October 17, 2012

What Do Rabbits Eat?

Many of us have seen cartoon images of rabbits munching on carrots. But in reality, what do rabbits eat?

It depends on whether the rabbit is a tame pet or a wild creature.

Both wild and domestic rabbits are herbivores. They need to ingest high levels of fiber every day. As well, both tame and wild rabbits need a diverse diet to get the right nutrition.

Wild rabbits spend much of their time foraging for food. In general, they eat:

  • weeds
  • grass
  • hay
  • flowers
  • and other plants

When it’s available, wild rabbits will also eat fruit like apples that have fallen to the ground.

Any gardener will tell you that rabbits are fond of leafy vegetables and other garden treats. When wild rabbits can get into a garden, they will dig up carrots, sweet potatoes, and nibble the leafy tops of everything else.

Rabbit Digestion: Teeth and Droppings

Rabbit teeth grow rapidly. That’s why they like to chew on tough materials like tree branches or bark. This helps keep their teeth ground down to normal levels.

Although they may gain a little nutrition by chewing like this, it’s more an instinct that leads rabbits to spend a lot of time chewing on things.

Rabbit digestive systems are built to handle fiber in a special way. After all, rabbits eat a lot of fiber.

Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings. One is composed entirely of true waste material. The other contains soft semi-digested nutrients. Rabbits ingest the soft droppings as they are passed in order to further digest this nutritive material.

Rabbit Nutrition: What to Feed a Rabbit

For domestic rabbits, the key to good rabbit nutrition is variety.

The ideal diet for a pet rabbit includes unlimited access to hay. For convenience, most rabbit owners like to use a wall-mounted feeder.

Also include a variety of fresh vegetables. Most pet rabbits should be offered about 2 cups of mixed vegetables each day. Some mixed vegetables that rabbits like to eat are:

  • kale
  • broccoli
  • dark lettuce
  • sprouts
  • parsley
  • mustard greens
  • celery
  • spinach

You can also give rabbits daily treats like fruit or root vegetables. Most rabbits enjoy apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Strawberries or raspberries also make a great rabbit treat.

Never feed a rabbit beans, nuts, seeds, bread, cereal, corn, rhubarb, peas, or sugary food.

Commercial rabbit foods work well too. Some experts say that providing fresh vegetables, fruits, and hay more closely mimics the wild experience of an untamed rabbit.

There may also be nutritional concerns about the fat or carbohydrate content of some types of commercial foods. However, a commercial pellet food may better provide all needed nutrients. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.

September 7, 2010

Finding a Veterinarian for Your Rabbit

Filed under: rabbit as pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:53 am

veterinarian for rabbitsWhile most veterinarians have experience with a wide range of animals, they are not always going to be confident with every pet they come across.  If you have a pet rabbit, you are tasked with finding an experienced rabbit veterinarian that will provide the best possible care for your beloved pet.  Finding a veterinarian for your rabbit is much the same as finding a vet for any pet, but because rabbits are less common than dogs or cats, for example, it is somewhat more difficult to find a vet with experience.

In your search to find a vet for your rabbit, you should start by speaking to local humane societies.  They might be able to put you in touch with recommended rabbit veterinarians or other rabbit owners who have already established contact with a local rabbit vet.  Once you have a list of recommended rabbit vets, you should take some time to meet each of them.  You can even ask these vets who they would refer you to for rabbit care.  Next, you should visit the top vets in your list.  Check out their facilities, determine if you can have a good working relationship with the veterinarian and their staff, and then you can get a general evaluation of the staff and facilities.

Next, you should schedule appointments with your top 2 or 3 choices.  There are a number of screening questions that will help you determine if this veterinarian has experience with rabbits and whether you think your rabbit will be comfortable with this particular vet.

  • How many rabbits do they see in the clinic?
  • How many rabbits do they spay or neuter in a given week?
  • Ask for references from other rabbit owners.
  • Ask for a tour of the facilities.

Although finding the right vet for your rabbit can take a bit of time, it is well worth the effort.

September 2, 2010

Rabbits as Pets

Filed under: rabbit as pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:57 am

Rabbits are cute and fluffy and make lovely pets; yet, many people make the mistake of choosing a rabbit as a pet because they expect the animal to be like a cat or dog.  Understanding rabbits as pets and their requirements for care will help you to decide if a pet rabbit is right for you and your family.  You can build a close bond with a pet rabbit, but you have to have certain expectations going in.

Fortunately, rabbits are social animals and they enjoy playing with their owners.  They are gentle and tame and can even be litter trained.  In fact, it is even possible to train a pet rabbit to do simple tricks, like you would expect from a pet dog.  One thing to keep in mind about rabbits is that they actually have quite a long life span.  In most breeds, the life expectancy of rabbits is between 5 and 15 years.

In order to build a close relationship with your rabbit, you should plan to spend a lot of time interacting with her.  Indeed, rabbits are very social beings and they need to have lots of social interaction to be happy.  Moreover, regular exercise outside their cage is very important for your rabbit’s health.  Some rabbit owners think that rabbits are low maintenance pets, but this is not true.

Rabbits need a large cage, preferably indoors so they can have more social interaction with the family and even other pets.   Your rabbit will generally eat rabbit pellets but will also require hay and a range of fresh vegetables to supplement their diet.

Finally, most rabbit breeders do not recommend rabbits as pets for small children.  Younger children tend to be a bit rough with small animals as they do not understand their own strength.  This kind of play can be stressful for the rabbit.  In fact, while rabbits enjoy being around their family, they usually don’t even like to be held.

April 23, 2010

Rabbits as Pets

Filed under: bunny as pets,pet bunny,pet rabbit,rabbit as pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:23 am

Rabbit as PetsRabbits are among the most common pets in North America. We think they’re cute and cuddly and even though they may not be as loyal or affectionate as cats and dogs, we still love them. Caring for a rabbit is somewhat different than caring for cats or dogs and this article will outline some of the necessities of rabbit care.

  1. Rabbits should live in a cage for several reasons. First of all, rabbits are timid but very fast creatures and they can be very difficult to collect if they happen to get away from you. I’m reminded of a neighbor whose pet rabbit escaped into the neighborhood and wrought havoc on local gardens. It took several weeks for the owner to finally catch her again. A 3 foot by 3 foot cage is sufficient for an average sized rabbit and it provides a comfortable living environment. In addition to their difficulty to catch, rabbits are basically impossible to house train. Giving a rabbit free run of the house will inevitably result in you constantly cleaning up rabbit pellets.
  2. Rabbits need a solid diet including alfalfa pellets, hay, and green vegetables. Alfalfa pellets provide many of the nutrients that your rabbit needs to survive while green vegetables and hay improve digestion. On occasion you can treat your rabbit with some fruits like banana or apple, but not too often because fruits are high in sugar.
  3. Rabbit proof a room so your bunny can exercise. You cannot leave a rabbit in a small cage all the time. They like to run and stretch so try to have a room or area in your yard that is safe for your rabbit to exercise.
  4. Rabbits’ teeth never stop growing so they tend to chew a lot. You can buy some rabbit chew toys or just give them some cardboard, toilet paper rolls, or branches from fruit trees.

Finally, rabbits need love just like all pets. They are social animals and even though they may not be as affectionate as dogs or cats, they still appreciate affection.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.