for your bunnies.

If we’ve helped you out today, please consider checking out some more of our bunny related posts!

If you want to find out more about the Snugglesafe heatpad, check out our review (we own two of these).

You can read about the outdoor hutch (with winter cover and run) we use here, and if you’re looking to keep your bunnies from being bored then check out the toys that our rabbits have loved playing with.

Posted by Jonathan in General
What fruit can rabbits eat? (In-depth guide)

What fruit can rabbits eat? (In-depth guide)

If you’re like me, you want the best for your bunnies. Food-wise, that means ensuring the rabbits are getting a healthy diet, with the occasional treat thrown in. The main part of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (read more about why hay is so great for them here). Fruit should be regarded as a treat for bunnies. But you want to be sure that any treats or snacks you give a rabbit are safe.

This is a guide to fruit as a treat for rabbits – what fruit are safe for rabbits to eat, how much fruit should you feed a bunny, and what particular concerns might there be over specific fruit. I’ll go into more detail on each fruit, including portion size, but here’s a quick summary.

What fruit can rabbits eat?

Rabbits can safely eat small amounts of all the following fruit. You can feed bunnies these fruit as a treat:

What fruit are dangerous for rabbits?

The following fruit are toxic for rabbits – do not feed them to a rabbit:

  • Avocado – including any of the plant
  • Rhubarb – including any of the plant

(Rhubarb is a vegetable, but is often combined or cooked with fruits, so I’ve included it here).

How much fruit should you give your rabbit?

Give a maximum of 2 tablespoons (about 2oz or 50g) of fruit a day for an adult rabbit (over 7 months) of about 6lb (2.7kg). Consider halving this for rabbits between 7 and 12 months old. 

Be careful introducing fruit to younger rabbits – it is best to slowly let them adapt to different greens first, and introducing fruit when they are a bit older.

If your rabbit is overweight or obese, consider giving much smaller portions or no fruit at all. 

If your bunny has any gastro-intestinal issues, don’t give any fruit (as always, check with your vet if your rabbit has any particular issues).

Can rabbits eat dried fruit?

Rabbits can eat dried fruit if it is safe for them to eat the fresh fruit.

BUT – the portion size should be much smaller. Dried fruit are deceptive – they look much smaller and weigh less than their fresh fruit equivalents. However, they contain just as much sugar. So giving 2oz of dried fruit to a rabbit is much, much more sugar than giving 2oz of fresh fruit. 

Because of this, it is usually best to stick to fresh fruit.

If you do use dried fruit, use the equivalent portion size of fresh fruit as a guide (so if the maximum portion size is 10 grapes, then the maximum portion of raisins is 10 raisins). 

What are the problems in giving too much fruit?

Fruit contains a type of sugar called fructose. Just like too much sugar isn’t good for us, it isn’t good for bunnies either. 

Fruit is also lower in fibre than a rabbit’s normal diet.

So even though fruit may seem like a healthy choice, it’s like giving your rabbit a sweet.

If your bunny is given the choice of more (unhealthy) fruit, or healthy, full of fibre, hay, they will choose the fruit every time. 

This is because rabbits are concentrate selectors

That means in the wild they ‘select the low fiber, nutrient-rich leaves and immature growth of plants and avoid coarse, heavily lignified, or mature plant tissue. Thus they select the herbage that is highest in protein and soluble carbohydrates and lowest in fiber’. (Manning, 2014, 322).

In other words, bunnies will choose the sweetest, richest, softest food they can find in preference to harder, more fibrous, less sweet hay – even if in the long run this is bad for their health.

Over time, that’s bad for your rabbit, leading to obesity, potentially fatal gut problems, and dental problems (rabbits need to be gnawing on hay and fibre to keep their teeth in top condition). 

Bottom line? Don’t give your bunny too much fruit – it’s like feeding a child nothing but chocolate.

Can rabbits eat apples? And can rabbits eat apple pips or seeds?

Rabbits can eat apples safely. However, you may want to avoid giving your rabbit an apple core. 

A maximum portion for a 6lb/2.7kg adult rabbit is about ½ a small apple or ¼ of a large apple.

Can rabbits eat apple pips? The science…

Some people worry about the rabbits eating the apple pips (seeds). I don’t think you should be too concerned if your rabbit does, and I’ll explain why, but feel free to err on the side of being cautious.

If you want a more in-depth explanation, I’ve written an article on why rabbits can eat apples safely.

The issue with apple pips is that they contain amygdalin (so do some other seeds, kernels and stones including apricots). Amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside. That means it’s a chemical which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide.

Hang on – cyanide?! Isn’t that the poison of Bond movies, Agatha Christie murder mysteries, and other lethal events?

Because of this, you’ll read advice on the internet that apple cores are highly dangerous for your rabbit.

But with anything toxic (and in a large enough dose, just about anything is toxic – even water) the amount matters. How much cyanide is in an apple seed?

Apple seeds contain 2.96 mg/g of amygdalin (original research paper here).

This could theoretically produce 0.174mg/g of hydrogen cyanide (1g of amygdalin can produce 59 mg of HCN – see here for details).

An apple seed weighs about 0.7g. So each seed theoretically can release 0.12mg of hydrogen cyanide.

The lethal cyanide dose for rabbits is 0.66mg per kg of bodyweight (info taken from this authoritative review)

An adult medium sized rabbit weighs from 2-4kg.

So the lethal dose is 1.3 to 2.6mg.

This is 11 to 22 apple seeds.

One apple usually contains no more than about 8 seeds.

BUT – this assumes perfect extraction and degradation of the amygdalin in apple seeds. 

The apple seeds have a hard, shiny coating which protects the insides. You could only release the amygdalin if you ground the seeds completely up into fine powder.

A rabbit eating an apple core won’t do that, and neither will their intestines.

Apple seeds have evolved over the centuries to be able to be passed through animals – that’s how the seeds get spread. If doing this was dangerous to the animals, it wouldn’t have succeeded.

In practice, very little amygdalin is likely to be released or broken down into cyanide (which in turn is quickly broken down by the body into safe compounds – there’s no long-term build up). 

This can also be seen in looking at what is a dangerous dose of amygdalin. For rats, the lethal dose is 880mg/kg bodyweight. And rabbits are fairly similar to rats in their reaction. 

