We all love bunny rabbits. They are cute and cuddly with the most precious ears and adorable little fluffy tails that look like cotton wool – the perfect little companions for our children. It is of the utmost importance to feed them the correct diet, it is not as simple as carrots and lettuce. Here is why.
Fresh, clean water
Just like any animal, rabbits need access to fresh, clean water 24/7. This can be provided in a ceramic bowl or in a dripper found in most pet shops. Change the water every day to avoid any algae or bacteria from growing in it. If you are using a dripper, ensure the end is not blocked.
Good quality hay and grass
Fresh hay should be the bulk of your rabbit’s diet. While Disney and other cartoons let us believe rabbits can live off carrots, hay is of utmost importance. A rabbit eats on average a ball of hay as big as his/her body per day. While any hay may do, timothy, grass and oat hays are best. Avoid Alfalfa hay as it is too high in sugar and protein for bunnies. Hay is essential for good dental health as it wears down teeth which continuously grow. It is also high in fiber for good digestive health. Store the hay in a dry, cool place and do not feed your rabbits hay that looks or smells old and mouldy.
Unclipped grass is also important. Allow for your rabbits to graze outside in a safe environment where they are not threatened by predators. If they are in an enclosed space, ensure there is always some shade, rabbits can overheat in the sun.
Vegetables and herbs
Rabbits enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs, these should be part of their daily diet. Ensure that all vegetables are pesticide free and washed thoroughly before feeding. You can’t go wrong with leafy green veggies. Some of the most loved vegetables are:
Leafy greens – these should account for 75% of the fresh food intake. Serve approx. 1 packed cup per kilogram of body weight.
- Carrot tops
- Broccoli leaves
- Dandelion leaves (perhaps something fun for children to forage for)
- Kale (limited)
- Lettuce (no iceberg lettuce and no cabbage, rather give dark leaf cabbage)
Non-leafy vegetables – these should account for 15% of the fresh food intake. Serve approx. 1 tablespoon per kilogram of body weight.
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
- Gem squash
Fruit as a treat
Rather don’t give rabbits commercial treats that are processed and full of sugar. Fresh fruit is a much safer option that they will enjoy. Only give it in small amounts because of the natural sugars in the fruit. Fruit should account for no more than 10% of the diet. Serve approx. 1 tablespoon per kilogram of body weight.
Some fruits that rabbits enjoy are:
- Apples (do not include the seeds)
Ensure the pellets are always fresh, no one likes stale food. Also try to stay away from pellets that include too much protein or dried corn as these can cause digestive issues and obesity in older rabbits.
NB: Rabbits have incredibly sensitive digestive tracts. When adopting a rabbit, keep him/her eating only grass hay for a minimum of two weeks before introducing any fresh foods. This will ensure the gut flora is flourishing and be able to accept new foods better. Introduce fresh foods slowly (approx. one new food every three days) to allow the microorganisms to adjust. Keep an eye on the stools, if they become soft, eliminate the newly added food.
- Rspca.org.uk. 2021. Rabbit diet – Rabbit meal planner – Tips, advice, health.
- Rabbit.org. 2021. Suggested Vegetables and Fruits for a Rabbit Diet | House Rabbit Society.
- My House Rabbit. 2021. What to Feed Your Pet Rabbit | Rabbit Diet.