What Is The Best Rabbit Food?
Are you thinking of getting a rabbit as your pet? Do you love these timid and docile pet rabbits? Some people say that it’s hard to keep a rabbit as a pet because they tend to get sick? Is it true or is it because you have been taking care of them wrong?
What does a healthy rabbit look like? A healthy rabbit is not too fat nor too slim. Try to feel the ribs under the skin easily without a thick layer of fat, if you can feel them, they are healthy. Feeding them too many calories can get your rabbit to become obese. Fat rabbit has a poor quality of life as it can be hard for them to groom themselves and obesity can lead to other diseases.
What can you do? For you guys who are wondering what is the best rabbit food, what should you feed your rabbit, how can you fatten up your skinny rabbit, and what you should not feed them, this article is for you.
What healthy food should I Feed My Rabbit?
What is a good rabbit’s diet? A good rabbit’s diet should contain good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy or oat types of hay), water, and fresh vegetables. Except those we listed before is considered a “treat” and should not be given freely.
Adapted from the Small Mammal Health Series by Susan Brown, DVM, here is a short summary of nutritious and good rabbit food:-
- Fresh Leafy Greens
- Healthy rabbit pallets
- Fruits and vegetables as treats
- Clean, fresh water
Healthy Rabbit Food 1- Hay
Rabbit is a herbivore animal, this means that they are designed to eat only plants, grasses and leaves. For your rabbit, hay is one of the most important parts of their diet. There are types of hay, they are grass and legume.
Grass hays are richer in nutrients but they provide the lower energy for your rabbit. If you can, choose mixed grass hay to feed your rabbit.
Legume hays are higher in calories, calcium, and protein for a house rabbit. These nutrients can lead to obesity and tummy ache for a rabbit. You can choose this hay as a treat once in a while but feeding them daily is not recommended.
It should be available 24 hours a day inside your pet’s food bowl. You can feed them at any age of your rabbits, starting at weaning, adults, or older rabbits.
There are many benefits your rabbit can get from hay, such as:
- A source of nutrient (vitamins, minerals, and proteins)
- Act as food for the good bacteria that live in your rabbit’s belly
- Is an indigestible fiber thus can help the food movement inside the intestine
- Can help wear down the rabbit’s teeth due to chewing activity
If you want to purchase one, click here.
P.S: Do not feed straw. Straw is devoid of most nutrients and although it is not harmful in small amounts, it will lead to serious nutritional deficiencies if you feed them too much straw.
Healthy Rabbit Food 2- Fresh Leafy Greens
Not only hay, but fresh green also provides the same benefits. More importantly, they provide a wider variety of micronutrients and contain water. Like cats, a rabbit doesn’t drink as much as they should.
This is why, as a smart pet parent, we have to compensate for that water intake with their food.
However, you can’t only feed them greens as a total diet. Greens act as an important addition to their diet, but it’s not enough if they act alone. Just like hay, greens are appropriate for any age of the rabbit.
When selecting and using fresh green food, don’t forget:
- Buy (or grow) organic greens if possible
- Wash it first to make sure there are not pesticide left
- Make sure your rabbit is eating hay very well
- Introduce greens a little at a time over several days and monitor the stools for any change
- Feed a variety of leafy greens daily- a minimum would be three varieties. Variety provides a wider range of micronutrients as well as mental stimulation for your pet.
- Feed a maximum of about 1 packed cup of leafy greens per 2 pounds of body weight one to three times a day.
In general, the darker green food is, the higher the nutritional value.
Here are some of the leafy greens you might consider:
- Baby greens
- Bok Choy
- Broccoli (leaves and top)
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (red, green)
- Carrot or Beet tops
- Celery (leaves are good)
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens (and flower)
- Leaf lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Parsley (Italian or flat-leaf best)
- Romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard (any color)
Healthy Rabbit Food 3- Rabbit Pellets in moderations
There are many rabbit pellets out there but you should know that you can’t only feed your rabbit just pellets only. It should only take a small portion of their diet every day. If you feed them only pellets unlimitedly, you can lead your rabbit to obesity and other diseases.
