Rabbits & Pellets
A Little Goes a Long Way
A high-quality rabbit pellet provides trace nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. A rabbit might not get these nutrients if fed only hay and fresh foods
Be careful feeding pellets to your rabbit! Too many pellets can cause health problems, and obesity. Some rabbits might ignore their hay, to the detriment of the intestinal system.
Rabbits and Pellets
Don't Be Fooled!
Don't be Fooled by Colorful Crunchy Things
Quality rabbit pellets DO NOT contain dried fruit, seeds, nuts, colored crunchy things. These additions to pellets are attractive to our human eyes but very unhealthy to a rabbit.
Pet care companies should only sell products that are good for the animals, but that is sadly not the case. Many pet stores and other retailers sell food that is bad for the animal, so be careful when choosing the right food for your rabbit.
There are hundreds of products sold that are marketed for rabbits when they are in fact harmful, unhealthy, or simply toxic to rabbits. Don’t be fooled by the pretty colors and crunchy “treats” many brands put in rabbit food, they’re not good for your bunnies and can cause them harm!
Watch Out for Performance Pellets
Since pellets are manufactured and marketed primarily for breeders and meat-raisers, many brands of pellets are labeled as “performance feeds”.
These brands contain high levels of protein (16-22%), which is too high for a rabbit not being bred constantly or raised for meat. You must be very cautious when first finding a rabbit pellet suitable for your house rabbit. Misinformation and deceiving advertisements are out there.
Keep an Eye Out for Poopy-Butt Syndrome
Rabbits are strict herbivores, and in nature they rarely get fruit, nuts or other such fatty, starchy foods. The complex flora of the cecum (intestines) can quickly become dangerously imbalanced if too much simple, digestible carbohydrate (sugar) is consumed—especially if the diet is generally low in fiber. The result is often poopy butt syndrome, in which mushy fecal matter cakes onto the rabbit’s behind. This is a sign of a problem and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
Rabbits and Pellets
Ideal Nutritional Content
of a House Rabbit Pellet
This table was created from the information in House Rabbit Society’s article: Pellets in a Mature Rabbit’s Diet.
Companies That Sell Nutritionally Correct House Rabbit Pellets
As noted above, there are a lot of companies out there selling bad rabbit pellets that are nutritionally unsound for the everyday house rabbit expected to live a long, healthy life of 10-15 years.
We wanted to give you the names of a few trusted companies that sell house rabbit pellets that are nutritionally good. There is also an awesome page on WabbitWiki that compares all the different pet companies pellets and their nutritive comparisons if you want to find another company to use or just to see what’s out there.
Find more companies along with their pellets nutritive comparisons on WabbitWikki.com
Rabbits and Pellets
Pellet Portion Sizes
A lot of people make the mistake of making pellets the primary food in their rabbits’ diet. As you’ve learned from the notes above, feeding your rabbit too many pellets can cause digestive issues and illness. Remember, with pellets, a small amount goes a long way.
Rabbit pellets should contain 14-20% crude fiber and 13-16% protein. Rabbits up to 8 months of age can have access to pellets and alfalfa free choice. However, after 8 months, house rabbits should receive a maintenance ratio of pellets to body weight as the following chart states.
Always ask your rabbit-savvy veterinarian what they recommend for your rabbit’s needs, because every rabbit is different. But in general, the basic recommended serving of pellets for an adult rabbit per day is:
2-4 lbs of body weight
5-7 lbs of body weight
8-10 lbs of body weight
11-15 lbs of body weight
1/8 cup daily
1/4 cup daily
1/2 cup daily
3/4 cup daily
Rabbits and Pellets
How to Feed Pellets
Some other points to note about feeding pellets to your house rabbit:
- Do not refill your rabbit’s bowl even if the pellets are all eaten before the next day. Pellets should make up less of your rabbit’s diet as h/she grows older. However, underweight rabbits and older, frail rabbits need unrestricted pellets to keep their weight up.
- If you change the brand of pellets you feed your rabbit, begin with what the rabbit has been eating and mix a small amount of the new pellet into it. Gradually increase the ratio of the new pellet until the rabbit is eating only the new pellets. This procedure will help avoid intestinal upsets due to the change in pellets or prevent the rabbit’s refusing to eat.
- Do not refill your rabbit’s bowl with fresh pellets on top of old.
- Gourmet type pellets which contain dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables have been suspected of causing fatty liver and kidney disease (Washington House Rabbit Society).
- Never feed your rabbit a pellet which has antibiotics added to it. The reason is, should your rabbit ever become ill, you may find your rabbit has become desensitized to the antibiotics which could save his/her life.
- Moldy, bug infested, stale, old, or “off-smelling” pellets should be discarded immediately.
- Overfeeding of pellets is the cause of many health problems in rabbits. An overweight rabbit is probably more in need of exercise that in having his/her food limited.
- Should your rabbit need to lose weight or develop an intolerance to pellets (symptoms include excessive cecal pellets or chronic diarrhea), please contact the House Rabbit Resource Network for a copy of a special diet for your rabbit.
Rabbits and Pellets
Frequently Asked Questions
My Rabbit Hasn't Touched His Pellets, Should I Be Worried?
In short, yes. If your rabbit normally eats all their pellets, and then one day doesn’t, they could be sick. One of the main signs of sickness in rabbits is uninterest in the food they normally love.
You can try the Cranraisin test by offering a Cranraisin (dried cranberry) to your rabbit. If they deny it, they are most likely sick–possibly gut stasis, and you need to get them to a veterinarian ASAP.
If they eat the Cranraisin, but are still avoiding their other food, they could be suffering teeth problems and avoiding what’s hurting them. You still need to get them to the vet asap.
If your rabbit stops eating their pellets, it is cause for alarm and you should seek veterinary attention.
Some rabbits are grazers and don’t eat all their pellets in one sitting, but the pellets should be all eaten by the end of the day. If you see leftover pellets, watch for a few days, if it keeps occurring, you may need to look at re-adjusting their portion size.
**Warning: If you see your rabbit who regularly eats all their pellets doesn’t touch them all day, check their temperature and contact your veterinarian because it could be the first sign of gut stasis.
What if my rabbit finishes his pellets and still seems hungry?
If your rabbit eats all their pellets, that’s great! That does not mean you need to feed them more before the next day’s serving—bunnies can have weight problems by overeating just like humans.
Over feeding of pellets is the cause of many health problems in rabbits. An overweight rabbit is probably more in need of exercise than having their food limited. Should your rabbit need to lose weight or develop an intolerance to pellets (symptoms include excessive cecal pellets or chronic diarrhea), please contact your veterinarian for assistance.
What is the Best Way to Store Pellets?
Storage is important for your rabbit’s pellets to keep their freshness and prevent from spoiling.
Moisture is the enemy when storing forage-based pellets (which is what rabbit pellets are made of—timothy hay). To decrease the risks of decomposition and mold development, pellets should be kept in a cool, dry environment, preferably in a container tightly closed to seal out moisture, insects, or rodents.
Just as with forage, oxidation affects short-lived vitamins, particularly B-vitamins such as biotin. You want to store the pellets somewhere dry.
If you find your pellets seem moldy, bug infested, stale, old, or off-smelling pellets should be discarded immediately.