Rabbit Diet Information
The ideal diet for a mature pet rabbit should comprise ad lib hay, grass, a wide variety of vegetables and fruit and a small quantity of well formulated dry food. Hay and Grass Hay and grass should form the major part of your pet’s food. Hay should be fresh and sweet smelling, as rabbits do not find mouldy food any more appetising than we do! If your rabbit is used to eating mostly dry food, introduce more hay whilst gradually reducing the dry food. Grass is the most natural food for rabbits so allow them as large a run in the garden as you can to ensure free access to it. Do not let them eat grass or other foods that may have been sprayed with chemicals such as pesticides or fertilisers.
There are many different types of fruit and vegetable that rabbits love. A few to avoid are peas and beans, potatoes and white varieties of lettuce. Apart from these most vegetables are suitable although some should not be given too frequently or in excessive quantities. If your rabbit is not used to a lot of different vegetables, as with the hay, gradually introduce new varieties and larger amounts. By keeping the vegetables varied you will reduce the risk of overdoing any particular one, you should also find it easier to see if any particular thing causes digestive upsets.
Generally small amounts of fruit are fine, but bananas and grapes can be addictive! Many rabbits enjoy herbs such as parsley, basil and mint. The palatability and vitamin content of greens is best when they are fresh. Wash off any dirt and scrub well to reduce chemical residues on non-organic produce. Ultimately your rabbit should be eating one tightly packed cup full of greens daily for each kilogram it weighs. Some suggestions: kale, beet tops, carrots, carrot tops, parsley, dandelions, chard, spinach, cabbage, green lettuce, mint, basil, sweet peppers, broccoli, sprouts, berries, apples, pears etc.
There are many different pellets and mixes sold for rabbits. Mature pet rabbits need far less protein than those produced commercially so breeder and high performance types of pellets are unsuitable. Aim to find a 12-14% protein level. High levels of starchy things such as peas and beans should be avoided. Many mixes have small pellets that contain the vitamin mix. If your rabbit picks these out and leaves them, use an extruded feed or one in which the vitamins are mixed throughout. Most pet rabbits eat more dry food than they should. This may be because it is all they are offered or because they are familiar with it and it is easy to eat. These animals may become overweight and lethargic. Generally the dry food should be reduced to about ¼ cup for every 2kg body weight daily. The rest of the intake should then be hay, grass and greens.
Animal fats, sugar and starches are not good for rabbits, so giving things such as bread, sweet biscuits, chocolate or some commercially available chews can actually be detrimental. If your pet is addicted to any of these things, gradually reduce and then cut them out completely, substituting something healthier such as a piece of wood to chew or a piece of apple or carrot.
Sour food is not only unpalatable, but attracts flies and taints any fresh food placed with it so be sure to remove any uneaten food and clean bowls daily. Water should also be replaced daily. In this way you will be able to see any changes in your pet’s intake, which may be an early indicator of ill health.