Why Rabbits Crave Treats

Just about anyone who has a pet rabbit knows that rabbits go crazy for their favorite treat, whether that be small piece of banana or a crispy, crunchy bunny cookie. The higher the caloric content it seems, the more that they crave it.

It reminds me of a two year old human child once they discover sweets. The classic childhood raiding of the cookie jar may just be part of growing up, but for a rabbit it is a part of their genetic make-up.

When rabbits were still wild creatures living in nature, the bunny who ate the most calories the quickest was the one who was also back to safety inside the burrow the fastest. Over time, natural selection or evolution coded that trait directly into a rabbit’s genes.

While you may think that your bunny is the only bunny who is absolutely in need of a 12 step program for his banana habits, actually it is inherent to the species. The key thing to remember is that given a choice, virtually all bunnies will chose the highest calorie food available to them at the time.

To explain in detail, if given a choice between pellets and hay, most bunnies will chose pellets. If given the choice between fruit and pellets, most bunnies will select fruit, first. Bunnies are fairly predictable that way and it is what makes a rabbit a rabbit.

What you need to know is that, just like raising a child, you cannot allow them to make important choices for themselves such as about their diet. We know that if given a choice between a breakfast of oatmeal or ice cream that virtually all children will choose the sweet treat. Bunnies are hard-wired to be the same way.

This is why as a bunny-savvy owner, we must make the correct choices for them and it is better to never introduce some of the sweeter treats such as fruit or sugary treats. A treat CAN be as simple as a sprig of fresh parsley or dill or even basil. I try and find healthy treat alternatives for my bunnies such as willow wreathes with the leaves attached, fresh apple sticks with leaves when possible, timothy hay cubes, treats where the main ingredient is hay, not flour and anything fresh from my garden including roses, leaves, stems, thorns and all.

My bunnies used to get some fruit every day, but since I took it away from them years ago, they have not missed it. They did for a few months but now they beg for different treats that I don’t feel so guilty giving them.

Rabbits are expert beggars, so whatever you do, don’t fall into the “treat trap”. They will learn how to make you squeal with delight as they push your “buttons” to get another treat. All kinds of special postures and dances will be done for your benefit to get that next one and mine do this all day long. If you cave in every time they do a dance, soon they will be dancing all day long and slowly gaining weight. Pretty soon, they learn how to get those treats without the dance and just guilt us into giving them.

What most folks forget is that the life expectancy of an overweight rabbit is dramatically lower than a slim and trim one. They hefty bunny will end up in the vet office constantly for GI stasis issues and worse. It is so important to keep your bunny trim and healthy. If you truly love him or her, you will deeply consider what I am telling you. Less is more when it comes to loving your bunny.

10 thoughts on “Why Rabbits Crave Treats

    • That is a very bad thing. Never more than a tiny baby carrot per day. Carrots are like ice cream or candy bars. Would you allow your child to eat four candy bars each day? I am sure you wouldn’t.

      Rabbits evolved to crave the highest calorie foods available. It is because when they were evolving in the wild, the bunny who ate the high calorie foods was done eating the quickest and back in the burrow avoiding getting eaten by predators. Over the millenia, it because imprinted in their genes to always choose the highest calorie food that they can get.

      This means that if given a choice between carrots and pellets, they will always choose carrots. Given a choice between pellets and veggies, they will always choose pellets, given a choice between veggies and hay, they will always choose veggies. Therefore, if you want them to eat a lot of hay, you need to limit drastically the amounts of these other foods that they will always prefer to their hay.

      80-90 percent of their diet should be hay. Not veggies, not pellets and definitely not carrots, which is the worst possible food for them to get a lot of.

      Hope this helps.

  1. Thank you so much for your blog posts! we have two 10 week old bunnies we brought home last week and although we know a lot about cats and dogs we know very little about rabbits. I am learning soooo much from your blog. I’ll probably be on here all night reading all your posts.

    • Learning about pet rabbits does not happen overnight. I tell people that it is a journey that lasts for years. I am still learning about them all the time. Even vets and experts are learning new things because so much about these mysterious creatures is still unknown. I highly recommend reading as many books as you can get your hands on.

