When you think about what a rabbit eats you probably have a couple of ideas based on what you see on television. If you are like most, you probably thought about carrots, because that’s what Bugs Bunny eats, right? Maybe you pictured a bunny shoving little pieces of lettuce or vegetables into their chubby cheeks. But is that really all that a rabbit eats?
Whether you are looking to get a rabbit for the first time or you’ve had your fluffy friend for a while, you may be surprised to learn what foods you should be feeding them.
To answer the commonly asked question, “what can rabbits eat,” we’ve included primary foods you should be feeding your rabbit, other safe foods we recommend, foods to avoid and some common food mistakes that rabbit owners make. By following these tips and knowing which foods to avoid, you can help your bunny live a longer and healthier life.
Primary Food Source: Hay
Most rabbit owners believe that the primary food in a rabbit’s diet is pellets; however, that is not the case. Experts recommend that hay and grasses should be a rabbit’s primary food. In fact, it is suggested that hay should be 80 to 90 percent of a rabbit’s diet. Hay will be able to meet most, if not all, of a rabbit’s nutritional needs. Your bunny can eat nearly an unlimited amount of hay and grass, as they are too low in calories to put them at risk of gaining unnecessary weight.
One common and dangerous mistake made by rabbit owners is confusing hay with alfalfa. While they may look very similar to the unfamiliar eye, they are very different. Unlike hay, alfalfa is considered to be a sprout. It contains a much higher amount of calcium and protein than hay. Alfalfa will not hurt your rabbit and can be a really tasty and nutritious treat, but should not be used in place of hay or grass.
Favorite Treats & Snacks: Vegetables and Greens
The next most important part of a rabbit’s diet is leafy greens and vegetables. Regardless of what you see on television, rabbits don’t only eat carrots. Actually, greens and veggies should take up less than 10 to 15 percent of a rabbit’s diet. They make fantastic treats and can add some additional nutrients and often they can be a rabbit’s favorite foods to eat. However, they should not be used as the primary food source—they should be mixed in with other foods.
One common leafy green that is not recommended for rabbits is iceberg lettuce because it contains a chemical called lactucarium which can be harmful to rabbits. Also, some varieties of light, green-colored lettuce usually contain very high-water content and offer little nutritional value. Rabbits should be fed darker greens, such as romaine and green leaf, which possess high levels of fiber and necessary vitamins.
In Limited Amounts: Pellets
The last food that should be a part of a rabbit’s diet is pellets. Although pellets are great because they are packed full of nutrients, they aren’t needed in large amounts. It is recommended that rabbits larger than five pounds receive less than a 1/4 cup of pellets daily. Rabbits smaller than five pounds should not have more than an 1/8 cup of pellets per day. If your bouncing buddy regularly eats more than these recommended portion sizes, it can lead to weight gain and digestive issues, and your rabbit might stop eating other foods.
Foods Rabbit Should Not Eat
We listed a couple of foods that can be dangerous or unhealthy in large amounts. There are also numerous other foods that rabbits should not eat at all. Domestic rabbits should have similar diets to their wild relatives, which means they should not be eating anything they couldn’t find in the wild.
Most human foods and treats can be very dangerous to rabbits. This includes anything processed. Foods including high sugar content or chocolate can make rabbits very sick. Rabbits also cannot eat anything with high carbohydrates. Most commonly, these are found in grain products such as bread and crackers. Rabbits cannot process carbohydrates and it can make them ill.
Dangerous Foods From the Garden
Aside from alfalfa and iceberg lettuce, there are other foods from the garden that are not safe for rabbits and some may surprise you. These include corn, potatoes, peas, cauliflower, cabbage and nuts of any kind. None of these should be given in any amount as they could make your rabbit sick.
“When In Doubt, Check It Out”
We’ve highlighted some of the best and worst foods for your pet rabbit, but there are many other foods that rabbits can eat and even more foods that rabbits should not be eating. It can be difficult to control everything your rabbit eats while they are hopping around, but the best advice for pet owners is to research the best food options or reach out to a veterinarian if you have any questions.
For more healthy food choices for your rabbit, visit this link here.