Guide to Rabbit Food, Nutrition and Diet
Rabbit food selection and landing on a diet for your pet is a
matter of trial and error due to the sensitive and complex nature of
the digestive tract. Landing on the best rabbit diet can be
more work than some inexperienced rabbit owners may anticipate. One
area of care that some potential rabbit owners frequently underestimate
is feeding. Feeding your rabbit is not difficult, but does require a
greater time investment than does feeding a dog or a cat.
Rabbit Food for Young Pets
Young rabbits will start to eat vegetables and hay at age 2 to 3
weeks. Start with the hay followed by feeding one vegetable at a
time. If you notice any digestive problems such as lose stools, then
stop the vegetables and start again in several days. If you notice that
any age rabbit produces soft stools after introducing a new food, then
either reduce the size of the food or eliminate it from the diet. If
the stools are watery or diarrhea, the most likely cause is a rabbit health
related problem such as parasites.
Rabbit Food Basics
Fresh Hay is the Foundation of a
The foundation of your rabbit’s diet is a continuous supply of fresh
grass hay. Timothy hay is most commonly used. Alfalfa hay is commonly
available in pet stores, but it is not recommended for rabbits. Alfalfa
is a legume, not a grass, and is much higher in calories and protein
than the rabbit requires, and too much protein in the diet can lead to
medical problems. The hay should be kept in a clean, dry place that is
easily accessible to the rabbit at all times. Some rabbit owners will
use shallow plastic bins or unused litter pans to contain the hay. The
hay bin should be emptied out every few days to make sure that uneaten
hay is not accumulating and becoming stale. Hay should be used within a
few months of it’s being cut before it loses its nutritional value, so
if you are getting the hay from a private supplier, just be sure that
it is fresh.
Grass hay not only supplies your rabbit with crucial nutrients, but
also allows the rabbit plenty of chewing to help keep his teeth worn
down to an appropriate length. Without appropriate chewing materials,
your rabbit’s teeth could become overgrown and cause serious medical
problems. Wooden chew toys can be provided as supplemental chewing
materials if your rabbit seems to enjoy them.
Fresh Vegetables for Important
In addition to grass hay, your rabbit will need 3 to 6 types of fresh vegetables on a
daily basis. Leafy greens, such as kale, romaine lettuce, collard
greens, or turnip greens provide important nutrients and your rabbit
will love them. Leafy greens should be provided in fair amounts every
Non-leafy vegetables, such as carrots, celery, broccoli, and
cabbage can also be given every day in smaller amounts. If providing lettuce, opt for dark greed and red.
Avoid light green or iceberg lettuce and cucumbers as these can cause
diarrhea in some rabbits. Also do not feed too much cabbage since it
can cause enlarged thyroid glands as well as digestion issues.
The water contained in vegetables also helps with the rabbits
gastrointestinal system. As a general guide, a 6 lb rabbit diet should
consists of 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fresh vegetables/day. If the amount
changes the consistency of the stool, then pull back to a smaller
quantity. It may take some experimentation.
Start by feeding just one type of vegetable in small pieces without
over feeding the rabbit. After a week, introduce another and then
another. If you notice any change in the feces such as soft stools or
diarrhea, then either pull back to smaller pieces or eliminate the
newly added food.
Leafy Greens are an important
nutritional component of the Rabbit Diet
Fruit is a Snack
Source: Wikimedia, Greg Hewgill
Fresh fruits, such as strawberries, apples, and banana can be provided
as a snack. Fruits are much higher in sugar than vegetables, so it is
important to give them only in very small amounts – no more than a
couple of teaspoons for a medium-sized rabbit. They are a good
source of vitamins and minerals. Most rabbits can digest fruit,
although in a minority of pet rabbits it may cause gas and watery
Fruits that are tolerated well by most rabbits include:
Rabbit Food Tip
- Apple with no seeds
- Seedless Grapes
- Orange with no seeds
- Pears with no seeds
- Peaches with no pits
Pineapple and Papaya contain enzymes that help break down fur that is
binded together with food. These fruits could be helpful during molting
season where a rabbit might ingest more fur.
The third component of your rabbit’s diet is pelleted food. Most rabbit
owners provide a pelleted rabbit food on a daily basis. Pelleted rabbit
food is available at most pet supply stores, and provides your rabbit
with nutrients that he may be missing or getting in inadequate amounts
from his hay and fresh food. Immature rabbits can be fed as much
pelleted food as they will eat, but once the rabbit is fully grown the
amount should be reduced to no more than ¼ cup per 5 pounds of body
One last part of your rabbit’s diet should be a continuous supply of
fresh, clean water. The water should be kept in an upright dispensing
bottle or a sturdy dish, and should be changed every other day to
prevent growth of bacteria or other pathogens.
Rabbit Foods to Avoid
The following should never be fed to a pet rabbit:
- Any fruit with seeds or pits
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