Are Tomato Plants Poisonous To Rabbits?

Are Tomato Plants Poisonous To Rabbits?

Rabbits in your garden! Sure, rabbits are cute, but in your garden, it’s not just the harvest that’s at stake here. It’s also the rabbits’ health. Not everything there might be safe for them. One common crop, tomato, is often a concern: are tomato plants poisonous to rabbits?

Tomato plants, if eaten in larger amounts, can be toxic to rabbits and other animals. Tomato plants contain tomatine, an alkaloid concentrated mostly in the leaves, green fruits, and flowers. Although ripe tomatoes are safe for rabbits, give them only as a treat in small doses. 

Make sure you’re aware of what’s growing in your vegetable garden, and if those plants are safe for rabbits. For unsafe plants, you’ll need to protect the rabbits against any serious health problems. Let’s dive in! 

Are Tomato Plants Poisonous To Rabbits?

Are Tomato Plants Poisonous To Rabbits?

Tomato plants are a garden favorite. It’s hard to find a vegetable garden that doesn’t have a few tomato plants growing in it. 

It’s hard to imagine that the crop that produces those red, juicy treats is, in fact, poisonous? 

Yet, it’s true! 

Tomato plants are poisonous, not just for rabbits but also for other animals and humans too.

The tomato is a member of the nightshade family. Nightshade plants are known to produce a toxin called solanine, which is harmful to humans and animals alike. 

Tomatine–The Source Of Toxicity

Tomatine- The Source Of Toxicity

The toxicity in tomato plants comes from a solanine-like substance called tomatine. Tomatine is a glycoalkaloid, naturally present in all parts of the tomato plants

Most of the tomatine is present in the leaves, green fruits, and flowers of the plant. 

As the fruit matures, the concentration of this compound significantly degrades to levels that are not harmful to rabbits. 

So why do the tomato plants produce this toxic alkaloid? 

It exists as a natural defense mechanism of the plant to protect its most vulnerable parts against insects and animals (rabbits included) until the fruit matures. 

Can Rabbits Eat Tomatoes?

Can Rabbits Eat Tomatoes?

So you know that you shouldn’t be feeding any parts of the tomato plants to your rabbits. But what about the tomatoes? 

It’s natural to want to give your pets a taste of whatever you like to eat. 

However, make sure you do thorough research before offering them anything new in the diet since the ingredients that are healthy for you might not always be the best food for your bunnies. 

Yes, you can offer tomatoes to rabbits but do so in moderation only. 

While they have some excellent nutrients to keep your rabbits healthy, tomatoes are also high in sugar. 

Wash the fruit thoroughly to remove any pesticides or chemicals off the surface and chop it into bite-sized pieces to prevent any choking hazards. 

Remove the seeds because they’re toxic too. 

If you do accidentally feed it with the seeds, there’s no need to panic because they’re unlikely to cause any harm when eaten in small amounts. 

Don’t feed more than a single small tomato to a rabbit in a day. 

Warning: Baby bunnies, less than 12 weeks of age, have very sensitive digestive systems. Don’t feed them any fruits or vegetables until they’re older. 

Now, since you’ve got tomato plants, check out our full article on how to grow more tomatoes.

Are Tomato Leaves Toxic To Rabbits?

Are Tomato Leaves Toxic To Rabbits?

Tomato plants are poisonous to rabbits, complete with all the parts. 

Stems, leaves, unripe fruit, and flowers are all poisonous to rabbits. 

But which parts are particularly dangerous if ingested? It’s the stems and leaves of the tomato plants that have the highest concentrations of tomatine in them.  

Never feed your little furry friends with leaves or stems from the tomato plants. 

Better yet, avoid growing tomato plants in an area that’s easily accessible by rabbits. 

Tomato leaves aren’t very appealing in the first place. 

However, it’s best not to take any chances with these vulnerable little creatures. 

How To Keep Rabbits Away From Tomato Leaves

How To Keep Rabbits Away From Tomato Leaves

Follow these tips, and you won’t find any rabbits nibbling on the tomato leaves. 

