What Do Rabbits Eat?

By Erin Graham, Animal Friends Volunteer

A first-time rabbit adopter may have questions concerning how best to care for your new family member. One of those questions may be what diet to feed a rabbit.

First and foremost, a rabbit should always have high-quality timothy hay available. This high-fiber perennial grass should make up about 80 percent of your rabbit’s diet. Timothy hay is important because it helps keep their teeth trimmed and maintains a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Rabbits don’t have the ability to vomit, so timothy hay keeps things moving in their guts. You may vary the types of hay — oat, orchard, botanical — if your rabbit is a picky eater.

Your rabbit should consume leafy-green vegetables approximately 10 percent of the time. Plants provide additional nutrients and add differing tastes and textures to your rabbit’s diet. Greens also provide additional water. A good rule of thumb for serving greens is to offer 1 cup per 2 pounds of body weight, per day. Serve greens daily, including green and red leaf lettuce, romaine, endive, escarole, cilantro, basil and mint. Rotate offering spinach, parsley, mustard greens and sprouts due to the plants’ high oxalic acid amounts. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits should eat carrots (and other non-leafy greens, like broccoli and celery) sparingly, as these vegetables are high in starch and sugar and may cause gas. High-fiber pellets should comprise another 5 percent of your rabbit’s diet.

Lastly, fruit is like candy to rabbits and should only serve as occasional treats. Apples, bananas, pears, mangoes and berries are good options to form 5 percent of a rabbit’s diet.

Introduce new foods, especially greens, slowly into your rabbit’s diet. This will reduce the risk of digestive upset as their GI tract gets used to the new food. Keep an eye out for loose stools after introducing a new food. If loose stools persist over a couple of days, discontinue the food. Be sure to keep a list of foods your bunny likes and tolerates.

And always provide your rabbit with plenty of fresh water. Surprisingly, a rabbit may consume as much water daily as a 20-pound dog!

Understanding your rabbit’s diet can help them lead a healthy, happy life. If you have further questions about your pet’s care, don’t hesitate to contact Animal Friends or your veterinarian.

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