A pet rabbit, like any other pet, requires regular feeding and lots of love. Keeping a pet rabbit happy and healthy largely depends on the amount, and types of food he receives in your care. Some rabbits have food preferences, but all pet rabbits require a knowledgeable, loving owner to feed them properly.
Rabbits require a well-balanced diet of hay, leafy greens, vegetables, pellets, and plenty of water to maintain good health. A rabbit’s daily fare should consist of mostly hay, two cups of fresh vegetables, and 1/4 cup pellets. While rabbits can eat fruit, these treats should be served no more than twice weekly.
In this guide, you will find what, when, and how much to feed your pet rabbit. Additionally, you will discover what foods are unhealthy as well as common illnesses linked with your pet’s diet. So If you’re ready to learn, keep reading.
What Should You Be Feeding to Your Pet Rabbit?
All rabbits are herbivores, so they do not eat any meat. The staple of any pet’s rabbit diet is fresh hay. There are many choices for hay on the market. However, the most common hay to feed pet rabbits is grass hay. There are also a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and treats you can give your rabbit in addition to hay. And don’t forget to provide some clean, fresh water daily!
The following chart shows the different types of foods you should feed your pet rabbit:
|Types of Hay
|Types of Fruits & Veggies
|Types of Treats
* Greens: fennel, endive, escarole, carrot tops, radicchio, okra leaves, radish tops, watercress, sprouts, wheatgrass
* Bell Peppers
* Brussel sprouts
* Bok choy
* Greens: chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, spinach,
* High fiber pellets
Hays, fruits, and vegetables can all be fed to your pet rabbit daily. Treats should only be fed to pet rabbits two times a week or less.
How Much Food Should You Feed Your Pet Rabbit?
A pet rabbit requires a balanced diet. Even though you can feed your pet a variety of hays, fruits, vegetables, and other treats, you should be mindful of the portion size of each type of food that your pet rabbit gets daily.
The following is a list of measurements to ensure you do not overfeed your pet rabbit:
- Hay should be about 80 to 90 percent of a rabbit’s diet and eaten daily
- Pellets (usually hay-based) should be fed in moderation; feed about ¼ cup a day for a rabbit weighing six or more pounds; feed about 1/8 cup of pellets for rabbits less than six pounds
- Vegetables should be prepared and given to average-sized bunnies but no more than 2 cups daily; smaller rabbits only need 1 cup of veggies
- Fruit can be fed to your pet rabbit in moderation as a treat; aim for a serving of 1 to 2 tablespoons for every five pounds; this serving size can be given up to 2 times per week
When introducing new foods, make sure you do so one at a time. You do not want your pet rabbit to have a bad reaction. If your bunny does have a bad reaction after introducing a new food, you know exactly what caused the reaction.
Why is Hay So Important in a Pet Rabbit’s Diet?
Since you should feed your pet rabbit more hay than anything else, it is pretty important. There is good reason to feed hay to your pet rabbit as it provides a good balance of nutrients to keep your pet rabbit healthy.
Three reasons why hay is an important part of a rabbit’s diet:
- Lots of fiber
- Wears down the teeth
- Keep digestion regular, healthy, and comfortable
Keep in mind the following things when feeding your pet rabbit:
- Hay should always be available, during the night and day
- Hay should be dust-free
- Hay should be mold and mildew free
Feeding a Rabbit When Sick, Pregnant, or Young
Feeding rabbits during special circumstances in their lives can require some modifications to diet. It is important to keep a close eye on your rabbit during these times and make sure he is getting the nutrients he needs to live and be healthy.
Here are some special circumstances that can arise during your rabbit’s life and how you should feed them through the time:
- Young rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets. This food is high in protein and calcium, which is important for growth.
- Pregnant and nursing rabbits need access to clean water and hay at all times, This is especially important during this time.
- Sick rabbits may require syringe feeding. If you notice your pet rabbit’s demeanor has changed, it is extremely important to schedule a trip to the vet as soon as possible.
How Often Should You Feed Your Pet Rabbit?
You should be feeding your rabbit daily. Having a constant source of hay is important, along with a variety of greens and other vegetables. There are many ways to provide hay, but you want to make sure it is kept in a dry place to avoid becoming soggy and potentially moldy. The RSPCA gives some great advice on different feeding techniques and standard feeding procedures for pet rabbits.