    • Oatmeal is incredibly fattening and also addicting. Better to give a sprig of parsley or piece of celery. Many people give it, but it is a very high calorie treat, like fruit. I try and limit these kind of treats or don’t give them at all. Mine do not get oatmeal, ever for this reason.

  2. I know this is totally unrelated to the topic you’ve posted here but I was hoping for a little advice anyway.

    We have two rabbits, a boy and a girl. Both about 5/6/7 months. The female has been spayed and has recovered nicely, but the male is still ‘too young’ to be done by our rabbit savvy vet. They are both house rabbits and have no been bonded yet, the female currently has the run of the room in which they will both be once introduced, and the male is living in the hallway.

    I was just wondering what you think the best way to do introductions are? Is it best to wait until the male has been neutered before even trying? When doing introductions is it best to move the female out of there ‘soon to be’ space so that we can neutralise as best we can? We are really short on neutral space as the male is mostly free running unless we aren’t there to supervise. Our only options are the bathroom floor, bath and a small porch. Are the best bonding techniques slow and steady (placing the cages near each other and letting them get used to each others scent) or doing daily introductions and gradually increasing the size of the space until they are happily living in the intended room? Following the bonding do we have to spend a few days neutralising their cages before putting them in the room with them?

    I have so many questions. I have owned rabbits since being very young, 7 in total before even these two, but I have never had the experience of bonding rabbits, and I have never had house rabbits before.

    If you reply, then I thank you for everything that you can tell me!!

    • It is very important to wait four to six weeks after the boy has been neutered to have them meet for “dates”. The important things to remember is that when bonding, that you do not repeat things that do not work. In essence, if something does not work, do something else until you find something that works. Then keep doing that. Don’t keep doing something that is not working, over and over. The second most important thing is space is your enemy during bonding. Smaller spaces work better than large ones because they are less stressful for the buns to deal with. I have had good success using strollers with a litter box inside (one not used by any other bunny) for bonding. Rides in a pet carrier in a car has worked for me, too. Once they do well in a small space, you can gradually increase the size, a few inches each day. Don’t rush it and go too fast.

  3. Hi. My neighbors have had a bunny that they kept outside for years and years. The hutch he was kept in had a wire bottom, they never cleaned it, he hasn’t been outside of it to play or exercise in at least 5 years, and the poor thing just looked miserable. I took my young neice over one day to show her the bunny, and it had no food or water. Assuming the owners would be back later that day to feed him, I left. I went back the next couple of days and they were not feeding it or giving it any water, so I took over in caring for him. I didn’t have many options, so I would often give him a shredded carrot, or some leafy green vegetables, or apples with no seeds. I gave him fresh water every day. This went on for about 5 weeks. However, when I went over yesterday, the little guy was dead. I’m completely devastated by this and can’t help but think it’s my fault and what I was feeding him. The temperature the night before had gone down to about 50 outside and there was some frost, so perhaps that contributed as well. If you could give me some guidance, perhaps some closure, as to why you think this may have happened, I would appreciate it. I know he was old and had been neglected for years, but I can’t help but beat myself up, even though I think I gave the bunny some real love in his final days. Thanks for your help.

    • Rabbits who live outdoors and are not fed or cared for will suddenly die of dozens of different health issues. It is impossible to tell what caused this but most likely something he ate created a condition in his gut for something bad. Apples contain a lot of sugar and will cause a clostridium bloom in a rabbit’s gut. The bacteria is there all the time but flourishes in sugary conditions. A bunny who is not used to a lot of carbs in his diet can suddenly have a bloom of this bacteria and it kills them rather quickly by releasing toxins and gas into their digestive tract. Carrots also have a lot of carbs in them so the combination of carrots and apples may have been way too much sugar for him. I have heard of bunnies passing away within hours of something like this. That is why I preach over and over to not give too many carrots or fruit to a pet bunny. Mine do not get it at all, for these reasons.

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