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Some people are looking for ecologically-friendly rabbit litter box solutions. One solution is a non-absorbent litter in a drain-through litter box. The Smart Cat Box caught my attention when researching; it is filled with whole safflower seed. Granting the claims of the manufacturer and assuming the system works well, what advantages and disadvantages should I consider when using a safflower seed litter box with a pet rabbit?

My main area of concern is that safflower seed is a feed product for rabbits. According to feedipedia, processed seed has been used with good results in production rabbit feeds. According to Wikipedia, the whole seed is a good bird seed because squirrels don't like it. The whole seed is an ingredient in at least one pet rabbit feed, but it is not an ingredient (processed or whole) in either of my two, favorite quality, pet rabbit feeds 1 2.

So, could presenting a litter box full of whole safflower seed, be like presenting a bath tub full of sugared cereal to your child, or might they ignore it completely, or should I expect something in-between?

In particular, I'm looking for answers from experience on rabbit consumption of whole safflower seed (the type used by the litter box), and/or research on the long-term (8 - 12 years) digestion of large quantities of whole safflower seed by rabbits (alternatively demonstrating that a rabbit cannot digest a whole seed).

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Safflower seed can be, and is, used in rabbit feed with positive results:

  1. Seeds (hulled and standard) used extensively in rabbit feed in Mexico in place of soybean meal which needed to be imported (which you linked to).

  2. Studies have shown that safflower seed based meals are as productive as meals based on other seeds such as soybean or flaxseed.

  3. Safflower can be a preferred meal base over alfalfa, but of additional interest is that is dehulled primarily to increase protein and reduce fibre, not because it needs to be (as indicated in point one).

  4. A bit of a moldy oldie here, but safflower oil in rabbit diet had a profoundly positive effect on rabbit cholesterol levels. While this study is about human heart health, the ability of the safflower oil to counteract the coconut oil in the diet would indicate a positive side to a diet that contains some.

With respect to your question of a litter box full being a potential candy bowl... probably a little in between. It's not the same as a litter box of raisins, that's for sure, but it is edible. In other words, I would suggest that if safflower seed was to be introduced into their environment, it would be best if it was in a more controlled manner than via a litter box that they're more likely to eat than use as litter.

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Most of your answer focuses around the processed seed. Seems like there is not a lot out there on the whole seed, maybe I will just need to get some and see if they even have any interest in it. –  James Jenkins Feb 14 at 11:18
    
@JamesJenkins - Item 1 notes that the feed is either, so the upshot is that there's not really a meaningful difference in doing that from the perspective of rabbit interest. –  John Cavan Feb 15 at 4:09

So I was at the feed store today getting a couple bales of hay, and some wood pellet litter. I picked up a 10 pound bag of whole safflower seed. When I got home I spread some out in the bottom of a baking pan and set on the floor where the bunnies would encounter it. After about 30 minutes the first bunny approached the pan. After her exploration of the pan she had to taste the contents, ate a bit and hopped off. A couple minutes later she was back again, for another serving. I picked up the pan and presented it to one of the other girls, who had not come over to explore, she tasted some, the went back for more.

As John points out in his answer. there does not seem to be any issues with rabbits ingesting safflower seed. It can be a valuable food product. So other than over eating there are probably no health concerns.

Based on my minimal experiment a drain through litter box using whole safflower seed is probably not a good solution with a rabbit. It is relatively expensive, and they could easily overeat assuming you kept it topped off. If a cat is using this solution you would want to keep the box away from the rabbit as cat feces could be digested, and this could be problematic.

I don't see any advantages to using a safflower seed drain through litter box with a rabbit. If you want to feed the seed, do so in a controlled method. With the rabbit eating the all the litter you are unlikely to see the benefits with this type of system as you would with a cat.

P.S. I tasted the seed it is like a small sunflower seed with a woody but edible shell, The meat inside is correspondingly small. Excessive intake would be a very rich diet and would be contraindicated see this related question

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