An apple seed contains about 2mg of amygdalin. So on this basis, a 2kg rabbit would have to eat 880 apple seeds. That’s a lot of apple cores!

And, according to a vet specialising in rabbits, there are no known cases of rabbits being poisoned through eating apple seeds.

Bottom line?

Don’t worry about feeding your rabbit apple cores. If your bunny eats one, they are highly unlikely to suffer any consequences. But feel free to be cautious if you prefer.

Can rabbits eat apricots?

Rabbits can eat apricots safely (but don’t give them the kernel/stone). 

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of an apricot (without the stone). 

However, avoid giving rabbits the stone, or kernel. Similar to apple seeds, the kernel contains amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide. 

While it is unlikely that your bunny would grind the stone up and then eat it, you may feel safer just not giving it to your rabbit.

Also, your rabbit may choke on the stone.

Can rabbits eat banana (and also banana peel)?

Chips loves banana. Yum yum.

Rabbits can eat banana safely.

For many bunnies, it is one of their favourite foods.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd to ½ of a banana (without the skin). 

Be careful about feeding too much – bunnies love bananas so much that it can be difficult to resist giving it to them. 

But, like other fruit, too much banana is bad for your bunny.

Banana peel (and banana leaves) can both also be eaten by rabbits in small quantities – they are not toxic. But your bun is unlikely to appreciate them as much as the peeled banana.

Can rabbits eat blackberries?

Rabbits can eat blackberries safely. Make sure you give ones that are ripe.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about six blackberries.

Rabbits can also eat blackberry thorns and brambles. 

Can rabbits eat blueberries?

Rabbits can eat blueberries safely. 

A maximum portion of blueberries for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 30 blueberries.

Can rabbits eat cherries? 

Rabbits can eat cherries safely, but you should avoid feeding bunnies the stones. Cherries are a good source of potassium for rabbits, but because they are high in fruit sugars cherries should only be given as treats.

A maximum portion of cherries for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 10 cherries – without the stones.

Can rabbits eat cucumbers?

Rabbits can eat cucumbers safely as a treat, including the skin and the seeds. Check out our more detailed post on bunnies eating cucumber here.

And yes, cucumbers are technically fruit, as they grow from flowers and contain seeds.

Can rabbits eat grapes?

Rabbits can eat grapes safely as a treat, including seeds. You can feed small portions of all grape varieties to your bunny. Grapes contain useful minerals for rabbits including magnesium, potassium and copper as well as some vitamin A. However, grapes are mostly water and fruit sugars, so rabbits can only eat grapes in small quantities to avoid giving stomach upsets or putting on weight. Cut grapes in half to make sure that your bunny doesn’t choke. 

We used to cut grapes in half when making toddler snacks for a toddler group. If a young child can choke on a grape, perhaps so can a bunny.

Also, wash the grapes first if you think there might be pesticide residue.

A maximum portion of grapes for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 10 grapes.

Rabbits can eat both red and green grapes, and with or without seeds.

Can rabbits eat kiwi fruit?

Rabbits can eat kiwi fruit safely. 

A maximum portion of kiwi for a 6lb adult rabbit is about half a kiwi.

Rabbits can also eat kiwi skin safely.

Can rabbits eat mango?

Rabbits can eat mango fruit safely (but not the stone/seed).

A maximum portion of mango for a 6lb adult rabbit is about ¼ of a mango.

Rabbits can eat the mango skin as well.

Can rabbits eat melon?

Rabbits can eat melon safely (cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon).

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about ½ a thin slice. 

Rabbits can eat the rind – but some will turn up their noses at it. The rind is also high in carbohydrates, so should be counted as part of the treat.

Can rabbits eat nectarines?

Rabbits can eat nectarines safely (but don’t give them the stones).

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of a nectarine.

Can rabbits eat papaya (pawpaw)?

Rabbits can safely eat papaya, also known as pawpaw. You can feed the papaya fruit including the skin to bunnies. Papaya leaves are also safe to feed to bunnies. Papaya provides useful nutrients needed by rabbits including potassium, selenium and vitamin A. Like all fruit, papaya should only be given in small portions as a treat – a maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about a tablespoon of papaya.

If you want to check out the safety of papaya further, here’s a study checking the effect of papaya leaves on the health of rabbits (they were checking to make sure that papaya didn’t affect the ability of rabbits to reproduce).

Pawpaw leaves can be served to rabbits either in its fresh or wilted state without affecting reproductive parameters assessed in this study. Results of hormonal assay did not reveal any adverse effects due to dietary treatment on the rabbits.

Henry et al. (2018) Hormonal Assay and Reproductive Performance of Rabbits Fed Pawpaw (Carica papaya) Leaves as Feed Supplement. Annual Research & Review in Biology 25:3

Can rabbits eat peaches?

Rabbits can eat peaches safely (but don’t give them the stones), including the skin. You can feed peach to bunnies as a treat, as it is a good source of potassium and vitamin A. Like many other fruits, peach is also high in sugars (which is why it should only be a treat) and vitamin C, which rabbits don’t need. A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of a peach.

Can rabbits eat pears?

Rabbits can eat pears safely (including the stem). You can feed pears to bunnies as a treat as part of a healthy diet including plenty of hay and water. But don’t give your rabbit too much – a maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about a quarter of a pear.

Pears, like many fruit, are relatively high in sugars, which is why your bunny probably likes pear, but also why too much is not good for them. Too much could lead to diarrhoea or other gut problems.

Pears are a good source of potassium (119mg per 100g), one of the minerals that rabbits need (they also get potassium from other foods, including timothy hay). Pears also, like many fruit, have vitamin C, but healthy rabbits don’t need vitamin C in their diets (find out more about which vitamins and minerals rabbits need in our related post).

Some people remove the pear seeds (like apple seeds, they contain small quantities of amygdalin, which breaks down into a cyanide compound). But the amount is so small (see the section on apples) that you don’t need to worry if your bunny eats a few pear seeds.

Can rabbits eat plums?

Rabbits can eat plums safely (but don’t give them the stones). 

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about one small plum (without the stone) or ½ a large plum.

Plum stones, like apricot kernels and apple pips, contain amygdalin which breaks down into a cyanide compound, though it is unlikely that a rabbit swallowing a stone by accident would break it down enough for serious harm. 

