How Does Your Garden Grow? Safely for your Bunnies!

Safe Gardens for Pets

Summer days mean tending our gardens every day, and spending more time outdoors. While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions. Make sure your garden is bunny-safe, with these guidelines:

Poisonous Plants

Many popular outdoor landscaping plants—including sago palm, rhododendron, and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. We should include bunnies, just to be safe. Sago palm as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove, and kalanchoe all affect the heart. The ASPCA has a full list ( with pictures of toxic and non-toxic plants. Familiarize yourself with this and put their poison control hotline number (888) 426-4435 someplace where you can see it in an emergency.


Fertilizer can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow application instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside. Go organic if you can. Rabbit droppings are rich in nitrogen and great for rose beds!

Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa bean shells have become popular in landscaping, but they also attract animals with the sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our animal companions. Ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity, and even seizures. Consider using a less toxic alternative, such as shredded pine or cedar bark, but always supervise curious rabbits in yards where mulch is spread.


If you can avoid using insecticides altogether, your garden will be a safer place for your furry friends. But from time to time you may need to treat an infestation, and then you need to use caution. The most dangerous pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.


Composting is great for your garden and the earth, but make sure that any coffee grounds, moldy food, and certain types of fruit and vegetables that are toxic to rabbits (potatoes, rhubarb, beans, avocado) are totally inaccessible to your rabbit when they’re out being curious.

Garden Tools

I bet you never considered garden tools as a hazard, but rakes, tillers, hoes, and trowels can be hazardous to small bunnies and cause trauma to paws, noses, or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. Store all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

2 thoughts on “How Does Your Garden Grow? Safely for your Bunnies!

  1. Anne

    Add one more:
    Lead Contamination

    Consider having your soil tested for lead, particularly if you live in an urban area or near a freeway. Here in California’s Alameda County, there is a lead poisoning prevention office that will mail you a soil testing kit free of charge. UMass extension offers soil testing for lead for only $9/sample.

    My backyard in Oakland, CA had lead levels that exceeded both state and federal standards for hazardous waste contamination – “severe” levels of lead contamination. Luckily, I tested before I took my bunnies outside. I encourage others to test their soil, too!

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