SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

What to feed your rabbits

Hay and grass should form the basis (80%) of your rabbits’ diet. The remainder of your rabbits’ diet should be fresh vegetables (15%) and a small amount of pellets (around 5%).

Hay

  • Hay is a vital part of a rabbit’s diet (do not confuse hay with straw which can be used for bedding only).
  • Provide a good-sized handful of fresh hay per rabbit every day.
  • Hay provides fibre and helps to wear down a rabbit’s teeth.
  • Purchase fresh hay from feed stores or some pet shops.
  • Make sure that they hay is not damp, dusty or mouldy as this can cause respiratory illness and other health problems.


Grass and garden greens

  • Rabbits love grass, dandelion leaves, thistle/puha, plantain leaves and dock leaves.
  • Ensure that any leaves or plants given to or accessible to the rabbits have not been sprayed with poison or pesticides.
  • Rabbits love fresh herbs which provide health benefits. Check that the herbs you have are suitable for rabbits before giving them.


Fresh vegetables


Pellets

  • Pellets that contain dried fruits, nuts, grains, and coloured pieces made from fat, sugar, and salt should be avoided (these are sometimes called ‘muesli mix’).
  • Choose pellets with a high fibre content (>15%) and less protein than fibre.
  • The SPCA or your veterinarian can recommend a good pellet food for rabbits.
  • Refer to the feeding instructions on the bag.
  • Overfeeding of pellets is a common cause of obesity in rabbits.


Treats and fruit

  • Fruit and special rabbit treats are high in sugar and/or salt so should be avoided or only given occasionally.


Foods to avoid

While many fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit are suitable for your rabbit, there are some foods that should be fed in only very small amounts and some that must be avoided altogether. These include the following:

  • Use kale, spinach and silver beet sparingly.
  • Some fruit tree branches and leaves are suitable for rabbits to eat, but not all. Stick to apple, ash-tree, birch, hawthorn, hazel, hazelnut, juniper, maple, pear, pine, poplar, rose, spruce and willow branches.
  • Give carrots only as treats because these are high in starch.
  • Celery must be cut into 1cm pieces before being given because larger pieces can get caught in rabbits’ intestines.
  • Never feed your rabbit processed foods intended for humans, such as: chocolate, cookies, crackers, cereal, yoghurt, milk, pasta, or bread.

Water and bowls

  • Fresh water must always be available and be replaced daily.
  • Use heavy containers for food and water to avoid spillage, alternatively use a pet sipper bottle, or containers that clip to the cage.


Changing foods

  • Introduce a new food or a change to your rabbits’ diet gradually to avoid digestive problems.
  • When introducing any new food, always do so slowly over a few weeks to avoid digestive upsets. If the new food causes diarrhoea, stop feeding the item immediately.
  • Rabbits under 12 weeks old have particularly sensitive stomachs, so new foods should not be introduced before this age. This also prevents diarrhoea which can be fatal at a young age.

Download our Rabbit Care Brochure (PDF)

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