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Can rabbits eat pumpkin?

Rabbit eating leaf surrounded by pumpkins
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can rabbits eat pumpkin? It’s a question you may have found yourself pondering if you’re the proud pet parent of a bunny and while there aren't any nutritional benefits to be had, when consumed in small amounts, pumpkin won’t do your floppy-eared friend any harm. But, just like when it comes to selecting from amongst the best rabbit harnesses, there are some things you need to be aware of before serving pumpkin up to your bunny.

Before we explore that further, did you know that pumpkins aren’t actually a vegetable? It’s true! By and large, the difference between a fruit and a vegetable is whether they are the product of the seed-bearing structure of a plant that flowers. Vegetables are the edible parts of plants, which can include the stems, leaves, roots, bulbs, flowers, and tubers. We may think that pumpkins are a vegetable, but they are classed as a fruit.

The good news is that whether a pumpkin is a fruit or a vegetable doesn’t really matter when it comes to whether or not it’s suitable for your rabbit. The most important thing to bear in mind when choosing healthy rabbit treats is to consider what benefit it has for your bunny. The best rabbit food to feed is what is natural for them to eat and what wild rabbits would naturally consume.

Is pumpkin good for rabbits?

There is a difference between something that is good for rabbits to eat, and something that can be eaten by rabbits. Pumpkins contain calcium, zinc, iron, vitamins A and B, fiber and water, all of which rabbits require in their diet. However, they are also high in sugar and carbohydrates, both of which, if consumed in large quantities, can cause digestive problems for rabbits, which can be serious. 

Pumpkins are not something that wild rabbits would naturally choose to eat, but small amounts, given infrequently as a treat, will not do any harm. Recommended Vegetables and Herbs (opens in new tab) is a comprehensive list from the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) that outlines which fresh foods you can feed to your rabbits. 

Can pumpkin be harmful to rabbits?

An incorrect diet is harmful for rabbits in many ways, causing dental disease, digestive problems and obesity, which can lead to other health problems, such as osteoarthritis, flystrike and sore hocks. All of these impact the rabbit’s welfare and shorten their lifespan, so feeding what is healthy and beneficial to your rabbits is imperative.

A small amount of raw pumpkin flesh, every now and then, is unlikely to do any harm, but be mindful that it can cause gas in the digestive system or may cause a digestive upset, so it may be best avoided, and some rabbits may refuse to eat it. The seeds from pumpkins are a potential choking hazard for rabbits, or may cause a blockage in the digestive system, so must never be fed.

What should my rabbit eat?

Grass, hay, herbs (such as parsley, coriander, mint, basil and dill), as well as a selection of other safe vegetables (for example, celery, spinach, kale and broccoli) should make up the bulk of your rabbit's diet. Always introduce new foods slowly over at least two weeks and don’t make sudden dietary changes. Hay and grass must make up at least 85% of their diet (image 2), fresh foods around 10% and good quality pellets 5% of the diet (1 level tablespoon per kg of ideal body weight). Treats should be just that, treats, which are fed every so often.

Conclusion

Pumpkin isn’t poisonous to rabbits, so if your rabbit eats a small amount of the peel or flesh it is highly unlikely to do any serious harm. However, there are no benefits in feeding it to them, and many healthier food items your rabbit can consume instead. Sticking to a healthy diet is in your rabbits’ health and welfare interests.

Claire currently works in Kettering as a Head Nurse in a practice with a high rabbit caseload, as well as frequently lecturing and writing on rabbits to both veterinary professionals and owners.