Rabbit Nutrition

Rabbits are friendly, interactive pets that can be a member of you family for 8 to 12 years if provided proper nutrition and husbandry. Here are some guidelines and hints to help keep your bunny healthy.

General Feeding Guidelines

  • Timothy Hay or Orchard Grass at ALL times (no Alfalfa Please)
  • Fresh water at all times
  • Limited amounts of Timothy based pellet food (Suggestion Oxbow Basic T)
  • Provide fresh vegetables daily (Tasty and fun!)
  • Limit treats (Not too many….I’m watching my weight)

Diet – Not Just Pellets

A high fiber diet is essential to the long term health of your pet rabbit. Many pet stores sell rabbit pellets as the primary nutrition source for rabbits but this type of diet can result in obesity, arthrosclerosis, dental disease and many other medical problems. Rather than a primarily pellet based diet rabbits should be on fresh hay, vegetables and limited amounts of pellets daily.

Hay – Essential to Digestive Health

Hay is an excellent source of long-strand fiber that is essential to digestion and nutrition in all rabbits. Long-strand fiber sources, such as Timothy hay or Orchard grass are needed to stimulate the digestive system and keep it healthy. In addition, when rabbits are fed free-choice hay, it promotes their natural chewing behavior, which helps prevent molar spurs and other dental problems that are so common in these small herbivores.

Hay is an essential source of fiber and nutrition for all rabbits but all hays are not equal.  Timothy Hay is the ideal long-strand fiber source for keeping small animal digestive tracts functioning properly. With high fiber, low protein and low calcium content- timothy is recommended to maintain your pet’s health. Alfalfa Hay is legume hay and the protein, calcium and energy content are higher than in grass hay which can result in obesity and bladder stone

Try feeding hay in new and inventive ways to increase consumption.

  • Rabbits like to eat hay in their litter box.
  • Fill a cardboard tube, basket or animal-safe toy with hay and place it in your pet’s favorite spot.
  • Put a layer of hay on the bottom of the cage and hide food/treats in the hay for foraging.
  • Put hay everywhere: the hutch, the corner, behind the couch, etc…
  • Offer a variety of mixed hays (example Orchard grass) to tempt rabbit.

Rabbit Pellets – Limited Quantity Recommended

Rabbit pellets are an important part of a rabbit’s diet but it is important to feed the right type of pellets in a limited amount. Rabbit pellets should be primarily made from Timothy hay and have over 20% Fiber with less than 16% Protein. The doctors at Anchor Animal Hospital recommend Oxbow’s Bunny Basics/T, the “T” standing for timothy, for all rabbits. This diet is specifically formulated adult rabbits and helps prevent obesity, indigestion and urinary stone or ‘sludge’ problems (again because of the lower calcium level in timothy hay).

Recommend Amount of Pellets Daily

  • 5-7 lb of body wt. 1/4 cup daily
  • 8-10 lb body wt. 1/2 cup daily
  • 11-15 lb of body wt. 3/4 cup daily

Greens & Vegetables – Great Fun for Your Rabbit

Fresh vegetables are a great source of nutrition, fiber, and water in a rabbit’s diet. In addition, vegetables can also be a source of entertainment for your rabbit since a variety of vegetables can be given and they take a long time to chew.

Note: Do not cut the vegetables into small pieces or remove the stocks – large leaves and stocks promote chewing!

Approximately 1 cup vegetables per 4 pounds of body weight daily are appropriate for most rabbits. Add one vegetable to the diet at a time and eliminate if it causes soft stools or diarrhea.

Some suggestions include: 1 cup vegetables per 4 pounds of body weight daily

  • Basil
  • Beet greens (tops)*
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butter crunch
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Clover
  • Collard greens
  • Carrot tops
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Green peppers
  • Kale (limited quantities)
  • Mint
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Pea pods (the flat edible kind)
  • Peppermint leaves
  • Raddichio
  • Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)
  • Radish tops
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Watercress
  • Wheat grass

Treats – Bunnies have a sweet tooth so be sure to limit sweet treats!

Many owners want to offer treats to their rabbits and when fed in limited quantities treats can be offered as a source of enrichment for you rabbit. Pieces of banana or apple are favorites with rabbits but should be used only sparingly, as occasional treats. Again, in order to prevent gastrointestinal upset, it is best to feed the same treats consistently.

Apple (remove stem and seeds)
Orange (including peel)

Bunnies have a sweet tooth and if left to their own devices will devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones. Remember to limit the quantities fed.