Strawberries are up there with one of the tastiest fruits around. Packed full of taste and ‘good for you’ vitamins and minerals, in particular vitamins C and K, strawberries are a healthy addition to our daily fruit intake but can our rabbits also eat strawberries? Let’s find out
Rabbits can eat strawberries and their plants, despite their sweet taste they are low in sugar (and high in fiber). Strawberries should still only be offered as an occasional treat as their high water content may cause gastrointestinal issues.
Although I had never tried strawberries on my own rabbits, they had tasted dried fruit and as expected had really enjoyed the sweet taste. I was very keen to try my rabbits on a strawberry but I wanted to find out if this fruit could have any adverse effects on my pets delicate digestive systems. I decided to do some research and here’s what I found out.
Are strawberries really a fruit?
Botanically speaking, a fruit is the ovary of a flowering plant (e.g. oranges, apples, and pears all have seeds in them). The strawberry, however, doesn’t actually develop from the ovary of the plant, so it doesn’t quite fit the standard definition of a botanical fruit.
Strawberries actually fall under a category known as a false fruit or aggregate accessory fruit. This quote explains it best.
“Technically, the strawberry is an aggregate accessory fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each apparent ‘seed’ (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it.”(StrawberryEsau, K. (1977). Anatomy of seed plants. John Wiley and Sons, New York.)
When it comes to strawberries, its only really the seeds on its surface that are (by botanical definition) fruits. The berry (or fleshy part) itself is not developed from the ovary but is the swollen stem of the plant.
Rabbits and strawberries
Fruits often have very high sugars, however, strawberries do not share this characteristic. Classed as a superfood, strawberries are high in fiber and have very little sugar in them (around 1 gram (g) per medium-sized strawberry). It’s perfectly safe to allow a rabbit a small strawberry once in a while but giving them a whole punnet to much through in one sitting would probably be a bad idea as strawberries don’t usually form part of a rabbits natural diet.
As a rabbit owner, it will be up to you to show restraint on your rabbits behalf. Rabbits have a sweet tooth and their love of fruit can lead to gastrointestinal issues and obesity (link to post ‘How to Prevent Fat and Obesity in Rabbits’). While one strawberry is unlikely to cause weight issues, several may be a different story.
Are strawberries good for rabbits?
Fruit and vegetables are not only beneficial in our diets but can also benefit a rabbits health too. Giving a small portion of strawberry occasionally is much more healthy for a rabbit than a store-bought yogurt or chocolate treat.
Strawberries are made up mostly of water (91%) however they contain a range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and B9 (folate) manganese and potassium. They are very rich in antioxidants and plant compounds, which may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.
The flesh and skin of a Strawberry also include dietary fiber, essential for a rabbits continued good digestive health.
What forms of strawberries can rabbits eat?
Rabbits will of course eat fresh strawberries but they will also eat strawberry chips (dehydrated strawberry).
A rabbits digestive system is actually more suited for dryer foods which we often find reflects in our taste tests (we’ll find out if this is true of strawberries later on!).
Should I give my rabbit strawberries?
That’s up to you, and as we’ve already said, strawberries are a much better choice than giving a processed sugary treat from a pet store.
However, our advice when it comes to treats is always the same. Rabbits have very simple but specific dietary requirements and despite what some sources will tell you, they do not get bored through ‘lack of variety’.
The key point when it comes to a rabbit’s diet and in particular treats is this:
Rabbits have survived perfectly well for thousands of years without the wide variety of fruits and vegetables us pet owners provide.
Although we enjoy spoiling our pets and providing new foods, these should not be a substitute for other more important aspects of the diet, namely fibrous grass and hays. The importance of fiber in a rabbits diet cannot be underestimated.
A rabbits diet should be primarily made up of 80% good quality grasses or hay. It is this that keeps the digestive tract moving along.
If you would like to know exactly what makes up a great rabbit diet, you can read our detailed post here (link to post ‘What Can Rabbits Eat – Complete Guide & Quick Reference Tool).
Although rabbits love fruits, most of them are relatively high sugar and pose a risk of upsetting the delicate digestive balance within the rabbit’s gut.
Nutritional value of strawberries
This graphic shows the nutritional value of strawberries per 100 grams, however, if you are planning to give your rabbit strawberries, you’ll be giving a much smaller amount!
Do rabbits like strawberries?
We wanted to know this too so (all in the name of science) we decided to test our 6 resident rabbits on some tasty strawberry, we tried them on both dried (dehydrated strawberry) and some fresh sliced strawberry. None of our rabbits had ever eaten strawberry before. Here’s what they thought followed by an overall score (ticks indicate it was eaten willingly while crosses represent flatly refused!). We were quite surprised by the results.
The taste test
|Rabbit Name||Fresh Strawberry||Freeze Dried Strawberry||Rating|
Taste test results summary
Generally speaking, our rabbits enjoyed strawberry slices when there was less moisture left in them and the freeze-dried variety went down really well. These tests are really just a bit of fun but we think it shows that every rabbit is different, although our rabbits were mostly not too keen on the fresh strawberry, your own pets may be the exact opposite. You won’t know until you try!
Strawberries are in season from late May through to September in the UK and between January and November in the US however foreign imports ensure that you will likely find strawberries all year round in these and other western nations. The freeze-dried strawberries our rabbits loved so much have a significantly longer shelf life and can be found year-round.
- Sodium free
- Cholesterol free
- Good source of dietary fiber
- High in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Freeze-dried brands keep well
- Fresh versions spoil quite quickly
- High water content may cause diarrhea
Recommended use of strawberry in a rabbit diet
Nutritional information isn’t usually provided with a rabbit in mind and although low in sugar, the comparative size of a rabbit to a human should of course be taken into account. As strawberry is not an essential part of a rabbits diet, it should be given only as an occasional treat. For most rabbits this means 1-2 tbsp once or twice a week (a thin slice or two is a safe amount).
Contamination by bacteria, pesticides, or fungi, is common with strawberries, so they should be thoroughly washed before offering them to a rabbit.
If your interested to learn what other foods a rabbit may like you can check out our detailed post on a rabbits diet here (link to post ‘What Can Rabbits Eat? Complete Guide and Quick Reference Table’)
Although strawberries make a tasty treat for a rabbit, a rabbit’s diet should be primarily fiber-based to keep the gut moving. Aside from water, hay should make up approximately 80% of the food intake and an unlimited amount should be provided
Every rabbit is different and just as we have likes and dislikes when it comes to food, so do rabbits. There is no sure-fire way to know how your rabbit may react to a certain food until you test it yourself.
Above all, remember that too much of anything can be bad! high sugar foods in excess can lead to issues such as obesity (link to post ‘How to Prevent Fat and Obesity in Rabbits’).
Eight Low Sugar Fruits medicalnewstoday.com
Strawberries 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits healthline.com
Can Rabbits Eat Strawberries? rabbits.life