Here’s the science:

A plum stone is about 10g. The amygdalin content is therefore between 175mg (green plums) and 4mg (red plums) (see apples section for references). The maximum theoretical hydrogen cyanide release is therefore between 10mg (green plums) and 0.24mg (red plums). These figures look dangerous – but they are theoretical. 

The actual lethal dose of amygdalin is likely to be about 880mg/kg bodyweight (again, see apples section). On this basis, a 2kg rabbit would have to chew up completely 10 green plum stones to reach a dangerous level. 

On this basis, it is unlikely that one or even two plum stones would cause any toxic harm.

However, plum stones are also a choking hazard. All in all, it’s best to avoid giving the stone to your bunny.

Can rabbits eat oranges (and also orange peel)?

Rabbits can eat oranges safely.

Rabbits can also eat satsumas and mandarins safely.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3 of an orange, or 3 segments.

Rabbits can also eat the peel safely (but this should count as part of the treat). Orange pips aren’t a particular problem either.

Can rabbits eat raspberries?

Rabbits can eat raspberries safely.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is up to 10 raspberries. 

Rabbits can also eat raspberries leaves and canes, so if you grow these in your garden, try to rabbit-proof your plants.

Rabbits can also eat dried raspberries (make sure that your rabbits have plenty of access to water) – again, don’t give more than 10. Even though they weigh less and look smaller, they contain just as much sugar.

Don’t give your rabbits canned raspberries. These are usually soaked in highly sugary juices, and are much less healthy for your pet bunny.

Can rabbits eat strawberries?

Rabbits can eat strawberries safely. You can feed strawberries to bunnies, including leaves, as a treat. Rabbits love the fruit sugar (fructose) in strawberries, but too many could lead to obesity or gastrointestinal problems. Strawberries also provide rabbits with minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. A maximum portion for a 6lb rabbit is 4 medium sized strawberries. 

Rabbit eating a strawberry
Buzz, like most bunnies, loves strawberries as a treat.

Bunnies not only love strawberries, but they can also eat strawberry leaves and canes (and some rabbits love them), so if you grow these at home, try to rabbit-proof your plants. I am always amazed at how much of a garden bunnies can eat.

As with all these fruit, strawberries should only be a treat given as an addition to the main diet of your bunny, which should be hay and fresh water.

Rabbits can eat dried strawberries, but you need to give much less. Four dried strawberries may not look like a big helping, but the sugar content is the same as four fresh strawberries. Make sure that you provide plenty of fresh water.

And don’t give strawberries (or any fruit) to baby rabbits. They don’t process sweet foods well.

Can rabbits eat tomatoes?

Rabbits can eat tomatoes safely (but do not feed bunnies any of the plant or leaves or stalk). Tomatoes contain useful minerals that rabbits need, including potassium and magnesium. A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is up to 1/3 of a medium sized tomato. You should feed hay to rabbits as their main diet.

Tomato plants (not the fruit) are toxic (poisonous) for rabbits.

They contain a glycoalkaloid poison called tomatine. It is a similar (but less toxic) poison to solanine, that is found in high quantities in the plant deadly nightshade. (Note that some websites mistakenly state that tomato plants contain solanine – they don’t).

Can rabbits eat avocado?

Rabbits should not eat avocado. Do not feed any part of the avocado plant to bunnies, including the leaves. Avocado contains a toxin which is poisonous for rabbits. This toxin is found in all parts of the plant. Eating avocado may cause the rabbit to have heart and breathing difficulties, and may prove fatal.

How is avocado poisonous to rabbits?

Avocado contains persin, a fungicidal toxin. The persin can be found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, the bark and fruit.

Persin doesn’t affect humans (except for some with this specific allergy).

But persin is toxic to a wide range of animals, including rabbits.

The effect of persin on rabbits is for the heart to start beating irregularly, and a build up of fluid in salivary glands near the mouth. Breathing may become more difficult. Exposure to persin may prove fatal.

A heart-breaking case from Argentina where 14 pet rabbits were fed some freshly cut avocado leaves shows how dangerous avocado is. Sadly, all the rabbits died [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2019.03.024].

Can rabbits eat rhubarb?

Rabbits should not eat rhubarb.

It is poisonous to them.

The rhubarb plant is also poisonous, including the leaves, not just the fruit.

How is rhubarb poisonous to rabbits?

Rhubarb causes diarrhoea and dehydration in rabbits, along with irritating their mouths. This is from the extremely high levels of oxalic acid the plant contains. Oxalic acid in high doses affects the kidneys of rabbits. Rhubarb also contains emodin and rhein, which are also active compounds with laxative effects.

What is a healthy diet for a rabbit?

A healthy diet for a rabbit consists mainly of unlimited access to fresh Timothy hay, and plenty of drinking water. A handful of greens and an egg-cup of pellets a day is enough.

Failure to stick to this diet can cause all sorts of health problems for rabbits, including with their teeth and their stomachs. 

Fruit should be considered a treat, not a main part of the diet.

If you’re interested in what rabbits can and can’t eat, check out our other pages on what herbs rabbits can eat, whether rabbits can eat apples safely, whether rabbits can eat mangetout safely, and why Timothy hay is so good for rabbits.

Also check out our favourite rabbit toys to keep your fluffy bunny friends entertained and interested.

Posted by Jonathan in General
How rabbits see the world: in-depth guide

How rabbits see the world: in-depth guide

Have you ever wondered why your pet rabbit can spot a movement to its side hundreds of feet away, but can’t find the treat you placed right in front of her? Or thought whether or not rabbits see colour the way we do? 

I was curious. Fish and Chips, our pet bunnies, sometimes seem to see us from far away, and yet other times seem to have quite poor sight. So I decided to dig around a little, checked out some scientific articles, and discovered more about how rabbits see. This is what I learned along the way. Here’s a quick summary, with more detail below.

How rabbits see

Rabbits can see all around them at once. Most of their vision is long-sighted (seeing better at far distances), except in front where they become short-sighted. They also have a blind spot directly in front of their nose. Most of their vision is monocular (only using one eye) but rabbits do have binocular vision straight ahead. They recognise patterns and objects best to the front of them. They see colour, but are red-green colour blind. Rabbits’ vision isn’t as sharp as human vision, but they can see better in poor light. Their vision is adapted to see predators quickly from any angle, and to be out feeding at dawn and dusk.

How wide can rabbits see – what is their field of vision?

