November 9, 2020

What Do Rabbits Eat and Drink?

Complete Bunny Food Guide

Fact checked by Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Published by Emma Hughes

Vet Approved

As a new pet owner, you are, of course, curious to find out how you should be feeding your pet bunny.

Providing a balanced and healthy diet for your rabbit is one of your most important tasks because bunnies have specific nutritional requirements that need to be met in order to keep your pet strong and thriving.

But what do rabbits eat and drink exactly? How do you keep them nourished and fulfill their dietary requirements?

Although rabbits have specific needs when it comes to their diet, once you figure it out, it's not that difficult. And luckily for you, we're here to help.

This guide to rabbit feeding will tell you everything you need to know about how to feed your bunny.

Let's start with the basics:

The Rabbit Food Pyramid

The bulk of any rabbit's daily diet should consist of high-quality hay. In the wild, rabbits will feed on grass, but hay, which is essentially dried grass, is more convenient for pet rabbits.

  • 80% of your rabbit's diet should consist of hay
  • 10% should be veggies (75% of these being leafy greens and 25% vegetables)
  • 5-7% rabbit pellets made of timothy hay
  • 2-3% treats like fruit or healthy rabbit treats

A balanced diet that follows these guidelines will keep your rabbit well and nourished.

Rabbit food pyramid infographic

The key to rabbit wellbeing is offering a diet that:

  • is high in fiber to support gastrointestinal health
  • promotes dental health by encouraging chewing
  • encourages natural behavior like grazing and foraging
  • is low in calcium and oxalic acid to prevent urinary stones
  • helps maintain a healthy weight

Rabbits and Hay

The bulk of your bunny's daily food intake should be grass or hay (dried grass). Bunnies love fresh grass, and while the hay is not quite as nutritious, it's usually a more convenient food for pet rabbits. Hay will provide the fiber your pet needs and keep the teeth trimmed by offering your rabbit something to chew.

Hay is more fibrous and slightly better for bunnies' teeth than most grasses found in gardens.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM

Your bunny should have unlimited hay available throughout the day.

Adult rabbits should eat mainly grass hay, which has less protein and calcium. Having less energy from protein will help your pet maintain a healthy body weight and less calcium prevents urinary stones from forming. Grass hay is also high in fiber, which supports their digestion.

Varieties of grass hay include

  • Timothy hay
  • Meadow hay
  • Orchard hay
  • Oat hay

Alfalfa is legume hay and suitable for young, growing rabbits because it contains more protein, and it is rich in calcium. Baby rabbits can benefit from being fed alfalfa but should change to timothy hay or another grass hay when their growth stops at about 7-12 months.

You can mix in some alfalfa hay to provide adult rabbits with variety and enrichment, but they should be mostly fed grass hay like timothy. Read more about how to choose the best hay for rabbits.

Pellet Rabbit Food

In addition to hay, rabbits should also be fed about 1/8-1/4 cup of timothy pellets.

As pellets have different nutritional values, always check the instructions on the bag to ensure the proper serving size for your rabbit's weight.

pellet food for rabbits

It's important not to feed too much pelleted food, as it may cause your rabbit to gain weight, and their stool may become soft due to an imbalance in their gut flora. Pellets are lower in fiber than hay but higher in carbohydrates, which is not healthy for their digestion if not fed in moderation.

To learn more, check out our article on finding the best rabbit food for your bunny.

Best Vegetables for Rabbits

Grass hay and pellets should be supplemented with vegetables and especially leafy greens. The number of low-carb veggies per day is not limited as long as your pet doesn't get diarrhea. Vegetables like carrots, which are high in carbohydrates, should only make up a small portion of the veggies you feed.

Leafy greens can include fresh grass, dandelion leaves, and red or green lettuces, and these should make up 10-15% of your bunnies diet.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM

Two cups of fresh vegetables are usually a good amount for average-sized rabbits, while smaller bunnies only need about one cup daily. The majority of these should be leafy greens.

It's important to offer a mix of veggies to ensure variety in foods and the nutrients they offer. Mix about two or three vegetables every day, and if you add a new food to their diet, remember to do it slowly. Because rabbits have sensitive tummies, new foods may cause diarrhea and stomach upsets if not gradually introduced.

Best Greens for Rabbits

Leafy greens are an excellent addition to your rabbit's diet. They should make up about 75% of the fresh produce you feed your bunny. Some of the best greens you can feed your rabbit without limitation are:

  • arugula
  • basil
  • bok choy
  • broccoli greens
  • cilantro
  • carrot tops
  • dill
  • kale
  • mint
  • oregano
  • red or green lettuce
  • romaine lettuce
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • watercress
  • wheatgrass

Some leafy greens need to be limited because of their high calcium or oxalic acid content. Too much calcium and oxalates may lead to painful bladder stones.

