Why Is My Rabbit Only Eating Hay?

Fresh grass and hay are every rabbit’s primary nutrition components. However, variety is essential. Rabbit’s diet should be supplemented with leafy greens, vegetables, pellets, or fruits. But what if your rabbit starts eating only hay all of sudden? You may wonder why my rabbit is only eating hay. What are the reasons behind this behavior? So, let’s find out all your answers in this article.

Rabbits can stick to a particular food like hay due to health problems, including dental issues, GI stasis, and feeding only hay for a long time. Consulting the vet about your rabbit’s sudden change in eating behavior is essential to treat and avoid such problems.

This article will discuss whether rabbits can survive only on hay. Will hay provide all the nutrients that your rabbit requires? Why does a rabbit stops eating pellets but hay? So, let’s find it out.

My rabbit is only eating hay.

The staple diet of the rabbit should contain at least 80-90% hay, 5% pellets, and 5% fruits and vegetables or leafy greens and served according to the rabbit’s body weight.

If your rabbit is only eating hay, then there is no need to worry because hay is the essential food that contains a high amount of fiber, and in a rabbit’s diet, fiber is required. 

However, if your rabbit is not drinking or eating its pellets, only just eating hay, this could be a sign of a problem. Rabbits can stick to hay because of dental issues or an upset stomach.  

Dental problem:

Rabbits can have dental problems when they become selective towards specific food like hay. The dental problem causes a lot of pain, due to which rabbits only eat those food items that are easier to chew and swallow. 

Rabbits are prey animals. They are not vocalists like cats and dogs. Also, hide their pain to not make themselves weaker in front of their predators. And because of this, it could become hard to find whether your rabbit is having a dental problem or not.

Therefore, here are some symptoms that indicate that your rabbit may have a dental problem:

  1. Change in food preference.
  2. Weight loss
  3. Drooling
  4. Uneaten caecotrophs.
  5. Lack of grooming
  6. Suffering in pain
  7. Runny tears from the eyes
  8. Digestive disorders
  9. Loss in appetite
  10. Diarrhea or soft feces.

Upset stomach:

Eating only hay is not a cause for concern. However, rabbits are very clever animals. When they have a gastrointestinal issue, they will only consume what they require, high-fiber food like hay.

If your rabbit eats only hay for a day or two, ignoring other food items like vegetables or pellets, it may have digestive problems. 

GI stasis is a common health problem in rabbits. This condition slows down or even stops the digestive system completely, which could also be life-threatening if not treated on time. 

In the intestine of a rabbit, harmful bacteria build-up and release gas into the system, resulting in severe bloating and reducing the rabbit’s motivation to drink and eat. 

Dental problems, gas, lack of exercise, stress, low fiber diet, urinary tract infection, change in environment, or high starch diet are some of the causes of digestive problems or GI stasis in rabbits.

To identify whether your rabbit may be suffering from GI stasis, here are some symptoms of digestive problems:

  1. No fecal pellets
  2. Malformed or small pellets
  3. Hunched posture
  4. Loss of appetite

If you notice your rabbit’s changing behavior, then you must take them to visit your veterinarian. Also, you can provide papaya to your rabbit as it has anti-inflammation properties, reduces the risk of health problems, and improves the immune system.

Papaya benefits rabbits’ digestion system because some researchers believe that papaya contains enzymes. 

Feeding only hay to your rabbit: 

Your rabbit might only be eating hay because they are not habitual to other food items or might become dependent on hay if you have not introduced any other food item for a long time.

If you are introducing new food to the diet of your rabbit, then you need to slow down. Rabbits can’t digest fresh food until their gut bacteria get used to it and break down the food to digest. In addition, you must introduce food items according to their ages.

According to their dietary food, small rabbits have a sensitive gastrointestinal system compared to adult rabbits. In addition, the staple food of a rabbit is different according to age.

For example, a rabbit under six months can’t digest fruits and vegetables because of its sensitive digestive system. Baby rabbits should always stick to their mother’s milk and water. So, to make you clear, we have shared a chart that shows the dietary food according to the rabbit’s age.

stagesRabbit’s ageDietary needs
Small rabbitUnder six months–          Freshwater
–          Unlimited timothy hay
–          Alfalfa-based pellets
– Handful of alfalfa
Teen rabbitSix months–          Freshwater
–          Slowly reduce the amount of alfalfa
–          Switch to timothy-based pellets
–          Introduce vegetables and fruit once a time
– Unlimited timothy hay
Adult rabbitAbove six months–          Freshwater
–          Unlimited timothy hay
–          Timothy-based pellets (1/8 to 1/4 cup)
–          Fresh vegetables or leafy greens ( 3 quarter of a cup)
– Fruits in a small amounts ( twice or thrice a week)
This table shows the dietary requirement of a rabbit according to its age.

