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Rabbit Diets

Rabbits make intelligent, friendly and quiet house pets. The average life span for a bunny is 9-12 years with records of up to 15 years reported. The following dietary information will help you take care of, and enjoy a happy, healthy life with your pet rabbit.

Hay

TIMOTHY OR OTHER GRASS HAY SHOULD BE OFFERED DAILY IN UNLIMITED AMOUNTS. It is important that hay be available at all times. Rabbits tend to eat small amounts frequently throughout the day and withholding hay for long periods of time can lead to intestinal upsets. We prefer the loose long strands of hay. The pressed cubes may be used as treats. The fiber in hay is extremely important in promoting digestion and for preventing hairballs. Hay also contains other nutrients essential to good rabbit health.  It should make up approximately 70-80% of your rabbit’s diet.  Young, growing rabbits may be offered alfalfa hay, however once rabbits are mature at about 8-12 months of age, transition to strictly grass hay (such as Timothy).  Alfalfa is high in protein, fat, and calcium, which is needed while rabbits are growing, however when fed to a mature rabbit it can lead to obesity, GI problems, and bladder stones.

Greens and Vegetables

Fresh produce is an important component of a well-balanced rabbit diet and should make up about 15-20% of their daily intake.  If your pet is not used to getting any fresh foods, start gradually with leafy veggies and add a new food item from the list every 5-7 days.  Feed greens that are dark and leafy such as endive, collard greens, green leaf lettuce, etc.  Avoid iceberg lettuce and other pale greens as these are far less nutritious.  Many rabbits also enjoy parsley, turnip greens, and carrot tops.  Small amounts of vegetables such as peppers, squash, carrots, celery, and zucchini among others may also be offered.  Greens and vegetables that are high in calcium oxalates should be fed sparingly.  Avoid fruits and sugary treats as these can lead to dysbiosis and other GI issues.  Any time a new green or vegetable is added, feed a small amount and gradually increase the volume to help prevent diarrhea.  If diarrhea occurs, discontinue until it resolves and then slowly add it back.  Try feeding at least 3 different types of greens daily. Feeding just one type may lead to nutrient imbalance.  The total amount of fresh food that can be given daily is about 1 cup per 5 pounds of body weight.

Pellets
A good quality rabbit pellet may be offered daily, but in limited amounts. The UNCONTROLLED feeding of a pelleted diet can lead to obesity, heart and liver disease, chronic diarrhea, and kidney disease, which results from high concentration of carbohydrates, low fiber and high calcium levels. Make sure that you buy high fiber pellets (at least 18%) and buy in small quantities. Keep pellets cool and dry (or even refrigerated), to prevent spoilage. Old rancid pellets can cause a rabbit to stop eating.  Alfalfa-based pellets are appropriate to feed to young, growing rabbits, however once they are 8-12 months of age, they should be transitioned to a grass hay (usually timothy) based pellet.  Oxbow makes an excellent timothy-based pellet.

Choose a high-quality pellet for your rabbit.  Avoid pellet mixes that contain additional items such as seeds, dried fruits, grains, or sugary treats.  If you switch brands, do it gradually to avoid digestive upset. (Many pet supply stores keep food in their warehouse for many months, and often their food is already stale by the time it is placed on the shelves.) You should not purchase more than a 6-week supply of food at a time. Purchase small quantities like 5-10 pounds, or share purchase with a friend who also has a rabbit. Timothy pellets are preferred.

Age Rabbit Weight Daily Amounts
< 8 months
8 months & up
Unlimited
2-4 lbs
5-7 lbs
8-10 lbs
> 10 lbs
due to rapid growth
1/8 cup
1/4 cup
1/2 cup
3/4 cup

Do not refill the bowl even if all the pellets are eaten before the next day. Overfeeding of pellets is the number one cause of health problems that we see. Keep your rabbit healthy by not overdoing it.

Vegetable List

Basil
Beet
Bok Choy
Broccoli (incl. leaves)
Brussel Sprouts
Carrot & Carrot Tops
Celery
Cilantro
Clover
Collard Greens
Dandelion Greens & Flowers
Escarole
Green Peppers
Kale
Mustard Greens
Mint
Parsley
Peppermint Leaves
Raddichio
Radish Tops
Raspberry Leaves
Read Leaf and Romaine Lettuce
Spinach
Watercress

Fruits (used for treats or medicating)

Apple
Greens
Melon
Peach
Strawberries
Blueberries
Papaya
Pineapple
Raspberries
Dried Fruits
Bananas

Treat Foods

Acceptable treats are the Fruits listed above or whole grain bread. Treats should be given in small amounts occasionally (about 1 teaspoon per 5 lbs. body weight). It is good to know what treats your rabbit likes as these can be used to hide medication when required.

THE FOLLOWING TREATS ARE NOT RECOMMENDED – salty or sugary snacks, nuts, chocolate, breakfast cereals, or other grains containing oatmeal and corn.

Water

Water should always be available and changed daily. A dirty water container can breed bacteria that can cause disease. Providing both a water bottle and a heavy crock that cannot be tipped over is recommended. Do not use medications or vitamins in the water, as your pet may not drink if the taste or color is altered. Rabbits taste water better than many species. If you are using a chlorinated water source it is important to let the water stand uncovered for several hours prior to placing it in the dripper bottle. This allows the chlorine to dissipate and not be trapped in the bottle. Chilled water is great, especially in the summer time.

Vitamins

These are not necessary if the rabbit is getting pellets, hay, and fresh foods in the diet. In fact, the indiscriminate use of vitamins may lead to overdose and serious disease. We can advise you on the amount and type of supplementation your rabbit needs should it’s medical condition require it.

Night Droppings (Cecotrophes)

It may seem strange to list as a part of the diet, but these ‘special droppings’ are an essential part of your pet’s nutrition. During certain times of the day, usually in the evening, you may observe your bunny licking the anal area and actually eating some of the droppings in the process. These fecal pellets are softer, greener, and have a stronger odor than the normal hard, dry, round waste droppings. Your pet knows when these droppings are being produced and will take care of eating them him/herself. These fecal pellets come from the cecum, which is part of the digestive system and they are rich in vitamins and nutrients. This habit may appear distasteful to us, but it is normal and important for your bunny.