You may have noticed your rabbit is a voracious eater. When provided with constant access to food, it might appear to feast at any time of day, which can lead to health concerns. You may wonder if your rabbit is malnourished, has an eating disorder, or if it’s in danger of weight gain. However, in the majority of cases, this behavior is normal in rabbits.
Rabbits always seem hungry – because they are. As grazing animals, they’re designed to eat whenever they can. A rabbit that is in shedding or breeding season will also eat more than an average rabbit. Most bunnies will self-regulate to keep from overeating. Just be sure to provide a constant supply of hay, so your pet doesn’t go hungry. You should also balance the nutritional requirements of your rabbit’s diet, as some will overindulge in sweet foods.
As a product of its crepuscular nature, a rabbit will eat more during the twilight hours. However, if your rabbit acts like it’s starving, this could also indicate health issues. For example, parasites or diabetes. You need to closely understand the amounts and kinds of food your rabbit needs. This will ensure it doesn’t go hungry, and doesn’t overeat.
Why Is My Rabbit Always Eating?
Rabbits have a complex digestive system that requires them to constantly snack. This is because rabbits are grazers. In the wild, they mosey through clover, grass, and brush, munching on whatever they find. This continues until they’re either full or are scared away by predators.
Likewise, food in the wild may be scarce. This encourages rabbits to eat as much as they can, while they can. This instinct grows more prominent when faced with nutrition-dense foods. Fruits or vegetables, for example, are often packed with vitamins and minerals. Rabbits will consume as much as possible, so it tides them over until the next finding.
How To Know If Your Rabbit Is Hungry
Rabbits are constantly hungry. Because your rabbit needs to eat so frequently, it’s probably hungry right now. This can make bunnies look like greedy little creatures. And, in a way, they are. A better question to ask is, does your rabbit need more food?
Unfortunately, there’s no good way to determine this. You can have your pet examined by a vet, but this may be superfluous. Unless your rabbit displays signs of malnourishment, there’s no clear indication of an underfed rabbit.
Instead, the best approach is feeding your rabbit a balanced diet in the right amounts. With nutritionally dense meals, your rabbit won’t go hungry.
How Much To Feed A Rabbit
The rabbit food pyramid consists of three main types, in this order:
- Grass and hays
In very small amounts, rabbits can be given fruit as a treat. But what are good portion sizes? How often should each food be given to rabbits?
|Food Type||Percent In Diet||How Much To Feed||How Often To Feed|
|Grass and hay||85%||Unlimited||Keep food bowl full|
|Leafy vegetables||8%||1 cup for every 2 pounds body weight||Twice a day|
|Root vegetables||2%||1 tablespoon every 2 pounds body weight||Twice a day|
|High quality pellets||5%||¼ cup every 5 pounds body weight||Twice a day|
|Fruits||Not necessary in diet; give as a treat||2 tablespoons every 5 pounds body weight||No more than twice a week|
Grass And Hay
Hay and grass should make up 80% of your rabbit’s diet. Unlike other foods, this should not be rationed. Instead, give your rabbit an unlimited supply.
This is because rabbits get their fiber from hay and grass. Fiber is absolutely essential, as it ensures a healthy digestive system. Rabbits that lack fiber will suffer from a myriad of gut issues.
Hay and grass are also an important source of protein and vitamins. There are two main types of hay you can give to your rabbit:
Nutrition-wise, grass hays are better for rabbits than legume hay. That’s because the latter contains high amounts of calcium and protein. While important for your rabbit’s diet, too much can easily lead to complications.
Because hay should be given in an unlimited amount, it’s best to stick to healthier grass has. Good choices of grass hays include:
- Wheat grass
Legume hay is safe to feed to your rabbit. Just avoid feeding it exclusively for a long period of time. You should mix a bit of legume hay into grass hays. Then, feed this mix to your rabbit. Choices of legume hay include:
Vegetables should consist of about 10% to 15% of your rabbit’s diet. Of course, some veggies are better than others. Leafy greens will contain the most nutrients. Veggies with a crunch, like celery, can also help wear down rabbit teeth.
Fresh foods are great for your rabbit’s diet. However, a rabbit’s digestive system needs to be prepared. Before giving fresh veggies to your rabbit, make sure it has been eating grass hay for at least two weeks straight. This will help fortify its gut, so the sudden change doesn’t cause an upset.