Rabbits can see just about all around them – they have pretty close to 360o vision.

They achieve this by having their eyes on the sides of their head.

Humans are different. Our eyes are close together at the front of our heads. This helps us hunt for stuff, and we have sharp eyesight. Our priority historically has been hunting – either fruit, or animals. 

We’re similar in this to other predators, like cats and dogs and owls. 

But rabbits aren’t predators – they’re prey. 

The rabbit’s main concern is making sure that nothing is about to eat them. The rabbit needs to see an attacker coming from any direction, so having eyes on the side enable them to see a wraparound view of the world, and keep them safer.

There is a downside to this. First of all, it means rabbits have a blind spot right in front of their noses, where they have no vision.

This is why you can place a treat directly in front of your bunny, and she’ll not respond. She’s not being picky (this time…) – she just hasn’t seen it yet.

Secondly, while rabbits can see all around them, they don’t have binocular vision for most of this. 

Binocular vision is how we see the world – our brain can integrate the information from our two eyes and create a 3-D picture of what’s in front of us. Rabbits only have a small part of their sight where they can do this – mostly they rely on one eye. To get a little idea of what the world looks like for a rabbit, just close one of your eyes.

Do rabbits see equally well all around?

If rabbits can see all around them, is their vision equal throughout? The answer is no, in a number of different ways. 

Rabbits look ahead to see patterns and recognise shapes

First, rabbits see patterns better using the parts of the eye facing frontwards – an angle of about 60o either way (have a look at the diagram). So if a rabbit wants to make sense of what he is looking at, he’ll look towards something. The rear part of their vision is mainly there to warn of any movement – this could be a predator creeping up on them.

We know this from experiments done by de Graauw & van Hof (1980), who covered up different parts of rabbits’ eyes & saw whether or not they could recognise patterns (tested by rewarding the rabbits with food if they could). If the rabbits had to rely on the rear 120o of vision, they did no better than chance. Abstract here.

Rabbits are both long-sighted and short-sighted

Rabbits are generally long-sighted (hyperopic is the technical term). This means that they can see objects more clearly if they are further away, and less clearly if they are too near. 

This makes sense – the bunny’s main concern is looking out for attacks coming from the distance.

This is true both round the rabbit’s vision horizontally and vertically. 

However, when you get to the front of the rabbit, things change. As you move to in front of the rabbit’s face, the rabbit’s vision becomes short-sighted (myopic). 

Right in front of the rabbit (but beyond their blind spot) their vision is about -5 dioptres – I’m pretty short-sighted myself (I need glasses all the time) and this is about the same as me.

This means that rabbits can see close up the things in front of them (like food or toys). 

To sum up – most of their vision is adapted to be sensitive to possible threats in the distance, but part of their vision is perfect for checking out stuff close by.

The research papers that discovered these aspects of your bunny’s vision are de Graauw & van Hof (1978 & 1980). You can get the abstracts here and here.

Diagram showing how rabbits see in different areas around them.

Do rabbits use binocular vision?

As explained above, most of the rabbit’s field of view is coming from one of their eyes. They don’t overlap much except a little at the front. 

This got researchers wondering whether rabbits bother at all using binocular vision (where the brain integrates the signals from both eyes together).

What they have found is that, most of the rabbit’s vision is monocular, and the rabbit is fine with that. It is quite capable of processing both eyes independently.

However, they can also use both eyes together in the narrow overlap in front of them. So if your rabbit is looking straight ahead, it might be seeing the world in 3D similar to us.

The research discovering this was done using different coloured filters over each eye and requiring both eyes to work together for patterns to be visible. The work was done by van Hof & Russell (1977) – you can find the abstract here.

Do rabbits have good eye sight?

Rabbits don’t have as sharp eyesight as humans. We can distinguish lines that are 1/60th of a degree apart (lines closer than this blur together for us).

Rabbits don’t do as well – they can only distinguish lines about 1/3-1/6 of a degree apart.

This is slightly worse than cats (1/12th of a degree) but better than rats (about 1 degree). 

Check out van Hof (1967) for more information – abstract here

What does this look like? If you’re about 50cm or 18” away from this screen, then you can probably tell lines that are 0.15mm or 0.005” apart. In contrast, your rabbit will struggle with lines 1.5mm (0.05”) apart.

So rabbits don’t have as sharp eyesight as humans – but their eyesight is ideal for their purposes. The next section explains a bit more why.

Can rabbits see colour? Are rabbits colour blind?

Rabbits can see colour, but by human standards they are slightly colour-blind. Bunnies can see colour a little like some humans who have a particular type of red-green colour-blindness.

Eyes have two different types of cells that react to light (photoreceptors) and pass on signals to the brain. These are called rods and cones.

Types of photoreceptors

Rods are sensitive to blue-green light (peak wavelength 498 nm). These are used in poor light conditions. It is the rods in your eyes that are working when your eyes are trying to adjust to the dark.

Cones are more sensitive, and give us our colour vision. They come in three varieties in humans:

  • Red (or L-cones, most sensitive to red light at 564nm); 
  • Green (or M-cones, most sensitive to green light at 533nm);
  • Blue (or S-cones, most sensitive to blue light at 437nm).

(The L, M and S stand for Long wave, medium wave, and short wave, and refer to the wavelength of the light – you can find out more here).

Rods and cones in rabbits – types

Rabbits also have cone photoreceptors – but only the green and blue cones (at slightly different peaks – 520nm and 425nm).

Ishihara plate 23
Bunnies would only be able to make out the number 2. Most humans see the number 42. Some people who are colour-blind only see the number 4, or the number 2. Ishihara plate 23, sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ishihara_23.PNG

This means that, compared to most humans, they are slightly colour-blind (protanopic or dichromatic). Some humans (about 1% of males) also have only functional green and blue cones – this is a form of red-green colour-blindness.

So rabbits do see colours, but will find it hard telling reds and greens apart, and also blues and greens.

But there’s another difference between rabbits and humans.

Rods and cones in rabbits – where they are in the eye

The distribution of rods and cones is different between bunnies and us.

In humans, most of our retina (the back of the eye) is made up of rods. But there’s a small central indented area (the fovea centralis – more here) that is packed with cones (180,000 per mm2). This means that when we look at something directly, it is our cones that are picking up the visual information. 

