Many health problems that affect rabbits, such as obesity, dental disease and gut problems, can by caused by a poor diet, so it is vital you know what you should and shouldn’t be feeding to keep your rabbit happy and healthy.
The main bulk of your rabbit’s diet (around 80%) should be made up of good quality hay, grass or a mixture of both. Rabbits will spend hours grazing on hay or grass and good quality forage ensures they don’t have tummy troubles or grow long in the tooth. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so they need to chew hay or grass to help keep their teeth to a correct shape and length. For indoor rabbits, freshly picked grass is suitable – but avoid clippings as they ferment quickly. Alfalfa hay is high in calcium and should generally be avoided in adult rabbits.
If you feed your rabbit muesli, you may want to look for an alternative. Although muesli diets are colourful and often more attractive to rabbits than pellets, they encourage selective feeding and predispose the animals to dental disease and obesity. Rabbits should be fed a small amount of pellets daily (about an egg cup full) as they are a good complementary source of vitamins and minerals.
While you may think a carrot is your rabbits’ favourite snack, carrots are actually not good for rabbits as they are high in sugar content and should only be given occasionally as a treat. Green carrot tops are a more appropriate snack.
15% of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of a variety of plants and vegetables, so make sure they are packing in the greens! Vegetables such as courgettes, spring greens, broccoli and curly kale, herbs such as basil and parsley, and plants such as dandelions and burdock are some good options. Avoid certain lettuces like iceberg, which contain a secretion called lactucarium that can be dangerous in large quantities. However, it is important that you offer a variety of leafy greens rather than rely on the same one or two items every time.
Lastly, it is normal for rabbits to eat their own poo! Rabbits produce two types of faecal pellets, although you may only ever see one type. They produce hard round faecal pellets that are passed throughout the day, but usually at dawn and dusk, rabbits produce soft faeces called caecotrophs, which contain proteins, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals and serve as an additional source of nutrients.
If you would like to learn more about how to feed your rabbit, please come in store for a friendly chat, or if you have particular concerns, your vet should be more than able to help.