What To Feed Your Rabbit

House Rabbit Society
Miami , FL
(305) 666- BUNN
edited by Susan Horton, DVM

What should I feed my bunny?

Plenty of exercise and a proper diet will help keep your rabbit happy and healthy for life!  A rabbit is a lagomorph, not a rodent. His or her digestive tract is physiologically more similar to that of a horse than to any other animal.  Here are the most important dietary items.   Click here to see what healthy stool looks like

HAY-Such as Timothy or Orchard grass
The single most important item of the rabbit diet is grass hay and it should be fed in unlimited quantities to both adults and baby rabbits.  This is because a rabbit fed only commercial rabbit pellets does not get enough fiber to keep the digestive tract (intestine, cecum, colon) in good working order.  The fibers in the hay ensure good gut motility.  They also aid in cecal digestion by maintaining a good cecal pH and providing surface area for the cecal bacteria to attach to.  This helps prevent intestinal impactions, which are actually a symptom of slowed gut motility.  This condition is known as GI stasis (ileus).  It is very common in poorly fed rabbits, and can be life-threatening if left untreated!  It also serves as forage material to prevent boredom and behavioral problems such as fur chewing.  Dental exercise and optimal dental wear are provided by good grass hay diets.

Pellets
When we say pellets, we mean pellets – NOT those dangerous seed/nut/pellet/fruit “gourmet” and “treat” mix products which can eventually KILL YOUR RABBIT.  A food quality rabbit pellet should have at least 20% crude fiber, no more than 14% protein, and no more than 2% fat.  Check the label on the rabbit pellets before you buy.  Baby rabbits should be fed unlimited pellet, but by the age of eight months, feed no more than ¼ cup per day for every five pounds of rabbit to avoid obesity and avoidance of hay.  For adult rabbits, we recommend a timothy hay based pellet.

Fresh Vegetables
These are as important as hay in maintaining a healthy intestine.  Try Romaine lettuce, parsley, carrots (with tops!), endive, escarole, dill, basil, mint, cilantro, cilantro, tomato, and any other dark green leafy herb that appeals to you and you bunny.  Experiment and see which types your rabbit likes best!  Baby rabbits should start receiving greens very gradually at the age of about three months.  Add one item at a time, and if you see no intestinal upset, add another.   A five pound adult rabbit should receive at least four heaping cups of fresh, varied vegetables per day.  Serving them wet adds important liquid to the diet, which helps keep intestinal contents well hydrated and moving easily.

Fresh Fruit
These are considered treats, and should be fed in very limited quantities (no more than one tablespoons a day for a five pound rabbit!).  Good choices are apple, apricot, banana (rare treat!), cherries, mango, peach, plum, papaya, pineapple, berries…just about any fruit you would like is okay for your bunny.  Just don’t overdo it, as this can cause an imbalance of the cecal flora and runny stool.

Plenty Of Fresh, Clean Water
This may be the most important, yet most commonly overlooked item in the rabbit’s diet.  Keeping the intestinal contents well hydrated ensures that they do not become impacted, and helps the intestinal muscles push food through at a healthy rate.  A rabbit can drink from a sipper bottle, but will usually drink more if offered water in a heavy ceramic crock.  Be sure to wash and change the bowl daily!

…but don’t feed these potentially dangerous treats!

NEVER feed your rabbit commercial “gourmet” or “treat” mixes filled with dried fruit nuts and seeds. These may be safe for a bird or hamster —BUT THEY ARE NOT PROPER FOODS FOR A RABBIT!!!  Unlike a human or a rodent (rat or hamster), a rabbit is a strict herbivore.   The high fat and simple carbohydrate content of these “gourmet” products will give your rabbit fatty liver disease and can contribute to severe intestinal disorders.  The sole function is to lighten your wallet:  the manufacturers of these terrible products have no knowledge about or interest in your rabbit’s health and longevity. Don’t be victimized.

Also avoid iceberg lettuce, cruciferous vegetables, cookies, crackers, nuts, seeds, sugary snacks, breakfast cereals, (including oatmeal or any other “high fiber” cereal – they are not high fiber to a rabbit!)  or other starchy snacks.  These promote obesity and liver disease.

Love your companion rabbit. Feed her a proper diet and she will reward you with good health and love.

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