How Long Do Rabbits Live? Five Things to Keep Them Happy and Healthy

Updated on August 23, 2019
Susan May Gudge profile image

Susan May Gudge has cared for and bred rabbits for over two decades. Her main specialty is the breeding of miniature black rabbits.

A picture of perfect health when a proper diet is maintained.
A picture of perfect health when a proper diet is maintained.

What Do Rabbit Need to Be Healthy and Happy?

  1. Fresh water
  2. Timothy hay
  3. Rabbit pellets
  4. Carrots
  5. Tree branches (apple and maple)

The newest addition to our rabbit family, Elvira, at two months of age.
The newest addition to our rabbit family, Elvira, at two months of age.

What Is the Lifespan of a Rabbit?

In the wild, a rabbit has a lifespan of only about three years due to nutrition, water supply, disease and, of course, predators. A predator's eyes face forward on the skull, like wolves and cats, for example. Prey animals' eyes are placed on the sides of the skull, like the deer, horse and mouse. The rabbit’s eye placement marks it as prey. A wild rabbit is lucky if it even makes it past its first year.

The domestic rabbit can live for as long as ten years if properly cared for. In the following article, I will introduce you to the basics of how to give your rabbit a long, healthy and happy life. I can supply the information, the data, and some important tips, but you, as your rabbit’s friend, must supply one of the most important ingredients: love.

Rabbit pellets and Timothy hay.
Rabbit pellets and Timothy hay.

What Can I Feed My Rabbit?

A rabbit’s digestive system is very sensitive. Instead of wondering if something is good or bad for the rabbit, keep in mind that many foods are quite toxic to the rabbit. Some foods can cause a rabbit to become blocked internally. Other foods cause the rabbit to get fat, a very unhealthy situation.

Instead, throw out all ideas of feeding the rabbit anything other than the items I am going to recommend, and nothing else. Rabbits do not need variety. Variety for a rabbit can only lead to some severe digestion problems, even death. As an exotic animal, they need a very precise and strict diet.

Standard large size water source.
Standard large size water source.

Best Way to Give Rabbits Water

Most important is access to water. But, rabbits love to play. Their idea of play is to tip bowls over, move things around their cage and chew up anything that can be chewed. For that reason, I always found water bowls to be a very messy affair.

I find the best method is a large drip bottle that is made for dogs because of its large size, attached to the outside of the cage with the tube inside the cage. Make sure that the drip bottle is refilled daily with fresh water. Also, make sure by tapping the tip, that the bottle is discharging water efficiently.

Water Dispenser Bottle

Living World Plastic Leakproof Animal Bottle with Stainless Steel Spout, Small
Living World Plastic Leakproof Animal Bottle with Stainless Steel Spout, Small
I like this style because of the way it attaches to the cage. Many cage water bottles have plastic attachments which the rabbit can chew until the bottle can no longer remain connected to the cage bars. This one has a metal support ring that easily connects to the bars of the cage.
Timothy Hay - A rabbit's most important food.
Timothy Hay - A rabbit's most important food.

What Is a Rabbit's Main Food?

The most important food source is Timothy hay. A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing. For its whole life, the rabbit's teeth need to be constantly ground down by their food. It is very important they have enough hay to keep the teeth from growing too long.

Hay is also a very important part of their digestive process. It provides the roughage, the fiber, that is necessary to their digestion. Timothy Hay is available in most pet stores and large department stores.

Since Timothy hay is not fattening to rabbits, give them all they can eat in a day. A good-sized handful twice day keeps the rabbit in good health. You cannot overfeed a rabbit with Timothy hay, so keep that food bowl filled.

Rabbit pellets - a welcome treat for any rabbit.
Rabbit pellets - a welcome treat for any rabbit.

Are Rabbit Pellets Enough to Feed a Rabbit?

One well-known food is rabbit pellets. Pellets are a treat to rabbits. They are not meant to be the sole food source for a rabbit. The bags may say fully nutritious and complete, but they can never replace the most important food, Timothy hay.

Pellets give the rabbit that little extra they crave. Bear in mind that rabbits love them, but too much of this food is not a good thing. Pellets can be very fattening if the rabbit is overfed. A fat rabbit is not a healthy rabbit and its lifespan can be greatly reduced when a rabbit gets too fat.

I feed my rabbits twice a day. In the morning, they each get a fistful of them, approximately a third of a cup. When they are finished their treat, they get their fresh Timothy Hay. In the evening, when the sun is going down, the same routine is repeated.

Carrots are a special treat.
Carrots are a special treat.

Are Carrots Really Good for Rabbits?

We have all seen the cartoons of rabbits enjoying carrots. This is also true in reality. Carrots are a very special treat for a rabbit. But, carrots have a high amount of natural sugar. As such, I only give rabbits a small, cocktail-size carrot once or twice a week, and maybe an extra one for those special holidays like their birthdays, Christmas and, of course, Easter.

Some tree branches are appreciated by rabbits to gnaw.
Some tree branches are appreciated by rabbits to gnaw.

Tree Branches for Chewing

As the fourth and last item that a rabbit can have to live a long, healthy life, tree branches can give a rabbit something to chew on or play with. Some rabbits will eat them and others might just shred them.

Be warned that most trees are toxic to rabbits. Any tree that bears a one-seeded fruit is most likely dangerous. To be sure, I recommend you do not give any tree branches to a rabbit except for apple or maple. Do not take a chance with any other kind. It is better not to give any branches at all than to give the wrong kind that might harm or kill your pet. They are not necessary for a rabbit's survival.

The right diet will keep your rabbit bright eyed and bushy tailed.
The right diet will keep your rabbit bright eyed and bushy tailed.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Susan May Gudge


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