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What to Feed Your Pet Rabbit? Rabbit Nutrition Made Easy

Nicole Cosgrove

May 17, 2021

As any bunny owner knows, rabbits have a voracious appetite for all things sweet and green! While it can be quite entertaining to watch them devour a leaf of lettuce or happily munch away on a pile of hay, it’s important to keep in mind that nutrition is a major determinant of your rabbit’s health.

Learning what to feed your pet rabbit can be easy and painless. In this guide, we’ll be covering the basics of rabbit nutrition in three categories: Essential bunny foods, things to feed them in moderation, and what’s best for the occasional treat.

By the end of the article, you’ll be well-prepared to feed your rabbit exactly what they need to remain happy, healthy, and active throughout their life. Without further ado, let’s get into the details of rabbit nutrition!

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The Essentials: Clean Water and a Variety of Hay

A rabbit eating food in the wild. This is the header image for the best rabbit food for good health article.

A consistent supply of fresh hay and clean water is essential to the health of every breed of rabbit. These two are so vitally important to your rabbit’s health that you should strive to keep both in multiple locations, making it as easy as possible for your rabbits to access them.

Timothy Hay is the standard hay that should account for the bulk of your rabbit’s diet. Because rabbits’ teeth are constantly growing, they need the rough surface that hay provides to help keep their teeth filed down and growing in properly.

Choose hay that still looks and smells fresh, never stale or moldy. You want to encourage your rabbit to consider hay as a delicious meal, not a chore.

For water, consider the combination of a hanging water bottle in your rabbit’s enclosure as well as a water bowl elsewhere in the house. If your rabbit enjoys pushing things over (as many do), it’s best to use a heavy-bottomed water bowl to prevent them from making a mess.

Whenever possible, offer your rabbit filtered water instead of tap. While the chemicals in tap water are unlikely to cause any long-term harm for humans, rabbits’ sensitive constitutions are more easily disturbed.


Great in Moderation: Pellets and the Best Veggies for Rabbits

rabbits eating carrots

High-fiber, low-protein pellets are recommended as a dietary supplement for your rabbit but should not constitute a majority of their food intake. Though nutritionally dense, pellets are not as effective as hay at grinding down a rabbit’s constantly growing teeth.

Follow two main rules when choosing vegetables for your rabbit: Make sure they are free of pesticides and buy them fresh! Vegetables are an essential way that your pet rabbit gets a variety of nutrients and should be shared with them daily.

Before feeding your rabbit any new vegetable, it’s important to make sure that they can digest it properly; otherwise, you may unwittingly be feeding your rabbit something that could cause serious digestive problems.

For a full list of what not to feed your rabbit, visit this website that covers “bad plants” for rabbits. The following veggies are examples of foods safe for just about any rabbit without pre-existing health conditions:

  • Carrot tops
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Bok Choy
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Celery

 


Only Occasionally: Treats and Fruits

rabbit holding an apple
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Though high-carbohydrate foods are definitely not essential to a rabbit’s diet, anyone who has peeled a banana near their pet bunny likely knows just how much they love fruits! As an occasional indulgence or reward for good behavior, fruits will cause little or no harm to rabbits; however, you should be careful to avoid overdoing it.

As with any vegetables you might feed your pet, be sure that the fruits are organic and free of pesticides. Some of our rabbit’s favorite fruits are:

  • Bananas
  • Apple slices (no seeds!)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

A good rule of thumb is to give your rabbit a small number of treats no more often than every other day. For older rabbits, this frequency should be reduced even further to maybe once per week.

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Conclusion

Once you understand the basic components of a rabbit’s diet, keeping them happy and healthy is as easy as providing plenty of water and hay, and giving them a daily serving of a variety of vegetables. Save treats for special occasions or training rewards, and be sure to keep everything you give them fresh and free of pesticides. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you and your rabbit can share many happy years together!

Nicole Cosgrove

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.