Squashes are a favorite food item of many people around the world. These are edible plants and fruits of the different genus Cucurbita species from the family Cucurbitaceae. These fruits can be immaturely harvested during the summer or, once mature, during the winter.
Not all plants in the genus Cucurbita are safe for rabbits to consume. Some have bitter-tasting cucurbitacins which can cause Toxic Squash Syndrome. This can also affect humans with some symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea. Cucurbitacins can also harm our rabbit friends.
With rabbits, studies have found that cucurbitacins can cause restlessness, an increased pulse rate, increased respiration, labored breathing, and on rare occasions death. This has happened due to a progressively weaker heart rate over the space of a few hours. This leads to convulsions brought on by asphyxia.
While plants in this same genus as squash can be deadly, can the same be said of squash? Well, as with most vegetables and fruits, you should only consider feeding squash to a rabbit in moderation. Botanically a fruit, squashes are used as vegetables in culinary circles.
With this in mind, veggies should not make up more than 15% of a rabbit’s diet. Butternut squash does have some health benefits, however, especially for younger rabbits but there are also risks.
Today, we will be discussing whether squash is safe for rabbits to consume or not. We will learn the benefits and side effects of feeding squash to rabbits and whether there are any alternatives.
Can rabbits eat squash?
Let’s get right to the main question. Is it safe for a rabbit to eat squash? Although a member of the genus Cucurbita which can be dangerous for rabbits, squashes can be fed to rabbits. However, they should only be given to them occasionally with the skin left intact.
All cultivated varieties of squash are safe for bunnies to enjoy. But, you should only feed them this delicious fruit once or twice a week. The amount should be kept down to around a teaspoon per two pounds of body weight with 1 to 3 slices.
You need to take extra care with winter squashes as these are harvested at maturity. Therefore, they contain seeds that must be removed before feeding to a rabbit.
This is because the seeds are high in fat as well as carbohydrates making them extremely unhealthy. They can also become a choking hazard to a rabbit’s smaller gullet.
If you have summer squashes, there is no need to remove the seeds as they are generally soft, low in fats and carbs, and are highly unlikely to choke a rabbit.
Can rabbits eat squash plants?
Any plant of any cultivar, variety, or species of genus Cucurbita can be eaten by rabbits if the fruits are edible. Sometimes, the leaves of these plants can be used in a vegetable salad and the flowers can be given as a treat on occasions.
If you want to feed the leaves to your bunny, make them and the stems part of their 5 to 6 vegetable mix. You can place these in a packed cup which should be enough for a rabbit that weighs about two pounds.
You must ensure you do not pick any wild squash leaves as these tend to have cucurbitacins. These can harm or even kill a rabbit if they ingest large enough quantities. You should only give a rabbit a species that has been cultivated for human consumption as these are also safe for rabbits to eat.
Different species, subspecies, varieties, and cultivars
Below are Cucurbita species which are known as squashes, guards, or pumpkins depending on where you live. The good news is that any species that is safe for human consumption is also safe for rabbits to enjoy.
Here are the most common species, subspecies, varieties, and cultivars:
This has various cultivars including Arikara, buttercup, Hubbard, Lakota, Candy Roaster, Nanticoke, Turban Squash, Boston Marrow, and Kabocha. Out of these cultivars, the buttercup squash is the most popular as you can bake, cook, mash, and roast it into soups or other dishes.
This has several winter squashes as well as pumpkins. The most popular varieties include acorn (winter), cocozelle (summer), crookneck (summer), pumpkin (winter), scallop (summer), vegetable marrow (summer and winter), zucchini/courgette (summer), and straightneck (summer).
Other cultivars and varieties include Pattypan, spaghetti squash, Kamo Kamo, acorn, gem, heart of gold, and many more. Some others include yellow summer squash, Dodi marrow, and yellow crookneck.
The various species of this are known as squashes or pumpkins. Some common varieties include Aeroback (summer), Al Hachi (winter), Calabaza (winter), Crookneck, Golden Cushaw, Dickinson pumpkin, Loche, and Long Island cheese pumpkin.
Also known as black-seed quash, fig-leaved guard, Fig-leaf guard, Lalabar, Pie melon, Cidra, and Thai Marrow, these have oil-rich seeds that are also full of protein.
This is known as a Japanese Pie Pumpkin which has unripened fruits, stems, and shoots. The flowers are eaten as a vegetable and many believe it has medicinal properties. The plant’s seed’s liquid emulsion helps to expel parasitic worms and also works as a laxative.
Others in this subspecies include Naples Long, Seminole pumpkin, Musquee de Provence, Tromboncicno (summer), and the most popular of all winter squashes, the butternut squash.
Rabbits can eat butternut, marrow, acorn, zucchinis, yellow squashes, and any pumpkins that are safe for human consumption. You should avoid feeding them any other variety, especially the bitter kinds or any ornamental guards that humans do not eat.
You should always look out for cross-pollination as this can render squashes toxic and very harmful for rabbits.
All cultivated squashes are safe for rabbits to consume because they have safe levels of cucurbitacins. However, these should be fed to our furry friends sparingly, once or twice a week. Any more and a rabbit could become ill.
With a balanced and correct diet, squashes can become a delicious treat for rabbits to spruce up their meals now and again.