gray rabbit sitting on hay
Hay rules a rabbit’s diet, so keep plenty of hay around 24/7 for your pal. Kdsphotos/pixabay.com

Is there anything cuter than seeing a rabbit chomp down on some hay or a leaf of romaine? Those wiggling whiskers and mobile cheeks are too adorable. But if you share your life with a rabbit, you’ve probably wondered if you are feeding your furry friend right. What do rabbits eat?

Rabbits And Hay

Rabbits are herbivores and grazers. This means that they get nutrition from plants and need to eat frequently. What do rabbits eat? Hay! Hay is the main food for rabbits. Healthy adult rabbits can never eat too much grass hay. Beyond the nutrition rabbits get from hay, it is critical because chewing it helps to wear down their constantly growing teeth. Overgrown teeth cause lots of health issues, so keeping them in check is vital.

Did you catch the term grass hay? That’s important because many different types of hay are available. You can give your bun a variety of hay as long as it’s a grass hay like timothy hay, meadow grass hay, orchard grass hay, oat hay, and others. Uniform pellets can be offered as the daily diet, but fresh hay should also be given for the tooth care benefits. Consult your veterinarian about the best daily diet for your furry friend.

Offer fresh hay daily. One hay to avoid on a daily basis is alfalfa, which is a high-calorie, high-calcium, high-protein hay. Why is it so different from grass hay? Alfalfa is actually a legume, not hay. While alfalfa is tasty and good for baby rabbits or rabbits with some health ailments, alfalfa hay can cause trouble for healthy, adult rabbits. Obesity and urinary stones are two ailments that might develop with too much alfalfa in the diet.

three small rabbits eating veggie
Dark, leafy greens are one of the treats you can offer your rabbit. artelanas/pixabay.com

Water For Rabbits

Water is another must — and lots of it. Rabbits actually need more water, pound for pound, than some other small mammals. Whether you offer water by bowl or bottle, ensure that your rabbit can drink and that the supply is continuous. Check that bowls don’t get emptied or the water doesn’t get soiled and that water bottles don’t get emptied or develop a clogged spout. Your rabbit requires access to fresh, clean water 24/7. Water is so important, that if you notice your rabbit drinking a lot more or a lot less than usual, that’s typically a sign that you need to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Treats For Rabbits

Although rabbits could live on grass hay and water alone, you can add more flavor to their life with green, leafy vegetables and, as treats, some root vegetables or some fruit. Hey!Berries are a manufactured treat that are another tasty option. They provide nutritious foraging, because they are healthy treats that encourage foraging behavior, which also engages the mind.

The House Rabbit Society recommends 1 cup of leafy greens for every 2 pounds of body weight. This means it’s important to know how much your rabbit weighs. Knowing your rabbit’s weight not only helps you know how much to feed, but it’s also good to monitor your buddy’s weight, as changes in weight can signal the need for a vet visit. The fresh greens can be offered all at once or throughout the day.

Treats of root vegetables or fruit should only be offered in small quantities, usually to increase bonding with you or for training. Treats should only be 5 percent of your rabbit’s diet. Not all vegetables are good for rabbits and neither are all fruits, so be sure to check with your veterinarian about what is safe to offer. Meanwhile, you can check out this list of safe fresh foods from the New Zealand SPCA.

Portions should always be small with treats. For example, don’t offer your rabbit an entire banana, only give a small slice. And an entire carrot at once is a no-no. Your bun might want more of these treats, but you must be aware of portion control. Bugs Bunny got the grazing right by eating frequently, but the carrots he ate were completely wrong. Real rabbits do like carrots, but the high sugar content of carrots means this root vegetable must be offered in limited quantity, not at-will.

Bad Treats For Rabbits

Did you notice that safe treats for rabbits do NOT include candy, soda, crackers, chocolate, coffee, pizza, or many foods you might eat? That’s because food with high sugar or high fat are truly junk food for rabbits. They are so small, that even a tiny bit can be bad for them. And some food, like chocolate and caffeine, can even be deadly. Your companion might beg for these, but resist! Be sure to check out the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s list of people foods to avoid feeding pets. And it’s not only “junk food” that you need to worry about. Foods that you might consider healthy, such as avocado, can also be a huge risk.

Nighttime Snacks For Rabbits

Finally, you might or might not see your rabbit eating pellets he or she produced. It might look like your rabbit is eating poop, but that’s not exactly correct. Your bun is actually eating cecotropes.These are nutrient-rich pellets that your rabbit actually needs to ingest to stay healthy. They are typically moist and soft, unlike feces, and rabbits usually pull them from their anus to eat them at night, which is why you may or may not see this event. So don’t freak out if you see this happening; it’s a perfectly normal rabbit habit.

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