At the end of a long day, few things refresh you more than a nice cup of tea. Your pet rabbit seems to have felt the same way. While you were letting your tea cool, they got into your cup and took a few sips. Should you be worried? Can rabbits even drink tea?
Depending on the type, some teas can aide rabbits experiencing intestinal issues, including certain herbal teas. That said, you should not give your rabbit sugary tea or the tea leaves themselves. Also, some herbs are toxic to rabbits, so don’t make giving them tea a habit at all.
If you’re dealing with the above situation, then you’re not going to want to miss this article. In it, we’ll explain what could happen to your rabbit after drinking tea as well as what they should drink instead.
Can Rabbits Drink Tea?
There’s nothing stopping a rabbit from drinking tea if they come across it. For instance, maybe you left your cup in plain sight and your bunny got curious, such as the scenario we mentioned in the intro. You might have spilled your tea by accident and your rabbit began lapping up what was on the floor.
The ASPCA has this handy list of foods and beverages to absolutely avoid ever giving your rabbit and other pets under any circumstances. These include:
- Yeast dough
- Xylitol, a sweetener
- Excess salt
- Uncooked or raw eggs, bones, and/or meat
- Dairy and milk products
- Macadamia nuts
- Raisins and grapes
- Coconut oil or whole coconuts
- Citrus fruits
- Caffeine and coffee
See tea on that list? We don’t either. Just because it’s not a hard no-no doesn’t mean you should start giving your rabbit tea after they may have acquired a taste for it.
What Happens to a Rabbit After Ingesting Tea?
There are all sorts of teas out there with a myriad of ingredients. Depending on the type of tea your rabbit ingested, you should keep an eye out on them.
If we’re talking about an herbal tea, then they’re likely to have few if any side effects, but even that varies. Rabbits regularly enjoy herbs like comfrey, lemon balm, peppermint, lavender, tarragon, sage, rosemary, caraway, cilantro, dill, parsley, oregano, and basil. They can even have clover, but only in small portions. Otherwise, they can bloat up or get a stomachache.
If a mix of those herbs are in the tea, then your rabbit should endure the ordeal just fine. That said, not every herb is the same. Some can cause health issues for your rabbit if not lead to death. It’s a long list, but here it is:
- Oak leaves
- Lily of the valley
- Blue-green algae
- Agave leaves
Now, you don’t come across ragwort or poppy tea every day, but if your tea by chance contains the above herbs, then we recommend you get your rabbit to the vet immediately. These herbs can be toxic to your bunny.
What if your rabbit drank non-herbal tea? Perhaps it was a beverage like sweetened iced tea. Again, it’s best to bring them to the vet. Rabbits and sugar generally don’t get along. The animal is okay with small amounts of sugar, such as that found in fruits and vegetables. Long-term, sugar can make a rabbit gain weight, but short-term, it could cause stomach issues. Rabbits often have incredibly sensitive stomachs, so it doesn’t take much to trigger that gastrointestinal distress.
What about the tea leaves themselves? After all, rabbits like a lot of herbs and greens, so why not tea leaves, right? Wrong. It’s best to skip giving whole tea leaves to your rabbit in any situation. This includes as part of their regular diet or even as a treat.
You see, tea leaves—and often the tea itself—contain caffeine. The National Health Service published an article in 2008 about what happens to rabbits when they consume caffeine. The animal was used as part of a study that determined whether coffee could ward off Alzheimer’s by reducing the side effects of high cholesterol. Coffee, as you know, has caffeine in it.
Over a 12-week span, the rabbits had more cholesterol in their diets. A portion of the rabbits were also fed daily caffeine for the study. Each got three milligrams of the stuff. That’s the equivalent of how much caffeine a person ingests in a single mug of morning java.
It took only three months for the nervous system to change. The nervous system’s blood-brain barrier got more active when the bunnies got their caffeine fix. While the study didn’t prove what it sought to, it did show that rabbits can become addicted to caffeine like the rest of us.
That said, this study was done by scientists in a controlled environment. We don’t recommend trying to replicate the effects in the comfort of your own home. Rabbits can sometimes have high heart rates to begin with. Giving them caffeine only makes that more severe, which could be deadly in some instances.
What Should Your Rabbit Drink Regularly?
If you want to know what to give your rabbit to drink each day instead of tea, it’s simple. Water! Rabbits should eat a lot of hay as part of their diets to keep their teeth down. If you had to munch on something dry like hay, you’d get thirsty too, right? Having a consistent supply of fresh water will keep your rabbit hydrated and happy. Nothing else suffices, including tea.
While it’s not always the end of the world if your rabbit drinks a bit of tea, you should still tread incredibly carefully. Some herbs are toxic to rabbits, and if they’re in your tea, then your pet needs immediate medical care. The sugars and caffeine in tea can also cause health issues in your rabbit.
Your vet can treat the rabbit if they got into some tea. In the future, always give your rabbit water instead of any other beverage. Rabbits have sensitive stomachs, and so you need to treat them with care.