Do Rabbits Eat Meat (or Just Plants)?

Can rabbits really eat meat? This question has puzzled pet owners for ages as they watch bunnies begging for a bite of chicken or steak at dinnertime. While the idea of carnivorous rabbits sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, the truth is much tamer. In this riveting 10,000 word exposé, we’ll explore whether rabbits can indulge their meat-loving urges safely, or if their biology dictates a greener, grassier diet. Delving into rabbit digestive systems, wild behavior, and the consequences of proteins and fats, this article answers once and for all: do rabbits eat meat or are they true blue herbivores? Get ready for a wild ride as we uncover the dietary truth about these plant-loving lagomorphs!

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?

Wild rabbits are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. A wild rabbit's diet consists mostly of grasses, clovers, and other leafy plants. They will also eat buds, flowers, roots, seeds, and fruits. Their preferred foods are grasses, including bluegrass, ryegrass, timothy hay, oat hay, and Bermuda grass. Wild rabbits get most of the water they need from the plants they eat, though they will drink water if available.

Rabbits have continuously growing teeth that need constant wear to prevent overgrowth. The silicate and gritty fiber found in grasses wear their teeth down as they chew. A diet high in grass hay provides the abrasion needed to keep rabbit teeth healthy. Wild rabbits will avoid woody stems and plants like trees or shrubs. These foods do not provide enough abrasive wear or nutritional value.

A wild rabbit's natural diet consists of plants readily available in their environment during each season. In spring and summer, they eat tender new plant growth, grasses, clovers, weeds, leaves, buds, flowers, and berries. In fall and winter, they shift to eating twigs, bark, conifer needles, kudzu, and other hardy plants.

Wild rabbits do not eat meat, insects, or animal products. They are strict herbivores. Their digestive systems are adapted to processing the cellulose in plant fiber, not digesting animal proteins or fats. Wild rabbits get all the protein they need from eating legume plants like clover and alfalfa.

What Do Pet Rabbits Eat?

Domesticated pet rabbits have the same dietary needs as wild rabbits. They should be fed a diet primarily composed of grass hay, leafy greens, vegetables, and healthy rabbit pellets. Pet rabbits do not naturally eat meat, insects, or other animal products. Here is a closer look at the proper diet for pet rabbits:

  • Grass Hay: Grass hay should make up 75% or more of a pet rabbit's food intake. Timothy hay, oat hay, Bermuda grass hay, and orchard grass are excellent choices. Hay provides fiber which is vital to a rabbit's digestive health. It also provides nutrients and helps wear down teeth. Rabbits should have unlimited access to fresh hay.

  • Leafy Greens: Leafy greens provide nutrition, moisture and variety. Some good options are romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, kale, parsley, cilantro, arugula, raspberry leaves, dandelion greens and more. Introduce new greens slowly to avoid digestive issues.

  • Vegetables: Vegetables can be fed in limited quantities daily. Carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini are healthy vegetable choices. Avoid iceberg lettuce, which contains little nutrition. Introduce new veggies slowly.

  • Pellets: A small amount of plain alfalfa or timothy pellets can supplement nutrition, especially for growing bunnies. Limit pellets to 1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight. Do not feed rabbit muesli style food, which promotes selective eating.

  • Fruits: Small amounts of fruit can be offered as treats. Bananas, blueberries, raspberries, apples, melon, strawberries, and kiwi are good options. Limit fruit due to sugar content.

  • Treats: Healthy treats in moderation are dried herbs, mint leaves, watermelon rind, willow twigs, and hay cubes. Avoid processed treats with added sugar, salt and carbs.

Pet rabbits should not be fed grains, beans, nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, or insects. These foods are not part of their natural herbivorous diet and can cause digestive upsets or health issues. Provide plenty of fresh water in a bowl or bottle daily. With proper care and diet, pet rabbits can live a long and healthy life.

