Can rabbits eat lavender?

Question: Can rabbits eat lavender?

Answer: The answer is definitely ‘yes’, but many rabbits may choose not to eat lavender!

Lavender is a really popular herb that grows as a shrub. There are 47 different varieties of the genus lavendula which is part of the Lamiaceae – mint- family. Lavender is a very popular herb and can be found growing in many parts of the world and is native to the Canary Islands, Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, south-west Asia and south-east India. Lavender is a popular and easy herb to grow and interestingly, is recommended by some gardening experts as a herb to repel rabbits!

What basic diet is good for rabbits?

Rabbits need a good basic diet and then can enjoy a wide variety of other fruit, vegetables and herbs in small amounts to give them the broadest diet that will ensure that they get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep them healthy.

The basic diet for a rabbit is an unlimited amount of fresh, good quality hay, rabbit pellets and plenty of fresh clean drinking water.  On top of these basic foods, rabbits should be given fresh, leafy vegetables every day. The amount that they require is 1- 2 tablespoons per 500g of body weight. Lettuce (not iceberg) curly kale and celery are among the leafy greens that are good for rabbits.

As well as enjoying leafy greens every day, there are an array of different fruit and vegetables that rabbits can be fed in small quantities as occasional treats. The important point is that rabbits have small stomachs so it is really important that they do not just eat one food type – especially if it is not particularly nutritious or it is high in sugar. If they do, they will have a full stomach and be unable to eat other more nutritious foods and if this pattern continues for some time, the rabbit can become malnutritioned.

So is lavender bad for rabbits?

On the contrary, lavender is completely safe and not toxic for rabbits. They can eat the leaves, flowers and green buds of lavender- either fresh or dried lavender and they are all totally safe for your rabbit. Lavender contains the antioxidant limonene which actually stimulates digestion so could even be beneficial for your rabbit.

The problem is that rabbits have a really well developed sense of smell and taste that often warns them against eating something that would not be good for them and this includes garlic, onions and leeks – which all have a distinctive smell.

Consequently, many rabbits do not like lavender because of its strong smell, taste and also its texture which is a little prickly.

So can rabbits eat fresh herbs too?

You will not know whether your rabbit likes or dislikes lavender unless you try feeding him some.

You should only give rabbits small quantities of fresh herbs. Many really enjoy eating rosemary, sage, cilantro and thyme amongst others and a handful of freshly-cut mint leaves can also be a popular treat!.  

If you are giving your rabbit some herbs, do so as an occasional treat and only 1-2 tablespoons, no more.

You should make sure that the herbs have been well-washed to avoid the chance of them having any pesticide or other chemicals on them.

If your rabbit likes lavender you can sprinkle a small amount on his rabbit pellets.

If you find your rabbit does not seem very fond of eating lavender, you can mix a little chopped lavender in with some leafy greens.

How do I test my rabbit with lavender?

If you are feeding your rabbit with lavender for the first time, give him just a small amount and make sure it is the only new food that you are giving him.

After you have given your rabbit the lavender, closely monitor him for a full 24 hours to ensure he has not suffered any side effects. If your rabbit seems happy, you can give him lavender once every couple of weeks.

Is lavender nutritious for rabbits?

Lavender does contain Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and phytochemicals. Whilst rabbits can eat lavender fresh or dry, they should never be given lavender oil which would make them really sick. 

Can lavender be used as a rabbit deterrent?

Although lavender and other plants like Black-eyed Susan are not always liked by rabbits because of their strong smell and prickly texture, planting them in your flowerbeds to deter your pet rabbit from munching all your pretty bedding plants is unlikely to work either! Rabbits who are enjoying eating what is in your flowerbed will simply eat around the less appealing plants!

Can you give lavender to baby rabbits? 

Because all parts of lavender are safe for rabbits to eat, there is absolutely no reason why you should not introduce lavender as an occasional treat to your young rabbit.

You must prepare the lavender carefully so that it is well washed and there is no chance that it has chemicals or pesticide on it. When cutting the lavender to feed your baby rabbit, it is important to check that it cannot be a choke hazard.

The first time you feed your baby rabbit with some lavender, only give him a very small amount and then monitor him closely for the next 24 hours to see if he suffers any side effects. If your baby rabbit does not want to eat the lavender, leave it in his bowl for a maximum of 12 hours and then remove it before it starts to decay.

You can leave an interval of a few weeks and then try feeding your baby rabbit with lavender again. Do not be surprised if your rabbit does not like lavender though, as this is a common reaction amongst rabbits!

Do not be deterred by his lack of interest in lavender, but slowly introduce other new foods into his diet. It really is important that you give your rabbit a good varied diet on top of his basic foods as this will ensure that your rabbit stays as healthy as possible.

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