Rabbits are everywhere, with more than half of the world's population based in North America. They dance when they're happy, their teeth never stop growing, and they breed like, well, rabbits. But knowing what to feed rabbits to keep them healthy is more than just throwing some grass into their cages. Rabbits, especially if they've been neutered or spayed, can live up to 12 years if they are well looked after. Rabbits will answer to their names, and love cuddles from their owners, so they give back the affection. A bit of exercise, some healthy foods, and a lot of love, and you've got a grateful pet for many seasons. Like all pets, though, you need to make sure that you look after its food needs. Stick to the basics – they are not fancy creatures! But that doesn't mean you can feed them on leftovers either – here are some top dos and don'ts. Visit New Heritage Feed Co. for the best natural rabbit feed. Your pets’ health and happiness are our top priority.
Hay in rabbit Feed
Hay is the most important food a rabbit can eat, so make sure your pet gets plenty of it. Rabbits' teeth never stop growing, and chewing is the best way to keep that growth in check. Be sure that any hay you feed your rabbit is fresh, non-moldy, and free from any pesticides.The rest of your bunny's diet should involve vegetables, but be cautious because not all vegetables are good for them. Be generous with vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumber, and spinach leaves. Younger bunnies enjoy alfalfa sprouts, whereas grown bunnies do well with foods such as celery (cut up) and Brussel sprouts. Round out your rabbit's diet with pellets and choose those that are both age-appropriate and provide the necessary nutrients. Young rabbits prefer alfalfa-based pellets, while older ones prefer a timothy base, and both contain roughage, vitamins, protein, and calcium. Pellets also encourage chewing, which, as we've mentioned, is good for your rabbit's teeth.
Other tempting and healthy rabbit foods
When you look at your lawn in summer, consider it as a handy food source for your pet. Grass, dandelion, and clover make wonderful treats when it comes to deciding what to feed rabbits. Other weeds such as thistles, plantain, and blackberry leaves, provide safe food choices to your rabbit.
While you may think of herbs solely on human foods, your pet rabbit may beg to differ. Thyme is a popular treat, and rabbits don’t turn their noses up at parsley, either. For a bit of variety, give them a feed of dill, mint, basil, sage, rosemary or coriander.
Foods to feed occasionally
Don't let your rabbit try to tell you that it wants a taste of your apple. Apple leaves and branches are fine, but the fruit itself is high in sugar, so should be a rare treat. Berries, plums, and pineapple are safe, but in small quantities (no more than a couple of times a week).Despite what the cartoons say, carrots and lettuce should be kept to a minimum. Carrots are high in sugar, so it's best to feed them the tops only. While you can feed your bunny dark lettuce, avoid lighter ones which can be high in toxins or acids. Kale may be a wonder food for humans, but for rabbits, not so much. They can enjoy the odd taste, along with broccoli and spinach, but try not to feed them these too often. These dark green leafies can cause bloating, so keep it as an occasional treat only.
Foods to avoid
Any food containing a high level of sugar has to be off the menu for rabbits. This includes processed foods, or foods meant mainly for humans, such as bread, chips, or nuts. Chocolate is toxic, so never mind what the Easter bunny says – chocolate is definitely not rabbit food.
Considerations when deciding what to feed rabbits
Rabbits have fairly delicate digestive systems, so make sure you introduce new foods slowly and in small quantities. This gradual introduction will tell you if your bunny can tolerate your new food choice. Give them a taste of the new item, and check their reactions for the next 24 hours or so.Fresh is best when it comes to what to feed rabbits. Just like us, they don’t love foods past their best-by date. Buy in small, regular quantities, rather than stocking up or buying in bulk. Always wash any fruits or vegetables before feeding them to your bunny to get rid of any pesticides or herbicides. Better still, make sure you get your bunny's food from organic producers. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, stick to natural, organic plant additives. Rabbits put on weight, especially when they stay in hutches all day, or on a diet high in starch or sugar. Let them loose (in a safe environment) regularly, and avoid foods likely to cause weight gain. Obesity causes additional health problems such as strain on limbs and can lead to broken bones.
Other important rabbit health tips
We can't stress the importance of chewing when it comes to tooth health in rabbits. Without regular chewing, rabbits can develop malocclusion. This condition results when their teeth are poorly aligned, causing cuts, impacted teeth, and abscesses. Malocclusion causes pain and makes your rabbit less likely to feed, meaning that they will lose weight rapidly. Keep your rabbit well hydrated. Water is as important for digestive health in bunnies as it is in humans. Always have a source of fresh, clean water handy.Keeping an eye on your pet's feces is a simple way of keeping track of their digestive health. Diarrhea and constipation are possible indicators of a painful, potentially deadly, but treatable problem in rabbits called gastrointestinal stasis. Get your bunny to the vet urgently if you notice abnormal feces issues.