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What rabbits should really eat

There are many misconceptions about what rabbits should eat, including the myths that rabbits need lots of carrots and lettuce, as well as regular portions of commercial food. In fact, while carrots are fine as an occasional treat, rabbits don't actually eat fruit or vegetables in the wild. 

To set the record straight, here are our top rabbit diet mythbusters.

two rabbits next to feeding bowl © RSPCA

Myth #1 - Rabbits eat carrots

Reality: carrots shouldn't be a main source of food.

Rabbits don't naturally eat root vegetables or fruit. Carrots and fruit are high in sugar and should only be fed in small amounts as occasional treats.

Rabbits need mainly hay and/or grass, some leafy greens and a small, measured amount of pellets.

Myth #2 - Hay is just bedding

Reality: hay is actually a main source of food for rabbits.

Hay isn't just bedding. Fresh, dust-free hay should be your rabbit's main source of food and you should make sure they have access to it at all times. Eating lots of hay or grass helps wear down rabbits' constantly growing teeth and keeps their tummies healthy. It also allows foraging and grazing, which are important natural behaviours. 

Myth #3 - Rabbits eat lettuce

Reality: a rabbit's diet shouldn't be based on lettuce.

Rabbits shouldn't eat some lettuces (such as iceberg), as they contain lactucarium, which can be harmful in large quantities. Some lettuce is 'worse' than others - light-coloured varieties are high in water and have very little nutritional value, so are not recommended.

You can feed darker, more leafy and fibrous varieties (e.g. romaine lettuce) to your rabbit, as these are higher in fibre and actual nutrients. Introduce them gradually, as large amounts of lettuce can cause tummy upsets for rabbits not used to it.

Myth #4 - Rabbits should eat mainly shop-bought rabbit food

Reality: eating too much shop-bought rabbit food can cause weight gain and prevent your rabbit from eating enough hay and/or grass.

You can feed your rabbit a small, measured amount of pellets or nuggets each day to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Don't feed your rabbit muesli-style foods, as they cause teeth and tummy problems. 

Rabbits eat quickly if you give them pre-packaged rabbit food, and that means they run out of things to do and may become bored. Remember, hay and grass are much more important and should make up the majority of your rabbit's diet. 

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