Can Rabbits Have Salt Licks?

When you are browsing the shelves at the pet supply store looking for things your rabbits need, you might come across salt blocks.

You might find little cylindrical blocks of salt. Or you might see chunks of pink Himalayan salt.

Or you might even come across a 50-pound block of salt that is really designed for cattle and horses (and costs less than US $10).

There is usually no reason your rabbit can’t have a salt lick (we’ll go over the exceptions to the rule in the next section).

But most rabbits don’t need salt licks for good health.

Special Situations When You Should Give Your Rabbit a Salt Lick

One of the few situations in which it is a good idea to provide your rabbit with a salt lick is when it is on a pellet-free diet.

Hay pellets are a good source of salt. After all, they are made from highly concentrated, high-quality hay.

They are also a good source of essential trace elements, such as iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

If you aren’t giving your rabbit any pellets at all, a salt lick can provide the additional trace minerals it may need. But it is highly unlikely to need any additional salt.

Now, let’s take a look at the situations in which you should not give a rabbit supplemental salt.

Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Salted Sunflower Seeds?

Situations When Not to Give Your Rabbit a Salt Lick

Sodium is a vital nutrient.

It’s what gives your real-life rabbit some of the same qualities as the Energizer Bunny.

Every time a cell in a rabbit’s body absorbs one molecule of glucose to give it energy, it needs three positively charged ions of sodium.

Sodium also regulates your rabbit’s nervous system.

But rabbits typically get all the sodium they need from hay. They may visit a salt lick out of curiosity, but never because the salt ;lick is the only way, or even the main way, they get salt.

The rabbit’s kidneys regulate sodium levels as long as the rabbit has access to enough water.

So, when should you not give your rabbit a salt lick?

Your Rabbit is Bored

There are times when your rabbit has to spend a lot of time in its cage or hutch.

Maybe it is too hot or too cold to let your rabbit play outside. Maybe the weather is stormy.

You may be waxing, mopping, or stripping floors, so your rabbit cannot play indoors, or you may have to go out for a few hours, and you don’t trust your rabbit to roam around your home on its own.

Just like many people, your rabbit may eat because it is bored. It may consume more salt than is healthy for it.

Rabbits that are left completely alone in a small cage are at greatest risk for consuming too much salt from their salt lick.

You will sometimes need to leave your pet rabbits alone in their cage. Whether you give them a salt lick or not (and we generally recommend that you do not), there are things you can do to make sure your pet rabbit does not become uncomfortably bored.

  • Make sure that your rabbit’s enclosure is big enough for your rabbit to feel comfortable in it. A pet playpen covering 50 square feet (about 5 square meters), tall enough that your rabbit can’t jump out, including hay, water, and a litter box, is ideal.
  • Give your rabbit lots of toys. Even the cardboard cylinder inside a roll of paper towels or toilet paper can keep your rabbit amused. Other options include puzzle toys for rabbits, hiding houses, habitat toys (such as tunnels), chew toys, digging toys, and tossing toys that your rabbit can throw around with its teeth.
  • Give your rabbit chew sticks. These are willow limbs that help your rabbit deal with its need to chew. You can also give your pet rabbit untreated wood toys to chew on.
  • Line the floor of your rabbit’s cage with a seagrass mat. The mat will protect your rabbit’s toes, and give it something to nibble on.
  • Climbing towers. Rabbit also love to climb cat towers. Just make sure your rabbit cannot fall off!

Your Rabbit is Lonely

Rabbits in the wild live in family groups of 10 to 15 individuals. They are actually aggressive, hierarchical, and very firm with each other, but they are not well suited for solitary life.

A rabbit that does not have at least one cage mate will become frustrated. It will seek stimulation any way it can. That can include licking too much salt.

The solution?

Give your bunny a buddy. Just keep in mind that rabbits that are not spayed or neutered constantly try to reproduce/

Males are ready to try to become fathers at all times, and females are receptive whenever they are not pregnant, even while they are nursing newborns.