These greens are nutritious and healthy when fed in moderation (about 1-2 times a week):

  • dandelion greens
  • parsley
  • Swiss chard
  • escarole
  • collard greens
  • clover
  • mustard greens
  • flowers like calendula, chamomile, hibiscus, honeysuckle

It's best to mix up the leafy greens you offer to your bunny to ensure a variety of nutrients and flavors. Your pet will enjoy a diverse diet that ensures a balance in the vitamins and minerals it receives.

Best Veggies for Rabbits

In addition to leafy greens, you can also feed your rabbit other non-leafy vegetables. However, these should only make up no more than 15% of fresh produce your rabbit is fed.

  • asparagus
  • baby sweetcorns
  • bell peppers
  • Brussel sprouts
  • celery
  • cucumber
  • endive
  • fennel
  • kohlrabi
  • radicchio
  • squash
  • zucchini
carrots

The following veggies are also suitable for your rabbit, but you may have to be careful with them and not feed them every day. No more than once or twice a week is the recommendation.

  • broccoli (may cause gas)
  • cabbage (may cause gas)
  • carrots (high in sugar)
  • cauliflower (may cause gas)

What Fruit Can Rabbits Eat?

Fruits can be an excellent and nutritious treat when fed in moderation. Because fruits often have high sugar content, they should only be fed 1-2 times a week to prevent gaining weight or disturbing the gut bacteria. In the wild, fruits would be considered high-calorie treats that are only available at certain times of the year.

1-2 portions of fruit a couple of times a week is the recommendation.

Fruits that are high in water and sugar may upset the gut flora and lead to diarrhea. Also, remember that dried fruits are concentrated and often contain way more sugar than fresh fruits. Although rabbits naturally love high-sugar foods with a lot of starch, they will gain weight easily and suffer from obesity-related problems.

Here are some of the fruits that are suitable for your bunny.

  • apples (but no seeds)
  • banana
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • cranberries
  • cherries (remove the pit)
  • cantaloupe (no seeds)
  • grapes (seedless)
  • kiwi
  • mango
  • nectarine
  • orange (no seeds)
  • papaya (no seeds)
  • pears (no seeds)
  • peach
  • pineapple
  • plum
  • tomatoes (ripe fruit only, leaves and stems are toxic!)
  • watermelon (no seeds)

Fruits can be an excellent treat to offer to your pet and encourage bonding. Treats offer variety and stimulation for your rabbit but should only be fed in strict moderation. If you want to train your bunny or bond with them, good-quality commercial treats are also good options.

Read more about how to choose healthy treats for your rabbit.

What Can Rabbits Not Eat?

Although there are many foods rabbits can eat, there are also ones that can be considered toxic or harmful and should not be fed to them.

Other foods may be unhealthy, while others are plain dangerous.

  • Avocado (may be deadly if ingested)
  • Beans (may cause gas and gastrointestinal issues)
  • Beet greens (high in oxalic acid)
  • Cereal (not healthy)
  • Chocolate (toxic for rabbits)
  • Corn (not healthy)
  • Crackers (not healthy)
  • Iceberg lettuce (may cause diarrhea, not nutritious)
  • Nuts (too high in fat and protein)
  • Mushrooms (may be poisonous)
  • Onions and leeks (may cause blood disorders)
  • Pasta (not healthy)
  • Peas (may cause digestive issues)
  • Potatoes (too much starch)
  • Rhubarb (too high in oxalic acid)
  • Seeds (may cause digestive issues)
  • Sugar (not healthy)
  • Yogurt (rabbits are lactose intolerant)

Also, human treats like junk food or high-energy snacks should not be on your rabbit's food list.

What Do Rabbits Drink?

rabbit water drinking

Rabbits drink water, and they should always have fresh, clean water available. Water is essential for rabbits because they eat a big pile of hay every day. Water keeps their digestion going and flushes out excess calcium.

Tap water is fine unless you suspect it is high in chlorine. In that case, bottled or filtered water may be a better option. A hanging water bottle with a metal spout is fine, but rabbits often prefer a bowl or dish as lapping is more natural for them.

Water bowls may be knocked over while water bottles may become clogged. The ideals solution is to have both to ensure water is always available.

Change the water once a day and keep the bottles and bowls clean to prevent a slimy film of bacteria from forming on the surface.

Rabbit Food Guide – What else should I know?

The common belief is that rabbits need a diet of hay, grass, and a few carrots. Although hay does make up the bulk of a rabbit's diet, their dietary requirements are actually quite complex. Any new foods need to be slowly introduced, and their diet needs to be kept in balance to prevent any health issues.

Although hay does make up the bulk of a rabbit's diet, their dietary requirements are actually quite complex.

Rabbits have very specific nutritional requirements that should be met to keep your bunny healthy. Wrong foods or introducing new foods too quickly may disturb their normal digestive flora, which is the bacteria that efficiently process the food in their intestines. This may result in your pet becoming sick or even dying.