Leafy greens should make up 75% of your rabbit’s fresh food. Specifically, this could be 1 cup of greens for every 2 pounds of your rabbit’s body weight, daily. Good veggies to feed your rabbit include:
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
Root vegetables should be given in a much smaller amount than leafy greens. This is because of the high level of sugar and starch. Root vegetables include:
Root veggies aren’t dangerous. However, they are certainly fattening. Too much will lead to an unbalanced diet.
Of course, you don’t need to remove root veggies completely from a rabbit’s meals, unless it’s overweight. These veggies still have a place in small amounts. This figure should be 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds body weight.
Veggies To Avoid
On that note, keep in mind that many foods traditionally considered “vegetables” are technically fruits. Because of their high level of sugar, these should only be given to rabbits as treats. These include:
Of course, there are veggies that rabbits simply cannot eat. These include avocados and iceberg lettuce. To make matters more complicated, some parts of a vegetable can be safe for a rabbit, while other parts aren’t. When providing new food, make sure that it isn’t toxic to your pet bun.
Aside from vegetables, rabbits can also be given herbs. It’s a great way to, quite literally, spice up their meals. Just be sure to introduce herbs slowly. Because of their strong taste, some rabbits will like herbs, and some won’t. Good choices include:
Pellets should consist of 5% of your rabbit’s diet. Of course, some owners prefer to feed their rabbits only natural ingredients. Even still, quality pellets have been shown to benefit rabbits and round out their diet.
To find a good brand, check out the nutrition facts. Your ideal choice will contain at least 20% fiber and no more than 16% protein.
It’s also wise to avoid muesli-type rabbit foods. These contain a mix of different food types, including seeds, nuts, and cereal grains. That’s a problem, since rabbits tend to pick out only the foods they like. Your bunny may overindulge in bits that should be limited, while leaving the fiber-rich ingredients alone.
Because of this, muesli-type foods can easily lead to an unbalanced diet. That’s supported by the Journal of Small Animal Practice. Muesli-type foods can cause obesity in rabbits. Instead, it’s best to pick a brand that has a uniform pellet, instead of a mix.
Fruits contain ample vitamins and minerals. However, they also have abundant sugar, which can easily lead to obesity in rabbits. As such, only provide fruits in very small amounts.
These treats should be given no more than twice a week. Each serving should be no more than 2 tablespoons per 5 pounds of body weight.
When it comes to dried fruits, these numbers should be reduced. Dried fruit will have about three times the concentration of its non-dried counterpart. A good rule of thumb is to feed your rabbit about 1/2 tablespoon of dried fruit, once a week.
When Do Rabbits Eat?
Rabbits mainly eat at dawn and dusk. This is because they’re crepuscular. In the wild, rabbits are most active during the twilight hours. This allows them to avoid predators, as it falls just between the scope of both daytime and nighttime animals.
Wild rabbits spend this time foraging. Domestic rabbits can still follow this feeding pattern, but to a lesser extent.
Because pet rabbits do not need to forage, they do not have to limit their feeding times. Instead, your pet bunny may continue grazing throughout the day. As dusk or dawn approaches, however, its appetite will increase. That’s a result of the bunny’s natural instincts to eat when predators are limited. This also prepares its body for more activity, by boosting its levels of energy with extra food.
How Often Should Rabbits Be Fed?
Rabbits should be fed twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. This follows their crepuscular habits most closely. Your bunny will be the hungriest at these times.
If you cannot feed precisely at these times, don’t worry. So long as your bunny is provided with constant access to hay, it won’t go hungry. Just be sure to top up its supply when you can. Then, at a time that suits you, provide it with the other foods to balance its diet. This should include leafy greens, some veggies, and some pellets.
Of course, the peak feeding time is twilight. However, so long as you feed your rabbit at regular times each day, it will adapt gladly to the new schedule.
Sudden Increase of Appetite in Rabbits
In one way or another, rabbits are always hungry. However, the amount they eat should be consistent. If your bunny has a sudden increase in appetite, keep an eye out on its health. A few reasons for this increased hunger include:
Have you noticed your rabbit’s increase in appetite during springtime? Then it may be affected by breeding season. Female rabbits, especially, will need to shore up their energy and nutrients in anticipation of pregnancy.
However, this doesn’t hold true for all rabbits. In general, it will only affect rabbits that are brought outdoors regularly. This exposes them to light changes, which will, in turn, trigger their increased appetites.
Additionally, rabbits that have been spayed and neutered should be immune. This is because of the lessened amount of hormones released into their body. A “fixed” bunny may have no reaction to the light changes or scents on other rabbits. If it does, that reaction should be dramatically lessened.