Feeding a Rabbit Pellets

Pellets are a supplementary food for rabbits that provide concentrated nutrition in an easy to eat form. While pellets should never be the main component of a rabbit's diet, they can be beneficial when fed properly. Here are some tips on feeding pellets to rabbits:

  • Select a Plain Pellet: Choose a pellet that has timothy or alfalfa as the first ingredient and does not contain other seeds, nuts, fruits, or sugary treats. Avoid "gourmet" pellets with these mix-ins. Select a pellet appropriate to the rabbit's age.

  • Limit Portion Size: Only feed 1/4 cup of pellets per 5 lbs of the rabbit's body weight. Overfeeding pellets can lead to obesity and issues. For example, a 10 lb rabbit should get a maximum of 1/2 cup pellets per day.

  • Feed Pellets in a Bowl: Use a heavy bowl that prevents tipping and scattering. This allows monitoring of consumption. Do not free feed pellets.

  • Feed Pellets at Scheduled Times: Feeding pellets 2-3 times per day at the same times keeps a rabbit's digestive tract running smoothly. A rabbit 5+ months old can have pellets once per day.

  • Introduce Pellets Slowly: Mix a small amount of new pellets in gradually over 2-3 weeks when transitioning to a new brand. A sudden change can disrupt sensitive digestion.

  • Provide Plenty of Hay: Pellets should never replace hay as the bulk of diet. Always provide unlimited grass hay which is essential for good health.

  • Monitor Weight Gain: Reduce pellets if rabbit becomes overweight. Obesity is a common problem for pets. Extra weight puts pressure on delicate skeletal and organ systems.

With proper supplemental feeding, pellets can provide balanced nutrition without overfeeding empty calories from sugary treats or fatty seeds and nuts. Pay close attention to serving sizes, gradual transitions, and weight status for healthy rabbits.

Feeding a Rabbit Fresh Hay

Fresh hay is the most important food for rabbit health. Here is some guidance on selecting, serving, and storing fresh hay for rabbits:

  • Choose Grass Hays: The best hays for rabbits are timothy, orchard grass, oat hay, brome, Bermuda grass, or meadow hay. Alfalfa is too rich in calories and protein for most adult rabbits.

  • Buy Fresh Hay: Purchase small batches of hay from a supplier with high turnover to ensure freshness. Avoid old hay that is brittle or dusty. Look for green color and a fresh, appealing aroma.

  • Offer Hay in a Rack: Use a hay rack to keep hay clean and reduce waste. Locate racks around play areas for easy access. Avoid feeding on floor where hay contacts urine or feces.

  • Provide Hay Continuously: Keep hay racks full at all times. Rabbits should have unlimited access to hay around the clock. Hay promotes healthy digestion and tooth wear.

  • Control Portion Size: For obese rabbits, put small amounts of hay in racks frequently instead of filling racks. Limiting access helps reduce calorie intake while still providing fiber.

  • Avoid Wet Hay: Discard any hay that gets wet or soiled. Do not feed soiled, fermented hay, which can make a rabbit ill. Keep hay dry.

  • Store Hay Properly: Keep extra hay in a cool, dry place in an airtight plastic bin or trash bag. Storing hay properly preserves freshness and prevents spoilage or mold.

Feeding a continual supply of fresh, high quality grass hay meets the natural nutritional and digestive needs of rabbits. Provide plenty of clean water to aid their healthy hydration and digestion as well.

Feeding a Rabbit Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

In addition to grass hay, rabbits enjoy and benefit from fresh produce. Here are tips for feeding rabbits fruits and vegetables:

  • Go Low Glycemic: Choose low glycemic index fruits and non-starchy vegetables. These will not spike blood sugar levels. Examples: greens, broccoli, peppers, carrots, apples, berries.

  • Introduce New Foods Slowly: Mix in small pieces of just one new food at a time over several days. Watch for any diarrhea or changes which indicate an upset stomach.

  • Use Organic When Possible: Organic produce has no chemical pesticide residues. Wash thoroughly if using conventionally grown produce.

  • Limit Fruit Due to Sugar: Fruit and root veggies should be limited due to higher sugar content. These are great for occasional treats though.

  • Prepare Appropriate Sizes: Chop items into small pieces for easy eating and proper dental wear. Avoid whole pieces or chunks that require excessive chewing.

