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What must I feed my rabbit to keep him/her happy and healthy?
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PROFESSOR RABBIT

Rabbits are herbivores. In human terms they are vegans; i.e. they eat no animal products, flesh, dairy, or eggs. Their digestive tracts are not equipped to handle anything but a plant based diet. There are some plants that they cannot eat or can eat only in limited quantities. The importance of a correct diet cannot be over emphasized. Ninety-five percent of all rabbit vet visits are related to improper diet. Diets for sick, geriatric, baby, and pregnant rabbits differ from the diets for healthy adult rabbits. Besides plenty of clean fresh water, it is important to feed your rabbit a diet that is:

HIGH IN FIBER

The fiber recommendation for companion rabbits is a crude fiber level of 13-20% with a level of 12.5% indigestible fiber.
LOW IN CALCIUM

The dietary level recommendation for companion rabbits of calcium is 0.6-1%.
LOW IN CARBOHYDRATES

The overload of rapidly digestible carbohydrates (for example, sugars) in the large intestine increases the likelihood of digestive disorders.

Take the Rabbitology class to learn more about proper feeding and the rabbit diet.

For more feeding tips, click here for Rabbit References.

CLICK PICTURE TO ENLARGE

The following dietary requirements are for an adult, healthy rabbit. If you think of your rabbit's diet as a food pyramid, about 80% of it should be hay, about 15% fresh vegetables, 4.5% pellets, and .5% treats.


HAY


Hay should be good quality Timothy, orchard, or mixed grasses. These types of hay should always be available in large quantities to your rabbit. He/she may eat unlimited amounts of it.

Alfalfa hay may be given only in limited quantities as a TREAT because it is too fattening for an adult rabbit. However, rabbits prefer alfalfa hay, and, being the rascals that they are, may start to refuse Timothy hay to hold out for the alfalfa hay. If you are easily manipulated by your rabbit, you may find it easier not to feed alfalfa hay at all.

Hay comes in two cuts. First cut hay tends to be stalky, like straw. Second cut hay tends to be finer and more grass-like. Your rabbit will let you know which s/he prefers. Quality hay can be obtained from feed stores, rabbit rescue organizations, and by mail from rabbit supply stores. Click on Links to find out where.

Do not store hay in airtight containers or closed plastic bags because hay can become moldy. MOLD IS LETHAL TO RABBITS.

Click here for guidelines for choosing good hay.

VEGETABLES


A general guideline is to feed one to two cups of vegetables per 5 pounds of rabbit per day. Rabbits should be fed twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, ideally around dawn and dusk when they are most active. Some vegetables may produce too much gas or bloating in some rabbits (beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and radishes). Some vegetables are high in calcium and should be fed no more than three times per week (carrot tops, Chinese parsley, clover, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, and spinach). Some vegetables are very high in sugar (carrots) and should be given only as a treat, if at all.

These vegetables can be part of any bunny salad: arugula, basil, beet greens, bok choy, Boston lettuce, Chinese broccoli, cilantro, dill, escarole, fennel (anise), flat parsley, kohl rabi tops, lovage, lemon balm, mint (any variety but Pennyroyal which is toxic), mizuna, mustard greens, oregano, parsnips, radishes and tops, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, rapini, snow peas, sweet green peppers, and thyme.


PELLETS


Pellets are not necessary in a diet that consists of hay and a wide variety of vegetables. However, if your rabbit is accustomed to pellets and you wish to keep them in his/her diet or to insure that your rabbit gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals, give Timothy hay-based pellets that are high in fiber, 18% or more, and low in calcium content. RabbitWise recommends Bunny Basics/T made by the Oxbow Hay Company. They are available in some vet's office who treat rabbits and from the Oxbow web site (see link this page).

The amount of pellets fed should be based on the rabbit's body weight: 2-4 pounds, 1/8 cup daily; 5-7 pounds, 1/4 cup daily; 8-10 pounds, 1/2 cup daily; 10-15 pounds, 1/2 cup daily. OVERFEEDING OF PELLETS AND FEEDING OF POOR QUALITY PELLETS ARE SIGNIFICANT FACTORS IN RABBIT HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Buy small quantities of pellets and refrigerate or store in a cool, dry place to keep from spoiling.

Read more about pellets:  http://rabbit.org/journal/3-4/pellets.html


TREATS


Treats are important to mention because rabbits are accomplished beggars and are very hard to resist. They are also big fans of carbohydrates and are not above stealing to get them. Give your rabbit healthy treats of fresh or dried fruit without added sugar or preservatives, no more than one level tablespoon per day. Though much loved by rabbits, bananas, carrots, anything made from corn, oats, raisins and human junk food are high in sugar and are best avoided. LOVE YOUR RABBIT ENOUGH TO SAY NO.

Some words of caution: CARBOHYDRATES ARE NECESSARY FOR GOOD HEALTH. Do not deprive your rabbit of all carbohydrates. Treats are also an excellent way to reward good behavior, to further the bonding process between you and your rabbit, and to help you evaluate whether or not your rabbit is feeling well.

Read the HRS Journal article about treats by Susan M. Smith, Ph. D., of the Wisconsin HRS and the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Click here for The Carrot Cafe, "the almost perfect guide to feeding your house rabbit." Susan M. Smith, PhD has also contributed to this web site.

VITAMINS and SALT OR MINERAL BLOCKS


Vitamins, and salt or mineral blocks are not necessary on the diet described above.


WATER


Water should be changed daily. Rabbits appreciate filtered or distilled water. NOTE: After surgery, some rabbits who were accustomed to drinking from a water bottle will no longer do so. Be sure to make water in a crock accessible to your rabbit after a surgery.


NEVER FEED RABBITS THE FOLLOWING:


bamboo shoots, beans, breakfast cereals, chocolate, citrus fruit, coffee plants, corn or corn products, grains, iceberg lettuce, nuts, Pennyroyal mint, onions, peas, any kind of potatoes or potato peels, rhubarb or rhubarb leaves, seeds, tea leaves, or food so old that you would not eat it yourself.


BABY RABBITS


After baby rabbits are weaned (6-8 weeks), they should be fed unlimited alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets. Oxbow and Kay Tee Exact make a good quality alfalfa pellet.

Some vets recommend putting baby rabbits on Timothy based pellets right away to avoid the problem of the rabbit switching over to the Timothy hay ones when they are older. Again, if you are easily manipulated by your rabbit, you may want to avoid feeding alfalfa hay in the first place. Allowing your rabbit to eat a bad diet is the major factor in rabbit health problems. No known detrimental health problems have been associated with rabbits who have eaten Timothy hay all of their lives.

Vegetables can be slowly introduced one at a time after the baby is about 3 months old.

Baby rabbit information: At Rabbit References, click on Care, Feeding, Tips, then select "Baby and Orphaned Bunnies." Read the articles under "Domestic Rabbits."

GERIATRIC RABBITS


Diets for geriatric rabbits depend on their medical conditions. Consult with your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

Geriatric rabbit information: At Rabbit References, click on Health & Medicine, select topic "Elderly Rabbits." Read "Care of the Elderly Rabbit."

CHANGES IN DIET


Rabbits do not tolerate sudden changes well. If you have to make changes in your rabbit's diet, introduce them slowly over a period of weeks.

GROWING A GARDEN FOR YOUR RABBITS
 
Want to garden for your rabbits?   Join the Bunny Garden group at   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bunnygarden/?yguid=222327684 to learn how.

MUGGINS & CASSIDY
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