Can rabbits eat spinach?
Washed, uncooked spinach is a safe occasional treat for rabbits.
But the nutritional profile of spinach is only a partial match for the dietary needs of rabbits. So we have some better veggie snacks to recommend as well.
Read on to find out more about the nutritional value of spinach for rabbits!
Is Spinach Safe For Rabbits?
Spinach stems, leaves and flowers are all safe and non-toxic to rabbits of all types.
Bear in mind that most spinach grown for sale in grocery stores is treated with pesticides which can harm rabbits.
So it’s important to wash store bought spinach before you feed it to your pet.
Rabbits and Spinach
In the wild, rabbits continually forage for grasses and foliage.
On average, grasses are approximately 20 to 25 per cent crude fibre, 15 per cent crude protein and two to three per cent fat.
Rabbits especially seek out the growing tips of young grass, where the concentration of nutrients is highest.
But, to extract maximum nutrition from the rest of a plant too, wild rabbits have a long digestive tract specially adapted to ferment large quantities of plant matter.
Pet rabbits share the same highly specialized digestive system, so they need a diet high in fiber, low in fat, sugar or starchy foods.
Spinach is a little different to grass, so where can it fit in?
Raw spinach is over 90% water.
It’s a little less than 4% carbohydrate, just under 3% protein, and barely 0.4% fat.
But it also contains trace amounts of important vitamins and minerals such as calcium and potassium.
Is Spinach Good For Rabbits?
Spinach is lower in fiber, protein and fat than the grasses rabbits have evolved to eat.
This is especially true of baby spinach and young leaf spinach.
Mature spinach leaves and their stems are a little higher in fiber, so they are a more worthy source of fiber in your bunny’s diet.
Spinach is also a source of calcium. Supplementary calcium in rabbits may reduce the incidence of dental disease, and improve the health of their bones.
Is Spinach Bad For Rabbits?
Since spinach leaves are generally high in water and low in substance, large amounts of spinach are not good for our rabbit’s health.
Low fiber diets have been linked to gastrointestinal disease, obesity and behavioural problems.
Rabbits also depend upon chewing on a large volume of fiber to keep their teeth short.
So eating too much spinach at the expense of proper roughage can cause teeth to become overgrown and painful.
Spinach is also a source of vitamin C, which can cause sludgy urine and bladder stones in rabbits.
Rabbit Spinach Treats
Since spinach isn’t suitable for rabbits to eat in large amounts, the best way to share them with your bunny is as little treats.
Remember that whenever you introduce a new food stuff into their repertoire, it takes a little time for the bacteria in their gut that help break down their food to adjust.
Just a small number of leaves and stems are the right place to start.
If you overwhelm their gut bacteria too suddenly, they might experience diarrhea and digestive discomfort.
Once they are accustomed to spinach, it’s also helpful to keep offering a few leaves regularly from that point onwards.
But if they suffer severe or persistent diarrhea, stop offering spinach altogether.
Can Baby Rabbits Eat Spinach?
Rabbits enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables and wild plants alongside their hay as soon as they start weaning.
Offering a wide range fresh forage keeps their life rich and interesting, and boosts the overall nutritional completeness of their diet.
Provided they don’t experience any digestive upset, or urinary problems, your bunny can go on enjoying a spinach side order alongside the rest of their food for their whole life.
Can Rabbits Eat Spinach Every Day?
Once they’re used to digesting spinach, and assuming they enjoy it, it’s fine to offer them a small portion a couple of times a week.
But make sure the bulk of their meals comes in the form of hay, or hay based pellets.
Offer your rabbit a small amount of spinach leaves, once or twice a week, alongside plenty of hay and other green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, parsley and watercress.
Can Rabbits Eat Tree Spinach?
So far we’ve focussed on ‘ordinary’ spinach – the type sold as spinach in stores and known botanically as Spinacia oleracea.
But there are other leafy greens known as spinaches too.
Tree spinach, also known as chaya, is widely cultivated in Mexico, and increasingly grown in Texas, Florida, and other southern states as well.
Tree spinach is only very loosely related to the spinach we usually eat, but it’s also a safe, non-toxic snack for rabbits.
In fact, tree spinach contains less water and more fiber than ordinary spinach, which is great for rabbit digestion .
Can Rabbits Eat Water Spinach?
Water spinach is another plant which shares little more than a name in common with true spinach.
Also known as river spinach, Chinese spinach, and Chinese watercress, water spinach is a staple crop throughout Asia.
It’s also grown in California, Florida and Texas for use in Asian cuisine in the U.S.
Water spinach is a very suitable fresh forage to offer your rabbit.
Provided they eat the stems and all, it is a very close match to their nutritional requirements.
But only offer small amounts, since if they can cherry pick just the leafy tips, they are liable to end up consuming too much protein, and not enough fiber.
Do Rabbits Like Spinach?
This depends very much upon the rabbit!
Biologically, rabbits are known as concentrate selectors.
That means that whatever you offer them to eat, they’re going to start with the most nutritionally dense, easy to digest bits, and work their way down.
Morsels of spinach might get rejected if something better is on offer!
And of course, every rabbit has their own unique and individual tastes and preferences.
So your rabbit might like spinach, depending on their palate, and what else is on offer. Finding out the answer is part of the fun!
Alternatives to Spinach for Rabbits
Rabbits can eat spinach, the bulk of your rabbit’s diet should come from hay.
Timothy hay most closely matches their nutritional needs, and is a good staple to rely upon.
But just like they’d consume several types of grass in the wild, they benefit from portions of different types of hay in captivity.
If spinach isn’t your rabbit’s perfect fresh snack alongside their hay, you can offer them some of these fresh produce instead:
Can Rabbits Eat Spinach – Summary
So, can rabbits eat spinach? Rabbits have adapted to eat a variety of wild grasses and young plant shoots.
As pets, they most benefit from a menu which closely mimics their wild diet, which means lots and lots of hay – or better still, a variety of hays.
Offering fresh forage and vegetables every day is a delicious and fun way to boost the vitamins and minerals your rabbit receives.
Spinach is a valuable source of calcium and trace vitamins and minerals.
Introduce it to your bunny’s diet gradually any time after weaning, and offer and small number of leaves regularly thereafter so that the specialized bacterial colonies in their gut remain used to it.
Offer them whole leaves and stems, and wash them first.
Does Your Rabbit Like Eating Spinach?
What other produce do they enjoy? Let us know in the comments section!
References and Further Reading
- Meredith, A., Rabbit Nutrition – An Overview, Vet Times, 2011.
- Meredith, A., The Importance of Diet In Rabbits, Fur & Feather, 2007.
- Clauss, M., Clinical Technique – Feeding Hay To Rabbits And Rodents, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, 2012.
- Ackerman, N., Is It All About Hay And Grass: Rabbit Nutrition, BSAVA Congress Proceedings 2019.
- Pok, S., Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) As A Feed Resources For Growing Rabbits, 2009.
- Kuti, J. & Torres, E., Potential Nutritional and Health Benefits of Tree Spinach, 1996.
- Raw Spinach Nutritional Information, U.S. Department of Agriculture.