Your rabbit is an inquisitive pet, especially when you allow them to romp around outside (supervised, of course). You watch as your bunny hops to a few pretty violets and begins sniffing ravenously. Then they take a bite. Should rabbits eat violets?
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Violets are one of many plant species that rabbits can safely eat. Whether a rabbit likes violets comes down to personal preference. Just don’t mistake violets for African violets, as they may be poisonous.
In this full guide to whether rabbits can eat violets, we’ll elaborate on the status of violets as safe or poisonous. If you don’t mind your pet bunny munching on violets from time to time, we’ll also discuss how often to feed them this treat.
Can Rabbits Eat Violets?
Curiosity may be a trait associated with cats, but your bunny has it in spades. That’s why it didn’t surprise you all that much to see your rabbit nosing around in your violet garden.
Although your first instinct might be to panic, there’s no need to. Violets are safe for rabbits to consume. That includes the entirety of the violet, by the way, from the petals to the leaves and even the stems. Fun fact: if you want to eat like a rabbit, violets are also perfectly safe for human consumption!
While rabbits can ingest many flowers without consequence, you do want to be certain that what they’re munching on are indeed violets.
Violets include up to 600 different species in the Violaceae family. The Viola odorata, which are wild violets, is one of the more common species of violet. These plants grow leaves shaped like hearts and appealing purple flowers.
Despite the name, violets are sometimes yellow or white, but those are different species still.
The reason you must be sure that you’re feeding your rabbit plants in the Violaceae family is that there’s another species called the African violet that bunnies should not ingest.
The African violet or Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia is not a violet, but it looks quite a lot like one.
Like true violets, African violets grow purple flowers. The shades of purple are sometimes more fuchsia-like, but they can be lavender to dark royal purple as well.
To make matters more confusing, African violets are sometimes white just like true violets are.
So why can’t rabbits eat African violets? They’re likely poisonous, although the consensus is still out there.
The best way to tell whether the plant in your yard is a true violet or an African violet is to look at the leaves. African violets have wider, rounder leaves than true violets. The leaves are often fuzzy as well, which true violet leaves never are.
Do Rabbits like Violets? What do They Taste Like?
Every rabbit is different, which is why owning them as pets is such a joy. You might have some rabbits who are very interested in what you’re growing in your garden. They’ll want to take in the scent and perhaps the taste of not only violets but flowering plants and non-flowering plants alike.
Other rabbits though might express no interest in your collection of plants. If you’re trying to maintain an outdoor garden and care for a rabbit as a pet, then it might be preferable to you that your bunny doesn’t like violets.
What do violets even taste like? Well, you can answer this question for yourself, since we mentioned before that violets are edible for rabbits and people.
Here’s a little preview. The flavor of violets is akin to eating roses, which is another flowering plant rabbits can have. When plucked from the wild, violets taste very fragrant and sweet. Eating the leaves produces a somewhat nutty flavor.
You can probably understand why some rabbits will hungrily eat violets. The purple flower certainly has some unique flavors all rolled into one.
Are Violets Healthy for Rabbits to Eat?
Your rabbit is on a well-rounded diet that includes mostly grass and hay with plenty of fresh water. Although they enjoy the taste of wild violets, you worry the flowers are nutritionally void.
That’s not the case at all! Violets are packed full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that growing and mature rabbits alike need. Here’s an overview.
Plants, animals, and humans require nitrogen in their diets. Nitrogen supports tissue repair, cell replacement, and the growth of nails, hair, and skin.
When a diet is rich in amino acids, those amino acids produce recyclable nitrogen that’s also useable for energy.
Further, nitrogen can produce heme, a non-protein compound in hemoglobin, which is the metalloprotein in red blood cells. Heme can send oxygen towards red blood cells.
Animals wild and domestic rely on phosphorus for better health. This plant-containing macronutrient determines how molecules will hold onto energy. Without phosphorus, your rabbit’s body cannot produce lipids like oils and fats, DNA, and adenosine triphosphate or ATP.
ATP is what provides the energy for living things to do practically anything and everything. From activities as overt as your rabbit hopping and as subtle as their muscles contracting, that’s all due to ATP from phosphorus.
That’s not all. Phosphorus also encourages healthy cells to grow, so it’s a good thing phosphorus is in wild violets!
Potassium is another critical nutrient found in violets. As an electrolyte, potassium can generate electrical charges to an animal’s muscles, nerves, and heart to keep those areas functioning. Animals that are deficient in potassium usually lack energy and appetite.
Although their research was centered around cats and dogs and not rabbits, Pet Food Institute states that vitamin A in a pet’s diet can bolster immunity through an increase in white blood cells.
Vitamin A can strengthen vision as well, including night vision. These benefits should extend to rabbits, although don’t expect your bunny to suddenly have super-sharp night vision.
As we talked about in our post on a rabbit’s sleeping habits, rabbits can’t see very well in the dark. No amount of vitamin A can help that!
Around all of us are free radicals, and that includes your rabbit. Free radicals are atoms in the environment that can cause health issues such as cancer, cataracts, and inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin C in violets can reduce free radical damage, and it may give your bunny a boost of energy while strengthening their immunity.
What Quantity of Violets Should You Feed Your Rabbit? How Often?
Now that you know how healthful violets can be, you’re feeling much more agreeable about the prospect of feeding the flowers to your rabbit. How often should you feed them violets and how much?
Give your rabbit no more than two violets at once. There’s no requirement on how often to feed a pet bunny violets, but we’d suggest infrequently, maybe about weekly or more seldom.
Only rabbits over six months should eat violets. According to the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, baby rabbits should refrain from consuming vegetables. Violets are technically not a vegetable, but they’re close enough that you want to follow these guidelines anyway.
When selecting violets for your rabbit, choose fresh ones. The leaves will be crisp and green and the flowers purple. The texture of the leaves and flowers should be firm but not crisp or saggy.
Fresh violets will have the greatest amount of nutrients.
To make it easier for your bunny to enjoy their treat, tear the violets into manageable pieces. That includes the leaves, stems, and flowers.
Even if your bunny gives you puppy-dog eyes (yes, rabbits can do this too!), you must do your best to refrain from feeding them as many violets as they want. Rabbits tend to have a hard time deciphering when they’re full, so they’ll keep eating as long as you feed them.
Then too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing! Your poor bunny could get sick. They might also gain weight if you make overfeeding them a habit.