Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits

Contributor: Mychelle Blake
Rabbit in a cage

If you know the proper care and feeding of pet rabbits, you can expect your pet to live a long and happy life. Rabbits can be wonderful companions if you are prepared to give them the attention needed. Learn more about their needs.

What to Feed Pet Rabbits

Rabbits are herbivores, which means they eat plant-based foods. A good rabbit diet includes water, hay, fresh vegetables and fruit, and specially made rabbit food pellets. Feed your young rabbits pellets, and then gradually increase the amount of fresh vegetables and hay you give them. The pellets are vitamin rich and high in fiber. Water should be available at all times. Make sure the vegetables, fruit, hay, and any outdoor plants your pet may graze on are pesticide free.

Feeding Your Rabbit Vegetables

Some vegetables can be fed daily and others should be fed every few days. You should feed your rabbit a mix of vegetables to provide variety. Some vegetables you can feed your rabbit daily include:

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beet tops
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Bok choy
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Butter lettuce
  • Carrot tops
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Clover sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Fennel
  • Green and red leaf lettuce
  • Green bell peppers
  • Mint
  • Okra
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Pea pods
  • Peppermint (the leaves, not the candy!)
  • Radicchio
  • Radish tops and sprouts
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • Wheat grass
  • Zucchini

Vegetables that should be fed every few days or more include:

bunny eating broccoli
  • Broccoli stems and leaves
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Clover
  • Collard, dandelion and mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Feeding Your Rabbit Fruit

Rabbits have sensitive stomachs so each type of fruit should be gradually added to your rabbit's diet to reduce the chance for diarrhea. Fruits that are safe to feed occasionally are:

  • Apples (remove the seeds)
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries (remove the pits)
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

How Much to Feed Your Adult Rabbit

Rabbits should have access to hay always as it should be around 80 to 90% of their daily diet. Their daily portion of rabbit pellets should be about 1/4 cup. Smaller dwarf rabbits under 6 pounds should receive half that amount per day. While you would think larger breeds of rabbits will need a larger serving of pellets per day, they, in fact, should eat about the same amount as a regular sized rabbit. Rabbits should receive fresh fruits and vegetables in the following amounts:

  • Feed daily a maximum of two cups of mixed vegetables per average-sized rabbit and one cup for dwarf bunnies
  • Feed fruit once or twice a week based on a ratio of one to two tablespoons per five pounds of rabbit body weight.

Feeding Baby Rabbits

Rabbits weaned from their moms at the age of eight weeks should be freed fed rabbit pellets and alfalfa hay until they are three months old. At this point, you can begin slowly adding vegetables in. Only add one type of vegetable in and monitor the bunnies for any signs of diarrhea. Once your rabbit is seven months old, he can start to have unlimited access to timothy hay and you can wean them off the alfalfa and reduce their pellets to a 1/2 cup per day for every six pounds of their weight. You can also start introducing them to fruit at a rate of one or two ounces a day, and as with vegetables, start with one type of fruit at a time. Once they hit one year of age, you can move them to their regular adult diet.

Pet Rabbit Housing

If your rabbit will be an outdoor pet, purchase or make a rabbit hutch. If you choose to house train your rabbit, buy a small floor cage that is made for indoor purposes. This type of cage also acts as a litter box for the rabbit. The cage is over the litter box for easy cleaning. Once the rabbit becomes used to her cage, you can leave the door open and she will leave the cage and come back to eat, sleep and defecate once she is house trained.

Dental Health for Your Pet Rabbit

Rabbit teeth continue to grow all through their lives, so they need to chew to keep their teeth healthy and at the proper length. Provide your pet with chewing blocks purchased at your local pet supply so you can be sure the wood is free from any chemical treatments. You'll also want to look at your pet's teeth periodically to check for malocclusions. A malocclusion occurs when teeth overgrow and no longer fit together as they should. This condition can ultimately result in a rabbit being unable to eat, so it's best to check periodically and consult your vet if something doesn't look right.

Facts About Pet Rabbits

Rabbits have always been popular as outdoor pets kept in cages, but they are now popular as house trained indoor pets. Domesticated rabbits are similar to cats in that they are generally clean and can be house trained to defecate in a litter box. They are also like puppies because they like to chew and nibble on anything near the ground such as electrical cords, toys, furniture and draperies. Rabbits will mark their territory with urine if they are not litter box trained. Both house rabbits and outdoor rabbits need early and continued socialization or they will become skittish, moody, difficult to hold and may bite. The following additional rabbit facts will help you understand what to expect:

  • Pet rabbits can live up to 15 years with the proper care, but the average lifetime is six to eight years.
  • The female is called a doe, and the male is called a buck.
  • The female reaches sexual maturity and can have a litter as early as four months old while the male reaches sexual maturity at around five months old.
  • Baby rabbits are called kits.
  • You can have your rabbit spayed or neutered.
  • Spayed and neutered rabbits make better pets because they are less aggressive, become more docile, and are less territorial.
  • Rabbits can make noises such as a growl or a squeal.
  • The next Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rabbit is 2023, followed by 2035.
  • Rabbits require your time and attention or they will become wild.
  • Children should be supervised around a pet rabbit.
  • Rabbits can have a heart attack if they become extremely frightened.

Join a Pet Rabbit Group

Serious pet rabbit owners should check into joining an organization such as the House Rabbit Society to get support and knowledge from other pet rabbit owners. These types of societies help rescue domesticated rabbits from homes and shelters when people do not want them anymore. These groups also help educate future pet owners on the proper care and feeding of pet rabbits.

It Takes a Real Commitment

The care and feeding of pet rabbits is a fairly simple yet rewarding job. However, it does take dedication to keep up with that care week after week and, ultimately, year after year. With the proper care and feeding of pet rabbits, you can expect your rabbit to become sociable, docile and even huggable. He may even sit on your lap just like a lap dog. Just be sure you can make the commitment to provide him with everything he needs, and he'll reward you with warm and fuzzy companionship.

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Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits