Whether you have a pet rabbit, or like in my case, you have a family of them living in the wild in your yard, you will have probably noticed that they eat a lot. But how long can rabbits go without food and is there anything to be aware of regarding their dietary needs? As an owner, it is essential that we keep our rabbits safe, and meet all of their requirements. I have therefore decided to spend some time researching the topic. I will be sharing my findings here with you today.
So, how long can rabbits go without food? Rabbits are grazers who need to eat continuously. If they go even 12 hours without food, then they have a high chance of developing a potentially deadly condition called GI Statis. At most, a rabbit will typically live for around 3-4 days without eating.
GI (Gastrointestinal) Stasis causes a rabbit’s digestion system to slow down. When their system slows down, it causes the stomach to dehydrate and makes passing food more difficult, causing a buildup of bacteria which results in gas.
In minor cases, it’s uncomfortable for your rabbit. If it is treated quickly, it can be resolved. However, in more severe cases, it can become an excruciating and critical condition.
GI Stasis is not something that needs to arise in your pet rabbit. With an appropriate diet and feeding schedule, many owners never encounter this condition and keep their rabbits digestive system in robust health.
Let us now take a closer look at the important questions related to the topic. We will be taking a look at how much food a rabbit needs to eat, how often and what they need to consume!
How Much Food Does A Rabbit Need to Eat?
Adult rabbits should be fed ¼ cup of pellets per 6 pounds of body weight, 2 cups of vegetables per 6 pounds of body weight, and 1-2 ounces of fruit per the same amount of body weight per day.
In addition to the measured food, your adult rabbit should also have unlimited access to timothy, grass, and oat hay. They will usually go through a bundle of the same size they are, a day.
If you notice your rabbit is becoming overweight, limit the amount of fruit and pellets you feed them. Always ensure that the food you deliver your rabbit is of proper nutrition.
Senior rabbits, on the other hand, have the opposite problem.
If you notice your senior rabbit is losing weight, increase the serving size of pellets that you feed them.
You can also reintroduce alfalfa hay to their diet, providing them with a higher calorie food option that is still healthy for them. This is the kind to buy off Amazon.
Once baby rabbits wean from mom at eight weeks of age, they can eat unlimited amounts of alfalfa hay and pellets until they are a year old.
For the first three weeks of their life, they will only have milk from mom. Between three weeks to eight weeks, they will start to have solid foods and milk from mom.
How Often Does a Rabbit Need to Eat?
Rabbits need to have access to food and water 24 hours a day. They should also be eating most of their waking minutes, with maybe breaks of a few minutes, especially if they are distracted by your or something else.
They regularly graze throughout the day instead of eating at particular mealtimes. With food continuously entering the stomach, it allows their stomach and intestinal tract to remain hydrated, which in turn allows food to move through the system continuously, and eliminating correctly.
The longer the rabbit goes without food, the drier their stomach gets. A dehydrated stomach cannot pass food through the intestinal tract, causing gas and bloating, which could eventually lead to death.
How Long Can a Rabbit Go Without Food Before Dying?
A rabbit can go maybe 3-4 days without food before dying. However, they can also develop severe GI Stasis within 12 hours of not eating and can die.
Rabbits should be eating almost always. If you notice your rabbit is not eating, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to get help quickly.
Not only do you want to prevent GI Stasis, but there may be an underlying issue causing your rabbit not to want to eat.
Of course, your rabbit’s age, size, and health could also be a determining factor in how long they can go without food before dying.
A healthy adult rabbit may make it to day 3 or 4. In contrast, a kit, or senior underweight rabbit may only make it shortly past the 12-hour mark.
To be on the safe side, always assume that your rabbit can’t go past 12 hours without eating.
If you are going away for the weekend, or longer, make sure that you have someone who can feed your rabbit and give them fresh water.
If you have to go away for a day or two, your rabbit will be ok alone, so long as you leave plenty of food and water.
If you go away longer than a couple of days, you should have somebody take care of your rabbit, so you don’t have to fret over if they have run out of food or water.
What Does a Rabbit Need to Eat?
Like people, a rabbit’s dietary needs change throughout their life, depending on what life stage they are in. The type of food and amount will differ between baby rabbits and mature rabbits.
When baby rabbits, or kits, are first born, they live off their mother’s milk solely for about the first three weeks.
At that point, they can start to nibble on solid foods such as alfalfa hay and food pellets.
After about a month, they can increase the amount of alfalfa hay and pellets they eat to an unlimited amount.
During this time, they will continue to get milk from their mother. Most rabbit breeds will be fully weaned from their mothers when they reach about eight weeks of age. At this time, their diet will consist of unlimited alfalfa hay and pellets.
Once the rabbits reach three months, you can add fresh vegetables to their diet, one type of vegetable at a time, in small amounts. This way, you can track if your rabbit is showing any sensitivity.
At seven months old, a rabbit should have continuous access to added grass and hay mixtures, such as timothy, grass hay, and/or oat hay.
By the time they are a year old, you should reduce the serving size of pellets and eliminate the alfalfa hay.
When your rabbit hits a year old, they are considered adults and can switch to an adult diet of unlimited timothy, grass hay, and oat hay. Also, they should receive measured amounts of pellets and vegetables each day.
Pellets and alfalfa hay have higher calories and feeding your rabbit too much could cause them to become overweight.
Replacing the alfalfa hay is fine as they are getting the same nutrients from the other grass and hay types, just at a lower calorie amount. Once rabbits hit the adult stage, they should be fed treats, such as fruits, sparingly.
Senior rabbits can be fed the same diet as adults. However, if you notice that they are losing weight, then you will need to increase the serving of pellets, you feed them. You can also reintroduce alfalfa hay to their diet.
Of course, like all living beings, rabbits also need access to fresh water. They should always have enough water without fear of running out. You should check your rabbit’s water levels at least twice a day to ensure that they have plenty of water, but that it’s also clean and fresh.
Rabbits may be cute and cuddly like cats and dogs; however, their care when it comes to food and diet is completely different. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits don’t have a mealtime, and they need to have access to food 24 hours a day.
Since they are grazers, rabbits eat continuously throughout the day. If they go 12 hours without food, they can start to suffer from a serious and painful condition called GI Statis, potentially killing them.
GI Stasis causes the rabbit’s stomach to dehydrate, no longer allowing food to pass through freely. It will cause a buildup of gas as well as food in their digestive system. Nobody wants that for their pet bunny.
Rabbits have different diets throughout their lifetime, requiring different foods and amounts. The main staples of a rabbit’s diet are pellets, alfalfa hay, timothy, grass hay, oat hay, and fresh vegetables. Less often they can also have some fresh fruit.
Each day measure out the appropriate serving sizes of pellets and vegetables, however grasses and hay are allowed in unlimited amounts, and should be readily available at all times. Reduce the amount of fruit you give your rabbit to a small amount, around 1 to 2 ounces, a few times a week.
Research what fruits and vegetables you can give your rabbit and what types of foods are best for their daily diet. Muesli mix, for example, is not good for rabbits as it causes health issues. Never feed your rabbit, something that isn’t recommended by experts.
Like with other pets, if you notice your rabbit is gaining too much weight and has become overweight, reduce the serving size of pellets you are feeding them, as this is their highest caloric food source.
Rabbits are okay to be left on their own for a couple of days if they have adequate amounts of food and water to last them.
Any longer than that and you need to have someone take care of them.
Rabbits make great family pets and are relatively easy to take care of.
For this reason, they are great as first pets for kids. Ensuring they have a clean living space and enough food and water and you will have a happy and healthy rabbit that can bring your family lots of fun and enjoyment.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.