Many of us have seen cartoon images of rabbits munching on carrots. But in reality, what do rabbits eat?
It depends on whether the rabbit is a tame pet or a wild creature.
Both wild and domestic rabbits are herbivores. They need to ingest high levels of fiber every day. As well, both tame and wild rabbits need a diverse diet to get the right nutrition.
Wild rabbits spend much of their time foraging for food. In general, they eat:
- and other plants
When it’s available, wild rabbits will also eat fruit like apples that have fallen to the ground.
Any gardener will tell you that rabbits are fond of leafy vegetables and other garden treats. When wild rabbits can get into a garden, they will dig up carrots, sweet potatoes, and nibble the leafy tops of everything else.
Rabbit Digestion: Teeth and Droppings
Rabbit teeth grow rapidly. That’s why they like to chew on tough materials like tree branches or bark. This helps keep their teeth ground down to normal levels.
Although they may gain a little nutrition by chewing like this, it’s more an instinct that leads rabbits to spend a lot of time chewing on things.
Rabbit digestive systems are built to handle fiber in a special way. After all, rabbits eat a lot of fiber.
Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings. One is composed entirely of true waste material. The other contains soft semi-digested nutrients. Rabbits ingest the soft droppings as they are passed in order to further digest this nutritive material.
Rabbit Nutrition: What to Feed a Rabbit
For domestic rabbits, the key to good rabbit nutrition is variety.
The ideal diet for a pet rabbit includes unlimited access to hay. For convenience, most rabbit owners like to use a wall-mounted feeder.
Also include a variety of fresh vegetables. Most pet rabbits should be offered about 2 cups of mixed vegetables each day. Some mixed vegetables that rabbits like to eat are:
- dark lettuce
- mustard greens
You can also give rabbits daily treats like fruit or root vegetables. Most rabbits enjoy apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Strawberries or raspberries also make a great rabbit treat.
Never feed a rabbit beans, nuts, seeds, bread, cereal, corn, rhubarb, peas, or sugary food.
Commercial rabbit foods work well too. Some experts say that providing fresh vegetables, fruits, and hay more closely mimics the wild experience of an untamed rabbit.
There may also be nutritional concerns about the fat or carbohydrate content of some types of commercial foods. However, a commercial pellet food may better provide all needed nutrients. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.