Best Rabbit Food and Pellets
Buyers Food and Pellet Guide
It can be scary trying to figure out what food and how much of said food is best for your rabbit. There is so much advice out there, and often it contradicts itself, but you do not need to feel so overwhelmed anymore. In this article, you will find a comprehensive review of five of the best rabbit food options out there, and then a complete guide to finding a rabbit food and taking care of all of your rabbit’s nutritional needs. All the information you need to make a confident and educated decision is at your fingertips.
- Oxbow Basics Essentials Adult Rabbit Pet Food is timothy hay based, which is really high in fiber so very good for your rabbit’s digestive tract. It is also designed to be at the optimum protein level to ensure that your rabbit is getting enough protein, but not too much, which is possible for rabbits.
- Each pellet has a 100% uniform formula, which is good because sometimes rabbits can be very picky about what foods they like, and may only eat the pellets that they think tastes better. When rabbits do that, they may miss out on some of the nutrients that they really need to survive. You do not have to worry about that with this food.
- Oxbow food is made with probiotics and chelated minerals right in the food; chelated minerals are easier for your rabbit to absorb and digest than some other options. It is also rich in antioxidants, which are essential for both your rabbit’s health and looks. Beyond that, you will not find any refined sugar or artificial ingredients in the food that rabbits are not meant to be able to digest since they would not find them in the wild.
- This food has natural preservatives mixed into so it can stay fresh longer, but it does not have artificial ingredients or colors. This means that it will stay fresh for a longer period of time, but you are not feeding your rabbit lots and lots of chemicals that have the potential to be harmful to your rabbit.
- In the food, there is an assortment of vegetables, hay (which is high in fiber), other grains, and fruit. Fruit does need to be limited, but these pellets do provide your rabbit with some variety, which is very important for a rabbit as they have lots of specific nutritional needs that must be met. Because of this, however, they cannot guarantee that each pellet is the same, and therefore your rabbit might start to eat selectively and miss out on some of the benefits.
- Beyond the main ingredients, the food has DHA, Omega-3, prebiotics, and probiotics to help your rabbit have a healthy digestive system and healthy teeth. Without healthy teeth, your rabbit may stop eating because it hurts. DHA and Omega-3 are also known to help your rabbit’s eye, heart, and brain function.
Small Pet Select
- This rabbit food is extremely high in fiber as it is based around timothy hay, but they also added all sorts of vitamins and minerals that will help your rabbit look and feel it’s absolute best, because of this, it is a highly supported food by various vets across the country. These vitamins can be beneficial if you are not finding other ways to get them into their diet.
- This food is not sold in stores, but that is because they only make it in smaller batches, so you are ensured fresh pellets. As pointed out later in the guide, feeding your rabbit fresh pellets is the best way to ensure they get the nutrients that they need and that it will be good for their digestive tract.
- It is made by a smaller, family-owned company that is based in the United States. Because it is still on a smaller scale, they may keep themselves to a higher standard and do offer a money-back guaranteed if you are not happy. It can be nice to be able to trust the brand and not just the ingredient list, which you can do more often with smaller companies.
- This brand does have alfalfa in their food, which is good for younger rabbits or those who are underweight, but it can be excessive for regular adult rabbits. Whether or not your animal needs alfalfa is really determined by you and your vet. There is evidence that the alfalfa can help urinary health, which if your rabbit is struggling with that, this food may be best for you and your pet.
- They have a fairly short ingredient list, which can be good because that means what your rabbit is getting is fairly straight forwards. There are lots of timothy hay in the food as it is the second-highest ingredient under alfalfa. Timothy hay is a great source of fiber for your rabbit, which is essential to prevent serious problems such as gastrointestinal stasis.
- Beyond alfalfa and timothy hay, there are vitamins added in to ensure your rabbit’s health. For example, there is vitamin-B, which it is very important that your rabbit maintains proper levels of vitamin B. There are also amino acids in the rabbit food which is highly beneficial to your rabbit’s health as they supply the protein your rabbit needs for energy.
