RABBIT FOOD: THE BEST AND WORST FOODS TO FEED A RABBIT
Rabbits Thrive on Good Rabbit Food
Rabbits love a good meal! The right combination of hay, vegetables, pellets, and treats will make pet bunnies very happy and healthy, control the growth of their teeth, and keep them satisfied. Remember, rabbits are herbivores, which means they should only be fed plants, never meat. Don’t forget that water is also an important item in a bunny’s diet. Easy access to water should always be available.
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Fresh hay is the most important item in a rabbit’s diet. A constant supply of Timothy grass hay or oat grass hay should be available. Alfalfa hay is fine for young bunnies, but is only safe in limited supply for adults because of its higher sugar content and calorie count.
Make sure the hay looks and smells fresh. It should not be kept so long that it turns brown, develops mold, and ceases to smell like grass.
Hay provides the fiber necessary to prevent diarrhea, obesity, and hairballs, and assists with digestion. It also helps wear down a rabbit’s constantly growing teeth and keeps their incisors healthy.
Place hay in one end of the bunny’s litter box because bunnies like to munch on it when they are using the box.
It is cheaper to buy hay from a farm than at a pet store, but whatever you buy should be stored in a dry place where circulating air can keep it from becoming moldy.
Vegetables are the second most important part of bunny’s diet, and you can offer three different kinds in small quantities during each feeding.
Veggies should be fresh and free of pesticides, and should be washed thoroughly.
Green, leafy vegetables are good for bunnies. You can include arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves, carrot tops, celery, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, endive, kale in small quantities, romaine and dark leaf lettuce, mint, mustard greens, parsley, and watercress.
Pellets should not be a mainstay of a bunny’s diet, but they can be offered in addition to fresh hay and fresh vegetables.
The pellets must be high in fiber and low in protein and should not contain seeds, corn, or other foods high in calories.
Rabbits will eat pellets only if they are fresh, and the amount in their diets should be reduced as they age.
Pellets should be uniform in size, shape, and colour.
Treats should be healthy foods too, and only given in very small amounts, such as when training (e.g. teaching your bunny to use the litter box).
Good treats are small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, bananas, raspberries, pineapple pieces, apples without seeds, and melons. Veggie treats include a small amount of fresh carrot, pieces of green pepper, and Brussels sprouts.
Make sure the fruits and veggies are thoroughly washed before feeding.
Bad Foods for Rabbits That Can Cause Problems
Some foods are difficult for rabbits to digest or cause tooth or tummy problems, or add calories and cause weight gains but are of no nutritional value.
High-carbohydrate sugary foods like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cereal (like muesli), and potatoes are on the “bad food” list. They add calories and can cause digestive problems.
Iceberg lettuce and other light coloured lettuce adds no nutritional value to a bunny’s diet and it can even contain lactucarium, which can be harmful in large quantities to rabbits.
Silver beet (chard) causes colic and bloating, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, onion, and broccoli stems and tops.
Walnuts and peanut butter are hard to digest and can cause tummy aches.
Hamster food will add no nutritional value to your rabbit’s diet and neither will oatmeal.
Don’t offer uncut celery.
Stay Away From the Dangerous or Never, Ever Foods
The downright dangerous foods should be kept out of bunny’s reach and never, ever offered:
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Both raw rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to bunnies.
Yogurt drops can lead to enterotoxemia, a bad bacteria growing in the intestines, which can be poisonous. These drops are not an appropriate “treat” for bunnies.
Chocolate is also not a treat and is as poisonous for bunnies as it is for dogs.
Common houseplants are usually poisonous and all of them should be kept out of your rabbit’s reach, just in case.
A Feeding Guide for Rabbits
1. Amount of Food for 6-pound Rabbit
Hay – Body–sized amount of 100% grass hay per day
Vegetables – Head-sized amount or 1-2 cups per day
Pellets – Small handful or ¼ cup (50 ml) per day
Fruit – Maximum 2 tbsp per day, preferably less often
2. Life Stage Suggestions Per day
At 12 weeks – alfalfa-based pellets and hay; veggies; teaspoon-sized piece of fruit
At 7 months-1 year – 50% grass hay; ½ cup pellets; +/- fruit treat; green veggies
At 1 to 5 years – 100% grass hay; 1-2 cups of veggies; 2 tbsp fruit or less; ¼ cup pellets
Encourage Natural Foraging and Chewing Behaviors
When you encourage your bunny’s natural foraging and chewing behaviors, it provides mental stimulation, occupies and entertains your little pet, promotes exercise, keeps teeth healthy, and is fun for both of you.