Sunrise Pet Clinic: Educational Information

Sunrise Pet Clinic Logo Proper Nutrition for Your Pet Rabbit

Your pet rabbit is a strict herbivore. He or she (from here on referred to as "she") has no need for animal-based food in the diet. Because she has a smaller body size than, say, a horse, she needs a great deal of fiber to keep her intestinal tract moving properly. Otherwise they digest food very similarly. Interestingly her intestinal tract, specifically the cecum, then uses the non-fiber portion of the food to produce essential nutrients.

Your Rabbit Absorbs Nutrients In Two Ways:

  1. Absorbs from the intestinal tract.
  2. Ingestion of cecotropes (commonly called "night stools") that are actually produced at various times of the day. They are greener and covered with mucous. She will eat them directly from her rectum as she produces them. This is normal and necessary.
Therefore, your rabbit will eat a large volume of food throughout the day and night. She will produce certain feces that she will eat and certain harder, drier feces that are full of the non-digestible fibers, keeping her intestines moving properly.

A sick rabbit is often an improperly fed rabbit. We can avoid many of the problems we see in our pet rabbits by feeding them properly. The most important part of your rabbit's diet is fiber, which is not provided in most pelleted feeds. These feeds were made to fatten production rabbits for meat. They were not made to sustain a rabbit for her natural life span. If you are feeding very few pellets now, keep it that way. If you are feeding a great deal of pellets now, especially a pellet mix with many starchy grains and dried vegetables in it, you will need to change that gradually over time. Many of our pet rabbits are obese and sluggish. Improper nutrition is the cause.

Normal Feed For Your Adult Rabbit:

  1. Free-choice grass hays such as timothy or oat. Avoid alfalfa, as it is higher in calories and calcium.
  2. Pelleted feed: no more than 1/8 cup per 5 pounds of normal, lean body weight.
  3. Note: rabbits under 6-8 months of age can have free-choice pellets but need hay as well.
  4. Three types of tough fibrous greens per day at 1 heaping cup total per 5 pounds lean body weight. Examples: kale, collards, beet tops, carrot tops, parsley, dandelion greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli greens, escarole, alfalfa sprouts, etc. Avoid beans, peas, starchy greens, and wimpy light-colored greens.
  5. Any high-fiber fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, papaya, and pineapple in small amounts. Avoid high-sugar fruits such as bananas and grapes. Feed no more than 1-2 tablespoons per 5 pounds lean body weight per day.
Please Note:
  • If your rabbit is not producing feces, she is not eating.
  • You should not starve a rabbit to change her diet or she will get sick.
  • Always provide fresh water in a container that she can access, such as a heavy crock or a Lixit bottle.
  • Avoid processed human foods such as cereals and crackers.
  • Lactobacillus is not a normal inhabitant of the rabbit GI tract; therefore, supplementing with it will not help her in any way.
  • If your rabbit is eating the diet above, she should need no supplements.
  • Your rabbit also needs play and interaction time with you. Living solely in a cage is not good for her.
  • Always spay or neuter your rabbit. Diseases of the reproductive tract can be fatal.

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