- This rabbit food is promoted for being good on the rabbit’s teeth, which is essential because their teeth never stop growing. If they have a problem with their teeth, they may stop eating completely because it hurts or is just too hard or uncomfortable. If a rabbit does not get fiber, because they are not eating, they are more likely to develop gastrointestinal stasis.
- This rabbit food is higher in natural fiber to promote optimal health in your rabbit. There are also no added sugars, which can be bad for your rabbit. When there are added sugars in food, it can upset their digestive tract and may also cause them to put on a more significant amount of weight. Not having unnatural ingredients is always a significant benefit to rabbit food.
- Finally, this food is designed so that your rabbit will like how it tastes. Rabbits can be picky, and you do not want your rabbit, not eating simply because it does not like the taste of the food. Hopefully, your rabbit will like the taste of this one, while still being provided with all the nutrients and ingredients they need to live healthily.
How to Choose the Best One
1) Consider What is In the Food
When looking at an ingredient list for rabbit food, you want to consider how much of different kinds of ingredients/nutrients are in it. Crude fiber (which is the quantity of indigestible cellulose, pentosans, lignin, etc.) is extremely important for rabbits as it ensures good intestinal health, so rabbit food should have 22% or more. Quality rabbit food should also have around 14% protein, 1% fat, and 1% calcium.
2) Variety is Key
Rabbits need a variety of foods to stay healthy and to ensure that they get all the various nutrients they need to function properly. Their diets should consist of grass/hay, leafy vegetables, pellets, some starchy vegetables, and of course, water (which can be supplied through drinking and some foods.) Rabbits can be susceptible to a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, which usually caused by a lack of fiber. Giving them a variety of healthy foods helps them get what they need to stay healthy.
3) Find Foods Your Rabbit Likes
Yes, just like humans, rabbits can develop preferences for certain food. Your rabbit is more likely to eat all the food and nutrients it needs if it likes what you are feeding it. This is usually a process of trial and error and may take some patience, but it is worth it when you figure out which foods will help you get your rabbit exactly what it needs to be healthy and happy.
Things to Avoid
1) Hamster Food is Not the Same
To some people, it may seem self-explanatory, but when people own multiple animals, it can feel tempting to feed them all the same food wherever possible, but if you have a hamster and a rabbit, you cannot just use the foods interchangeably. Rabbits and hamsters have very different digestive systems and therefore need very different kinds of food. Your rabbit needs high quality and high fiber foods, and your hamster’s food will simply not provide them with that, leading to problems down the road.
2) Not All Vegetables Are Good
When someone is eating a salad, you might call it rabbit food, but the truth is not all vegetables are good for your rabbit, including most lettuces. Lettuce has something called lactucarium in it, which can cause your rabbit to have diarrhea or even die. Other vegetables to avoid are cabbage, swedes, potatoes, parsnips, onions, leeks, chives, and any vegetables that have high levels of oxalic acids like parsley, spinach, or mustard greens.
3) Do Not Just Give Them Pellets
Yes, pellets are a great way to get your rabbit the nutrients and fiber it needs to survive, but you do not want to just give your rabbit pellets, or it will not get everything it needs. You can buy other types of rabbit food at the grocery, or just find regular foods and give them to your rabbit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Food and Rabbit Nutrition
How Do You Know Which Pellets Are Good?
You want to get fresh pellets that are high and fiber. Because you need to feed your rabbit fresh pellets, do not buy large quantities at a time (never more than six weeks worth), or else it will go bad. As far as what kind of pellets, alfalfa pellets are good for young rabbits, but timothy pellets are better for adults.
What Makes a Good Diet For Your Rabbit?
You should feed your rabbit primarily high-quality pellets, fresh hay (such as timothy hay, grass hay, or oat hay), fresh vegetables, and plenty of water. Things like fruit or other rabbit treats should be given like that, a treat, not a regular staple of their diet.
What Do You Feed a Baby Rabbit?
