Domestic rabbits are a common pet kept by owners with varying experience. They are adorable animals that can live beyond eight years when given the proper care, including the proper diet. But what, really, is the best feed for rabbits?
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants (no meat or dairy), and they are grazing animals, so they tend to eat during all of their waking hours. Keeping a constant supply of fresh water and the right foods will extend a rabbit’s lifespan and quality of life. To do this, it’s best to give them the right feed for rabbits: a mix of rabbit pellets, hay, vegetables and a few daily treats.
Rabbit pellets, also often labeled as rabbit food, are dry pellets that are full of fiber-rich ingredients like soybeans and wheat. Rabbit pellets can be found at virtually any pet supply store, both online and in-person, in bags ranging from 5–25 pounds. Rabbit owners should carefully choose the weight of the bag and never buy more than a rabbit can eat within six weeks, or else the pellets can spoil.
Leave the rabbit pellets in a dish in the rabbit’s enclosure, and fill the dish once a day. Adult rabbits’ daily serving is about 1/4 cup of pellets per every five pounds of the rabbit’s body weight, while younger rabbits, up to one years of age, may be given an unlimited quantity of pellets.
Hay is considered the most essential part of a rabbit’s diet and must be available for a rabbit to consume around the clock. Younger rabbits can be given alfalfa hay, which is a protein- and calcium-rich hay. Adult rabbits, though, should only be given Timothy hay. Both of these types of hay can be found at most pet supply stores. By consuming lots of hay, rabbits are able to keep their digestive tracks healthy and prevent blockages, such as hairballs.
Wild rabbits get most of their nutrition from vegetables, so it only makes sense to feed pet rabbits fresh greens, too. However, many new rabbit owners believe that all vegetables can be given to their furry companions, and this is not the case.
Rabbits should be given leafy greens that are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, such as:
- Romaine lettuce
- Carrot tops
- Bok choy
- Raspberry leaves
- Broccoli stems and leaves
Rabbits should not be given any vegetables that are high in carbohydrates, such as:
- Tomato leaves
Some vegetables have a moderate amount of carbohydrates but can still be given in limited quantities, meaning once every two days, such as:
- Broccoli (flowerets)
- Brussel sprouts
- Dandelion greens
- Bell peppers
- Edible flowers, such as roses, pansies and hibiscus
All pets deserve a good treat every once in a while, but what can rabbits eat as a treat? For these little guys, certain fruits, like apples, grapes, mangoes, papayas, peaches, pears and berries are great. The maximum serving of treats is up to two tablespoons every two days, as fruits contain a high amount of sugar and will upset the digestive track of a rabbit when given more than that.
Rabbits have a varied, albeit specific, diet that owners can easily provide. When this diet is fed daily to a rabbit, the rabbit’s digestive and overall health will be maintained for years to come.