There are, unfortunately, a fair amount of toys, treats, and bedding online that state they are for rabbits but aren’t very safe. Some of the toys you see online feature willow leaves, but are they really safe for rabbits?
Yes, willow is very safe for rabbits. The leaves provide a lot of nutrients and other health benefits, while other parts of the tree can help reduce pain and calm down a stressed bunny.
Keep reading to learn about which willow plants are safe, the extra benefits of willow, and more.
Can rabbits eat willow leaves?
The answer is yes. Rabbits can eat willow leaves. The leaves of a willow tree are perfectly safe for your rabbit.
It is a common snack for owners to give their bunnies, and you can find willow leaves and toys in most stores that have products for bunnies, including online.
Willow is generally a go-to for many rabbit owners, as most rabbits seem to enjoy this wood the most.
It isn’t guaranteed that your rabbit will like willow, but it is a good first one to offer as most rabbits enjoy some part of a willow.
The leaves of willow treats make excellent snacks and treats for rabbits.
However, they also have a lot of additional health benefits that make them an excellent meal, which we will talk about later.
Is willow bark and wood safe for rabbits?
Not only are willow leaves safe and healthy for a rabbit to eat, but the wood and bark are as well.
You can give a bunny a whole willow branch, and they can eat and chew it without any harm.
If you look around in stores or online, you will see a lot of bunny toys being made from wood or whole twigs of willow.
Some examples of toys featuring willow for rabbits include:
- Chew balls
- Simple dried twigs and sticks
- Forage boxes
All of which are safe for a rabbit and add enrichment to their daily activities. Some rabbits are picky and prefer certain textures and dryness over others.
What are the benefits of willow for rabbits?
Not only is willow safe for a rabbit to eat, but there are a lot of benefits for rabbits when they do eat it.
The leaves provide a lot of nutrients, but the wood can provide some pain reduction, stress relief, and more.
Willow contains a lot of healthy fat, which is beneficial to a rabbit’s health.
While they might get too much fat if they are also eating a lot of willows and pellets, for those on a more natural diet, the extra fat and nutrients can be a great benefit.
Rabbits naturally eat willow in the wild, so there isn’t much harm.
As long as rabbits have a lot of hay and continue eating it with the willow, they will generally only eat as much as they need.
High in iron
On top of having a lot of healthy fat, willow is also high in iron. Iron is beneficial for most animals, including people. It helps to increase energy levels, metabolism, and overall well-being.
Iron is an essential mineral to have in the blood, as it can help prevent anemia, and it is also just good for blood quality and production.
On top of that, iron can also help a rabbit feel better and be able to focus more.
This may not seem important, but it can help you train your rabbit and make sure they remember to use the bathroom in proper places, eat, and get water as needed.
Plus, if they have many items they climb on, it can help them stay focused and maintain their balance.
Good for their teeth
Willow bark is beneficial to rabbits. A rabbit’s teeth continue growing throughout their lives.
To keep them short, they chew on a lot of wood and other materials. If a rabbit cannot wear down its teeth, it can grow too long to eat and even cause injury.
Sometimes, rabbits will also practice more destructive behavior when they aren’t given items to help them wear down their teeth.
They may start gnawing on wires, furniture, and anything else they can find.
Wood toys, especially willow toys, are healthy ways for rabbits to keep their teeth where they should be. It is something for them to chew and gives them nutrients.
Chewing on items also helps reduce stress in rabbits, which can lead to additional benefits.
In addition to keeping their teeth at a safe level, chewing provides rabbits with anxiety- and stress-reducing benefits. They use chewing as a way to soothe themselves safely.
This is nice when you first get a rabbit. Since you haven’t built that trust with your bunny yet, they may struggle in their new home.
Feeding your rabbit willow and other items that they enjoy and can chew on will help build that trust between the two of you.
Willow trees are one of the ingredients in a pain reliever we know as aspirin.
Willow bark itself contains that pain-relieving component. Therefore, when rabbits gnaw on the bark, they can reduce their pain, if they have any.
Some owners have noticed that their rabbits, which usually avoid willow sticks, will start to randomly chew on them sometimes.
Usually, within a couple of days, they notice that their rabbit has a health issue, such as GI stasis.
This is interesting because rabbits somehow know that willow can reduce pain.
However, it also provides a way for people to realize something is wrong with their bunny early on.
If your rabbit tends to ignore willow and suddenly decides to start chewing on it one day, it might be worth keeping an eye on your bunny.
This could signal that something is wrong or that they don’t feel very well.
How many willow leaves can my rabbit have at once?
There is no specific amount of willow leaves or bark that a rabbit can have. They provide a lot of nutrients to the bunny and have a lot of additional health benefits.
The main guideline for willow is that as long as your bunny is still eating plenty of hay, they should be fine.
One of the willow toys/treats you can get for your bunny is a willow wreath. This is a wreath made with the whole willow, including leaves.
Many bunny owners will give their rabbit one of these roughly every two to three days and have no problem.
These wreaths usually have 15+ leaves, so feeding your bunny a couple of leaves a day should cause no problems at all.
Just keep an eye on your rabbit to make sure it is still eating hay and drinking water.
If you notice any irregularities in their poop, it is a good idea to back off on the treats they are getting until their gut is back to normal.
What willow trees are safe for rabbits to eat?
There are well over 300 known species of willow in the world. But which ones are safe for your bunny to eat?
The good news is that all types of willow trees are safe for a rabbit to eat. They are from the genus Salix, and none of these plants are harmful to bunnies.
However, some have a more bitter taste than others, and rabbits will generally not eat from those plants.
Rabbits may be picky about which ones they prefer as well and avoid certain species or toys because of this.
If you have a lot of choices in types of willow, it may take a lot of trial and error to find one your rabbit prefers.
Can rabbits eat fresh willow?
Yes, rabbits can eat fresh willow. Like other rodents, it is generally a good idea to boil it in fresh water and let it dry completely before giving a branch to your rabbit.
This allows you to make sure there isn’t anything harmful to your bunny on the stick.
If you have a lot of willows, you can cut off a few twigs at a time and boil them so that you have a lot ready for your bunny when it needs a little bit of a special treat.
Some rabbits prefer more dried sticks, while some enjoy fresh ones, so you can play around to see what your bunny enjoys.
You want to make sure that the tree isn’t where pesticides are sprayed.
If you want to do something a little extra, you can even practice making your wreaths and toys for your bunny!
Willow is one of those plants you can feed to a rabbit as a treat or toy, and you don’t have to worry about harm.
While they can eat it with little to no issues, you just want to ensure they are still eating hay and drinking water.
Otherwise, it is a safe, healthy treat that they can eat and chew on without any harm.