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 this true or is it because you have been taking care of them wrongly?
What does a healthy rabbit look like? A healthy rabbit is neither too fat nor too slim. Try to check if you can feel the ribs under the skin easily without a thick layer of fat; if you can feel them, the rabbit is healthy.
Feeding it too many calories can lead to obesity. Overweight rabbits have a poor quality of life as it can be hard for them to groom themselves. Obesity can also lead to other diseases.
What can you do? Read on if you have these questions in mind:
- What is the best rabbit food?
- What should I feed my rabbit?
- How can I fatten up my skinny rabbit?
- What foods are not suitable to feed rabbits?
What Is the Best Food for My Rabbit?
What is a good rabbit diet? It should contain good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy, or oat types of hay), water, and fresh vegetables.
According to 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 pellets
- Fruits and vegetables as treats
- Clean and fresh water
Types of Healthy Hay for Rabbits
Rabbits are herbivorous, which means that they eat only plants, grass, and leaves. Hay is one of the most important parts of your rabbit’s diet. There are a few types of hay, mainly grass and legumes.
Grass-based hay is richer in nutrients but provides lesser energy for your rabbit. If you can, choose mixed grass hay to feed your rabbit.
Legume-based hay is higher in calories, calcium, and protein for a house rabbit. These nutrients can lead to obesity and tummy aches. You can choose this hay as a treat once in a while but it is not recommended to feed it daily.
It should be available 24 hours a day inside your pet’s food bowl. You can feed them to your rabbits of any age, starting from the weaning stage, to adults and even older rabbits.
There are many benefits your rabbit can get from hay, such as:
- A source of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and proteins)
- Acts as food for the good bacteria that live in your rabbit’s belly
- Is an indigestible fibre, hence helping food movement inside the intestine
- Can help wear down the rabbit’s teeth due to chewing activity
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.
Which Vegetables Make the Best Rabbit Food?
Fresh leafy greens also provide the same health 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. Greens act as an important addition to their diet, but they aren’t enough on their own. Just like hay, greens are appropriate for rabbits of any age.
When selecting and using fresh green food, don’t forget these tips:
- Buy (or grow) organic greens if possible
- Wash it first to make sure there are no pesticides 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 (0.9kg) of body weight 1 to 3 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)
- Romaine lettuce
- Swiss chard (any color)
What Are the Best Rabbit Food Pellets for Young Rabbits?
There are many rabbit pellets out there but you should know that you can’t feed your rabbit just pellets only.
Pellets should only take up a small portion of their diet every day. If you feed them only pellets without restriction, you can cause your rabbit to develop obesity and other diseases.
Pellets have low indigestible fibre content and don’t wear down your rabbit’s teeth. They are also extremely low in water moisture (thus leading to urinary tract disease).
So, can I still feed my rabbit pellets?
Yes, you can. However, it is recommended to feed it no more than 10% of its diet. This means you can feed them 1/8 cup of pellets per 4 lbs (1.8kg) of body weight daily. Pellets are a good source of some nutrients too.
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.
The Best Fruits and Vegetables for Rabbits
Rabbits love fruits and vegetables! Reward your rabbits with their favourite treats from time to time.
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 regime.
A 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’s appetite every day. If you realise that your pet refuses to eat its favourite treats, maybe it’s a sign for you to check on it.
You can feed your pet a total of one 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, without peas)
Don’t feed your rabbit bananas and grapes as rabbits can 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.
The Importance of Water for Rabbits
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 breeding factory 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 that the colour is different, so they might not drink it at all. If your rabbit is eating many greens, it may rarely drink but there’s nothing to worry about.
What Twigs Are Safe for Rabbits?
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 that the tree you are picking is not toxic to the rabbit and is clean from chemicals and pesticides.
It would be great if you can get twigs from outdoor parks or your neighbourhoods that are not tended by gardeners or commercial managers.
How Can I Fatten Up My Rabbit?
If the vet has diagnosed your rabbit to be underweight, there are several foods that you can give to them to increase 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 a high calcium content, so it is good for growing bunnies up to 8 months of age and older rabbits that are underweight.
What Food Kills Rabbits?
The 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 stomachs.
Sometimes, certain foods may also lead to death.
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 some rabbits, delicious treats for most breeds)
- Apricot (poisonous for rabbits)
- Nectarine pits (poisonous for rabbits)
- Iceberg lettuce
- Rhubarb (poisonous for rabbits)
- Cabbage (rabbits like the crunchy cabbage, but too much cabbage gives them excessive gas or diahearra. give in moderation)
- Anything too old to eat yourself
Can Rabbits Eat Cabbage?
Yes, you can give rabbits cabbages, but in moderation. Rabbits love cabbage but it gives them excessive gas and diarrhea.
They contain sulfurous compounds that may give rabbits diarrhoea or excessive gas. Sulfur affects rabbits’ digestive systems, so too much cabbage may cause mild discomfort for them.
A Healthy Rabbit’s Diet
A good rabbit’s diet should contain good quality pellets, fresh hay, unlimited fresh water, and fresh vegetables.
Giving the wrong diet can lead to obesity, upset stomach, diarrhea, and even death. If you’re still unsure, give your vet a call.