Aside from breeding season, your hungry rabbit may be preparing to shed. This is also referred to as molting. If winter is over, your rabbit will no longer need its thick coat. It will then shed this down to a thinner layer of fur. This is more comfortable for spring.
Rabbits will also molt during autumn, amounting to two molts per year. Molting can take a lot of energy for a rabbit, accounting for the increase in appetite. If your rabbit is shedding in clumps, then be sure it has ample access to food. It will recoup the energy and lessen its eating habits once molting season is over.
A sudden increase in appetite may be caused by parasites. Intestinal parasites can leech off the nutrients in your rabbit’s gut. This means that your rabbit has to eat more in order to get the same nutrients.
Parasitic infections come with their own symptoms, depending on the parasite responsible. Nonetheless, infections will always be accompanied with other symptoms. These usually include:
- Irritations in the skin
- A shabby coat
- Weight loss
If you suspect that your rabbit is infected, don’t worry. Your vet can provide treatments to eradicate the parasite from your rabbit’s body. The vet may also provide supplements to help boost your rabbit’s immune system. This can return your bunny’s appetite to normal and help it recover from the infection.
If a rabbit acts like it’s starving, a less common reason may be diabetes. Thankfully, it is a very rare disease in rabbits. Diabetes is an illness caused by a dysfunction of the pancreas. The pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, which is necessary to control blood sugar.
Because it is so rare in rabbits, diagnosing this condition may be difficult. The symptoms can vary from one rabbit to another. Additionally, your vet will have to rule out more common diseases first.
Even still, one of the more telling signs of diabetes is the sudden increase in appetite. This will be followed by weight loss.
The main way to treat diabetes in rabbits is by changing their diet. Because obese rabbits are often the victim of this disease, the first step is to correct their eating habits. With a strict regimen, it’s possible for a bunny to recover. Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Rabbits should always be fed a balanced diet, one that is high in fiber and low in sugars.
What To Do About Your Rabbit’s Increased Appetite
Even with unlimited hay, you may notice a rabbit still acts hungry. If your bunny has an increased appetite, should you feed it more?
The amount of food should stay the same. There is no need to add more veggies, leafy greens, or pellets. If you do, your rabbit will simply ignore its hay, which can lead to an unbalanced diet.
Instead, encourage your rabbit to eat more grass hay. If this uptick in hunger is recent, you may need to replenish its supply more often. However, this is better than your rabbit eating more pellets or veggies. That may cause it to get sick.
Can Rabbits Eat Too Much Hay?
If fed grass hays, rabbits cannot eat too much hay. Rabbits, by nature, are grazers. When it comes to eating habits, they are more similar to cows and horses than other animals. Like cows and horses, rabbits should be provided a way to munch on grass whenever they want.
Hay doesn’t even need to be high in nutrients, according to a study in the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. As long as it is hygienic and fiber-rich, it will be perfect for your rabbit’s health.
Is My Bunny Overeating?
Until your rabbit exhibits health problems, there is no reliable way to know if it’s overeating. Your best approach is to ensure it’s not fed too much of one food type.
In general, rabbits know when they are full. However, some rabbits have a sweet-tooth. Fruits or high-sugar vegetables might encourage them to feed long after they’re satisfied. Likewise, some rabbits are more prone to overeating than others. This is simply a quirk of their personality.
It’s best to provide these rabbits with constant hay, while limiting treats. This can reduce the temptation to overeat. It can also limit the amount of health problems they experience. After all, fiber-rich hay is less damaging in large quantities than sugar-rich fruits.
Is My Rabbit Eating Right?
It can be hard to spot overeating until it becomes a problem. However, there is a good way to know if your rabbit is eating right.
Take a look at your rabbit’s fecal pellets. This can help you determine if its diet is healthy. A good sample will have the following characteristics:
- Consistently sized
- Slightly soft
Watery and weirdly-formed stools are a symptom of digestive issues. If this happens, check over your rabbit’s diet. It may contain:
- Too much sugar
- Poor quality hay
- Too many fresh veggies
- Too much protein
- Not enough fiber
If there’s no obvious imbalance, then consider asking your vet about possible solutions. This may include changes to your rabbit’s diet, or treatments for possible illnesses.
Bunnies are designed to feast all day. However, their appetite may increase during the twilight hours or the springtime. So long as you provide a balanced diet, a rabbit will generally not overeat. If it does, there are adjustments you can make to its meal rations. This can include limiting the fruits, vegetables, or pellets it’s given.
If your rabbit seems hungry at all times, don’t worry. With a good supply of hay, it’ll never truly go hungry.