Why does my rabbit not want to eat and how can I help?
Feeding your rabbits
If your rabbits aren't eating the food that they need, we advise that you visit your vet to rule out any potential underlying health issues first. Otherwise, to encourage rabbits' to eat the high-hay diet that they need, you can prompt your pets by buying the best quality hay you can. You can also reduce portions sizes and gradually adjust your rabbits' diet to a healthier one over time, if this is the issue. Making mealtimes more interesting by encouraging your rabbits' to dig for their food may also make meal time more enticing.
For more information:
Encourage rabbits to eat more hay
Some rabbits are reluctant to eat hay. Early stage/low grade dental disease can cause discomfort when chewing so rabbits may be less likely to eat hay/grass.
If rabbits are reluctant to eat, take them to the vets to check there aren't any underlying health problems.
If they're still reluctant to eat hay, see below!
Provide constant access to the best quality hay affordable, which is dust-free/sweet smelling/slightly green with long strands.
Hay/dried grass is available in various forms, e.g. hay cubes/hay cookies/kiln-dried grass. Try various makes/types to see which ones they prefer. Variety is good; adding a fresh portion several times daily may keep rabbits healthy.
Offer growing/freshly picked clean grass (never lawnmower clippings).
Different hay types:
- Adult rabbits need mainly grass hay (i.e. Timothy/meadow hay) containing more fibre and less calcium than legume hay (e.g. alfalfa (lucerne)/clover). Alfalfa/clover are higher in calcium and protein; long-term feeding could cause urinary/kidney problems.
- For young/pregnant/nursing rabbits, legume hay is suitable.
Reduce portion sizes
Rabbits might not eat hay if other tasty food is available, or they haven't eaten hay before. Check portion sizes:
- Only feed a small measured amount of pellets/nuggets daily (one eggcup full/kg bodyweight).
- Feed a handful of high fibre leafy greens daily.
- Gradually reduce pellets/nuggets/leafy greens ration. Make dietary changes slowly, under veterinary advice, to avoid tummy upsets and ensure they get all required nutrients.
- Consider removing treats briefly.
See: meal planner.
Make meal times interesting
- Stuff hay into toilet roll tubes/cardboard boxes with dried herbs or some pellets/nuggets ration.
- Scatter their ration of pellets/nuggets/dried herbs/vegetables through their hay.
- See: dietary enrichment ideas.
Monitor droppings. Small/very dark coloured/irregularly shaped droppings could mean they're lacking fibre.
If rabbit's eating/drinking habits change or droppings reduce/stop, talk to your vet immediately as they could be seriously ill.
Further tips to encourage your rabbits to eat more hay can be found on 'The Rabbit House' blog.