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 6, 2010

What Should I Feed My Pet Rabbit?

Filed under: rabbit diet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:04 am

Many rabbit owners feel that the rabbit pellets that are available at the local pet store are a sufficient diet for their pet rabbit.  In fact, this is not the case.  Fiber is an essential nutrient for rabbits, without which they will not have a properly functioning digestive system.  As such, fresh hay and vegetables are a necessary part of a healthy rabbit diet.  While rabbit pellets are a normal part of your rabbit’s diet, feeding your pet rabbit these pellets exclusively may lead to obesity and other digestive problems.  Moreover, high fiber diets for rabbits can help ameliorate problems experienced with hair balls while stimulating intestinal functioning.

Hay provides rabbits with the majority of the fiber they need to remain healthy.  As such, rabbit owners should make hay available to their rabbits every day.  Unfortunately, rabbits that have been fed a steady pellet diet may not take to hay immediately.  Rabbit pellets are high in fat and are kind of like junk food to rabbits.  However, if you gradually wean your rabbits off pellets by offering more hay every day your rabbit will eventually make the switch to hay because they are hungry.  Young rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay but by around 6-7 months of age you should start introducing grass hay.  By the age of 1 year, rabbits should be eating grass hay exclusively.

Vegetables are another important part of your rabbit’s diet and depending on the size of your rabbit most veterinarians recommend 2 to 4 cups of fresh vegetables every day.  Carrots, lettuce, parsley, broccoli, turnips, collard greens, and dandelion greens are all great vegetables for your rabbit.  On the other hand, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, and potatoes are not recommended for rabbits as these vegetables can cause digestive problems.  Other human foods should never be fed to rabbits as their digestive systems have not evolved to accept anything other than hay and vegetables.

January 29, 2010

Do Rabbits Eat Carrots?

Filed under: carrots and rabbits,nutritional foods for rabbits,rabbit diet — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:19 am

healthy food for rabbitsWho can forget the image of Bugs Bunny chomping on carrots as he outwits Elmer Fudd. We’re all familiar with the stereotype of rabbits eating carrots, but is it true? Indeed, rabbits do eat carrots but their diet is not as specific as carrots alone. Wild rabbits eat a variety of foods and while each species of rabbit will have some variation in their diets, most rabbits enjoy a similar range of foods.

Carrots are loved by rabbits because they are hard vegetables that help them to sharpen and work their teeth. Also, carrots are sweet and a great treat for rabbits, but this food alone is insufficient for their diets. In fact, eating carrots alone can provide your rabbit with too many calories and too few vitamins so you should introduce a more complete diet to your rabbit. Rabbits, for example, love to eat hay for fibre. Hay can help rabbits maintain good digestive health, specifically intestinal health. Fresh vegetables are also important for rabbits but they must be combined with some food that is high in fibre (i.e. hay). Vegetables provide nutrients and water to rabbits but can cause diarrhea if rabbits don’t get enough fibre. Finally, fresh fruits like apples, cherries, peaches, and berries can be fed to your rabbit as a treat; however, fruits are high in sugars and should be given to rabbits in moderation only. The can be a great treat and are especially useful for luring an escaped rabbit!

Whatever diet you feed your rabbit, remember that it needs to include a range of vitamins and nutrients. Like humans, rabbits need to eat well to live a long and healthy life. Feeding your rabbit the same food every day will not only be boring for your rabbit but will also prevent them from achieving proper nutritional health.

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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.