Lettuce is a healthy plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae that is grown mainly for its leafy vegetable and in some cases for its stem and seeds. This vegetable is often used for salads, but it can also be used in other foods including sandwiches, wraps, soups and it can also be grilled.
Besides moisture, lettuce has proteins, fats, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars as well as minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins that include “thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, C, A, E, and vitamin K,” notes Organic Facts.
It is known to work well as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial agent; it helps fight cancer, controls anxiety, lowers cholesterol, among other benefits.
With all these benefits, nutrients, minerals and vitamins, someone is bound to wonder whether they can let their bunnies nibble some lettuce. Will it harm them?
Before we answer as to whether rabbits can eat lettuce or not, we must discuss the most common types. As you will notice, there are many types with the butterhead, romaine (cos) and leaf being the most common ones.
- Leaf – Also referred to as looseleaf, bunching or cutting. The red leaf and green leaf lettuce are the common ones, but you may also have others such as red salad bowl, red sails, blushed butter oak. It is commonly used for salads.
- Romaine or cos – Has long heads that are upright and used for salads and sandwiches. It is the most commonly used in Caesar salads. Some of their varieties include Jericho, Breen and flashy trout back.
- Crisphead or iceberg – it is hardy and crispy. It is common in the US, has fewer nutrients, low flavor and nutritional content.
- Butterhead, Boston or Bibb – It is also referred as ‘round lettuce’ in the UK. It has a tender texture, loosely arrange leaves and a sweet flavor. It comes in several varieties including Winter Density and Buttercrunch.
- Summercrisp, Batavian or French crisp – It is larger, well-flavored and it is in between the Crisphead and leaf. Common varieties include Nevada and Concept.
- Stem – This variety is grown for its seed stalks and not leaves. In Asia, especially China, it is used in cooking. It can also be used in creamed dishes as well as stewed ones.
- Oilseed – Grown for mainly oily which is pressed out of it and used for cooking. Besides bolting quickly, it has larger seeds than other types.
Note that, sometimes, the crisphead and butterhead are often known as cabbage lettuce owing to their appearance that resembles cabbage.
Do rabbits eat lettuce? – Yes and No.
Yes. Rabbits can eat lettuce in moderation. Also, there are some types that you must not give bunnies such as iceberg since as RSPCA notes, “they contain lactucarium which can be harmful in large quantities.”
Besides the lactucarium which is harmful to your furry friends, “iceberg lettuce also contains mostly water and will add little to no nutrition to a diet,” notes Peta.org.
On what types are ok, romaine and those with dark leaves are allowed. Myrabbithouse.com also, recommends romaine or those with dark leaves and warms on iceberg too. On leafy greens that you can give your bunnies, Rabbit.org allows red and green lettuce as well as the romaine.
From this, we can deduce that rabbits can eat romaine lettuce as well as the red and green ones. However, as the Human Society of the United States warns, avoid feeding them “three lettuces don't make a great meal, so try to choose three very different vegetables.”
Can rabbits eat romaine lettuce?
Yes. Bunnies can eat romaine lettuce. Besides the above evidence we have provided, The Saveafluff.co.uk lists it as one of the vegetables that your furry friends can eat.
It is loaded with various nutrients as well as fiber including vitamin K, A, folate, phosphorous magnesium, potassium and it is not a high calorific food.
Can rabbits eat iceberg lettuce?
No. We have already stated the fact that it is not healthy and has large quantities of lactucarium. If you consider what the United States Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Services has about it, you will notice that it contains over 95% water with the remainder being other nutrients. The low nutrients and vitamins make it not the best of foods to give your bunnies.
Also, the lactucarium, which is a milky secretion that works as a mild anesthetic and sedative tends to give a euphoric-high effect. Your bunny may also be lethargic, and a lot of lactucarium may cause diarrhea which may be fatal.
To conclude, as Lucy Ross the head of training at Pets Corner warns, “iceberg lettuce - a popular staple among humans that can often make it into the pet food pile - is dangerous and should never be fed to rabbits.”
Rule to follow when it comes to lettuce
As a rule of the thumb, RSPCA warns against “light-colored varieties as they are high in water and have very little nutritional value.” On the other hand, darker and more fibrous varieties including romaine can be fed to your bunnies as they contain higher levels of fiber as well as valuable nutrients.
How to feed your bunnies
From our discussion, you already know which lettuce can be given to your rabbits and types you should avoid. Even for the species that are ok such as the green and red leaf as well as romaine, ensure you introduce them gradually.
This will give your rabbits time to adjust their digestive system as well as avoid instances of diarrhea. Do not forget to monitor their stool too.
Also, ensure your lettuce source is fresh and of organic or it is free from pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Washing it well will help remove any remnants.
Can I give them lettuce daily?
Also, do not give them lettuce daily, even for the permitted types. This is because it does not form the main food in a bunny’s diet.
Rabbits are herbivores whose main diet is hay, little amounts of pellets, some leafy greens as well as treats of permitted fruits and some non-leafy vegetables. Buy grassy hay brands such as Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting "Perfect Blend" Timothy Hay Pet Food, Oxbow Timothy Hay or Kaytee Timothy Hay.