Life Lessons, resources, and random bits for rescue dogs, cats, bunnies, and their peeps

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bunny Basics: What Should I Feed My Rabbit

Rabbit diet should consist of hay, greens, and pellets

What Should I Feed My Rabbit

Rabbits are very different from cats and dogs. Dogs and cats are predators while rabbits are prey animals. Dogs and cats let you know when they are sick (sometimes by vomiting all over the carpet). Rabbits hide pain and illness (no vomiting). Once they do show symptoms, they are usually in pretty bad shape.

Rabbit caretakers need to be super vigilant about monitoring their food intake and making sure food is moving quickly and easily through their systems - AKA pooping a bunch. If they stop eating or pooping, they are probably headed for Gastrointestinal Stasis, a potentially deadly condition in which the digestive system slows down or stops completely. A proper diet is essential for a healthy rabbit and should consist of timothy hay, greens, and a small amount of pellets (as a special treat).

Bunny diets should consist of hay, greens, and pellets for good health

Rabbits Need Hay, Lots and Lots of Hay


The main component of a rabbit's diet should be timothy hay, grass hay, or a combination of both. Alfalfa hay should be reserved for baby bunnies unless your veterinarian advises otherwise. Typically hay is placed on top of litter in the litter-box. Yes, they eat in the same place as they do their business, but we all have our quirks. You should replenish hay several times a day to keep it fresh. I also have  a couple of bunny safe baskets that I fill with hay so Lulu has options. She also enjoys toilet paper rolls filled with hay - part toy, part snack and eco-friendly.

Timothy Hay is available in small bags in many pet stores, but it is more economical to find a source where you can purchase larger quantities. I highly recommend Oxbow Hay. Visit their website for a listing of where you can purchase their products online or in your community. If you are in the Chicago area, you can also buy 25 pound boxes of hay directly from Lulus's (and Pip's) rescue organization Red Door Animal Shelter.

For optimal health, bunny diet should consist of hay, greens, and a few pellets


Rabbits Eat Two Salads a Day (To Keep the Doctor Away)


Rabbits need two salads a day with a mix of 2-4 different greens and a few special toppers. Romaine, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, and Boston lettuce make a great salad base. In addition to the greens, add your bunny's favorite toppings like arugula, basil, carrot greens, cilantro, dill, endive, escarole, parsley, mint, radish greens, water cress, or a little chunk of carrot. A tiny bit of spinach or kale can be added, but both are high in calcium so use with caution. 

Salad size is based on bunny weight - a tiny rabbit should have one or two cups of greens a day while a larger rabbit might eat four to six cups a day. Lulu has about 3 and a half cups of greens. 

Bunny Bonus Tip: Greens should be fresh and washed. Never feed your rabbit greens that you would not eat yourself. Lulu eats her salad on a paper plate, which she then likes to fling around the room like a Frisbee. 


Pellets are Treats 


Pellets were originally invented for breeders as an inexpensive way to fatten up their animals. For most bunnies, pellets are optional and should be more of a treat. Timothy hay based pellets are the best for adult rabbits and Oxbow's Bunny Basics are a great option. Portion size depends on rabbit weight and varies between 1/8 teaspoon and two tablespoons.

Avoid pellets that have ingredients such as birdseed (cause bunnies are not birds), dried corn, peas, or fruit. Fiesta or so-called gourmet mixes can cause serious, even fatal problems for rabbits. Treats such as yogurt drops or granola-type birdseed are also risky. 

Lulu doesn't even like pellets. She much prefers a small piece of banana or extra basil for a special treat. 


If you missed Bunny Basics Part One, you can find it here. Tune in Monday, March 13 for information on housing and bunny proofing your home. 

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37 comments

  1. that was very interesting, many thanks... a lot of peeps think to throw some grass in a cage is enough... but there is much much more for having the perfect home for a bunny...

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  2. My mom loves wabbits and had two as a kid. We love them too, but to hunt, so there will be no wabbits in our home. They can make great pets, though.

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  3. I really enjoyed this article. I've never had a rabbit but would love to be able to foster at some point. When I finally have the chance at least I'll be going in with some knowledge thanks to your informative posts.

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  4. Yummy salad. That cute little nose
    Snorts,
    Lily & Edward

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  5. In your last post about rabbits, I commented that we had a bunny when I was in elementary school. We must've really bungled his care ... even though my father had raised bunnies as a child. We fed him pellets as the majority of his diet. Then again, we bought him at a pet store with the rabbit starter kit and the book that came along with it didn't say anything about fresh greens or hay. I feel really sad and guilty to think our ignorance made his life less than optimal. These days, with the internet ... and fewer pet stores selling animals without really knowing about them ... hopefully, rabbits' lives are better ... though I know many people don't take the time to learn about their companion animals (especially the breeds that are gotten without thought for the peculiarities and needs of a particular breed). Lulu's a beauty!

