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Proper diet for your rabbit

A rabbit's diet should be made up of fresh, good quality pellets, fresh grass hay (timothy, orchard grass, or oat), water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a "treat" and should be given in limited quantities.y.

• Birth to 3 weeks: mother's milk
• 3 to 7 weeks: mother's milk, alfalfa and pellets
• 7 weeks to 7 months: unlimited pellets, unlimited hay 
• 12 weeks: introduce vegetables (one at a time, quantities under 1/2 oz.)

Young Adults (7 months to 1 year)
• Introduce timothy hay, grass hay, and oat hays, decrease alfalfa
• Decrease pellets to 1/2 cup per 6 lbs. body weight
• Increase daily vegetables gradually
• Fruit daily ration no more than 1 oz. to 2 oz. per 6 lbs. body weight 

Young Adults (1 to 5 years)
• Unlimited timothy, grass hay, oat hay
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs. body weight
• Minimum 2 cups chopped vegetables per 6 lbs. body weight
• Fruit daily ration no more than 2 oz. (2 tbs.) per 6 lbs. body weight

Senior Rabbits (Over 6 years)
• If sufficient weight is maintained, continue adult diet
• Frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up
• Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal
• Annual blood workups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits

Hay is essential to a rabbit's health—keeping his digestive system moving—and should be unlimited and available at all times. Only young rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay, and they should be introduced to timothy hay, grass hay and oat hays at the age of 7 months to one year. (Oxbow, Sweet Meadow, American Pet Diner)

Pellets: Fresh, high-fibre (20-25%), low-protein (14-15%) and low-calcium (<1%) pellets should be given in limited quantities depending on the rabbit's age, metabolism and health. Any pet store pellet with colorful treats, corn or seeds should be avoided, as these are added purely to entice the human buying the product, and are unhealthy for your rabbit. (Oxbow, American Pet Diner)

Vegetables: Select at least three kinds of vegetables daily. A variety is necessary in order to obtain the necessary nutrients, with one each day that contains Vitamin A, indicated by an *. Add one vegetable to the diet at a time. Eliminate if it causes soft stools or diarrhea.

Recommended Vegetables: Alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts, Basil, Beet greens (tops)*, Bok choy, Carrot tops, Celery, Cilantro, Chicory, Clover, Collard greens*, Dandelion greens and flowers ((be wary of those found in yards as they may have been treated with pesticides)*, Endive*, Escarole, Fennel, Kale, Mint, Mustard greens*, Parsley*, Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*, Spear/Peppermint leaves, Radicchio, Radish tops, Raspberry leaves, Red or green leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)*, Spinach (!)*, Turnip greens, Watercress*, Wheat grass

(!)=Use sparingly. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time

Treats: Although pet store shelves are full of commercial rabbit treats, they should be avoided and healthy treats should be extremely limited. A healthy treat, for example, could be one baby carrot a day or a thin slice of banana or apple, or a few raisins. Papaya tablets are some rabbits' favorite healthy treat. High-carbohydrate and high-sugar treats can cause health issues including obesity and digestive upset, which can kill a rabbit.

Fresh water should be available at all times either in a crock or water bottle.

See The House Rabbits Society's diet page for more information.

Pyramid artwork ©2007 Mary Ann Maier. Created in consultation with Jennifer Saver, D.V.M.