The following are types of ways to present hay and greens to your pet rabbit that are enriching and enticing:
- Storing hay in racks
- Providing hay in a hanging basket
- Hanging greens
- Scattering greens
- Hiding greens under other objects in their environment
These different ways of presenting food allow your pet rabbit some enrichment, and it ensures they have dry, fresh food all day long.
How Does Age Affect Your Pet Rabbit’s Diet?
According to the House Rabbit Society, rabbit food changes based on age. Both the quantity and types of foods vary so It is important to consider these changes as your pet rabbit is aging.
Hay, vegetables, and pellets are the three basic components of any pet rabbit’s diet. If you do not want to feed your rabbit pellets, increase the amount of vegetables you feed them. This does not increase calorie intake but provides a similar nutrient intake.
The following chart details the three age categories of rabbits and shows the amount of food they should eat at each age:
|Rabbit Age Category
|Daily Quantities of Food (per 6-pound body weight)
|Young Adult Rabbits – 7 months to 1-year-old
|* Decrease alfalfa hay and pellets by mixing in a grain hay
* ½ cup pellets
* Increase vegetables gradually
* Fruit can be fed daily up to 2 ounces
|Adult Rabbits – 1 to 5 years old
|* Unlimited hay
* ¼ to ½ cup pellets
* 2 cups of vegetables
* Up to 2 ounces of fruit
|Senior Rabbits – Older than 5 years
|* If underweight, consider providing pellets all day long
* Alfalfa is sometimes permitted, but calcium levels must be monitored through yearly blood work
* If a healthy weight, follow an adult diet
Fruit should be reserved as more of a treat than everyday food, but it will most likely not hurt your rabbit to eat fruit every day. Remember to introduce new fruits and veggies one at a time. This ensures that you are not overwhelming your rabbit’s digestive system. this also allows you to easily identify if a particular fruit or veggie does not agree with your pet rabbit.
Four Common Myths About Pet Rabbit Eating Habits
In terms of what is thought of when the average person mentions rabbit food, Many people believe rabbits eat only carrots and lettuce. Of course, this is not true. Rabbits eat mainly hay, which provides the healthiest balance in a pet rabbit’s digestive tract. The RSCPA debunked four common myths, which are summarized below.
There are many popular ideas held up by rabbit stereotypes that can harm your rabbit’s health:
- Carrots are not a meal; they are a treat
- Hay is the main component of a pet rabbit’s diet; it is more than bedding
- Lettuce is not the only thing rabbits eat; light-colored lettuces should be avoided; opt for dark leafy greens for the most nutrients and fiber
- Rabbits cannot survive on just commercial pellets; feed them some pellets every day, but this is a supplement to the hay they should be eating
What Foods Shouldn’t You Feed Your Pet Rabbit?
As much as it is important to feed your rabbit healthy foods, it is just as important to make sure that your pet rabbit is not eating foods that are not good for them and potentially dangerous. Always consult a veterinarian before introducing a new food, especially if you are unsure about its potential effects on your pet rabbit’s body. PETA has some great resources to get you started regarding dangerous foods for your pet rabbit.
The following chart shows a breakdown of foods to avoid giving to your rabbit as they will cause health problems and, in some cases, death:
|Vegetables Your Rabbit Should NOT Eat
|Human Foods Your Rabbit Should NOT Eat
|Chemicals to Avoid in Your Rabbit’s Diet
|* Fresh or dried corn
* Select greens: mustard,
* Iceberg lettuce
|* Yogurt * Muesli
* Nuts * Meat
* Bread * Oatmeal
* Seeds * Crackers
* Chocolate * Pasta
* Peanut butter * Cereals
|* Added sugars
* Artificial colors
Healthy Food Habits For Rabbits
A healthy rabbit gets a good amount of fiber as the main source of its diet. Keeping your pet rabbit healthy mainly consists of maintaining that fiber intake and not overfeeding your pet rabbit. A common feeding issue is giving your rabbit too many treats. Make sure these treats are only given in moderation.
How Long Should Your Pet Rabbit Go Without Eating?
Your pet rabbit should not go without food for more than 12 hours. Rabbits are natural grazers, so they will munch on food throughout the day. Their main feeding times will be around dusk and dawn when they are most active. However, they will eat at any time of the day, so it is important to make sure that your pet rabbit has access to at least hay and water at all times.
