Before you decide to get a pet rabbit, it is crucial to know what it eats. After all, once you take your bunny home, you don’t really want to hop to the pet store or go look for some meat to serve Mr. Bugs. Do rabbits even eat meat? Are they carnivores? Or are they omnivores or herbivores?
Rabbits are mainly herbivores. Their digestive systems are optimized to process a plant-based diet, consisting of plants and herbs, which helps them stay healthy. But while rabbits can eat meat if they are very hungry and some females eat their own babies, only feed your rabbit a plant-based diet.
Let’s look at the ideal bunny diet to help you keep your fluffy-eared bestie happy and thriving.
Why Are Rabbits Herbivores?
Before we look at what rabbits eat, here are a few interesting facts about why rabbits have evolved into herbivores:
As part of their defense strategy in the wild, bunnies have a plant-based diet. They can be easy prey animals and leafy greens and herbs are found in open fields where rabbits can detect predators.
Once a bunny spots a threat, it can thump loudly. This action alerts their warren in the underground burrows that there is a predator approaching or it can also tell the threat that the rabbit knows it is there and it won’t catch the bunny easily.
Additionally, a diet consisting of plant matter doesn’t sit heavily in a rabbit’s tummy and it aids their flight reaction and ability to escape danger.
A bunny’s digestive system is equipped to process a fibrous plant-based diet.
The teeth of a rabbit grow constantly. To help wear their teeth down, rabbits eat a plant-based diet since herbs and plants contain a lot of fiber, which assists with baby bunnies shedding their teeth.
Proper Rabbit Diet
Knowing what to feed your bunny helps you take proper care of it, plus it also ensures your bunny stays healthy and this saves on unnecessary vet bills.
Here are the essentials of a rabbit’s diet:
From when your bunny is 3 months old, you can start introducing green foods and vegetables. The best advice here is to not just give your bunny pal all kinds of leafy greens at once. Introduce one green veggie at a time and monitor your bunny for a few days to see if there are any potential allergies.
Eventually, within a few months, leafy greens should make up 75% of your bunny’s diet. So this amounts to about 1 packed cup of green leaves per 2 pounds of bunny body weight per day.
Some of the greens below are higher in oxalic acid, and should thus be given in limited amounts. Only add one part of these leafy greens to your bunny’s diet daily vs two parts from the low oxalic acid greens.
Here’s a list of green foods (leafy greens and herbs) you can feed your bunny:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens (high in oxalic acid)
- Beet greens (high in oxalic acid)
- Sprouts (can be high in oxalic acid depending on when they’ve sprouted)
- Swiss chard (high in oxalic acid)
- Radish tops (high in oxalic acid)
- Bok Choy
- Parsley (high in oxalic acid)
- Spinach (high in oxalic acid)
- Lettuce (not iceberg lettuce)
- Peppermint leaves
- Raspberry leaves
- Dandelion leaves
- Cucumber leaves
- Dill leaves
- Fennel (the base and leafy tops)
As mentioned above, start introducing veggies into your rabbit’s diet when they are 3 months old. It is best to introduce this one by one, carefully watching out for allergies.
Vegetables should only account for about 15% of a rabbit’s daily diet, so that is 1 tablespoon for every 2 pounds of body weight.
Here’s a list of veggies you can feed your bunny:
- Broccoli stems and leaves
- Peapods (the flat ones without large peas)
- Edible flowers, such as roses, pansies, hibiscus, and nasturtiums
- Brussel sprouts
- Zucchini squash
- Summer squash
- Bell peppers
You can also include fruits in your rabbit’s diet. These should not be more than 10% of a rabbit’s daily diet, so that equates to 1 teaspoon for every 2 pounds of body weight.
Wash the fruit before feeding it, and for most fruit, you can leave the skin on.
Here’s a list of fruits you can feed your bunny:
- Apples (without seeds and stem)
- Cherries (without the pits)
- Papaya or pawpaw
- Berries (fresh)
- Pineapple (no skin)
- Banana (no peel)
- Star fruit
Your fluffball needs a fresh supply of hay, 24/7. For a younger than a 7-month-old bunny, use Alfalfa hay. For adult rabbits, you can use oat or timothy hay.
You may wonder what are the benefits of rabbits eating so much hay? Easy! Hay provides sufficient roughage that:
- Helps prevent intestinal blockages
- Reduces hairballs
- Improves dental health
Pellets form part of the diet essentials for kittens since the concentrated nutrients found in them help the babies to grow healthily. Ensure that the pellets contain a minimum of 18% fiber content.
As your bunny matures, add more hay and leafy greens to their diet. You can still include pellets but limit the daily amount.
Your pet bunny also needs to have fresh, clean water. You can ensure this by changing out the water at least once daily and thoroughly rinsing the water containers every week.
Fruit can form part of the treats you feed to your rabbit but do so sparingly as fruits are naturally higher in sugar. Too much fruit and your bunny could become obese.
Other treats you can give your rabbit during training (or just because) include oats and barley. But again, these are also high in calories, so don’t over-treat your rabbit.
Not necessarily part of a bunny’s diet, but since we are talking about edible items… You should also add chew sticks, untreated gnaw wood, untreated wicker, and cardboard tubes to help prevent your bunny’s teeth from overgrowing and to maintain good dental health.
Can a Rabbit Eat Meat?
Firstly, never ever feed your pet rabbit meat. Yes, your fluffy long-eared pal may steal a bit of bacon off your plate and yum yum away, but that doesn’t mean it is okay to add animal protein to its diet.
Yes, you read correctly. Rabbits can eat meat, and some mother rabbits eat their kittens (or baby rabbits); however, this is rare. Bunnies only eat meat when they are very hungry and there are no plant-based materials around for them to feed on.
Furthermore, a bunny’s digestive system isn’t optimized to process meat. It doesn’t have the fiber they need, and there are precious little nutrients in animal protein.
They can get sick from eating even a small amount of meat. Expect loose stool and a possible dead bunny if you feed your rabbit meat.
What Foods Are Dangerous to Rabbits?
There is quite a lot of food that’s dangerous to feed your bunny as it can them ill, so avoid feeding your fluffball:
- Iceberg lettuce
- And more!
Knowing what to feed and what not to feed helps you take better care of your bunny so that it can remain healthy and be your bestie for a long time.
Do stick to the diet guidelines outlined above; to recap:
- Leafy greens should make up 75% of your bunny’s daily diet; this is 1 packed cup per 2 pounds of bunny body weight.
- Be careful of greens that are high in oxalic acid and don’t overfeed these.
- Veggies should make up 5% of a rabbit’s daily diet; this is 1 tablespoon for every 2 pounds of body weight.
- Fruits should be given sparingly and only as treats. This should account for less than 10% of your rabbit’s daily diet, or 1 teaspoon per 2 pounds of body weight
- Ensure your bunny has fresh hay and clean water daily.
- Add chewable items to help maintain dental health.
- Pellets are a bigger part of a kitten’s diet than that of a mature rabbit.