This is also why, when it’s dark, you see better to the side of whatever you’re looking at directly. Your peripheral vision is using rods, which work well in dim light (but don’t give much colour information), while your central vision is using cones which need brighter light. 

But rabbits don’t have their cones concentrated in the centre, but in a horizontal streak across the retina (this is called the visual streak). Most of these are green cones (up to 13,000 per mm2) with some blue cones (up to 2,500 per mm2).

In the lowest part of the retina, there is a blue streak – a crescent shape that has no green cones, but only blue cones (up to 11,000 per mm2).

How do the cones help rabbits?

What does this mean in practice? Having a wide horizontal band of cones enables rabbits to see more clearly all around them. Rather than having to look directly at something to see sharply (as humans do), rabbits have sharper vision all around them.

This is another way that rabbits’ vision is adapted to help them survive. They are able to spot and identify attackers more easily because they have this wide band of cones.

But what is the blue streak about? This is located at the bottom of the retina, which means that it is the light from above that reaches it. Researchers have suggested that this gives great sensitivity to spotting any attacks coming out of the predominantly blue sky.

In other words, the blue streak helps the rabbit to monitor the sky for threats, and the visual streak (mostly green cones) helps the rabbit to keep watch on the ground and horizon.

So rabbits do have good vision – good for spotting predators.

You can read more about the visual streak and blue streak in the research by Juliusson et al (1994). You can see the abstract here.

Can rabbits see in the dark?

Rabbits can see in the dark better than humans, but not in pitch black. Bunnies have eyes that are adapted to work best at dusk and dawn, but rabbits are not nocturnal animals. Some nocturnal animals (including cats) have a mirror-like backing to the retina that helps the eye detect every ray of light (this is called the tapetum lucidum). Rabbits don’t have this (neither do humans). Rabbits can see about twice as well as humans in poor light.

Rabbits have both rod and cone photoreceptors. The rod photoreceptors help them to see in poor light conditions. A rod photoreceptor can detect a single photon of light. 

Rabbits have far more rods than cones (up to 300,000 per mm2 – see Famiglietti & Sharpe (1995) – abstract here).

The peak concentration of rods is about twice that of humans – so rabbits can see better in the dark than humans. However, they are not fully adapted to see at night.

Rabbits have adapted to see best at dawn and dusk (rabbits are crepuscular – see our article on when rabbits are awake and asleep). In these conditions, their combination of lots of rods and blue and green cones enable them to spot any potential threats, whether from land or sky.

The rods make sure that they are sensitive in poor light conditions. The blue and green cones make sure that they have colour contrast ideal for dawn and dusk. How come?

When the sun is low in the sky, the direct light is particularly yellow, while reflected light is particularly blue. The rabbit’s green and blue cones are ideally placed to detect any objects lit with these contrasting colours. See Nuboer and Moed (1983) for more information (abstract here). 

So rabbits can’t see in pitch black, and are not nocturnal animals. But their eyesight is ideal for an animal that comes out at dawn and dusk in poor light, wary of any predators that are looking to pounce.

Can rabbits see infrared?

Rabbits cannot see infrared. They have poorer vision for red light than humans, as they don’t have any red cones in their eyes. Infrared light is beyond what is visible to them.

Do rabbits blink their eyes?

Rabbits do blink, but much less often than humans. They blink about once every five minutes.

They need to blink far less because they have an extra (transparent) eyelid – called a nictitating eyelid or membrane. This helps keep their eyes moist whilst enabling them to continue keeping an eye out for predators.

Rabbit eye problems

If you are concerned about your bunny’s eyes, check in with a vet, and also have a look at our page on common symptoms and what you can do at home to help.

More articles…

If you liked this article, read our article on how and when rabbits sleep.

You can also find out more about how rabbits hear, and how fast bunnies run.

Just want to treat your bunny? Check out our in-depth articles on what herbs are safe for rabbits, and what fruit are safe for rabbits.

And have a look at our suggested toys (all tested by our own rabbits).

Posted by Jonathan in General
7 Reasons why Rabbits are Better Pets than Dogs

7 Reasons why Rabbits are Better Pets than Dogs

While the rest of the world seems to divide itself into cat or dog people, those of us who have bunnies know that the best pets of all are rabbits. Here are seven reasons why rabbits are better pets than dogs (bet you didn’t think of number 4!). 

1. Rabbits don’t need walking

Dogs are great. We have some friends with a lively, friendly labradoodle. You couldn’t imagine a gentler animal. And, as part of the family, the friends look after their dog. 

Which means walkies. 

Every. Single. Day.

You know that myth that eskimos (more properly Inuit or Yupik people) have fifty different words for snow? In the north-west of England, we have fifty different words for rain. There’s a reason for that.

So dogs need walking in bad weather. When it’s pelting it down. Raining cats and dogs. Sleeting. Spitting. Lashing down. Coming down in torrents. Raining stair-rods. Pouring. Showering. Or even just drizzling.

Muddy paws and boots
Muddy paws after a rainy day. Dogs need walking whatever the weather.

No matter how bad the weather, their labradoodle needs a decent walk. 

Our bunnies don’t. I can just let them zoom round the garden. And plenty of people keep their rabbits indoors permanently, where they can hop around to keep fit and well. 

And I can watch them, sitting down, drink in hand, relaxing.

Rabbits 1 – Dogs 0.

2. Rabbit poo is better than dog poo

It gets worse than just having to take the dog for a walk in miserable weather. My friend has to keep a selection of small plastic bags to hand, to pick up their dog poo. 

And then carry it with him for the rest of the walk.

By choice. Because dog poo is so bad that you can’t just leave it for others to step into. 

And almost nothing smells worse than dog poo. The smallest trace left on a shoe is enough to contaminate it and stink out wherever you go.

It would be bad enough if dogs could be litter trained, or always used the same spot – but they don’t. They just find a random patch of grass, and let it out. 

Now contrast this with rabbits. The poo consists of small, neat, brown balls that don’t particularly smell, and don’t spread and cause mess everywhere.

And Fish and Chips, our rabbits, know how to use a litter tray. We just need to empty it every now and then into a nearby bin. 

No plastic bags, no mess, no smell, no carrying poo around with you.

Rabbits 2 – Dogs 0. 