For the first three weeks of a rabbit’s life, it only needs its mother’s milk. Between weeks three and four, you can begin to introduce them to small amounts of pellets and alfalfa. By week four, your rabbit can have access to alfalfa and pellets, but will still be drinking their mother’s milk. By week seven, you can give them unlimed pellets and hay as that will become their primary diet. From twelve weeks on, introduce various vegetables, but only one at a time in small amounts.
What Do You Feed Young Adults?
Young adult rabbits are between seven months and one year old. At this point in their life, you can start to introduce hays like timothy hay, grass hay, and oat hay, while, in turn, decreasing the amount of alfalfa they are eating. You should also stop giving them unlimited amounts of pellets and rather give them about 1/2 a cup for every six pounds they weigh. You can also start to give them more and more vegetables, but do it slowly to make sure your rabbit’s digestive system can handle it. You can also give your rabbit some fruit, but small amounts.
What Do You Feed Mature Adults?
Mature adult rabbits are between 1 and 5 years old. At this age, they should have unlimited access to hays, between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup of pellets per six pounds of weight, at least 2 cups of vegetables per six pounds of weight, and a small daily fruit ration.
What Do You Feed Senior Rabbits?
Senior rabbits are any rabbits over the age of six. If your rabbit is maintaining their weight, you can continue feeding them just like you fed the rabbit before. Sometimes, your rabbit may start to lose weight, so you may need to provide your rabbit with unrestricted pellets or even alfalfa.
What if You Want to Give Your Rabbit Fewer Pellets?
Some people may want to feed their rabbit fewer pellets or even no pellets, but if you do that, you have to substitute the loss of nutrients somehow, but you do not want to significantly increase the calories, or your rabbit could become overweight. You can provide your rabbit fewer pellets by providing more vegetables and encouraging your rabbit to eat different kinds of hay all-day, so you will have to offer fresh several times a day.
What Plants Can Rabbits Eat?
Unlike some animals, rabbits do not instinctively know which plants are okay for them to eat, so you have to do this for them, especially if you let them explore outside. There are lists online that share all the plants that are safe and all the plants that are dangerous or poisonous, but it can be hard to memorize their names and what they look like. Generally, try to keep your rabbit away from bulbs and evergreens (both trees and shrubs.)
Is Your Rabbit Biting You Because it is Hungry?
Yes and no. Your rabbit could bite you for a variety of reasons. It may be afraid, feel like it needs to be aggressive, or may simply want your attention. If your rabbit is biting you around dinner time, the attention it may be seeking is food, but even if your rabbit is biting you because it is hungry, it is not trying to eat you as a snack.
What Does It Mean if Your Rabbit Stops Eating?
If your rabbit is not eating, you need to take it seriously. When a rabbit is not eating, it is usually a sign of a number of illnesses, but if they do not start eating again quickly, they could develop what is known as gastrointestinal stasis, which is a very serious problem that rabbits commonly face. Generally, “waiting it out” is not a good strategy when your rabbit stops eating.
Nutritional Recommendations and Tips
1) Let It Eat Its Poop
As gross as it may seem to you, it is completely natural and actually healthy that your rabbit is eating its feces, so let it. Often, a rabbit’s feces is full of bacteria (the good kind) and other microorganisms that help break down plant fiber and make nutrients that the rabbit needs. The rabbit then eats the feces to receive the nutrients the bacteria and microorganisms produced. So, don’t stop your rabbit from eating its poop, even if it seems really, really disgusting.
2) Pay Attention to Your Rabbit’s Weight
This is true at any time, but especially when your rabbit is young (under one year) or old (over six years) because, at this point in time, it is key for their wellbeing that they are either growing at the rate they should be or maintaining a proper weight. Beyond just food, to keep your rabbit at a proper weight, they should get three to five hours a day outside of their cage to exercise. Your rabbit’s weight can be a really good indicator of how good or healthy it is, but remember, the optimal weight for your rabbit’s breed might not ever be the weight of your rabbit, each one is different.
