Ever wonder what to feed your pet rabbit? New to rabbit ownership? Rabbits are vegetarians that require a diet of grass hays, fresh vegetables, twigs, high protein pellets and occasional fruit treats. Water should be readily available at all times from a heavy duty dish that cannot be easily overturned.
One of the most important elements in a rabbits diet is fiber. This helps to keep the digestive tract healthy and to prevent obesity. Protein is an essential as well, but should be limited to 14-18% of your rabbits diet. Certain long haired breeds of rabbits (Angora and Jersey Wooley) will require a higher amount of protein to help maintain their coats. Rabbits typically need only 1-2% of their daily calories to be from fat. Rabbits can become obese which could lead to serious health issues as they age.
Grass hays are an essential for your rabbits diet, as it is high in fiber. Grass hays are appropriate for rabbits of all ages. Alalfa hay is very high in protein, calories and calcium and is not recommended for rabbits over one year old. Grass should be stored in a dry cool place away from any rodents or animals. It should be green and sweet smelling. Any grass that shows black or yellow discoloration or has evidence of mold should be disposed of. Any plants mixed in the hay should be removed.
Fresh Vegetables provide the nutrients essential to your rabbits digestive health. Do not overfeed these to your rabbits as they can develop intestinal gas, leading to bloat, a serious condition. Always use fresh vegetables, never those about to spoil. These should be introduced slowly to rabbits over 3 months old. A list of vegetables that can be fed often are carrot tops, parsley, cilantro, endive, leaf and romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, flat pea pods, beet greens and swiss chard. Some vegetables should only be given rarely and in small doses. These are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, red clover, iceberg lettuce, turnips and rutabagos. Never feed your rabbit rhubarb leaves, raw beans, raw potatoes, onions or sweet corn.
Twigs allow rabbits to maintain teeth and the bark they chew to provide roughage to their diet.
Pellets should contain 14-18% crude protein, 20-255 crude fiber and about 2% fat. Introduce gradually to your pets diet, so as not to upset their digestive system. These pellets should be stored in a dry sealed container in a cool safe place. If pellets become contaminated in any way, they need to be thrown away as they can be deadly to your pet.
Rabbits love fruit and can be a good treat to enhance their mealtime. Fruit should only be given to rabbits over 6 months old. Safe fruits are apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, papayas, mangos, grapes, raisins, kiwi and melons. These should be given in very small quantities because of the sugar content in fruit.
Feeding times should be split between the early morning and evening. Pellets and vegetables can be split between the two but grass hay should be available at all times.
Providing the correct mix of fresh vegetables, grass hay and pellets is the key to keeping your pet rabbit healthy. If allowed to, rabbits will overeat so pay attention to food intake. Also take note of any changes in eating habits as this can be an indication of illness. When in doubt, always consult with a veterinarian trained in rabbit care. Not all are experts and you want to make sure you have one identified before anything serious happens to your pet. Knowing what to feed your pet rabbit will help him to live a healthy, long and happy life.