  • Provide Variety: Rotate through different vegetables and leafy greens to keep the diet interesting. Variety also provides a range of micronutrients.

  • Rinse Produce: Rinse leaves, vegetables, and fruit under water to remove dirt and residues before feeding. Pat greens dry if rabbits will reject wet leaves.

  • Remove Uneaten Produce: To avoid spoilage, discard any fresh foods uneaten within a few hours after serving. Time limits depends on room temperature.

With a diverse diet of fresh plant foods in appropriate portions, rabbits gain important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients they need for good health. Provide fresh filtered water in clean bowls daily as well.

Can Rabbits be Carnivorous?

No, rabbits cannot be carnivorous and eat a diet primarily of meat. Here's why rabbits must eat an herbivorous diet:

  • Digestive Tract Structure: A rabbit's digestive tract is designed to process a high fiber, plant-based diet. Key features like their enlarged cecum digest cellulose, not animal protein and fats.

  • Teeth Structure: A rabbit's teeth constantly grow and are kept worn down by silicate-rich grasses. Their teeth would overgrow without this abrasion and be unable to tear meat.

  • Nutritional Needs: Rabbits require nutrition that comes from eating plants, like vitamin C and antioxidant phytonutrients. Meat alone would not meet their needs.

  • Behavior and Instinct: Rabbits do not have predatory instincts or appetites. In nature, they do not hunt, kill, or consume other animals.

  • Health Consequences: Eating meat, eggs, or insects would disrupt their gut microbiome. This causes serious gastrointestinal issues that can be fatal.

While rabbits will opportunistically eat very small amounts of animal matter rarely in nature, they have a clear biological and behavioral drive to eat a strict herbivorous diet. Feeding a rabbit meat would go against its physiology and natural eating instincts.

My Rabbits Begs for Meat from My Dinner Plate

It's common for pet rabbits to beg for food from their owners while they're eating. A rabbit may seem interested in meat on your plate, but should not be fed any animal products. Here's why:

  • Begging is Instinctual: Begging for food is natural rabbit behavior, especially if they are accustomed to getting treats from you. It does not mean they should eat what you are eating.

  • Rabbits Cannot Properly Digest Meat: A rabbit's gastrointestinal tract is designed to process plant matter. Eating meat will disrupt their gut flora balance and cause serious health issues.

  • Meat has Too Much Fat and Protein: The high fat and protein content in meat is unhealthy for rabbits. This can cause liver and kidney damage over time.

  • Unbalanced Nutrition: Meat lacks the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients rabbits need from eating varied plant parts like leaves, stems, roots.

  • Rabbits Lack Carnivore Teeth: Flat bunny teeth are for grinding, not tearing meat. Pieces could pose a choking hazard.

While your rabbit begging for a taste of meat is cute, be strong and do not give in. Gently direct them to eat their healthy hay and veggies instead to keep your fluffy friend fit.

My Rabbit Ate Meat When I Wasn’t Watching

If your rabbit managed to sneak some meat when you were not looking, do not panic, but monitor them closely. Here is how to respond:

  • Assess How Much Meat was Eaten: The more consumed, the higher chance of digestive upset. Even small amounts may cause issues though.

  • Watch for Diarrhea: Digestive distress may occur in the next 12-48 hours. Loose stool or diarrhea are common side effects of eating meat.

  • Contact Your Vet: If diarrhea lasts over 24 hours, or you see lethargy or loss of appetite, contact your vet. These require medical attention.

  • Provide Extra Hydration: Help flush their system by providing extra fresh water. You can also provide hydrating vegetables like cucumber or melon.

  • Feed Digestive Aids: Temporarily feeding extra hay, probiotics, or digestive enzymes may help minimize issues.

  • Adjust Diet: Remove treats and sugary foods for a few days. Stick to hay, leafy greens, and a very limited amount of plain pellets until stools normalize.

While an accidental nibble of meat may only cause temporary diarrhea, consult a rabbit-savvy vet if symptoms persist or seem severe. In the future, keep all human food out of reach to keep bunny healthy.