3. Rabbits are quieter than dogs

My grandfather had a number of dogs over the years (he was a farmer). There was Ben, a faithful, gentle sheepdog, and Rags, who was a little crazy, and Jason (a labrador with a golden fleece) who was stupid but kind. 

They all had one thing in common.

They barked. 

At times, loudly.

Bottom line – dogs are noisy.

But rabbits… …are blissfully quiet. No yapping, no howling at the moon, and no barking at the postman.

You want a quiet life? Get a rabbit.

Rabbits 3 – Dogs 0.

4. Rabbits are more environmentally friendly than dogs

We don’t tend to think about climate change when it comes to our pets, but perhaps we should. And one factor to take into account is the size of the carbon footprint that comes from feeding our pets.

Dogs mainly eat meat – they’re pretty carnivorous. 

(As an aside, there’s a scientific debate over whether dogs are better classed as omnivores or adaptive carnivores. You can read more about it in this scientific paper: Hendriks, W. H. (2014). The omnivorous dog dogma and carnivorous cat connection. Abstract from ESVCN – European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, Utrecht, The Netherlands).

And meat production is bad for the environment (you can find out more from Friends of the Earth). 

Many people are reducing the amount of meat in their diets (or changing to low-intensity farmed animals) over a concern for global warming (meat-free Mondays is taking off in some schools). 

It’s fine to make that choice for ourselves – but much harder to make it for a pet that is adapted to eat meat. 

It’s true that there are some vegetarian diets for dogs – but the food is more expensive. And you have to be vigilant to ensure your dog is getting all the right nutrients (and as for cats – forget it. They are obligate carnivores – they need meat). 

In contrast, our rabbits Fish and Chips enjoy hay, and grass. 

This is a renewable form of food (the grass grows back!). It’s cheap. And it’s plentiful.

Even the best quality hay (we buy Timothy hay – you can find out more about it in our article on why it’s best for rabbits) is an order of magnitude cheaper than a good quality dog food.

And with a much small carbon footprint.

Rabbits are more environmentally friendly pets than dogs.

Rabbits 4 – Dogs 0

5. Rabbits sleep at convenient times

Bunnies are creatures of dawn and dusk (crepuscular is the technical term). This is when they are most active.

Rabbits sleep most at night and midday (we have a whole article about when and how rabbits sleep here).

This is convenient for most families. The mornings and evenings are when most people are around. While you are asleep at night or at work during the day, the bunnies are happily taking naps.

Bunnies have ideal sleeping patterns for today’s world.

To be fair, dogs aren’t too bad here either. They too sleep at night, and can nap during the day. 

Perhaps a point each, then.

Rabbits 5 – Dogs 1.

6. Rabbits can live happily indoors or outdoors

In Britain, about half of rabbit owners keep them in the house, and about half outside in a garden (if you plan to do this, you need to make sure that your rabbit can’t escape and is safe from any predators).

This means that they are flexible pets. You can keep your house animal-free if you have, for example, a family member with allergies.

And they don’t need a massive amount of space (though they do need a large hutch or run – enough to make at least three hops. You can read more about the hutch we have here). 

Rabbits 6 – Dogs 1.

7. Rabbits do the cutest binkies

Happy bunnies will run, jump and turn in the air simultaneously – it is the cutest thing to watch. Here’s an example:

Dogs can’t do this.

Rabbits 7 – Dogs 1.

Conclusion

Rabbits and dogs. Both intelligent, sociable, inquisitive animals. Both great pets. But rabbits are the best. The 7 – 1 score proves it!

Rabbits are fantastic pets, but you should make sure you can look after them properly for the long term before going out to the pet store or adoption centre.

You can find out the total cost (including running costs) of having rabbits in our article. And if you’re thinking of buying a large hutch, have a read of our review of the hutch we use. Also check out the cost of pet rabbit insurance – I’ve done a comparison of the UK providers.

Already own bunnies? Check out the toys which ours love the most.

Despite everything, you insist on choosing dogs? You might find this guide on which dog breed to choose helpful.

Posted by Jonathan in General
10 of the best rabbit toys (our bunnies loved them all!)

10 of the best rabbit toys (our bunnies loved them all!)

If you have a bunny (or more than one!) as a pet, you will know how inquisitive, sociable and active they are. Our mini-lops Fish and Chips love zooming around, poking their noses everywhere, and chewing whatever they can find. 

The flipside is that rabbits can become bored without things to prod or gnaw. So here are ten great inexpensive rabbit toys and treats for bunnies that keep ours active and happy.

1. Ancol small animal treat ball

  • Long-lasting
  • Entertaining
  • Pretty cheap

This is my favourite gift on this list – that’s why it’s the first one. 

This entertains our bunnies Fish and Chips and keeps them active pushing it around the garden with their nose and paws. 

The Ancol ball is slightly larger than a tennis ball, hollow, and made out of thick yellow plastic. You can drop nuggets or other treats into the ball through a sliding panel, and then leave it slightly open. 

As your rabbit pushes the ball around, a nugget or two will drop out. As your bunny learns that pushing the ball means treats, they will play with it more and more.

It’s a toy that lasts (some of the others are meant to be chewed) and entertains, and it’s not even expensive.

The only drawback we found is that the lid can be a little hard to slide.

You can buy the Ancol small animal treat ball from Amazon UK here; the closest equivalent I could find in the States comes under the Wheeky brand, available from Amazon US here.

2. Ancol rabbit play tunnel

Rabbit in tunnel
Fish exploring the Ancol play tunnel
  • Long lasting
  • Great fun
  • Folds away

Rabbits love being able to hide and run, and this tunnel gives them a chance to do both. Our bunnies also have fun sprinting through the tunnel at pace (bunnies are fast!).

The tunnel is longer than some others also on the market (it’s just over 4 feet / 1.28cm). 

It is also wider than some others (the diameter is 10in / 25cm), so if you have a larger pet rabbit like a French lop or similar they can still fit through. 

The tunnel is made out of nylon, and seems quite robust. We leave ours out in the garden (and young children have played with/in it as well) and it is still fine. 

The tunnel also collapses down easily if you need to put it away. 

We have even put ours through the washing machine (don’t know if this is recommended or not) and it came out clean and unscathed.

We bought ours from a local pet store (Jollyes), but you can also check it out on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

3. Rosewood hay forage cube

hay cube
Fish starting on a hay cube – yum yum
  • Our bunnies love to chew these
  • But they don’t last more than a few days

All our bunnies, adore these cubes. Rabbits love to chew and they love to eat. These clever cubes allow your rabbit to do both. 