After introducing any fruit or vegetable in a small amount to your rabbit, you should observe your rabbit for 24 hours. If your rabbit has trouble producing droppings or has digestive problems like diarrhea or loose stool, you need to stop feeding vegetables and fruits for a few days.

Also read: Why Is My Rabbit Not Eating?

Can a rabbit survive only on hay?

Rabbits can survive only on hay and water. However, giving fresh veggies and fruits can include some nutritional benefits in their diet.

A rabbit can survive on hay only if it is fresh and of good quality, like Timothy Hay, which contains a good source of fiber. At the same time, alfalfa hay is the only hay that should be reduced or even removed from an adult rabbit’s diet.

Hay is the staple rabbit food with a high amount of fiber. Therefore, giving an unlimited amount of hay fulfills the required nutrients in their diet.

However, a rabbit’s diet should contain at least 90% hay, 5% pellets, and 5% leafy green veggies and fruits. 

Rabbits enjoy alfalfa hay but giving too much can also cause health problems. On the other hand, timothy hay is an excellent source of fiber. The combination of both will make your rabbit extremely pleased.

Vegetables and pellets are like supplements that give all kinds of vitamins and minerals that your rabbit may require in their diet. Therefore, A variety of dark leafy green vegetables like romaine lettuce, carrot tops, watercress, bok choy, broccoli greens, etc., should be included in a rabbit’s diet.

However, giving vegetables too often can also cause health problems like diarrhea, loose stools, etc., and vegetables that contain a high amount of starch and carbohydrates like potatoes and carrots.

Why is my rabbit not eating pellets but hay?

Rabbits can stop eating pellets for some reasons, including dental problems, boredom eating pellets, or expired pellets. If your rabbit is only eating hay and ignoring pellets, then there is no need to worry. Your rabbit will still get all the nutrients they require from hay. 

Other reasons that allow your rabbit not to eat pellets are:

  1. The smell of the pellet is dusty, which may cause your rabbit to sneeze.
  2. Having problems digesting pellets, which causes stomach pain
  3. Your rabbit’s mate or they itself urinated of its pellets
  4. Pellets are mold or thick

It is okay if your rabbit is eating hay and drinking water. They are just being picky. However, it is essential to investigate the cause of the loss of appetite in rabbits.

Pain in teeth:

Dental problems cause uneaten pellets because rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, which causes significant pain. 

Rabbits require solid food like hay so that they can chew to avoid dental problems.

The rabbit teeth must be even and sharp so they can comfortably chew toys and close their mouth.

Dusty or mold pellets:

The pellets can become mold or dusty, due to which your rabbit may not trust it to eat. In addition, if you are providing pellets from the bottom of the pellet’s bag, then your rabbit may not like it because of dust. Dust particles can irritate your rabbit’s nose, resulting in sneezing. 

Therefore, you must change the supply bag if your rabbit stops eating its pellets. 

Upset stomach:

Gastrointestinal stasis could also be a problem if your rabbit is not eating anything, but its teeth are fine. Swallowing undigested food or fur can cause blockages in the intestines, which causes stomach pain, and your rabbit may not eat pellets. 

Intestinal blockages are life-threatening problems that require immediate treatment by the vet. Grinding teeth, swollen abdomen, constipation, or refusing to move around are the symptoms of GI stasis. 

Ruined pellets:

Your rabbit may not eat pellets if something drops on it, e.g., water or urine of a rabbit. 

Usually, rabbits pee on things they want to mark important, including food. If you have more than one rabbit in your house, one of them can also pee on its pellets to show its other mate that “the food is not yours, it’s mine.” 

Therefore, washing the bowl and changing the pellets before serving your rabbits is essential.

Treats or boredom:

Sometimes giving too many tasty treats to your rabbit can make them spoil and become picky. They may feel pellets dull and less tasteless compared to their treats. 

Rabbits are very clever animals. Your rabbit knows they will surely get a tasty treat if they do not eat anything. Therefore, rabbits might avoid pellets because they wish to have treats. 

Will hay provide all the nutrients needed for a rabbit’s healthy lifespan?

The staple food of rabbits should be hay. A good amount of hay provides the beneficial nutrients they require and offers numerous additional advantages, such as maintaining their teeth in good condition.

Hay can provide 90% of nutrients, whereas pellets and leafy greens can be given as supplements that may fulfill their other nutrient requirement for healthy growth. The staple diet of a rabbit should contain at least 85% unlimited hay, 10% leafy greens or veggies, and 5% pellets according to the body weight. 

