If you have decided to get a rabbit as a pet, one of the first questions most people have is what to feed them. Many people will tell you that rabbits are herbivores, and they are correct. Your rabbit will stick to plants when it comes to meals, but there are plenty of things to consider when it comes to creating a healthy diet for your rabbit.
Keep reading while we discuss the best foods to feed your rabbit and the dangers of eating meat. We’ll also cover plants that can be poisonous to your rabbits so you can be confident you are providing your pet with a healthy and balanced meal.
What Is an Herbivore?
Herbivores are animals, like the rabbit, that only eat plant material and do not have a digestive system capable of breaking down the complex proteins in meat. Other herbivores include the camel, cow, deer, elephant, goat, horse, iguana, and zebra. These animals eat a variety of plants, algae, fruits, and vegetables.
What Happens If a Rabbit Eats Meat?
Rabbits don’t have the digestive system to break down the complex proteins in meat, so they take a long time to digest and might even cause a blockage of the intestines. It can also cause an upset stomach, which will affect your rabbit’s behavior. Fortunately, rabbits don’t look at meat as food, so they are unlikely to eat it and probably won’t like it if they do.
I’ve Seen Rabbits Eating Meat in The Wild
If you saw a rabbit eating meat in the wild, there is a good chance you were looking at a hare. Some hare species, particularly the wide-ranging snowshoe hare, can eat small amounts of meat on occasion when food supplies are scarce. Some rabbits might like to chew on the meat because of the texture but will spit it out instead of swallowing.
What Do Rabbits Eat?
Your rabbit will require a never-ending supply of Timothy to stay healthy. Timothy hay is an excellent source of fiber, keeping the digestive system in optimal condition, and it also helps keep rabbits’ teeth at a manageable length. Rabbit teeth can grow almost 5 inches per year, so all kinds of problems can occur if your rabbit can’t grind them down with hay.
Foods You Can Provide Every Day
Besides Timothy hay, there are several fruits and vegetables that you can provide your rabbit as a stand-alone treat or mixed in with hay.
- Bell peppers
- Most herbs
- Most kinds of lettuce
- Radish tops
- Brussel sprouts
- Carrot tops
Food You Can Give a Few Times a Week
This next group of foods is healthy and nutritious, but they can lead to digestive problems if you provide them too often. Most experts recommend serving these foods no more than three times per week and keeping a close eye on your rabbit to see if he has any adverse reactions.
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Most flowers
Most fruits contain too much sugar to allow your pet to eat them every day. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, which cause several other health problems. It’s best to use fruit as a treat and only give it occasionally and in tiny quantities.
What Foods Should I Avoid Giving My Rabbit?
As we mentioned earlier, you should avoid giving your rabbit any meat because they will have a hard time digesting it, but several plant-based foods can also be harmful to your pet.
- Macadamia nuts
- Most evergreens
- Sweet potato leaves
- Potato leaves
- Tulip bulbs
- Iceberg lettuce
- Many more
Should I Give My Rabbit Commercial Pellets?
Yes, we recommend making rabbit pellets a regular part of your pet’s diet because they will help ensure it gets all of the nutrients it requires to stay healthy. Most experts recommend a diet of 70%–75% Timothy hay, 20% rabbit pellet, and the remainder filled with fresh greens. Choose a brand of pellets that does not contain any artificial colors or chemical preservatives.
What Is the Correct Portion Size for Greens?
We recommend 1 cup of fresh greens per 2 pounds of body weight per day. You can feed them in a single large serving or spread throughout the day. Substitute everyday foods for one of the other types every few days to add variety to your pet’s diet.
Your rabbit is an herbivore that will require plenty of Timothy hay to keep its teeth under control, so keep plenty in its cage at all times. You can make a salad out of the greens and pellets or keep them separate depending on how your rabbit likes to eat. As long as you stick to the guide we’ve provided, your pet should receive a well-balanced diet with plenty of variety without weight gain.
We hope you have enjoyed reading and have learned something new. If we have helped improve your pet’s diet, please share our answer to if rabbits are herbivores on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image Credit: Rabbitti, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.