If you’re the proud parent of a rabbit, then you already know they make fantastic pets that are wholly and solely devoted to their keepers. With a fluffy little tail, large, limpid eyes, delightfully long ears, and a twitchy nose that’s just too cute for words, these hippity-hoppity animals are also surprisingly easy to care for.
For those of you who have yet to fall in love with these quiet creatures, I dare you to give one of them a treat and watch them eat. Within mere minutes, you’ll certainly become entranced by their nibbley ways, where everything that goes into their mouths is speedily chewed with true zeal and love for food. In record time, meals and treats will disappear, and you’ll be left smiling at how adorable a sight they make!
While they are inquisitive creatures that stick their nose into every nook and cranny, under every root and bush – a foraging instinct learned in the wild – this can get them into trouble with food. Of course, it’s nice that they’re willing to try a bit of this or that to see if they like it, but – as with a young child – you need to ensure your bunny gets only good, wholesome food. That also includes snacks and special occasion niblets, as only the best, all-natural, healthy rabbit treats will ensure your pet stays healthy and happy.
The good thing is, we’ll help you figure out what’s okay – and what’s not okay – to feed your furry friends at treat time.
Table of Contents
- Limiting how many treats they eat – even if it’s healthy
- What about commercial rabbit treats?
- What are the best rabbit treats for your bunny
- Foods that must be avoided
- Hay should make the majority of your rabbit’s diet
- Use rabbit treats for training!
Limiting how many treats they eat – even if it’s healthy
Before we get into the specifics of what rabbit treats are acceptable and which ones you should steer clear of, it’s essential to highlight the importance of limiting their treat intake. Overfeeding them not only cuts into their meal rations but it also puts in place an unhealthy eating regimen.
Additionally, there are several foods that cannot be digested by rabbits, so be careful with your choice of rabbit treats. Always give these yummy tidbits in moderation. In no way should snacks such as fruits make up the bulk of your bunny’s diet.
What about commercial rabbit treats?
Pet stores sell a vast assortment of colorful, savory morsels, each described as the perfect treat for your rabbit. However, none of these options offer an advantage over a diet of healthy pellets, fresh hay, and nutritious fruits, greens, and veggies.
So, what’s the big deal about feeding your bunny commercially manufactured treats? Well, there are several reasons, in fact. First and foremost, however, they simply lack the necessary nutrition required – some brands even omit nutritional ingredients altogether! But mostly, these foods provide excess amounts of fats and starches, encased in sugary sweetness.
What are the best rabbit treats for your bunny
The majority of rabbits have a really sensitive digestive system. As such, if you want to give an extra niblet to your pet, then it’s imperative to understand what you can – and cannot – offer them as a treat.
Many rabbit treats can be natural and grown quite simply in your garden. Chances are, you have some tasty treats that your bunny can eat in your kitchen already. Start with one niblet at a time, adding something new once you’ve assured there has been no adverse reaction like diarrhea, vomiting or excessive digestion noises. Slowly, continue to add new treats one at a time to be able to identify those your rabbit may not tolerate.
Bunnies love their greens, which is great because it’s super healthy for them!
Daily: combine at least 3 of the following foods, in a minimum total amount of 1 heaping cups per 2 lbs. (1 kg) of body weight. According to our local exotic animal vet, there’s no limit on vegetables or lettuce.
- cabbage leaves
- carrots and their tops
- beet tops
- dandelion greens (make sure they are pesticide and herbicide free)
- dark leaf lettuce
- broccoli (all parts)
- Brussel sprouts
- tomato (without the leaves – they’re toxic to rabbits!)
- bell peppers
Avoid iceberg lettuce, starchy vegetables, and legumes such beans, peas, corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
With the sweet taste of ambrosia, fresh fruit will quickly become a favorite natural, healthy treat for your beloved pet.
Daily: can be fed with restriction. Limit the fruits to 1-2 tablespoons per 5 lbs. (2.3 kg) body weight daily. When choosing fruits, it’s best to select those that are high in fiber.
Sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes should be offered in small quantities.
