What do Rabbits Eat?

In the wild, rabbits look for a variety of organic material that includes leaves and grasses.

The animals also consume fruits, twigs, seeds, and barks on trees, and you will, therefore, need to provide a wide variety of meals for your pet rabbits.

Unlike popular myths, rabbits cannot only be sustained by carrots and lettuce, and you should not give them too much commercial food.

Rabbits are also known to have sensitive digestive systems, which means that you will need to introduce new foods gradually for their bodies to adjust.

Best Food for Rabbits

The suitable food types for rabbits are:

1. Vegetables

You should offer your rabbit a varied assortment of vegetables every day. A standard guideline to consider is feeding them a minimum of one cup of vegetables for every 4 lbs of body weights per day.

In addition to providing roughage, vegetables also offer rabbits with essential vitamins. You can introduce vegetables once your bunny reaches three years, although you should start with one at a time to know which one is to blame if your pet suffers from a digestive upset.

Mix both root and dark leafy vegetables of different colors. Once the pet is used to various kinds of vegetables, combine at least three of them daily to provide different nutrients.

The list of suitable vegetables for rabbits is long. It includes celery, mustard greens, mint, asparagus, chicory, artichoke leaves, peppers, spring greens, watercress, swede, squash, cucumber, wheatgrass, zucchini, sprouts, okra leaves, and endive.

Vegetables with a high Vitamin A content should be given at least once a day, including broccoli, carrot and carrot tops, collard greens, endive, kale, parsley, spinach, and watercress.

There are also concerns among pet owners about the levels of oxalic acids in some plants given to rabbits. Plants like mustard greens, spinach, and parsley have high levels of these elements, but it is not necessary to exclude them from the diet of your rabbits. Mixing up the veggies you give the pets will neutralize any harm from these kinds of foods.

2. Fruits

Rabbits appreciate treats in the form of fruits, although they should not make up over 10% of your pet’s daily diet. Fruits are packed with natural sugars, which can result in obesity in your pet. Aim to feed them not more than one or two tablespoons of fruits per day.

It is recommended to leave out seeds and pits when giving the animals fruits. The skin of the fruit is nutritious and should be left on, provided you wash it thoroughly. If you are unsure of whether the fruit has been exposed to chemicals like pesticides, you can remove the skin altogether.

The fruits you can give your rabbits include apples, blackberries, grapes, kiwi fruit, papaya, peaches, raspberries, mango, pear, pineapple, plum, orange, nectarine, strawberries, and banana.

Rabbits can quickly get used to the sweet taste of fruits and treats, which is why you should ration these foods. Some pet owners limit fruits to one or two times every week.

3. Herbs

While rabbits can eat herbs, you will be mistaken to think that every kind is safe for them. Some kinds like chives are poisonous to give to your pet.

Herbs are known to provide numerous health benefits to pets. Thyme, for example, addresses a number of digestive issues like diarrhea. If you have thyme in your garden, harvest it before it flowers because the stems and leaves are favorably soft to give to rabbits.

Some pet owners are concerned with giving their rabbits parsley because of its high levels of oxalates. Oxalic acid, when consumed in large quantities, can lead to liver damage.

For this to happen, however, it would mean that the rabbit is fed exclusively on parsley for a long time. When given in small quantities, however, parsley is suitable for your rabbit, given that it is on the PSDA-list of rabbit-friendly foods. The herb can also treat digestive blockages and constipation.

Another safe herb to give rabbits is chamomile, mainly because it addresses stomach issues and anxiety. Chamomile also has anti-fungal, antibiotic, and antiseptic properties. Pet owners commonly use the herb as an eyewash to treat weepy eye.

You can either use it as a compress, wipe, or squirt it directly into the eye. For the best results, make a strong cup of tea with chamomile and honey, and you can even give the rabbit some to consume to make them calm and easier to deal with.

Other herbs to give your rabbit include basil, coriander, mint, lavender, sage, rosemary, tarragon, dill, fennel, and mustard.

Give the rabbits a variety of herbs in small quantities every day.

4. Dry Food

Rabbits should consume a lot of high-fibrous food. Hay is especially important, and it should constitute 80 to 90% of their entire diet. The fibers of hay promote strong gut muscles and digestive movements.

Blockages can be fatal to bunnies, and insufficient hay will slow down intestinal functions. GI Stasis is a common problem among rabbits not getting enough of the food.

In this case, the food does not move down the digestive tract quickly, and it dehydrates to form an immobile mass. Bacteria subsequently accumulates and causes bloating and gas and loss of appetite.

Hay also wear out the teeth of rabbits, which can grow around 12 cm yearly. If left unchecked, the teeth can cause painful abscesses and eye problems.

By providing a lot of hay, you will satisfy your pet’s natural chewing and snacking impulses. The RSPCA estimates that rabbits will munch on hay for six to eight hours every day.

You can experiment with different kinds of dry foods for your pet, including:

Grass

Some pet owners will set their rabbits on a pen built on natural grass for the pets to graze on, but this is not always practical.

You can scatter fresh grass cuttings around your rabbit, or grow your own grass in a pot. When cutting your grass, use scissors rather than a lawnmower, since the latter will cause the grass to start fermenting.

