Feeding your rabbits
Food plays a really important part in your rabbits' health and wellbeing. It’s best for rabbits to stick to a diet that’s as healthy as possible to help them live a long and healthy life.
The wrong diet can cause all sorts of health problems, such as dental disease, gut stasis and obesity. Keeping their diet as natural as possible will help prevent dental problems and keep them a healthy weight. Rabbits need lots of good quality foods to give them all the nutrients they need.
The best diet for your bunnies is one that’s as close to a wild rabbit’s diet as possible. Our vets recommend the following diet alongside constantly available fresh drinking water:
- At least their own body size in good quality hay each day (so if you put the daily amount of hay next to your rabbits, it should be at least as big as them). As a rule, either fresh hay or growing grass (not grass clippings) should always be available.
- An adult-sized handful of suitable fresh greens morning and evening – find out which vegetables are safe for rabbits.
- Just a tablespoon of rabbit nuggets once daily (or twice daily if the rabbits weigh over 3.5kg). Don’t feed a muesli style diet.
You can download our feeding guide for extra tips on what you should and shouldn't be feeding your rabbits.
Do my rabbits need a food bowl?
No, rabbits don’t need food bowls to eat from. In fact, as rabbits in the wild spend a lot of their time foraging for food, being fed from a bowl isn’t always best for your rabbits. You might want to try scattering their food in a clean area of their cage or in a box of hay so they have to search to find their pellets or greens. If you want to use food bowls, make sure they’re cleaned every day and try to have at least two bowls in different areas of their enclosure with their food split between them. This way, you can be certain your rabbits won’t stop each other from getting the tastiest treats and will mean they have to get exercise by hopping between the bowls to find their dinner.
Can I feed my rabbits fruit?
It’s OK to feed your rabbits a little fruit every now and again as a treat, but remember that it’s high in sugar and shouldn’t be part of their daily diet. Apples, grapes, pears, plums and strawberries are all safe for your rabbits, in small amounts (for example, 1/8th of an apple or pear, given as a treat).
Although rabbits love carrots, they contain a lot of sugar and calories but not any good fibre to help keep their guts moving. Like fruit, carrots are OK but only occasionally as a treat. It's best to stick to other veg to keep your bunnies healthy.
What's the difference between bedding hay and feeding hay?
Although they’re both essentially dried grass, bedding hay and feeding hay are very different. Feeding hay is fresher, smells more fragrant and is usually greener than bedding hay. Feeding hay tastes better (for rabbits!) and has far more nutrients in it. Bedding hay is usually quite dry – ideal for getting cosy but not so great for nibbling, though your rabbits might sometimes snack on some. It won’t do them any harm as long as they have plenty of feeding hay available too.
My rabbits' food looks boring
Your rabbits’ food might look boring to us, but for them it’s perfect. In the wild, rabbits spend more than half their time feeding. Their ideal food takes a long time to eat and has a lot of fibre, helping to keep their guts moving. Did you know that if a rabbit’s guts slow down or stop it can make them seriously ill?
Because a rabbit’s teeth keep growing their whole life, their diet needs to not only keep their stomach healthy but also help them to wear down their teeth. So by providing lots of hay and other high fibre foods, you’ll be keeping their guts and teeth in good condition as well as keeping them entertained for longer.
Our vets don't recommend muesli-style mixes for your rabbits. Muesli-style rabbit food contains a mixture of seeds and flakes and can cause serious health problems because:
- Like us, rabbits tend to pick out and eat the less healthy, sugary (tastier) bits. These parts also tend to be lower in fibre and higher in calories so can lead to weight gain and obesity.
- Muesli mixes can lead to dental disease. Eating muesli often leads to their teeth becoming curved or too long (even if rabbits are also fed hay) which causes serious problems.
- Rabbits don’t tend to eat the bits that contain lots of fibre, which can cause gut problems.
Sadly, our research shows 21% of rabbit owners are still feeding their rabbits muesli-style mixes. If you feed your rabbits muesli-style food, we recommend slowly changing their diet over to a healthier option of hay with small amounts of rabbit pellets or nuggets.
Can I feed my rabbits treats?
If you want to give your rabbits something special, or something exciting for them to forage for, then a tasty treat is perfect. We'd recommend using some rabbit-safe fresh veggies (remember to mix up which veg you use) as these are both tasty and healthy for our bunnies.
You can buy rabbit treats from pet shops, but do be aware that, just like the treats we give ourselves, these often have a lot of sugar in them. This can be bad for bunny teeth and digestion as well as their waistlines! Always try to feed your bunnies a natural treat as part of their everyday food allowance. Find out which veggies are rabbit-safe. Why not hide your bunnies’ favourite veg in a pile of hay for them to enjoy finding and digging out.
Obesity in rabbits
Rabbits need to stay active and eat a diet appropriate for them. Rabbits with the wrong diet can also lose weight, which can be just as dangerous.
Pets that have a poor diet can put on weight and even become obese. This often leads to health problems in the long term and will have a big impact on your rabbits’ quality of life.
Download our rabbit body shape guide for tips on keeping your bunnies slim and healthy:
The diet recommended above may be different to the way you are feeding your rabbits at the moment. If so, you should change their food. But don’t change it suddenly, as this can upset their digestive system and stop them eating.
Adjust your rabbits’ diet slowly over at least two to four weeks. Feed a small amount of the new food on the first day, mixed into their normal food. Gradually increase how much of the new food you are feeding and reduce the old food day-by-day until your rabbits have adjusted to their new diet. Constant access to a large exercise run on grass will encourage rabbits to graze, while also letting them get the exercise they need.
If your rabbits have never eaten hay before, it can sometimes be a bit of a task to convince them to eat it, but it’s well worth it for your rabbits’ long term health. Offer it to them fresh every day and try different types of hay to tempt them. Ask your vet for advice if you’re struggling to get your rabbits to eat hay.
If you’re not sure how to change your rabbit's diet or what to feed them, ask your vet or vet nurse, they’ll be happy to help you.
Download our handy guide to your rabbit's diet and fitness, packed with the information you need to keep your rabbit's weight in check.
Read expert advice on what you should and shouldn't be feeding your rabbits, with extra advice on keeping their teeth healthy.