You can also use these on other vegetable crops if you don’t want rabbits ruining your harvest:

  • Rabbits are excellent sniffers. Plant onions around the tomato plants. The pungent smell of onions easily keeps them away. 
  • Spray the plants with pungent garlic oil.
  • Grow tomatoes in fenced areas so the rabbits can’t reach them.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers attached to a garden hose give off a short burst of water each time it detects motion. They’ll easily scare the rabbits away from the harmful plants. 

Probably the easiest option to keep rabbits away from tomatoes is to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse.

What Happens If A Rabbit Eats Tomato Leaves?

What Happens If A Rabbit Eats Tomato Leaves?

Though you shouldn’t offer tomato leaves to rabbits as part of their food, what happens if they help themselves to a tomato vine? 

If you find them snacking on the branches of a tomato plant or the snipped-off branches suggest the mischief of a rabbit, what should you be expecting? 

How serious is the situation? Should you call a vet?

Though the plant is poisonous, consuming a few leaves shouldn’t harm the rabbit in most cases. 

Unless the rabbit has ingested the leaves in large amounts, you wouldn’t need to call the vet. 

However, baby bunnies under 12 weeks old are more sensitive to stomach problems. 

If you’ve seen a baby rabbit feed on the tomato plants, it’s best to take advice from a vet.

If you suspect that a rabbit has consumed tomato leaves, observe its health and behavior during the next couple of days and consult a vet if you see any changes. 

Here are some of the symptoms they may exhibit after eating tomato leaves or other parts of the tomato plant:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain

It’s better to avoid any health complications in the first place and keep your furry pets away from the tomato plant. 

Though a few leaves may not cause any significant damage, there can be serious health problems if a rabbit eats tomato leaves in large quantities. 

Of course, with  bunnies, you can never be sure what they decide to have for supper today. 

Can Rabbits Eat Tomato Leaves?

Can Rabbits Eat Tomato Leaves?

It’s natural to want to learn about the different kinds of foods you can feed your pets. 

As humans, we’re never satisfied with a single kind of meal every day. 

We look for change and new tastes that can keep our interests alive, and we want the same for our pets. 

In an attempt to try out new ingredients for your pet rabbit, you may be wondering if it’s OK to feed them tomato leaves. 

You’ve already seen that tomato plants are poisonous, and so are tomato leaves. 

So, no. Rabbits shouldn’t be eating tomato leaves.

Never feed them any part of the tomato plant as it can result in adverse health problems. 

Even if you feed a tomato to your pet bunny or a wild bunny as a treat, make sure you remove the stalk and any other green parts of the plant that are still attached to the fruit before feeding it. 

What To Feed Rabbits?

What To Feed Rabbits?

So if they can’t have tomato leaves, what can they eat? 

When it comes to a rabbit’s diet, hay is the best answer. 

Their main source of diet should be good-quality hay. 

Hay is rich in fibers, low in calories, and excellent for a bunny’s digestive system. As much as you want them to try out new things, maintain a diet that’s 80-90% grass hay

The rest 10-20% of their diet can come from fruits and vegetables. 

Green vegetables, like cabbage, kale, and spinach, are low in sugar and are a better option than fruits. 

Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plant Leaves?

Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plant Leaves?

Though vegetable gardens are especially appealing to rabbits, they’re unlikely to be lured to tomato plants in particular. 

Why? The same compound that causes toxicity, tomatine, also exhibits repellent effects on herbivores, so rabbits are unlikely to bother your tomato plants.

The rough texture and the prickly hair on the leaf surface further deter most animals, including rabbits. 

So, generally speaking, you won’t have to worry about your bunnies feeding on tomato plants in the first place. 

They might knock some branches over to reach out to the juicy tomatoes, but purposefully chewing on the leaves of tomato vines is rarely the case. 

Conclusion

Are Tomato Plants Poisonous To Rabbits?

Tomato plants are poisonous to rabbits. Avoid feeding any of the parts of a tomato plant to your rabbits, and make sure wild or pet rabbits can’t reach your tomato crop. 

Though you may feed them tomatoes, only offer it occasionally as a treat. Maintain a healthy diet to make sure your rabbits have a happy, healthy, and long life.

About the author

Greg Volente

Greg Volente holds a Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum, worked for The Nature Conservancy leading environmental education programs and doing natural areas restoration, and worked in the soil science research & testing lab at Michigan State University. Besides gardening, he's an avid wildflower enthusiast, and loves botanizing, hiking, and backpacking.