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People used to think a rabbit’s diet should consist of a bowl of pellets from the pet store. Now we know better. Here’s how to keep your rabbit happy and well-nourished.
Step 1: Research rabbit needs
Before you bring your rabbit home, research his nutritional needs–along with all his other needs, of course! Reading up-to-date rabbit books, magazines, and websites will explain rabbit nutrition in depth.
Steer clear of books and websites produced by rabbit breeders. They’re most concerned with how to make rabbits grow as fast as possible–not how to keep them as healthy as possible.
Step 2: Offer endless hay
The staple of a rabbit’s diet should be as much clean, high-quality timothy hay as your bunny can put away. Rabbits can’t overfeed on hay, which is best for their tummies, their teeth, and their health.
Your best bet will be to buy your timothy in flakes, half-bales, or full bales. The small bags of hay you can find at most pet stores tend to be very expensive, and aren’t always fresh (but are sometimes your only option — so choose carefully).
Step 3: Use a litter box as a dish
There’s no way around it: hay makes a mess. The easiest way to keep your bunny’s meal in one place is to put it into a large, high-sided litter box lined with newspaper or rabbit litter. Be wary shaved or chipped litter, which may cause respiratory infections.
Step 4: Feed rabbit-sized portions
Every day, give your rabbit a supply of hay that’s about the same volume as his body. He needs extra to dig into and rest on.
Step 5: Change hay box frequently
Unfortunately, most bunnies enjoy eating and pooping at the same time. So change the hay box frequently. If the box is large enough, you can ‘top’ off the existing hay with a new layer for a couple of days.
Speaking of poop, large, dryish droppings are a welcome sign that your bunny is getting plenty of hay.
Step 6: Use pellets as supplements
While not an appropriate entrée, pellets are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Toss a small handful on top of the hay–around two tablespoons for a two- to three-pound rabbit, and around one-quarter cup for a five-pounder.
Alfalfa-based pellets are okay for rabbits that are six-months old or younger. After that, switch to timothy-based pellets. These can be hard to find in pet stores, but many rabbit websites sell them.
Step 7: Offer leafy greens
Rabbits need fresh leafy greens every day. Use about half a cup for a rabbit that’s two pounds or less; about three quarters of a cup for a three- to five-pounder; and about a cup for a rabbit that’s five pounds or more.
Bugs Bunny may love carrots, but they contain too much sugar to be given to your rabbit regularly. Small pieces of carrots are okay for treats once in awhile, though.
Step 8: Hydrate your rabbit
It’s not food, of course, but while we’re on the subject: Make sure your rabbit has plenty of fresh water every day.
Step 9: Offer salt or mineral blocks
You don’t need to put a salt block or mineral block in your bunny’s cage, but it won’t hurt if you do.
Step 10: Keep your bunny happy
Yes, a good complete rabbit diet is more complicated than the old-fashioned bowl of pellets. But if you follow these directions, you’ll be rewarded with a bright-eyed, energetic bunny companion for many happy years.
Did You Know?
The largest rabbit on record weighed an amazing 115 pounds.