The cubes are made of cardboard with hay stuck all over them, and then stuffed inside with more hay (sometimes with added marigold). Our rabbits begin by attacking the inside, eating the hay. You can then refill it.

However, our bunnies soon move onto the box itself (which is designed to be chewed and eaten). This means it’s a great treat, but don’t expect it to last for too long. 

You can buy the cubes in different sizes – we usually get medium. 

hay cube
Chips starting work on the hay cube itself

One thing to watch for is some people found their pet getting their head stuck in the cube. We have never had this problem, but it might be worth making sure that the size of cube is suitable for your bunny.

You can get them from Amazon UK here. It’s also available on Amazon US. We actually have buy this cube on a repeat order from Amazon.

4. Woodlands wooden playstick large

Rabbit under wooden playsticks
Fish finding some shade under the wooden playsticks
  • Lets your rabbit hide or climb
  • Long lasting

Climbing and hiding, climbing and hiding… Our rabbits spend a lot of time doing one or the other, and the Woodland playstick gives them both. The sticks can be bent into different shapes (some use them as ramps) but we bent ours into a tunnel. Your bunny can be safe and secure inside, or climbing on top for a better view of the world. 

As it is made out of wood, it wouldn’t matter if our rabbits chewed this – but ours never have. 

The playstick seems robust, and lives in our rabbits’ run all the time. 

You can get similar products in many pet stores, but we got ours from Pets at Home. You can get similar wooden tunnels on Amazon UK [Trixie natural living willow bridge] and one for small or medium rabbits from Amazon US, but we haven’t tried these ourselves. 

5. Happy Pet Willow Tube

  • Gives your rabbit somewhere to hide if they are small
  • Bunnies like to push it around and move it
  • Rabbits love to chew on willow
  • But it doesn’t last forever

Rabbits seem to love tunnels (at least ours do). Perhaps it’s because they are similar to warrens. Whatever the reason, ours loved playing with this tunnel made out of willow. 

They also loved chewing it. Don’t expect the tunnel to last too long – our bunnies destroyed it over a few days, but had a great time while they were doing it.

Also, even the large size is not that large. Your rabbit may love chewing it, but if your bunny is on the big size, may struggle to fit through.

You can get tubes like this from many pet stores, including Jollyes, but we got ours from Amazon UK.  It’s also available from the Amazon US store. 

6. Rosewood boredom breaker woodroll carrot

  • Bunnies love to try to get the treat
  • Gnawing on the wood is good for their teeth
  • But only give occasionally – seeds should only be an occasional treat

This is another treat that kept our bunnies happy for a while. The small log has holes filled with a carrot mixture. Your rabbit can explore and excavate the log.

This is a treat – the carrot and seed mixture isn’t what a bunny’s normal diet should consist of (rabbits should be mainly eating hay – see our article on Timothy hay here to find out more).

Get this from Amazon UK.

7. Rosewood trio of fun balls

  • Bunnies love to push these wooden balls around
  • Rabbits also like chewing on these
  • But these toys won’t last forever

Our bunnies love playing with new toys, pushing them around, sniffing them and gnawing on them. These wooden balls were another hit.

Like the willow tube, don’t expect these balls to last forever. Enthusiastic chewing means that the balls end up as smaller and smaller bits. But while they lasted, our bunnies had a great time with them.

They’re also usually cheap to buy. You can check the current price at Amazon UK, or an equivalent from Amazon US.

8. Toss and Treat Loofah

  • Rabbits like to gnaw on these
  • Bunnies can also toss them around their play areaf
  • You can add treats to it

This is another toy that enables your rabbit to gnaw, chew and have fun. Basically, it’s a loofah tube with some holes. You can stuff the holes with treats (or shove hay into the middle of the tube). Your bunnies can play and chew to their hearts’ content.

We got ours from Pets at Home. I haven’t seen anything identical on Amazon, but you could try other pet stores for similar products. You can get loofahs safe for rabbits to chew here at Amazon US.

9. Apple and Apricot treat sticks

  • Our bunnies love these
  • But the treats don’t last long
  • And they’re not terribly healthy for your bunny – only give occasionally

The main thing a rabbit should be eating is hay (see our article on why Timothy hay is so good for rabbits, and if you want to follow it up we also have one on which herbs are safe to give your bunny and what fruit you can give your bunny as a treat). 

But every now and then, it’s nice to have a treat. So once in a while we buy these apple and apricot treat sticks for our rabbits. 

Our bunnies love to chew on these (so don’t expect them to last too long).

The ingredients include wheat and oats, which shouldn’t be part of an everyday diet, but are fine on occasion (just like you shouldn’t have ice cream for every meal, but enjoy some at a party or day out). 

We got ours from Pets at Home. Most pet stores will have something similar – just make sure that the package confirms that it is safe for rabbits to eat.

10. Bunnies Make it Better

Life is good but bunnies make it better sign
This hangs on our back door

OK, a confession. 

This isn’t really for our bunnies, it’s for us. We have this hanging on a door near the hutch. 

Because it rings true, doesn’t it? They are little bundles of furry joy.

This small but sweet sign is sold on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Bonus – Beware of the rabbits sign

Watch out for bunnies!

OK, I can’t count. This is number eleven, and again, it’s more for me (and visitors) than my bunnies. Are your buns feisty? Tell the world with this cute little (and cheap) sign.

Although the sign looks metallic in the picture, it’s actually plastic (thick and tough plastic). You could use cable ties to attach it to your rabbit hutch. The sign is about 4″ (10cm) wide.

You can get it from the Omlet company, who also make a fantastic range of rabbit tunnels and runs.

Conclusion

Here’s hoping you find something in this list that appeals, and that keeps your bun amused, entertained and happy!

If you like keeping your rabbit entertained, have you also thought of teaching them some tricks? Find out here how to teach your rabbit to give you a high five, or to spin around.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Reviews
When and how rabbits sleep: in-depth guide

When and how rabbits sleep: in-depth guide

Introduction

Whether you are thinking about getting a new rabbit, or just trying to understand your pet bunny better, you might be wondering about a typical daily routine. And, just as we humans need our beauty sleep, so getting some sleep is important for rabbits. 

