Almost all rabbit diet disasters come back to giving Bunny just what Bunny wants to eat!!
Rabbits are known as concentrate selectors. This means than in a wild situation, they pick through the English countryside meadow and select only the highest nutrient greens and most succulent shoots and growth. This helps them gather maximum nutrition from their food. Along the way they have to chew through a lot of low nutrient roughage and less nutritious foods. They are perfectly designed for this high fibre, low nutrient density diet. Unfortunately, when your life isn’t grazing over large meadows of poor quality grasses, but looking cute and hovering the best food from a bowl placed in front of you, being a concentrate selector can backfire spectacularly. Think of your rabbit as a 3 year old presented with a bowl of bran and M&M’s – what do you think they are going to pick out?
Rabbits that eat only the high calorie, low fiber content of their diet are at risk of several serious conditions such as obesity, gut disease and gut stasis, and dental disease. These conditions can be fatal!
So what NOT to feed as a responsible rabbit owner?
- Don’t feed mixed rations — all those yummy fruit chunks and seeds look great and they taste great too but they are just about the WORST thing you can give your bunny to eat! The rabbit picks out all the high sugar, low fibre bits and leave the rest. Feeding pellets means that they cannot pick and close their yummy favourites. Choose a premium Oxbow® pellet. Fruit and seed muesli mixes alter the way your rabbit chews predisposing them to dental disease. It can cause excessive weight gain and obesity. The high sugar treats are processed in the gut at the wrong pH and encourage potentially toxic bacteria to grow, and will slow down the movement of the gut contents through your bunny’s tummy. The list goes on but it boils down to muesli mix’s are NOT suitable for rabbits!
- Don’t overfeed pellets – one eighth of a cup for a small rabbit per day is more than adequate OR you could choose to not feed pellets at all! There are no pellets out there in the wild and rabbits do very well without them!
- Don’t skimp on the hay – a ball about the same size as your bunny per day is a great guide. Oxbow® Timothy hay or Oxbow® hay cakes are excellent choices.
- Don’t feed Lucerne/alfalfa hay – this is commonly available but is just far too high in calcium and protein and too low in fibre for adult rabbits. This will predispose to weight gain, calcium sludging in the urine and potentially kidney damage. It may be appropriate for growing or pregnant and lactating rabbits – speak to your vet first.
- Don’t just give bunny the veggies and fruit he likes best. Most rabbits, given half a chance, are going to go for carrot over spinach. As a general rule – GREEN is GOOD, RED is BAD – green leafy veggies just can’t be overfed to rabbits but too much capsicum, corn [yeah, yellow I know but more red than green!], apple, carrot etc is going to be too high in sugars and too low in fibre. Imaging that English meadow again – go for green leafy veggies every time
- Don’t feed fruit as anything other than a special treat! Rabbits LOVE fruit and an apple is a healthy treat if your human but NOT if you’re a rabbit! Rabbits love the sugar in fruit but it’s just not right for them. Very small amounts – a teaspoon of fruit a day – can be part of the spice of life but giving your rabbit half an apple is much the same as sitting down to half a cheese cake every day and wondering why your health is not so great! Fruit is a special occasion treat only.
If you avoid these common dietary mistakes and you’ve taken a huge step towards ensuring your rabbit enjoys a long and healthy life. Remember, rabbits can be manipulative. They will look up at you with their oh so cute little faces and plead for some more carrot and pellets but stay strong! Feed them right and they will be with you for so much longer. And like all healthy diets, over time we adjust to them and enjoy them and your rabbit will too. Soon he will be begging for spinach and you can give him as much of that as he wants!!
If you have any questions regarding what to feed your rabbit, or how to change his diet come in and talk to our friendly well informed staff. We have a great range of Oxbow® products which fit all the above criteria.