Often confused between a fruit and a vegetable, tomatoes are a delicious addition to any salad or sandwich but can our rabbits eat tomatoes too? Here’s the short answer
Rabbits can eat tomatoes but they are high in sugar so should only be given in small quantities as a treat. Tomato leaves and vines should not be given to rabbits as they have higher levels of the chemical solanine which can be poisonous.
I was keen to try my rabbits on some tomato but first I wanted to find out a bit more, after all, there are many different types of tomato, could rabbits eat a cherry tomato or a sundried one? and what about all those different colored ones? I decided to do some research. Here’s what I found out.
Are tomatoes fruit or a vegetable?
The confusion around a tomato being a fruit or a vegetable was always interesting to me, however if I was going to feed tomatoes to my rabbits it was important to know for sure, after all, this is what usually determines the quantity that i’d give.
Fruits often have very high sugars meaning they should only be given as a treat food, whereas some vegetables were more likely to have potentilally harmful trace chemicals such as oxalic acid, which can be fatal to a rabbit in larger quantities. So which category does your standard tomato fall into?
(Spoiler Alert: it’s a fruit and here’s why)
A botanical fruit has at least one seed and grows from the flower of the plant. As such, tomatoes are classified as fruit because they contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant.
Can rabbits eat tomatoes?
As a fruit, tomatoes are naturally high in sugar. However the odd small portion of tomato will not harm a healthy rabbit. As with all high sugar foods, its up to you as an owner to show restraint on your rabbits behalf. Rabbits have a sweet tooth and their love of fruits can lead to gastrointestinal issues and obesity (link to post ‘How to Prevent Fat and Obesity in Rabbits’).
Another concern that everyone should be aware of with tomato is around the plant itself (the tomato vine and leaves) this contains a chemical called solanine (link to Wikipedia) in the vine of the plant that is harmful to rabbits.
Can rabbits eat sundried tomatoes?
Yes. Sundried tomatoes are also fine for a rabbit to eat provided they have no additional flavorings or spices added.
Can rabbits eat tinned tomatoes?
No rabbits can definitely not eat tinned tomatoes. Tinned tomato are packed with sodium and preservatives which could be harmful to a rabbit. It’s very unlikely that a rabbit would willingly eat tomatoes that have come out of a tin.
Can baby rabbits eat tomatoes?
Young rabbits should not eat tomatoes due to their high sugar content and the immaturity of their digestive system. The majority of a baby or juvenile rabbits diet should be good quality grass hay and pellets. You can read more about the recommended diet for a young rabbit here (link to post ‘What Can Rabbits Eat – Complete Guide & Quick Reference Tool).
Can rabbits eat different coloured tomatoes?
Tomatoes were not always red and the standard red tomato has been gradually cultivated through breeding. Generally speaking the color is determined by the amount of chlorophyll in the tomato. While the nutritional content between varieties and colors differs slightly, rabbits can eat tomatoes regardless of color (providing they are only given occasionally and in treat sized amounts).
What are the health benefits of tomatoes for rabbits?
Fruit and vegetables are not only beneficial in our diets but can also benefit a rabbits health too. Although tomatoes do have a naturally high sugar amount, these are much more healthy for a rabbit than some store-bought processed yogurt or chocolate treat.
Tomatoes contain a range of vitamins and minerals including A, C and B6 as well as Lycopene, an antioxidant that has been found to reduce cholesterol in rabbits in some studies (link to study by pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
The flesh and skin of the tomato also includes dietary fiber, essential for a rabbits continued good digestive health.
Rabbits have a very specific diet and despite what some sources will tell you, they do not get bored through ‘lack of variety’.
Rabbits have survived perfectly well for thousands of years without the wide variety of fruits and vegetables us pet owners provide.
While 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 this fiber in a rabbits diet cannot be underestimated.
As such a rabbits diet should be made up primarily of good quality grasses or hay (80%). 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, with any high sugar food there is a risk of upsetting the delicate digestive balance within the rabbits gut.
Nutritional value of tomatoes
This graphic shows the nutritional value of tomatoes per 100 grams however you can take these with a pinch of salt, if you are planning to give your rabbit tomatoes, you’ll be giving a much smaller amount!
Do rabbits like tomatoes?
We wanted to know this too so in the name of science we decided to test our 6 resident rabbits on some tasty tomatoes, we tried them on some salad tomato, some cherry tomatoes, and some sundried tomatoes. None of our rabbits had ever eaten tomatoes before, here’s what they thought followed by an overall score (ticks indicate it was eaten willingly while crosses represent flatly refused!).
The taste test
|Rabbit Name||Salad Tomato||Cherry Tomato||Sundried Tomato||Rating|
Taste test results summary
Generally speaking, our rabbits enjoyed tomatoes when there was less moisture left in them. The sun-dried variety went down really well. Remember, every rabbit is different, your pet may love them or hate them but you won’t know until you try.
Tomatoes are grown all over the world and their relatively simple growing process means they are available year-round.
Benefits of tomatoes as a treat for a rabbit
- Fat Free
- Low Sodium
- Good source of dietary fibre
- High in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
- You won’t have to buy from a pet store!
- Dry versions keep well.
Negatives of tomatoes as a treat for a rabbit
- High in sugar
- Plant contains Solanine and cannot be eaten
- Fresh versions spoil quite quickly
- High water content so can cause diahhrea
Recommended use of tomato in a rabbit diet
Due to the aforementioned high sugar content and the risk of digestive problems, tomato should only be given in treat size amounts. For most rabbits this means 1-2 tbsp once or twice a week, (a thin slice or 1 cherry tomato is a safe amount).
Ensure that all the green parts are removed and wash the tomato to ensure any potentially harmful pesticides are removed.
When feeding tomato, give no more than 1 teaspoon (small slice or one cherry tomato) once or twice a week. ensuring that all green parts of the plant are removed
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 tomato makes 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 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’).
Can rabbits eat tomato ketchup?
No, rabbits can’t eat tomato ketchup (tomato sauce). Tomato Ketchup is made from tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices and if a rabbit were to eat it the rabbit would likely suffer gastrointestial issues, and possibly even death.
- GardeningKnowHow.com post on Tomato Color https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/tomato/tomato-varieties-color-learn-about-different-tomato-colors.htm