Rabbits are herbivores meaning they only eat plants. They also graze, which suggests that they eat all the time. In the wild, they spend about 6-8 hours a day munching on grass, so you can expect your pet to do the same.

Here are a few things you should know about feeding your rabbit.

Introducing new foods

Rabbits have sensitive tummies, and it's important to introduce new foods gradually to let the flora in their gut adjust. Disrupting the bacterial balance may lead to tummy upsets like diarrhea but also more severe health issues.

  • Introduce only one new food over a few days to a week and start with small servings.
  • Keep an eye on the stool to see how your pet reacts to it.The droppings may be slightly softer for a few days but should go back to normal if the food is suitable for your bunny.

Chew, chew, chew

Rabbits are continuously munching on food, which is important because it keeps their ever-growing teeth trimmed. In addition to offering them hay and pellets to chew on, chew toys may also be welcome and will offer your bunny mental stimulation.

How Often Do You Feed a Rabbit?

You should feed your rabbit twice a day: in the morning and evening.

When it's feeding time, you need to

  • discard any stale rabbit food and replace it with fresh pellets
  • remove any uneaten fresh foods and replace with fresh ones
  • remove any unclean hay and add more fresh hay if needed

Your rabbit should always have unlimited hay, and fresh water available You should change the water and rinse the bottle once a day.

To prevent a film of bacteria growing on the food dishes and water bottles, they need to be thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water once a week. Remember to rinse well after washing.

Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop?

Rabbits eat their cecotropes, a type of their own poop, because it's a way for them to get more nutrients from their food.

This behavior is called cecophagy (or coprophagy), and it is completely normal for your bunny. It usually happens at night, and these highly nutritious fecal pellets are different from the ones they usually produce. They are called cecotropes but also knows as cecal dropping, night dropping, or nocturnal droppings.

The cecotropes are usually small, pasty, and have a dark color. They offer your bunny many nutrients, but especially protein and Vitamins B and K. If your spot your bunny eating its own poop, you should know it's completely natural and will help keep him healthy.

What Do Baby Bunnies Eat?

If your rabbit just had a litter or you adopted a young bunny, you may wonder what baby rabbits eat. Let's find out.

Baby bunnies drink their mother's milk until they are weaned at about 6-8 weeks of age. At this stage, their teeth and digestive system have developed enough to handle other foods as well.

Until young rabbits start eating grass hay at 7-12 months, they should be feeding on unlimited alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets. Leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit should also be added, but introduce foods slowly and one at a time because bunnies have sensitive digestive systems.

Young, growing rabbits under the age of 8 months should be fed alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets because the extra calcium and protein are good for their growth. At about 7 months of age, their growth starts to slow down, and this is when their diet should be gradually changed to an adult rabbit's diet.

Do Rabbits Eat Grass?

Yes, rabbits do eat grass. Most bunnies find it delicious and happily much on fresh grass if they are outside. Timothy hay, which makes up the bulk of a pet rabbit's diet, is just dried Timothy grass. For owners that can't keep their pets outside all day feeding on grass, hay is an easier option for feeding. Although it is not quite as nutritious as fresh grass, it will offer all the same benefits and keep your pet flourishing.

You can certainly feed your rabbit fresh grass whenever you can, but make sure it has not been sprayed with any pesticides or chemicals.

Summing Up

Although feeding your rabbit is not that complex, there is more to it than hay and carrots.

Because they have sensitive gastrointestinal systems, it's important to feed them foods that do not disturb the natural bacteria in their gut and cause digestive problems. With bunnies, proper feeding is the key to good health and thriving.

Provide your pet with high-quality hay and rabbit food added with a mix of healthy veggies and a few treats, and your pet will thank you for taking good of them.

Vet's Comment

Rabbits are browsing herbivores and thus don't eat any meat or insects. In the wild, a rabbit will spend its day selecting grass to munch on interspersed with some leafy green plants and a little of whatever fruit or nut is available in the hedgerows at the time.

Feeding the pet bunny should mimic this behavior as closely as you can, so 80% of your bunny's diet should be grass or grass hay (Timothy or orchard are popular). Hay is more fibrous and slightly better for bunnies' teeth than most grasses found in gardens.

Approximately 5-7% of their diet should be a commercial pelleted feed that's formulated for bunnies to ensure they're receiving all their vitamins and minerals needed; most of the pellets available are timothy hay-based.

Leafy greens can include fresh grass, dandelion leaves, and red or green lettuces, and these should make up 10-15% of your bunnies diet.

Similar to humans, treats and sugary fruits should only make up a small portion of your rabbit's daily calories, so no more than 2-3% of their diet should be treats, and be sure to offer suitable portion sizes to prevent upset tummies.

- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM

Dr. Edele Grey Veterinary Surgeon

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Edele Grey
DVM

Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your rabbit’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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