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What Do Rabbits Eat in the Wild and as Pets?
Rabbits are amazing animals with beautiful coats of fur that make us want to pick them up and cuddle them. But while some rabbits are domesticated and ready for snuggles, most rabbits are wild, found throughout the world in meadows, forests, wetlands, grasslands, and deserts. Wild rabbits are used to living in nature, not with humans so they do not usually want to cuddle, let alone be touched, by someone in their natural habitat.
Other than the difference in habitat and social structures between wild and domesticated rabbits, all rabbits are pretty much the same. They all reproduce in the same way, they all explore and move around in the same way, and they all eat pretty much the same things.
But wild rabbits can find their own food while domesticated rabbits must rely on their owners to provide them with the foods that they need to stay healthy. Some foods rabbits eat in the wild are not available to domesticated rabbits, so some improvisation is required. Here is what you should know about what rabbits eat in the wild and as pets:
Various Grasses and Hays
All rabbits are herbivores and do not eat any meat. In the wild, rabbits will eat all kinds of different types of grasses and hays as the bulk of their diets. They will eat whatever kinds of grasses they come across such as wheat, Bermuda, orchard, alfalfa, and oat. Wild rabbits eat tons of grass each day to meet their nutritional needs. It can be tough to find all these grasses at the store, and growing them can be quite a time consuming, space intrusive, and expensive quest since your domesticated rabbit would need to eat so much of it.
Luckily, there are many hay and pellet products on the market that are made of different grasses and hays which would be found in the wild. The grasses are broken down into shreds and then condensed together into little pellets that are easy for rabbits to chew and digest. Rabbit pellets are dense in nutrition and calories, so they do not need to eat as much of it as they would unprocessed grass in the wild. The texture of rabbit pellets is all the same, which can get boring for domesticated rabbits. Therefore, your pet rabbit should be fed hay and other foods to ensure a varied and interesting diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Wil rabbits will eat different kinds of vegetables in the wild, especially green ones like kale and amaranth. Wild rabbits will also eat wild berries and other fruits that they happen to find while they forage. But they do not typically have access to veggies like carrots as domesticated rabbits do. Domestic rabbits should replicate their wild diets as close as possible, so carrots and other veggies not usually found in the wild should be offered to them sparingly.
In addition to occasional treats of carrots, domestic rabbits should be offered a variety of dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, watercress, cilantro, and beet greens daily in addition to the pellets and hay they get. They can also be offered greens higher in calcium like kale, collards, and parsley, a couple of times a week. Fruits such as berries, bananas, apples, and melons can be offered sparingly.
Babies vs. Adults
In the wild rabbits spend all their time foraging for food and will eat however much they need to fulfill their daily nutritional needs. In captivity, rabbits can eat too much and become obese, because they are not nearly as active as wild rabbits are. Young domestic rabbits should be offered an unlimited number of pellets and hay, but when they reach about 7 months of age, it is time to ask the veterinarian how many limited pellets and hay should be offered each day to meet the dietary needs of your rabbit based on things like their activity level, health, and medical history. The average adult rabbit will eat about ¼ cup of pellets and/or hay each day in addition to leafy green vegetables.
Our Final Thoughts
Domesticated rabbits should eat as close to a natural diet as possible, just like they would if they were living in the wild. Most people can’t feed their rabbits only raw greens, grasses, and fruits due to the sheer volume they would need to consume. But it is possible to mimic the wild rabbit’s diet by utilizing pellets and hays as the main staple while including multiple handfuls of fresh greens daily, and some fruits weekly. What kinds of veggies are you most excited about feeding your pet rabbit? Share your thoughts with us in our comments section!
Featured Image: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.