3) Give Them Lots of Water
One of the most important parts of a rabbit’s diet besides fiber is water. You should check their water to make sure they have clean, fresh water at least twice a day. If your rabbit is staying outside and it gets cold, you may want to check the water supply even more often than that to ensure that it does not freeze. If rabbits do not have access to all the water they need, they can become very sick and need lots of medical attention.
4) Rabbits Graze
Rabbits graze a lot. Grazing is when then rabbit (or another animal) eats grass, hay, or another kind of plant for a long period of time. This helps their teeth and ensures they get the fiber they need to have a healthy digestive system. For rabbits, they usually graze in the morning at dawn and in the evening at dusk. If they are outside, they may graze on the grass in your yard, but if they are kept inside (or outside), you should provide them with unlimited access to various kinds of fresh hay to graze on whenever they want.
5) Sometimes Extra Food Is Needed
Obviously, if your rabbits are underweight, you should increase the amount of food you are giving them, but there are other times you should also increase your rabbit’s food intake. When your rabbits are young, they should have plenty of access to foods like alfalfa or other pellets, so they have all the nutrients they need to grow. Additionally, when your rabbit or pregnant or nursing, it needs more nutrients and food as it is feeding two or more bodies. At all these times, you should feel comfortable giving your rabbit larger portions of food.
6) Carrots Are Not a Food Group
Yes, the cliche says that rabbits love to eat carrots, and while it may be true that your rabbit enjoys the taste of a carrot, this should not be their main source of food. They need the fiber and nutrients of pellets and other vegetables much more than they need carrots. If you do want to give your rabbits a carrot, give it to them in small quantities as a treat, not as a meal. The same is true for other root vegetables and treats like fruit. The truth is, in the wild, your rabbit would not naturally eat root vegetables, cereals, or fruits.
7) Avoid Sudden Changes to Their Diet
Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems, so routine is key. If the rabbit’s digestive tract is used to processing certain foods and not others, a sudden change could make your rabbit feel sick or even damage the digestive system. For this reason, if you feel like you need to change your rabbit’s diet, even if you are changing them to a healthier diet, you need to do it gradually, not all at once. Plus, if your rabbit gets really sick, it may associate the food you are trying to get it to eat with a negative experience.
8) Treats, Treats, Treats
It can be so much fun to give your rabbit a treat, especially when you learn what they like, and you get to watch them get so excited over it, but that does not mean you should constantly be feeding your rabbit treat. Usually, treats do not have nutrients they need, so they serve no purpose besides enjoyment, and while enjoyment is important, too many treats mean too many calories, and that could possibly cause weight problems. When rabbits get overweight, it can be a process to get them back to the place they should be, and it can be dangerous to their health to be overweight.
9) Monitor What They Eat and Drink
Every rabbit is different, so there is not really a universal recommendation for how much your rabbit should be eating or drinking, but with some time and careful observation, you will be able to figure out what is normal for your rabbit. Once you have an idea of what is their norm, continue to watch on a regular basis for any changes. Starting to eat more or starting to eat less can be a warning sign that something more serious is going on. Now that does not mean you have to be overly alarmed and measure out the amount of food they are eating each day specifically and when they eat a little less panic, but it does mean that any significant changes should be noted and perhaps contact your vet.
10) Research the Brand
Beyond just looking at the ingredient list on a specific food, research the brand that is selling that food. Find out where they source their ingredients from, how or if they have tested their product, where they make their food, etc. Knowing this information will help your figure out the best brand to buy from, not just the best ingredients to look out for.
Now you have detailed information on five of the best rabbit food brands out there, but if none of those are for you, you also have all the tips you need to find the right kind of food for your rabbit and how to best care for all of your rabbit’s nutritional needs. It can be a daunting task trying to figure out just what your rabbit’s delicate digestive system needs, but it does not have to be now that you have all of this information at your fingertips. You can now feel confident in whatever you decide.