But when and how do rabbits sleep? Rabbits are crepuscular – they are most lively at dawn and dusk, and get their sleep (typically around 11 hours a day) during the middle of the day and also at night.

Because people see rabbits sleeping during the day, many assume that they are nocturnal – awake all night. But they aren’t. Crepuscular comes from a Latin word meaning ‘twilight’. This is the time of day (at both dawn and dusk) that rabbits feel most secure feeding and being active. 

Bunnies are prey animals – always looking out to make sure that a nasty predator isn’t out to get them. As many predators work best either in bright daylight or at night, feeding in twilight helps decrease the danger. It also means that they aren’t around in the heat of the middle of the day (rabbits can find it hard to regulate their body temperature when it gets too hot).

How many hours do rabbits sleep?

Rabbits sleep on average anything from seven to twelve hours a day. But their sleep pattern is different from ours. Because they have to be alert to danger, bunnies are light sleepers. They frequently wake up, having shorter periods of sleep. 

A common number you will come across on the web is 8.4 hours. But scientists measured the sleep patterns of some adult male rabbits. They found that the rabbits slept on average for 11.4 hours a day.

The scientists even broke down the type of sleep. 

The rabbits were in deep sleep about two-thirds of the time asleep. So about seven or eight hours a day.

The rabbits were in a light sleep – what the scientists termed drowsy – about a quarter of the time. So about two or three hours a day.

About a tenth of the time the rabbits were in what the scientists termed ‘paradoxical sleep’ – this is similar to REM sleep in humans, and may be an indication that this is when the bunnies are dreaming! See below for more on this.

You can access the abstract of the journal article here.

Other studies also show similar results (eg in one study the rabbits averaged nearly 10 hours a day asleep).

How do you know when a rabbit is sleeping?

But how do you know when your bunny is sleeping? The scientists used sophisticated polygraphic recordings, but our pet bunnies aren’t wired up. It can be hard to tell if your rabbit is simply lying still, or actually asleep.

Here are five signs that your bunny is sleeping. 

  1. They will be still. Rabbits don’t move around while asleep, though they can fall asleep in many different types of position.
  2. The ears will be relaxed. This can be harder to tell if you have a lop – they can always look relaxed! But if your rabbit’s ears are pricked up, this is a sign that they are awake. When sleeping, the ears will be lying against the head.
  3. The nose won’t be twitching. Rabbits wiggle their noses all the time while they’re awake, but not when asleep.
  4. The breathing will be slower. You won’t be able to notice this unless you are close. Just like humans, rabbits breathe more slowly while asleep.
  5. Just like some humans, some rabbits snore while sleeping. 

Do rabbits dream?

We can’t be sure what is going on in their heads. But it looks like they do dream. About ten percent of their time asleep is spent in a specific form of sleep, in which the body’s patterns look similar to wakefulness patterns, but the brain is asleep. Eyes can move fast (hence it is sometimes called Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM sleep for short). And the body can twitch or jerk around a little. 

This is similar to humans. We have different sleep states, and REM sleep is when we are dreaming (if you ever remember a dream, it is because you woke up during REM sleep). We too can twitch a bit during this state, and move around.

So it looks like rabbits do dream – we just can’t tell what they’re dreaming about. 

Can rabbits see while sleeping?

If rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, does this mean they can see while asleep? Not necessarily. But it does have advantages for them. Potential predators might think that they are awake. Also, if there is movement, the rabbit is more sensitive to the change in light, and so more likely to wake quickly and respond. 

Do rabbits sleep in the dark?

Rabbits sleep both in the day and at night, so they sleep both in the dark and in the light. They use the cues from the light to tell them when to sleep – when it is darkest and when it is lightest. 

What positions do rabbits sleep in?

Rabbits can sleep in a whole variety of positions. Some flop on their sides, and others splay themselves out. This is Fish’s favourite position. 

Partly it can depend on the weather. In cold conditions, rabbits are more likely to curl up into a ball when sleeping to keep warm. In hot weather, your bunny may stretch out as much as possible to keep cooler. 

Do rabbits like to sleep with other rabbits?

Rabbits are highly sociable creatures, and most love to sleep with other rabbits (once they know each other). This is one of the reasons that it is good to have to rabbits rather than just one. Our bunnies Fish and Chips like to sleep close together. 

Can you sleep with your bunny?

Some rabbits live indoors. If you have an indoor rabbit, you may wonder whether it is possible for an owner and rabbit to share a bed. There are a number of important considerations. 

The biggest factor to consider is the safety of your bunny. You are much bigger than they are. If you roll over in your sleep, you could crush your rabbit, injuring or even killing it.

Doctors don’t recommend that parents and babies share a bed for similar reasons. 

But there are other things to think about as well. 

One of these is hygiene. Rabbits like to mark their territory with both scent and urine. Additionally, they can carry germs into the bed.

Also, rabbits have different temperature needs from humans. We like warmer temperatures, and use duvets or covers to keep up the temperature. Rabbits prefer cooler temperatures, and already have a coating of fur. What is ideal for you may simply be too hot for your rabbit.

Another factor to consider is the sleep cycle. Rabbits have shorter periods of sleep than humans, so while you are trying to get your beauty sleep your rabbit may be nudging you and wanting attention and to play.

Consider the height of your bed. You also need to think about how easy it is for the bunny to get on and off the bed. If yours is really low to the floor, it may be fine, but a standard bed height is high for a rabbit to be expected to jump up or down.

You also need to think about your own health. If you have asthma or allergies, sleeping with a furry animal may not be a good idea!

For all these reasons, you should at least think extremely carefully before planning on sleeping in the same bed as your bunny.

Instead, you could create a sleeping area near or next to your bed. This could be safer for your bunny, and better for both of you.

Conclusion

Your rabbit needs their beauty sleep just like you. But rabbits sleep day and night in shorter bursts, sometimes dreaming. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

Has your bunny woken up and wants something to do? Have a look at our top toys for rabbits – all cheap, and all road-tested by ours.

You might be wondering how well rabbits see at night – find out more about how rabbits see the world in our article.

Is your bunny listening to you? Find out more in our guide to how rabbits hear.

Worried if your rabbit can go out in the rain? Find out in our article here.

Worried if it’s getting too cold for your bunny? Check out how cold is too cold for rabbits in our article here.

Posted by Jonathan in General