Are Rabbits Herbivores, Carnivores, or Omnivores article featured image

Are Rabbits Herbivores, Carnivores, or Omnivores?

Rabbits, with their twitching noses and fluffy tails, are adorable creatures that have captured the hearts of many. A common question many rabbit owners and enthusiasts often ask is about their diet: Are rabbits herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Rabbits are herbivores. They primarily eat a diet of plants, including grasses, hay, and vegetables. In some rare instances, certain wild rabbits may exhibit omnivorous behavior, but generally, rabbits are considered herbivores.

This article will delve into the intricacies of a rabbit’s dietary nature and debunk some common misconceptions.

What is a Herbivore, Carnivore, and Omnivore?

A rabbit eating a carrot

Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are organisms classified based on dietary preferences and adaptations.

The dietary preferences and adaptations of organisms can be categorized into three main groups: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

  • Herbivores primarily consume plant matter. Their digestive systems are adapted to extract nutrients from plants, using fermentation processes to break down the tough cellulose in plant cell walls.

  • Carnivores mainly eat other animals. They have adaptations like sharp teeth and a meat-digesting system to help them hunt and consume meat.

  • Omnivores consume both plant and animal matter. They have a generalized digestive system capable of processing various foods.

These categories are a simplification, and many animals may not fit perfectly into one category.

For instance, some “carnivores” occasionally consume plant matter, and some “herbivores” may ingest small amounts of animal protein.

However, these categories help us understand the dietary habits of different organisms.

The Rabbit’s Digestive System

A Vet showing a rabbit digestive system

Rabbits have a specialized digestive system suited for processing a plant-based diet. Here’s a simplified overview of their digestion process:

  1. Ingestion: Food is broken down into smaller pieces in the rabbit’s mouth, with enzymes in saliva initiating digestion.
  2. Stomach Digestion: The food travels to the stomach, further broken down with stomach acid and enzymes.
  3. Small Intestine: Nutrients are extracted from the partially digested food in the small intestine and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  4. Caecum and Cellulose Digestion: The food moves to the caecum, where cellulose is fermented into simpler compounds that can be absorbed.
  5. Cecotrophy: Rabbits excrete and re-eat cecotropes, nutrient-rich droppings, to extract further nutrition.
  6. Excretion: The undigested food moves into the colon, where water is removed, and the remaining material is excreted as feces.

This digestion process, particularly the ability to break down and ferment cellulose, underlines the rabbit’s adaptation to a herbivorous diet.

What Do Rabbits Eat?

5 rabbits eating pellets

Rabbits, as quintessential herbivores, primarily sustain themselves on a diet of plant-based foods. The dietary habits of wild and domestic rabbits slightly differ, owing to their contrasting environments.

Comparative Diets of Wild and Domestic Rabbits

  Wild Rabbits Domestic Rabbits
Primary Diet Predominantly graze on grasses and leaves. Mainly consume hay, assisting in digestion and supplying necessary fiber.
Additional Diet Occasionally consume fruits, seeds, flowers, twigs, and bark for additional nutrients. Eat commercially produced rabbit pellets, designed to meet their nutritional needs. These should be given in moderation due to high nutrient concentration.
Supplement Diet Limited to availability in natural habitats. Commonly fed rabbit-safe vegetables, such as leafy greens, bell peppers, and cucumbers. Fruits like apples and pears can be given as treats but should be limited due to higher sugar content.

While wild rabbits predominantly rely on their natural habitat for their dietary needs, domestic rabbits benefit from a more varied and controlled diet due to human intervention.

Always consult a vet or reliable rabbit care guide when introducing new foods to a pet rabbit’s diet.

What Happens If a Rabbit Eats Meat?

can rabbits eat meat image

Feeding meat to rabbits can lead to severe health problems. Their digestive system is adapted for processing plant-based food, not meat. Here are potential issues:

  • Gastrointestinal Stasis: A rabbit’s diet should be rich in fiber. Meat lacks fiber, and eating it can disrupt the rabbit’s digestive process, causing a potentially dangerous condition called gastrointestinal stasis.
  • Enteritis: The high protein and fat content in meat can disrupt the balance of bacteria in a rabbit’s gut, causing inflammation or enteritis.
  • Obesity and Related Health Complications: Consuming high-fat meat can lead to obesity in rabbits and associated health issues like heart disease and liver problems.
  • Dental Problems: Rabbits’ teeth are built to grind plant material, not tear flesh, and a meat diet can cause dental problems.