Your Rabbit has Kidney Disease

Calcium from alfalfa and pellets is usually a bigger problem for rabbits that have kidney disease than the sodium from a salt lick.

But if your veterinarian has told you that your rabbit has kidney disease or a bladder infection, don’t give your rabbit extra salt unless your vet tells you that you should.

Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Pumpkin?

What About “Mineral Blocks” for Rabbits?

Mineral blocks are not quite the same thing as salt licks.

Rabbits lick mineral blocks the same way that they lick salt licks, but owners give them mineral blocks for a different reason.

There is scientific evidence for giving rabbits (the study was done with Rex rabbits) supplemental copper and zinc.

Rabbits that received copper and zinc supplements to make sure they were getting enough of the two minerals grew faster and had fewer problems digesting their food

Excessive copper interferes with zinc absorption, and vice versa, so it is always important to give both minerals at the same time.

But the reason to give a supplement is to make sure the rabbit has enough copper, not to give it more and more indefinitely.

Also read: Why is My Rabbit Eating the Wall? 8 Reasons!

Are You Your Rabbit’s Salt Lick?

There is one other way pet rabbits get supplemental sodium.

They lick their owners.

When your rabbit licks you, especially when your rabbit licks your sweaty skin, it is not saying, “I love you.”

It is saying, “You taste good.”

Your rabbit is vegetarian. It will not attempt to eat you.

But your rabbit may enjoy the taste of salt in your perspiration. Rabbits may chew on your dirty clothes for the same reason.

Another reason a rabbit may lick you is to tell you, “OK. you are the boss,”

In rabbit colonies, dominant rabbits are licked by subordinate rabbits. It is the opposite of the human expression, :”I’m licked.”

However, rabbits are temperamentally a lot like cats. It is highly unlikely that any pet rabbit really thinks you are the boss.

Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Thistles?

Frequently Asked Questions About Rabbits, Salt, and Salt Licks

Q. How much salt do rabbits need in their diets?

A. Various scientific publications suggest shockingly high salt and sodium requirements for rabbits, roughly equivalent to recommending that a 150-pound (70-kilogram) consume a pound (450 grams) of salt every day!

We assume they are wrong.

A better indicator is some research indicating that rabbits need about 1% of their diet to be salt, measured by weight.

Some kinds of plant foods are too salty to be the main part of your rabbit’s diet. These include:

  • Kudzu hay, which is also so high in calcium that it can cause bone and kidney problems.
  • Alfalfa cubes, which are acceptable only when they are about 10% of your rabbit’s diet.
  • Clover, lespedeza, pea vine, soybean, and vetch, which also should offered as less than 10% of your rabbit’s daily hay requirements.

There are also some kinds of hay that contain so little sodium that your rabbit could need a salt lick. These include:

  • Wheat straw, which is also very low in calcium.
  • Barley straw is likewise low in calcium.
  • Bluegrass straw, rye straw, oat straw, and pea vine straw which lack both fiber and sodium.

There are other kinds of hay that are “just right.” These include timothy hay.

The most nutritious timothy hay is the plant that has just finished flowering. This is the kind of timothy hay you will get in feed stores and in most pellet products.

Coastal Bermuda” and Bermuda grass hay are also OK if your rabbit gets lots of dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale.

There is an in-depth discussion of hay and mineral nutrition for rabbits on the WabbitWiki page.

Q. Why do rabbits need Himalayan salt?

A. Rabbits do not need Himalayan salt. Even Himalayan rabbits do not need Himalayan salt.

But Himalayan salt is a great supplement for rabbits. It contains calcium, chromium, zinc, and sulfate in safe amounts, just enough to help make sure your rabbit is getting its daily recommended allowances of these minerals.

Himalayan salt blocks are a good choice if you want to give your rabbits a tasty treat. Just be sure to follow the precautions discussed above.

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