Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.
What You'll Learn About Rabbit Care
- The basics of bunny nutrition.
- Ingredients of a healthy diet.
- How to deal with obesity.
- How to introduce new foods.
- What foods are toxic to rabbits.
The Herbivore Menu
Your rabbit is an herbivore. Herbivores are animals that eat plant material. No chicken schnitzel for this customer! A correct diet has freshness and variety. Your favourite ball of fluff needs several items from the supermarket's fruit and vegetable section, minerals, vitamins, fiber and water. Such a wide menu provides all the nutrients your pet requires.
1. Why Water Matters
Let's start with the thing that sustains all life. In the case of rabbits, it's very important that they have fresh water available at all times. Without it, they die very quickly, especially during hot weather or when the rabbit is very active. Make sure that the bowl stays topped off and clean. Strongly consider using purified, bottled water. Tap water contains chemicals that has no business being inside your rabbit.
2. Fiber Is Essential
Rabbits are natural grazers that need a nutritious high-fiber diet. Both this natural behaviour and need can be whacked with one stone—grass hay. Your bunny should have access to this food at all times. There are several types available.
- Mixed orchid grass
Essential Hay Tips
- You can find hay at pet stores, feed stores or an online delivery service.
- Rabbits may adore alfalfa, but don't buy it. This hay is too protein and calorie rich.
- Some sellers might offer a choice between first-cut and second-cut hays. First-cut is course and more nutritious, but some rabbits hate it. Second cut is finer and less nutritious, but it will still provide some nutrients and fiber for those pets that refuse the first-cut variety.
- When purchasing, make sure the hay is fresh (you'd be able to tell from the smell), mould-free and dry.
- Some places sell hay cubes. If you use them, include a high-fiber pellet brand in the rabbit's diet.
- Don't purchase more than a two-month supply. A dry storage area (away from the sun) keeps hay edible. However, don't store in airtight bags or containers, which could cause mould.
3. Green Is Good
One of the best fresh foods you can give your bunny is green, leafy vegetables. It's important to use rot-free, thoroughly washed items. Offer three different types each day, around a cup of greens for every three pounds of rabbit. Here are some excellent suggestions.
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- Broccoli or Brussels sprouts
- The leafy parts of beets, carrots, mustard, dandelion, radish, spinach, chard and collard
- Herbs like basil, mint, chicory and parsley
- Romaine lettuce (not iceberg)
- Bok Choy
- Clover (in moderation)
- Green peppers
4. Rabbits Love Fruit
Fruit is not food. View it as a snack that should be sparingly given. The sugars they contain are natural, but they're still not good for your pet. Don't give more than a tablespoon's worth and don't give it every day. Wash fruit thoroughly, remove all peels and seeds, especially from apples (apple seeds are toxic). Raisins, grapes and bananas are allowed, but think twice—these delights are supercharged with sugar.
5. Good Quality Pellets
The best pellet is Timothy-based with 20 percent-plus fiber content. You might come across bags containing six months' worth. Financially, it seems like a good move, but health-wise, it's not. As they age, pellets lose their nutritional value. It's best to buy fresh (check the manufacturing date) on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. How much you feed depends on the rabbit's age.
- 1–3 months: Babies suckle until seven weeks old, but should have access to pellets from around four weeks, in small amounts
- 4–7 months: Unlimited pellets
- 7–12 months: Give a half cup for every six pounds of body weight
- 1 year and above: A quarter to a half cup is sufficient (per six pounds of rabbit), when your bunny has free access to hay, water and controlled amounts of daily greens. If the animals becomes overweight, lessen the amount of pellets.
Obesity Is a Common Problem
Overfeeding of pellets and insufficient exercise leads to unhealthy weight gain. Due to a host of health problems, it's critical that your pet avoids obesity. Make sure your bunny remains physically active, but should it get a little plump, lower the pellets from 1/8 to 1/4 cup per 5 pounds of rabbit. Take away fruit and use greens as treats. The overweight rabbit can have unlimited hay, but not alfalfa, which is too high in calories.
Introducing New Foods
Rabbits enjoy being offered new munchies, but their digestive system might not. They may be mammals, but their internal processes aren't the same as ours. Humans can pig out on something new and often suffer no ill effect. In rabbits, new foods can upset their intestinal bacteria, which causes diarrhea and sickness. Adding variety to your pet's diet is smart, but introduce one new food at a time. Giving small quantities, monitor the rabbit's stool for a week to make sure its digestive system is coping.
What Not to Feed Your Rabbit
Hay, fresh foods and water are nutritionally sufficient. When a rabbit enjoys a balanced diet, it doesn't need supplements. Adding them could lead your pet to overdose on certain vitamins and minerals, leading to dangerous illness. You should also avoid these toxic foods.
- Anything high in carbohydrates, starch and fat
- Chocolate, sweets, refined sugar
- All beans, breads, grains, oats and cereals
- Cat and dog food
- Seeds and nuts
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 Jana Louise Smit