Despite the common belief that they are low-maintenance pets, rabbits are a huge responsibility. Part of your responsibility is to feed your pet a high-quality diet. Most pet rabbits can live an average of up to 8 years. But depending on the breed and level of care, they can live over 10 years.
One of the most effective ways to give your rabbit a long and healthy life is by providing a high-quality diet (healthy nutrition). Food is essential for your rabbit’s survival. He needs to have food and water at all times. Without regular access to food and water, his health can be compromised.
A rabbit that stays for so long without eating is in immediate danger. So, how long can rabbits go without food?
Let’s talk about it.
How much food does a rabbit need?
Due to their delicate stomachs, rabbits have specific dietary requirements. As a rabbit owner, you should know what can make or break your rabbit- foodwise. Some foods are healthy and nutritious, while others can harm or kill your rabbit. A proper diet can avoid many health concerns and help your rabbit live a long and healthy life.
A well-balanced diet should contain protein, fiber, fats, vitamins, and minerals. A rabbit should have a daily diet of mostly hay, with moderate amounts of fresh plants, and a small number of pellets. Vegetables, fruits, and other treats should be provided sparingly.
How much food should a rabbit eat?
The recommended quantity of food for rabbits is as follows:
- Unlimited amount of quality hay at all times.
- A maximum of 1 cup per 2 pounds of body weight per day.
- A quarter cup of pellets per 6 pounds of body weight daily. If your rabbit is under 6 pounds, feed an eighth of a cup daily.
- 1-2 ounces of fruit, once or twice a week.
This is a feeding guide for adult rabbits. Now, it’s a bit different for baby rabbits and pregnant or lactating rabbits. Lactating or pregnant rabbits need to eat more. Newborn rabbits, on the other hand, should only feed on their mother’s milk for the first four weeks.
After that, you can gradually introduce a small amount of hay and pellets and supplement them with milk. Young rabbits under 12 weeks of age should not eat vegetables and fruits.
If you notice your rabbit is gaining weight, reduce the quantity of pellets and sugary treats, including fruits.
On the other hand, if a rabbit is losing weight (mostly senior rabbits), you can increase the quantity of pellets and reintroduce alfalfa hay. These two options have a higher calorie content.
How long can rabbits go without food?
Rabbits are grazers, so they need to eat constantly to keep their digestive systems working. Food constantly entering their stomach allows their gut to stay hydrated, which helps food move freely in the digestive system, causing waste elimination.
But how long can a rabbit survive without food before dying?
A rabbit may go three to four days on average without food. Some factors determine a rabbit’s survival rate without food, such as age, weight, health, and diet. A healthy adult rabbit may last three or four days, while a young or weak adult rabbit might not last long past 12 hours.
A rabbit that doesn’t have access to food for 12 hours could be at risk of developing gastrointestinal stasis, or GI stasis, which is a medical emergency.
What is GI stasis?
GI stasis is a severe condition in which the digestive system slows down and eventually stops. This is due to an imbalance of normal bacteria in the digestive tract, leading to bad bacteria build-up and gas production.
There are other causes of GI stasis, including:
- Overeating carbs or fats and not enough fiber (specifically hay)
- Stress (e.g., environmental changes or losing a bonded mate)
- Frequent use of antibiotics
- Underlying medical conditions, such as dental problems, urinary tract infections, etc.
GI stasis could occur if a rabbit stops eating. Besides not eating, other signs can let you know that your rabbit is in danger.
- Loss of appetite
- lethargy/hunched-up posture
- Soft stools or diarrhea
- No fecal pellets
While these symptoms seem minor, they can be fatal. If left untreated, your rabbit could die. Therefore, you must visit your vet immediately after noticing those signs.
The vet will then perform a complete physical examination as well as X-rays and bloodwork to determine the underlying cause. Once the vet confirms this condition, treatment can include fluid therapy (rehydration), antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, and other appropriate drugs.
In most cases, you can avoid GI stasis with the right diet and feeding plan.
How often does a rabbit need to eat?
Rabbits love to eat, and if it were up to them, they could eat all day and all night. Rabbits require special care and attention, beginning with plenty of food. What they eat and how often you feed them is essential as food can affect their digestive system and dental hygiene.
To take care of your rabbit, you need to know the best food, how much they should eat, and the daily feeding rhythm and intervals.
In general, rabbits should have access to food at all times, especially hay. But if you want a fixed schedule for feeding your rabbit, you can do it twice a day.
Remember that rabbits are crepuscular animals, meaning they’re at their most active during dusk and dawn. Wild rabbits eat at these times. Most pet rabbits also have a similar pattern. So you can feed them twice a day: around 6 in the evening and in the morning after you wake up.
Important feed reminder
- Do not overfeed your rabbit. Always give the required amount depending on their age and weight.
- Keep the food dry and insect-free.
- Free-fed rabbits tend to gain too much weight because of overeating. Free-fed rabbits are those that are left alone to eat whenever they want.
If you want to know if your rabbit is eating enough, you can weigh him regularly to see if he’s within his weight range. Alternatively, you can check the body’s condition by feeling the hindquarters. A well-fed rabbit should have a well-rounded backbone and ribs. If you can see the ribs, the rabbit is probably too thin.
Rabbits make good pets. However, unlike cats and dogs, they are very delicate and need a little more care and attention, especially when it comes to their feeding and diet. Since they are grazers, they need a constant supply of food. Feeding time can be twice a day; mornings and evenings when they are most active.
Rabbits can survive for up to four days without food, depending on their health status and age. Healthy rabbits might survive longer than weaker or younger rabbits.
However, if they go past 12 hours without food, their health is in peril. They can start developing GI stasis, which could potentially kill them if left unattended.
It is up to you, as the owner, and your duty to ensure proper feeding. So, if you’re planning to travel for a couple of days, it’s better to leave them in the care of someone else. Never let your rabbit go for more than 12 hours without food.