Therefore, sticking to a herbivorous diet for your pet rabbit’s well-being is crucial.

Balanced Diet Guidelines for Rabbits

rabbits eating pellets in bowls

Ensuring a balanced and proper diet for your pet rabbit is a crucial responsibility for any rabbit owner.

The rabbit’s diet plays a significant role in maintaining its overall health, well-being, and longevity. Here are some general guidelines for feeding your pet rabbit:

  • Unlimited Hay: Your rabbit’s diet should consist primarily of hay, which provides the necessary fiber for their digestive system. This should be available to them at all times. Rabbits under a year old should be fed alfalfa hay, while older rabbits should be given timothy, oat, and brome hay.
  • Daily Vegetables: Provide your rabbit with a variety of fresh vegetables daily. Examples include broccoli, bell peppers, and leafy greens like romaine lettuce, spinach, or kale. A general guideline is at least 1 cup of vegetables daily for every 2 pounds of body weight.
  • Limited Pellets: Feed your rabbit a small number of pellets each day. A general guideline is 1/4 cup of pellets per 6 pounds of body weight. Be sure to choose pellets high in fiber and avoid muesli-style foods, which can cause health problems.
  • Limited Fruit Treats: Fruits should be given sparingly due to their high sugar content. Consider them a special treat, not a main part of their diet.
  • Plenty of Fresh Water: Always ensure your rabbit has access to clean water.
  • Avoid Certain Foods: Certain foods are not suitable for rabbits and can be harmful, such as chocolate, candy, anything moldy, and most human foods.

Please note these are just general guidelines, and the dietary needs of rabbits can vary based on age, health status, and lifestyle. Always consult with your vet for personalized advice about your pet’s diet.

Also, gradually introduce new foods and closely monitor your rabbit’s health for any changes.


rabbit eating lettuce

It is unequivocally clear that rabbits are herbivores. Their digestive systems are finely tuned to process a plant-based diet rich in fibrous material such as hay, grass, and various fresh vegetables.

Regarding pet rabbits, adhering to a herbivorous feeding regimen is crucial. Any introduction of meat or dairy products into their diet can result in severe health issues due to their digestive systems not being equipped to handle such foods.

As responsible pet owners, we must provide a diet for our rabbits that aligns with their biological and physiological needs.

As a rule of thumb, a balanced diet for a rabbit should consist primarily of hay, supplemented with fresh vegetables, and complemented with a small proportion of specially formulated rabbit pellets.

So, the next time you’re thinking about what to feed your pet rabbit, remember that rabbit food and guinea pig food are formulated differently to cater to the specific dietary needs of each animal.

In mammals, similarities can be deceiving, and it’s crucial to look beyond the surface to understand the true nature of these fascinating creatures.

The well-being of our furry friends depends largely on their diet, so ensure you are feeding them appropriately!

Expand Your Rabbit Knowledge!

Looking for more fascinating insights about your bunny’s behavior and care? Our related articles below are just a click away!



1. Rabbit. (2023, July 10). In Wikipedia.

2. House Rabbit Society. (n.d.). What do rabbits eat?


Can Rabbits Eat Dog or Cat Food?

Rabbits should not eat dog or cat food. These products are formulated for carnivores and omnivores, respectively, while rabbits are herbivores. They require a diet rich in hay, fresh vegetables, and specific rabbit pellets for optimal health.

Why Does My Rabbit Eat Its Droppings?

This behavior is perfectly normal for rabbits and is called “coprophagy.” They produce two types of droppings: hard fecal pellets and softer cecotropes. They eat the cecotropes to reabsorb nutrients, a crucial part of their digestive process.

Are There Any Plants Toxic to Rabbits?

There are plants toxic to rabbits. These include common plants like foxgloves, lilies, rhubarb, and ivy. Always check if a plant is safe before allowing your rabbit to nibble. When in doubt, stick to their regular diet.

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