Rabbit Care – Feeding
Most pet rabbits tend to be overweight. A mixture of over-eating and not enough exercise has contributed to this problem. What can we do as pet parent to keep our bunnies healthy? Let’s start with a proper and balanced diet combined with some exercise ideas.
Rabbits are herbivores with a unique gastrointestinal tract which ensure they can extract nutrients from all sorts of food. They mainly eat grass, leaves, flowers & fruits. One way for them to digest their foods to the maximum is by the production of cecotropes. Cecotropes are special sticky droppings which the rabbit eats directly from his anus. These droppings are produced by the rabbits own caecum and are full of nutrients which ensure that rabbit gets all the building blocks for a healthy life. Finding these sticky droppings in the rabbit cage often means there is something wrong with the rabbit.
Grass Hay – (timothy, meadow, oat, rye, Bermuda etc.) good quality, fresh smelling hay is an important ingredient for rabbits of all ages and has the following advantages; it provides vitamins, minerals, proteins & fiber. It requires chewing which ensures wearing down of their ever-growing teeth and prevents them from chewing unwanted objects. As it is bulky it gives them a full feeling and little calories. Choose grass hay made of a mixture of above-named grasses as a main diet and only feed small parts of legume hay (alfalfa, clover, peas etc.) as it is too rich for a full diet and should only be used as a small treat. Straw is not a good replacement for hay, although it is low in calories and high in fiber it is also low in essential nutrients.
Green foods are a needed addition to grass hay as it contains a wider variety of micronutrients and provide a large amount of water intake which is essential for proper functioning of the rabbits Gastro intestinal, kidney and bladder function. If rabbits eat more greens they will drink less as the greens provide a lot of water. Greens should however never be the main diet. If you are not sure your rabbit has ever eaten any green foods, you have to very slowly introduce them as otherwise the Cecotrophes formation in the caecum of the rabbit will be disrupted and diarrhea will occur, this can be dangerous to the health of the rabbit. Organic greens are preferred over commercially sold greens. If soft stools occur after feeding a green food, refrain from giving this again, and move to a different green food. Provide only small portions and ensure the main food intake if of grass hay or pelleted grass hay. Dark colored greens are of better nutritional value.
Fruit, flowers & other vegetables considered as treats – are fed in limited quantities. Please ensure they are free of pesticides, and that the rabbit not only eats these foods as this will again upset their tummies. As they are highly appreciated, they can be used to train your rabbit. These foods can also be used to see if you rabbit is feeling well as when he/she will not eat their favorite food, this means something is wrong.
In order to avoid problems it is advised to not feed any starchy products such as cereal, cakes or cookies to rabbits.
In order to make our life simple, the pet food industry has come up with some excellent commercial rabbit pellets, so please ensure when you buy these to look for the following:
- Do not allow the pet pellet feeding to be more then 20% of the rabbit’s diet
- They should have over 18% of fiber
- Less than 2.5% fat
- Less than 16% protein
- Less than 1% calcium
- Buy pellets that only contain grass hays, not mixed seeds, dried fruits or nuts or alfalfa hay
Ensure your rabbit always has excess to fresh water which is daily changed. When you feed your rabbit correctly as described above, no other supplements or vitamins are recommended.
Please contact us should you have any questions in relation to above or other rabbit health and husbandry related questions firstname.lastname@example.org