Why Is Your Pet Rabbit Not Eating?
If your pet rabbit does not like eating hay or is overall reluctant to eat, he may have an underlying health problem. Oftentimes, this is simply a dental problem that can be easily treated. Take your pet rabbit to the veterinarian to rule out any other issues.
Common Food Related Pet Rabbit Illnesses
There a few common food-related illnesses that pet rabbits can manifest if they eat the wrong thing. It is important to know what foods to avoid, but knowing why to avoid them is important, too. Being familiar with these food-related illnesses can help you diagnose a problem. This way, health issues can be resolved faster, and your pet rabbit will be back to full health in no time.
The following are four common types of food-related illnesses pet rabbits may experience:
- Enterotoxemia – This is when bad bacteria dominate the intestinal tract. There are not enough good bacteria for the rabbit to remain healthy. Enterotoxemia can be lethal, so see a vet as soon as possible.
- Bloating – Excess gas production that causes discomfort.
- Colic – Overall fussy attitude, usually due to gastrointestinal discomfort
- Indigestion – This is the same as an upset stomach
Each of these illnesses is related to the gastrointestinal tract. A rabbit’s GI tract is filled with a delicate balance of bacteria. Different foods can displace this balance and cause any of the above problems. Always consult your veterinarian as soon as you notice a change in your pet rabbit’s health. Some of these illnesses can be life-threatening if not treated right away.
Make Your Own DIY Pet Rabbit Treats
Rabbit treats do not have to be homemade. Most rabbits consider a piece of fruit or a special vegetable a treat. However, some people like to spoil their pets with homemade treats. Below are two different recipes that will leave your pet rabbit happy and healthy.
Carrot Truffle Recipe
A carrot truffle is a sweet treat any rabbit will enjoy. As with other foods, if your rabbit has never had carrots or bananas before, make sure you keep an eye on your rabbit. You want to make sure they do not have an adverse reaction to these tiny treats. If you want to get creative, feel free to roll out the dough and use a small cookie cutter to create fun shapes.
To make about 30 truffles, you will need the following three ingredients:
- 1 cup of pellets, flavor/hay of your choice
- 2 carrots
- 1 banana
Follow these steps to make carrot truffles for your pet rabbit:
- Preheat the oven the 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Using a food processor, grind the pellets into a powder.
- Add the banana and carrots and blend until a thick dough forms.
- Add water as needed to get a moldable consistency.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough and use your hands to roll the dough into balls.
- Place the truffles 1 inch apart on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes has elapsed, turn off the oven. Let the truffles sit in the oven for 1 hour.
These carrot truffles can be stored in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator to stay fresh for longer. The serving size is one truffle per day. Remember, treats should be given sparingly.
No-Bake Apple Ball Recipe
This easy recipe does not require the use of an oven, making them great summer treats. This is also a relatively quick recipe, with the most time-consuming part being forming the balls. This recipe uses pellets as the base, then mixes in a few fibrous greens and some sweet fruits. Many rabbits have a sweet tooth, so they are likely to enjoy the tiny delights.
Use the following four ingredients to make apple balls:
- 2 medium apples
- ½ cup leafy greens
- 1 banana
- ¾ cup of pellets, flavor/hay of your choice
The following steps will get you yummy apple balls in about 1 hour:
- Wash all fruits and then peel the apples.
- In a food processor, grind up the rabbit pellets.
- Then add the apples, lettuce, and bananas to the food processor and puree until smooth.
- Using your hands, roll tablespoon-sized balls in uniform spheres.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes to stiffen the dough.
The serving size on these treats is one to two per day. They will last for about two weeks and should be kept refrigerated. A great thing about these treats is that they can be easily frozen and stored for longer periods. When you want to give a frozen treat to your rabbit, let it defrost on the counter for 5 minutes and then feed it to your pet rabbit.
In Conclusion: Don’t Hop Away Just Yet!
It is important to feed your rabbit the right foods for it to be healthy and happy. Your pet rabbit requires hay, vegetables, and pellets. You can always opt for more vegetables instead of pellets. Some owners mix up the types of hay for their rabbits to entice them to eat more. If you are concerned about specific hay, fruit, vegetable, or pellet, consult your veterinarian.