Food plays a really important part in your rabbits' health and wellbeing. The wrong diet can cause all sorts of health problems, such as dental issues and obesity.
The best diet for your bunnies is one that is as close as possible to a wild rabbit’s diet; 90% high quality feeding hay or grass and a small amount of pellet-style rabbit food and fresh vegetables.
Feeding hay is different to bedding hay. It is fresher, smells much more strongly and is usually greener in colour. Bedding hay can be more dusty and is much lower in nutrients and isn’t as tasty.
A natural diet
It’s important to make sure your rabbits get all the nutrients they need in their food. That’s why we recommend feeding them high quality rabbit nuggets, available from pet shops and our PDSA Pet Store. On top of this, give your bunnies a diet that’s as close as possible to their natural food.
In the wild, rabbits spend more than half their time feeding. Hay, grass and a small amount of root vegetables are ideal foods for rabbits. They take time to eat and contain a lot of fibre, which is good for your rabbit’s digestion, and helps wear down their teeth, which keep growing for their whole life.
Although rabbits love carrots, they contain a lot of sugar, which is bad for your rabbits’ teeth. Carrots are okay every now and again as a treat.
A warning on ‘muesli- style’ mixes
Muesli-style mixes – a mix of seeds and flakes – are still a common rabbit food in the UK. Unfortunately, it causes really serious health problems in rabbits as they tend to only eat the sugary bits. This type of food can cause:
- Problems with your rabbit’s teeth: it doesn’t naturally wear down your rabbit’s teeth so they can become overgrown and cause really painful problems.
- Lack of fibre: Rabbits usually don’t eat the bits that contain lots of fibre. This can cause them gut problems.
Sadly, our research shows that 25% of rabbits in the UK are still fed muesli-style food. If your rabbits are one of the 25% we recommend carefully changing their diet and introducing new, healthier foods.
Introducing new food to your rabbits
Making a sudden change to your rabbits’ diet can make them go off their food completely. This is a serious problem for rabbits, as their gut should be working constantly.
If you want to change your rabbit’s diet it’s much better to adjust their food slowly over 2-4 weeks. Feed a small amount of the new food on the first day, with their normal food. Gradually increase how much of the new food you are feeding and reduce the old diet day-by-day until your rabbits have got used to their new diet.
If you’re not sure how to change your rabbit's diet or what to feed them, ask your vet or vet nurse, and they’ll be happy to help you.
How Much Should I Feed My Rabbits?
Our vets advise that rabbits should be fed:
- At least their body size in high quality feeding hay each day.
- A tablespoon of commercial rabbit nuggets once a day for rabbits under 3.5kg, and twice a day for rabbits over 3.5kg.
- A small amount of suitable fresh greens, morning and evening. Read more about the vegetables which are safe for your rabbits to eat.
- It’s okay to feed your rabbits fruit but it should be a treat as its high in sugar. Apples, grapes, pears, plums and strawberries are suitable in small amounts.
Keeping your rabbits' weight in check
It sounds obvious, but pets who eat too much and don’t exercise enough, get fat! If you feed your rabbits a lot of treats as well as their normal food, most of the extra calories will turn into fat. Rabbits don’t need treats to know you love them: providing them with lots of things to do and spending time with them is what they enjoy most.
Another top tip is to keep a food diary for a week, and take it with you when you go to see your vet. This can help you spot where your rabbits are getting the extra calories, and makes it easier to cut them out without a special diet.
Download our handy guide to checking your rabbit’s body shape and making sure they’re not carrying extra weight. It also includes an example food diary to help you keep track of your rabbit's diet.