Grass Hay

Hay comes in different varieties, with the most popular being Timothy Hay. It should be fed to adult rabbits, and it promotes gastrointestinal health. Timothy Hay is available in three categories.

The first cut, being the first cut of the season, has more large seed heads and is higher in coarse fiber than the other kinds. It will wear out your rabbit’s teeth effectively.

The second cut hay is softer, and it has fewer stems and seed heads. The third cut is harvested in September or October, and it is ideal for younger rabbits with soft teeth.

You can also give your rabbits oat, barley, or wheat hay. These are typically cultivated for their cereal grain, although they should be harvested before the seed heads ripen to be consumed as grass hay.

Alfafa hay

Alfafa Hay is also a common food given to rabbits. It is a legume and has more proteins than grass hay. It is also rich in calcium and has a lot of elliptical leaves.

Alfafa hay is ideal for young rabbits, and you can start feeding your pet with it after they reach three weeks. Graduate them to timothy hay when they reach seven months.

Pellets

Rabbit pellets constitute hay and other nutrients like minerals and vitamins. Look for the kinds that are high in fiber and low in protein. The pellets should be free of corn, nuts, and seeds.

Food You Should Avoid Feeding to Rabbits

Rabbits have a delicate digestive system, and feeding them with the wrong kinds of foods will lead to many problems. Food to avoid giving to your bunnies include:

Avocado

An Avocado may be packed with proteins and vitamins, but it is not ideal for rabbits. It contains a substance called persin which, if ingested in substantial quantities, will be toxic to your pet.

The toxin can lead to breathing problems, and congestive heart failure, or even death. Persin is also present in the leaves and branches of an avocado tree. Avocados are also packed with fats, whereas rabbits need fiber.

High-carb products

Products like bread, pasta, rice, crackers, and cookies have a lot of artificial ingredients that will cause stomach problems in rabbits. These items can also make your bunnies overweight and lead to obesity.

Some pet owners opt to make homemade bread instead as treats. Yogurt drops should also be avoided as they lead to enterotoxemia in the animals. Other high-carb products to avoid are French fries, mashed potatoes, and grilled chips.

Iceberg lettuce

Although lettuce is touted as great food for rabbits, some varieties cause more harm than good. Iceberg lettuce and other light-colored lettuces have high levels of lactucarium, which results in runny stools.

Iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value as it mostly contains water. Stick to leafy greens like kale and Roman lettuce.

Dairy, meat, and their products

Rabbits are herbivorous, and their digestive systems are not equipped to digest animal products.

Dairy products cause enterotoxaemia, where there is a deadly overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the intestines. The natural sugars in these products will also encourage dental problems.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower contains water, fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium, but it can make your pet bloated and uncomfortable.

You can give your rabbit cauliflower in smaller quantities, but it is better to avoid it altogether if you can.

Processed Food

Under no circumstances should you offer processed products to your rabbit. Items like candy, chocolate, cakes, burgers, sodas, sweets, and chips will lead to an overgrowth of toxic bacteria in your pet’s gut.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is another toxic food for rabbits. Every part of the plant will irritate and even poison your bunnies.

Poisoning from this plant can manifest in loss of appetite, lethargy, irritation of the mouth, diarrhea, and dehydration. Rhubarb will also lead to vomiting, bloating, and other stomach issues.

Nightshade Plants

Rabbits should not be fed with the leaves or stems of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Tomatoes and peppers can be offered, but only in small quantities.

Avoid raw potatoes and peels, and even cooked potatoes for their high amounts of starch.

How to Feed Your Rabbit?

Most pet owners will place hay at the end of their pet’s litter box and leave it there. You will observe your rabbit sitting on the hay and munching at it continually.

A litter box also helps to keep the rabbit’s pen clean. Items that should be rationed like vegetables and fruits should be given as needed. Use tip-proof dishes to minimize wastage.

How Much Should Rabbits Eat?

The amount of food you give to your rabbits will depend on how old they are. Babies that are between 7 weeks to 7 months should be provided with unlimited pellets and hay. Introduce one vegetable at a time once they reach 12 months in quantities below 1/2 oz.

Young adults should have less alfafa hay and more timothy hay, and fruits should be given in the ratio of not more than 1 oz. to 2 oz. for every 6 lbs. body weight. Mature adults should be given a minimum of two cups of vegetables per 6 lbs. body weight.

How to Introduce New Food to Your Rabbit?

Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems, and changes can have major effects on their health. When introducing a new food, give small quantities for a few consecutive days.

During this time, observe your pet’s behavior for changes or any bad reaction. If you notice any response, you can feed the food again to see if they will react in a similar action, and avoid the product if they do.

Do Rabbits Eat Grains?

You can mix small quantities of organic grains like oats, barley, and sorghum into rations for your rabbits.

Do Rabbits Need Water?

Your rabbits should be able to access fresh water daily. Water will protect your pet from constipation and blockages by encouraging food movement in the digestive tract. You can either use drip feeders and water bowls to provide the water.

Conclusion

Rabbits have delicate digestive systems and should be mainly sustained on grass and hay. Vegetables, herbs, and fruits should only be a small part of their diet, in addition to clean water.

Some meals can spell doom to the health of your rabbits, including avocado, rhubarb, processed food, meat and dairy, and products that are rich in carbohydrates.

Updated: January 20, 2020

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