Bugs Bunny may survive by constantly munching carrots, but your house rabbit needs a more varied diet. Pet rabbits should eat hay, salads and a small amount of pellets—in that order of importance—every day. Pellets can even be considered optional.
The main part of a rabbit’s diet should be timothy hay, grass hay (like orchard grass), or a mix of both. Alfalfa hay should be reserved for bunnies 4 months old or younger, unless your veterinarian advises otherwise.
Your rabbit should have access to hay all day long and most rabbits appreciate having their hay “freshened up” at least once a day by simply adding a fresh handful to the top. You can facilitate your rabbit’s use of his litter box by putting hay in only one end of the box. While it might seem like an overwhelming task to find hay in the city or many suburbs, it isn’t that difficult. Many large pet supply stores sell bags of timothy hay. Larger quantities of fresh hay can be purchased online.
The salad part of a rabbit’s diet should be very fresh (never offer any greens to a rabbit that you wouldn’t eat yourself) and should contain a minimum of three to five different greens. The amount of greens varies according to a rabbit’s weight, but usually a dwarf-sized rabbit should have at least 1-2 cups of greens a day. A large rabbit that weights 6-7 pounds could easily eat 4 to 8 cups of salad per day. Check out the Bunny Salad List for salad suggestions.
Pellets or “rabbit chow” was originally invented for breeders as an inexpensive, quick way to fatten up their animals. That tells you almost all you need to know about pellets. They should be doled out more as a treat than a staple; some veterinarians even advise against the feeding of any pellets at all. In general, pellets should 17% fiber (you can find this listing on the back of the bag).
Avoid pellets that have added ingredients such as birdseed, dried corn or peas, or dried fruit. While such “fiesta” or “gourmet” mixes might look more interesting to humans, they can cause serious—even fatal—problems for rabbits.
Some excellent manufacturers make a timothy-based pellet instead of the more standard alfalfa-based one; timothy-based pellets are usually the best bet for any adult rabbit. Again, portions depend on a rabbit’s size, but suitable servings vary from 1/8 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons a day—with long-haired rabbits like Angoras and Jersey Wooleys needing about double that amount.
Don’t overindulge your rabbit with pellets no matter how much he begs! And do not buy “bunny treats” such as yogurt drops (very high in fat and sugar—they can quickly send a rabbit into GI statis) or granola-type bars covered with birdseed (rabbits can’t digest birdseed). Instead, treat your rabbit to a handful of fresh herbs.
Never feed your rabbit chocolate, cookies, crackers, bread or breadsticks, nuts, pasta or other human treats. Also don’t give them corn, potatoes or onions. And don’t feed them birdseed, yogurt or cat or dog food. These items can be poisonous or cause serious—even fatal—health problems.