Rabbit Rescue & Rehab
The New York City Chapter of the House Rabbit Society
Basic Feeding Guide
A rabbit’s diet should be made up of fresh grass hay, good quality pellets, fresh leafy greens, and water. Anything beyond that is a “treat” and should be given in limited quantities.
The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is hay. Always order several types of timothy hay. There are many varieties to choose from, and providing two or three types together is more enticing than only one. Your rabbit will quickly let you know which are her favorites. Other grass hays can be added to supplement timothy hay, but avoid clover hay and alfalfa. These are only appropriate for baby or elderly rabbits, and only on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Remember that your rabbit’s GI and dental health depend on eating a lot of hay each day. A rabbit that eats no hay, little hay, or discontinues eating hay must be seen by a rabbit-savvy vet immediately.
Where to purchase hay:
Hay can be purchased online at lower cost than in stores, and is often much fresher as well. Local farms may carry high quality timothy hay, but be sure they have not used toxic pesticides. These are some of our preferred timothy hays:
Small Pet Select: https://shop.smallpetselect.com/
- Use RRR's unique link, and SPS will send us a donation when you order:
American Pet Diner: http://www.americanpetdiner.com/
Oxbow Western Timothy Hay: https://www.chewy.com/
Rabbit Hole Hay: https://www.rabbitholehay.com/
Farmer Dave: https://www.farmerdavepetsupply.com/
What does it mean when a company sells different “cuttings” of timothy hay?
Generally speaking, 1st cut will be highest in fiber and lowest in protein and fat. It is fantastic hay! The big catch: many rabbits find it less enticing, and will not eat 1st cutting, or else they will only eat a small amount. If that is the case for your rabbit, you must find a hay that your rabbit will eat very readily, in very large quantities.
2nd cut hay is most often the answer. Most people will find success with 2nd cut timothy hay. Fat levels are a bit higher, fiber a little bit lower. If your rabbit loves 2nd cutting and eats it readily, great! Stick with it!
Pickier rabbits that need even more encouragement to eat hay in large quantities can try 3rd cut hay. It is very soft and leafy and nutrient dense, but it lacks the superior fiber content of 2nd cutting. Sometimes even mixing 3rd cutting sparingly into your 2nd cutting hay will stimulate your rabbit’s appetite.
*If your rabbit doesn’t seem to like her hay, sometimes the cutting isn’t the problem. Try different varieties of 2nd cutting timothy hay to see if there is one your rabbit loves.*
Pellets should be completely plain; free from seeds, corn, and any colored crunchies. Choose a brand with high fiber and low protein. A rabbit over 6 months of age should eat timothy hay-based pellets. Once you settle on a good brand that your rabbit loves, do not switch indiscriminately, since the change could cause GI upset. Popular pellet brands include Oxbow, Supreme Selective, and Sherwood Pet Health.
Fresh leafy greens are an important part of a rabbit's diet. Select at least three kinds of greens daily, as a variety is necessary in order to obtain necessary nutrients. Only one new type of vegetable should be added at a time, and it should be eliminated if it causes soft stools or diarrhea. If a vegetable does not appear here, do not feed it.
Beet green (tops) *
Carrot tops *
Collard Greens *
Dandelion greens and flowers *
Red or green leaf lettuce
Romaine lettuce *
Greens marked with an * contain Vitamin A. Choose at least one each day.
If your rabbit is a healthy weight and tolerates fruit well, then suitable fruits can be given as a treat once per week. The size of the fruit for an average 5lb rabbit should be no larger than a small slice of banana you might put on your cereal. You should know what type of fruit your rabbit loves. This is important should she need liquid medication or a pill crushed up into it.
Note: Carrots are very high in sugar and should be considered a fruit. They should be given in very limited quantities.
A note of caution on food and treats:
Do not ever feed a rabbit any “people” food, for example: cookies, crackers, bread, cereal, cake, candy, seeds, nuts, oats, etc., unless specifically prescribed by a rabbit savvy veterinarian.
Do not purchase any treats or snacks sold in pet stores. Any seed-covered, colored crunchy treats, yogurt drops are not only unhealthy, but are dangerous for rabbits to ingest. Only fresh food or a couple pellets (like Selective) should be used as a “treat.”
Click below for a Printable PDF of our rabbit-safe greens and fruits list:
What is the Best Diet for a Rabbit? :