Are There Carnivorous Rabbits in the Wild?

There are no carnivorous or meat-eating rabbits in the wild. All wild rabbit species are herbivores who subsist on a diet strictly of plant materials. Here is some information on why there are no carnivorous rabbits:

  • Digestive System Structure: A rabbit's GI tract is adapted to digesting plant fiber, not animal protein and fats. Their enlarged cecum harbors bacteria that ferments cellulose.

  • Dentition: Rabbits have 28 teeth optimized for chewing and grinding tough plant material, not tearing meat. Their constantly growing teeth require plant abrasion for wear.

  • Behavior: Rabbits do not have hunting instincts or predatory appetites. Prey animals like rabbits avoid confrontation and spend most of their time grazing or foraging for vegetation.

  • Nutritional Requirements: Rabbits need nutrients found abundantly in plants, like vitamin C. Meat would not provide adequate nutrition.

  • Health Risks: Eating meat would drastically disrupt the microbial balance in a rabbit's cecum and cause intestinal disease. Wild rabbits innately avoid foods that make them sick.

While rabbits may very occasionally ingest a tiny amount of animal matter just by chance in the wild, they do not seek it out or purposefully eat meat. All wild rabbit species are herbivorous due to their biology and natural history as prey animals.

Are Rabbits Cannibals?

No, rabbits are not cannibals. They do not actively hunt and eat other rabbits for food. Here are some reasons why rabbits do not eat each other:

  • Herbivorous Diet: Rabbits are biologically adapted to only eating plant materials. They cannot properly digest meat, bone, or organs.

  • Non-Predatory Nature: Rabbits are prey animals and do not have predatory instincts to kill and consume other animals, even their own kind.

  • Territorial, Not Aggressive: Rabbits are not aggressive hunters. While territorial, any altercations involve nipping and chasing, not mortal attacks.

  • Nutritional Balance: Eating just meat would not provide adequate nutrition for rabbits. They need diverse vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from plants.

  • Social Structure: Rabbits live in social groups and share communal burrows. This cooperative structure would discourage cannibalism.

  • Nursing Instincts: Mother rabbits are hard-wired to nurse and protect their young, not eat them. They are very nurturing parents.

While cannibalism occurs in the wild for survival reasons with some animal species, it does not occur in rabbits. Their herbivorous nature, sociability, and parental instincts forbid it.

Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?

No, mother rabbits do not eat their babies if humans touch them. Here are some facts on rabbits and their young:

  • Rabbits Do Not Abandon Young: Rabbits still care for and nurse babies after being handled by people. Mothers identify babies by scent, not human scent.

  • Eating Young is Extremely Rare: Cannibalism basically never happens. Mothers are hardwired to nurture, not eat offspring.

  • Infanticide Causes: On the very rare occasion a mother rabbit harms her young, it is due to extreme stress or feeling that resources are insufficient to support the litter. Simply touching babies does not trigger this.

  • Instinct to Nurse: The maternal drive to nurse and care for young is very strong in rabbits. It prevents abandoning or eating healthy young without an extreme trigger.

  • Young Rely on Mother: Baby rabbits are fully dependent on mother's milk for the first weeks until naturally weaned. Killing offspring would make no evolutionary sense.

So while you should avoid disturbing a nest, handling baby rabbits for short periods is not cause for concern. The mother will continue caring for handled babies in nearly all cases once returned to the nest.


In summary, rabbits are obligate herbivores whose natural diet consists solely of plant materials like grasses, leafy greens, vegetables, flowers, roots, and tree bark. Both wild and domesticated rabbits have digestive tracts and nutritional requirements adapted specifically for an herbivorous lifestyle. Feeding a rabbit meat, insects, eggs or other animal products is unnatural and unhealthy for them. While they may try begging for a taste out of curiosity, rabbits should only eat plant-based foods to stay happy and healthy. With proper care including a grass hay-focused diet, fresh water, and enclosure enrichment, rabbits make very enjoyable herbivorous companion pets.

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