A note on sweet fruits treats and elder bun care
While discussing rabbit feeding and treats with my sister – a pet parent to her dwarf rabbit, Cody, who’s a 7-year-old elder bun – she told me about her vet’s advice to cut fruit out of her bunny’s diet entirely two years ago. In short, since rabbit intestinal tracts are extremely sensitive, high-sugar foods like fruit can ferment in their lower tract, resulting in bloody urine. One of the issues is, rabbits do not possess the ability to vomit, so whatever goes in, must come out “the back way.” As the problem manifested several times, their vet deemed it a prudent idea to cut out fruits altogether.
Now, the only treat Cody gets is a few baby carrots every day or so. Since it’s high in sugar – though not as much as most fruits – it makes for a delicious morsel, one that replaces the 1-2 tbsps. of fruit she was getting every day. In doing so, they’ve successfully eliminated the recurrence of blood in the urine.
Plants and herbs
Check your garden – you may have a few treats hiding!
If you are unsure of what a particular plant or herb is, never feed it to your rabbit as it could be dangerous. Also, if you believe a plant or herb has been treated with a toxic chemical, do not give it to your bunny, even after washing it.
Foods that must be avoided
These plant leaves are considered toxic for rabbits:
- potato leaves
- tomato leaves
- rhubarb leaves
Processed cereal kibble
Ranging from “Crunchy Puffs” to shaped products designed to be a substitution for pellets, processed kibble is low in fiber and high in fat – an unhealthy combination for bunnies. Some store-bought kibble options contain expensive extras that serve no benefit to your pet, such as freeze-dried bacteria or plant and herbal extracts.
These are grain products, supplemented with dehydrated vegetables, and formed into a shape that resembles a vegetable product. There is, in fact, no advantage whatsoever to feeding these fake cereal/veggie blends over real vegetables.
The main ingredients in these mixes are carbohydrate and fat-rich seeds and grains. Common ingredients are oats, corn, peas, sunflower seeds, potatoes, peanuts, puffed corn, cornflakes, popcorn, and dried fruits. Some of these products come in stick form, held together with honey and other sugars. Typically, they’re marketed as energy boosters that reflect a bunny’s “normal” diet in the wild – which is completely untrue.
High sugar content is the culprit with so-called “pet-safe” candies. These include everything from sweetened papaya tablets to yogurt drops. The truth is, excessive sugar intake can lead to bacterial imbalance and GI stasis. Without exception, avoid feeding your rabbit simple sugars.
Vitamin and mineral supplements
For the most part, these are largely unnecessary for a healthy rabbit, unless otherwise prescribed by a veterinarian.
Avoid grains such as breakfast cereal, wheat, oats, crackers, bread, and pasta.
Nuts and dried fruit
While they may sound like a healthy nibble, nuts are very fatty and bed for a bunny’s digestive system, while dried fruits tend to be high in sugar and can cause problems in a rabbit’s system.
Also, never feed human treats to your buddies, including candy bars, chocolates, gummy treats or processed food items.
Hay should make the majority of your rabbit’s diet
One of the most essential aspects of a rabbit’s diet is grass and hay. According to animal experts and nutritionists, both grass and hay should comprise 80% of a rabbit’s diet.
Bunnies can (and do!) eat hay and grass all day. Therefore, always make sure that fresh hay is accessible to them. In milder months, you can keep your rabbits in a pen that you move around the garden, so they have access to fresh patches of grass to feed on.
But of course, even though they love all that glorious hay, a nice, scrumptious treat – something out of the ordinary – can really perk them up! What’s more, by giving them healthy treats, you not only make your rabbits happy as you spend time bonding with them, but you also provide them with an extra boost of vitamins and minerals.
Use rabbit treats for training!
Aside from a tasty morsel every now and then as a pleasant surprise, you can use these niblets as training aids. Believe it or not, your fluffy little bunny can be trained in the same manner as dogs and cats. And, by giving them treats during training, they tend to learn quicker.
Try calling your rabbit’s name as you offer them the treat. Eventually, they’ll start to pay attention to the moments when you’re approaching, seeking you out for a tasty treat. Remember, rabbits are naturally timid creatures, so adding some healthy treats to their diet can really help you bond with your pet and allows them to become more confident.
There we have it, some of the best treats for bunnies that you can grow at home or purchase at the grocery store right now.
Which treats do your rabbits prefer? We would love to know!