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  6. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh What wonderful information. Lulu is a gorgeous Tuxie bunny!! She obviously is well fed you can tell by her lovely fur. Two salads a day would be good for 2 leggers too
    Hugs madi your bfff

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  7. Rabbits sound similar to sugar gliders in a few ways. I have to keep a close eye on my gliders in regards to their eating and health, as they do will hide illness very well. Once you can tell they are sick, it is usually pretty bad. Their food is also homemade, like your rabbit salads. Makes it inexpensive and easy to feed them! Thanks for this great info about rabbits. Pinning!

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  8. Superb post Speedy... esp. at the time of year when PEEPS think they Know how to tend to a bunnie's Needs...

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  9. Great post, One day I will own a bunny and have learned all from you

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  10. My son used to have a rabbit when he was little. We kept her in the utility room with the hutch door open and she used to to through the cat flap into the garden whenever she wanted.
    Lynne x

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  11. Great post ! Claire took care of rabbits for year, and they were lucky to get fresh grass with their hay every day ! Purrs

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  12. Bunnies are so cool and so is your bunny info!

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  13. Wow I honestly had no idea about any of this! I had a rabbit as a child - for a short period of time. I was very young and do not recall how I came to have him, or what happened to him and I do not care to think about that.
    What I do know is that I am not ready for a rabbit having read this. Not that I was actively thinking of getting one but as an animal lover it is possible that I could end up with any animal at any time.
    I can admit, I am not diligent enough to care for one right now and I thank you for making me aware of this!
    I also had no idea Rabbits needed hay at all - let alone lots of it!
    Thanks for the eye opening article.

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  14. We didn't know that about rabbits. SHE had them as pets as a young child, but they came to a sad end with the neighbour's dogs.

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  15. Wow, this is all very interesting stuff we did not know about rabbits
    hugs
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

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  16. I think we all should eat more like rabbits do! We'd probably be a lot healthier! <3 Dear Mishu

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  17. Great post for new bunny owners. I had a bunny as a child, called Thumper - he loved carrot treats.

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  18. Excellent post. I miss having a bunny.

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  19. I always wanted to have a rabbit as a kid! I didn't know there was so much to know about their diets. Great read!

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  20. What a very informative post! I never knew that bunnies required a very specific diet!

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  21. There aren't many people writing about rabbits; it's great to be able to find some good information.

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  22. Excellent post. I wish I had this information when I had rabbits. Did you know if they get blocked from a furball, you are supposed to give them fresh pineapple juice?

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  23. I guess you never run out of salad greens at your house! It's funny how she likes bananas.

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  24. I've always loved rabbits & had several as a kid. My bunnies loved when we'd cut off the tops of carrots to feed them. I recently found some old photos of my rabbits, they were so sweet!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  25. I've always loved rabbits & had several as a kid. My bunnies loved when we'd cut off the tops of carrots to feed them. I recently found some old photos of my rabbits, they were so sweet!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  26. Our rescue rabbit used to get pellets (half a scoop) and a balanced selection of greens (but not too many = runs).

    People often have no idea what to feed a rabbit AND critically, exactly how much space a rabbit needs. Rabbits have, I found out when I tended rescue bunnies, lotd of personality. They can be cheeky, fun, manic, morose and lots of fun to have around. Lops in particular were always popular around children.

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  27. Oh my poor rabbits. I just gave them boring lettuce, one type in those days, pellets and carrots as a treat. then they ate some grass. Thanks for this info.

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  28. My son's rabbit loves all of the things you mentioned! I think we may need to adjust the ratio of hay and pellets we give her though. Thank you for this information.

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  29. Things have changed since I was a kid. We mostly fed our rabbits pellets and greens we would pick around the yard, or from the garden in the summer. Dandelion greens were a favorite. I used to love feeding them to our bunnies and watching the cute way that they would eat them; drawing them into their mouths while munching away!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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  30. I had two rabbits (and lots of other pets) growing up, and I love them. Thanks for this wonderfully informative post about feeding bunnies a healthy diet. :)

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  31. This really makes me want a bunny. Information has really evolved since my owning one as a child. It's good to know the pellets are treats. That's something that will stay with me.

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  32. We learned so much from this post! We had no idea about what bunnies eat. We also didn't know there were rabbit breeders. Lulu is just so adorable!

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  33. Very interesting! Rabbits are so unique. I didn't know that there were different kinds of hay. This is information that every rabbit owner really needs to know. Rabbit pellets are sold as if they are a complete diet for rabbits.
    -Purrs from your friends at www.PlayfulKitty.net

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  34. Great info for rabbit parents or those considering a rabbit as a pet. That video of Lulu eating is very cute.

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  35. Great post! I love the video. When we had Patches, we would take her for walks outside. She enjoyed dandelion and honeysuckle for outdoor munching.

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  36. Very interesting and informative. I remember learning about bunnies from a science teacher I used to teach with when I was a middle school math teacher.

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  37. So much wonderful knowledge you're sharing with us! Lulu is obviously in such great hands, living the life a bunny should. And, she's adorable!

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