Pellets have low indigestible fiber content, and pellet doesn’t wear off your rabbit’s tooth, and it’s so low in the water moisture (thus leading to another urinary tract disease).
Then can I still feed my rabbit pellets? Yes, you can. However, the recommendation of feeding them is no more than 10% of the healthy rabbit’s diet. This means you can feed them 1/8 cup of pellets per 4 lbs of body weight daily. Pellets are a good source for some nutrients too.
According to the Small Mammal Health Series by Susan Brown, DVM, when you want to buy pellets, look for these criteria:
- 18% or higher in fiber
- 5% or lower in fat
- 16% or less in protein
- 2% or less in calcium
If you’re still unsure, please consult your veterinarian.
Healthy Rabbit Food 4- Fruits and other Vegetables (as a treat)
Rabbits love fruits and vegetables! Reward your rabbits with their favourite treats when they are so cute and fluffy!
There are some additional foods for rabbits, such as fruits, vegetables, and flowers. You can give these foods as a treat or a reward in your training system.
Pro-tip is to find out at least one food on the list that your rabbit loves and feed it a small portion every day. By doing this you can check your rabbit appetite every day and if she won’t eat her treat food then maybe it’s an alarm for you to check on them.
You can feed your pet a total of 1 tablespoon per day of any combination of the foods below:
- Bean or Alfalfa sprouts
- Cactus fruit
- Edible flowers from the garden (organically grown and NOT from a florist) such as roses, nasturtiums, daylilies, pansies and snapdragons
- Green or red bell peppers
- Kiwi Fruit
- Peapods (flat, NO peas)
Don’t feed your rabbit bananas and grapes as rabbits sometimes become too “addicted” to these foods.
Because of the experience, most rabbits digest fruit well from a young age, while others will suffer watery fecal or gas production. Every rabbit is different, so it’s your job as a pet parent to see which rabbit digest well and keep it at that.
Don’t forget to pick the seeds and pits out before giving them fruit. Some seeds contain toxins that can be harmful to the rabbit.
Healthy Rabbit Food 5- Water
For every animal you have, there should be water available at all times and it should be changed daily. A dirty water container is a nice home for bacteria. Use either a water bottle or a heavy bowl so it won’t tip over.
If your pet is on medication or vitamins, don’t put it into their water! They can smell it and they can see the water’s color is different, and they might not drink at all. If your rabbit is eating many greens, they may drink rarely but it’s alright.
Healthy Rabbit Food 6- Twigs
Rabbit teeth grow continuously. Normally, hay, vegetables, and pellets can keep the teeth nice and short.
But sometimes you need a twig or a small tree branch to let them chew once in a while. Make sure the tree you are picking is not toxic to the rabbit and it’s clean from chemicals, pesticides, and from the car in the road. It would be great if you can get twigs from the outdoor parks or just your neighborhoods that are not tended by gardeners or commercial managers.
How Can I Fatten Up My Rabbit?
If your rabbit is diagnosed underweight by the vet, there are several foods you can give to them to put up their weight. Aside from free access to pellets that are high in calories, you can give them alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is high in calories too and it has high calcium content, therefore, it is good for growing bunnies up to 8 months of age and older rabbits that are underweight.
What food should rabbits not eat?
A right diet will contain all the nutrition necessary for a rabbit. Food high in starch and fat should not be given to avoid potential problems like obesity and upset stomach.
Here is a list of food that you should avoid feeding your pet rabbit:
- Raw Beans (of any kind)
- Refined sugar
- Potato or peels
- Peach (poisonous for rabbits)
- Apricot (poisonous for rabbits)
- Nectarine pits (poisonous for rabbits)
- Iceberg lettuce
- Rhubarb (poisonous for rabbits)
- Anything too old to eat yourself
A healthy Rabbit’s Diet
A good rabbit’s diet should contain good quality pellets, fresh hay, unlimited fresh water, and fresh vegetables. Except those in natural rabbit’s diet should be considered a treat, and just like giving candy to a kid, you should be giving them only occasionally or as a reward. Giving the wrong diet can lead to obesity, upset stomach, diarrhea, and even death. If you’re still unsure, give your vet a call.
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