Hay contains at least 20% of fiber, trace minerals, mild protein 12 to 15%, low amount of sugar, starch, and fat. 

Here are different types of hay with different nutrients values:

Hay TypeCrude FibreCrude ProteinCalcium
This table shows different types of hay and their nutritional values.

Like all other animals, rabbits have nutritional needs that may be satisfied by ingesting specific components. The most vital nutrients for a rabbit are vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and water.

Vitamins: Vitamins are required for good health in rabbits. Feeding pellets are usually supplemented with vitamins and minerals. 

Minerals: Calcium levels in rabbits should be reduced at 0.5% to 1% Dried material. A diet heavy in alfalfa and grains has enough calcium and phosphorus to develop baby rabbits but too much for full-grown rabbits.

Protein: 12% to 18% is the primary protein requirement in a rabbit’s diet.

Fat: For energy and underweight rabbit, fat is required. Most foods contain 2% to 5% DM fat, which rabbits may obtain from vegetables. Rabbits do not need fat in their diet regularly.

Carbohydrates: Rabbits rely heavily on carbohydrates for energy. The majority of rabbits’ carbohydrate needs are met by fiber. Depending on the life stage, rabbits require at least 12% to 16% DM crude fiber.

Water: is the most vital nutrient for rabbits and should always be available. Rabbits should drink around 10% of their body weight in water daily.

Hay can provide beneficial nutrients. However, as an occasional treat, a rabbit’s growth may require some supplements to give extra vitamins or minerals, which include pellets, green leaves, veggies, or fruits.

Also read: Do Rabbits Need Hay Rack?

Rabbit Dietary Plan

Rabbit FoodServing QuantityNo. of times
Hay½ cupDaily
Green leaf lettuceTwo cupsper day
Zucchini1-2 Slices, about 1/8 to ¼ thick2-3 times/week
Cucumberone small size, a few millimeters thick2-3 times /week
Basil1-2 stemsOnce or twice/week
Watermelon½ cupOnce or twice/week
Mango1 to 2 tablespoonsOnce or twice/week
Apple1 or 2 SlicesPer week
Strawberry2 tablespoons of chopped strawberriesOnce or twice a week
This table shows the ideal dietary requirements of a rabbit.

Hay is the staple food of a rabbit, whereas vegetables and greens contain beneficial nutrients which fulfill the rabbit’s dietary needs. However, leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits should always be served as an occasional treat.

The staple diet of the rabbit should contain at least 80-90% hay, 5% pellets, and 5% fruits and vegetables or leafy greens and served according to the rabbit’s body weight.

The above table shows the Ideal dietary requirement of a rabbit. It would be best if you served hay to your rabbit according to its body weight. Therefore, the dietary food requirements are according to the rabbit’s body weight.

Rabbit weightpelletshayVeg (e.g., bell peppers, cabbage, zucchini squash, cucumber, etc.)Greens ( parsley, Leafy green lettuce, watercress, basil, etc.)
1 pound1/8 cupUnlimited1/2 tbsp1/2 cup
2 pound1/8 cupUnlimited1 tbsp1 cup
3 pound1/8 cupUnlimited1 ½ tbsp1 ½ cup
4 pound1/8 cupUnlimited2 tbsp2 cup
5 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited2 ½ tbsp2 ½ cup
6 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited3 tbsp3 cup
7 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited3 ½ tbsp3 ½ cup
8 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited4 tbsp4 cup
9 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited4 ½ tbsp4 ½ cup
10 pound1/4 – 1/3 cupUnlimited5 tbsp5 cup
11 pound3/4 cupUnlimited5 ½ tbsp5 ½ cup
12 pound3/4 cupUnlimited6 tbsp6 cup
13 pound3/4 cupUnlimited6 ½ tbsp6 ½ cup
14 pound3/4 cupUnlimited7 tbsp7 cup
15 pound3/4 cupUnlimited7 ½ tbsp7 ½ cup
This table shows the dietary requirements of a rabbit according to their weight.


  1. Rabbits eating only hay can indicate health problems, like dental problems and GI stasis. 
  2. Also, your rabbit might become dependent on hay, so they don’t want other food items.
  3. Rabbits can survive only on high-quality and fresh hay and water. However, giving fresh veggies and fruits can include some nutritional benefits in their diet.
  4. Rabbits not eating pellets but hay can indicate problems like pain in teeth, dusty pellets, upset stomach, ruined pellets, treats, or boredom. 
  5. Hay can provide 90% of nutrients, whereas pellets and leafy greens can be given as supplements that may fulfill their other nutrient requirement for healthy growth. 

Reference: rabbit, vrra

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