What would happen if you failed to eat a healthy diet? Well, we all know the answer. Eventually, your body will grow weak and susceptible to diseases because a good diet is everything. The same case happens to rabbits. Eating well is really important for them.
Rabbits should only eat plant-based foods continuously. They have a complex gastrointestinal (GI) tract that processes and digests food mainly with the help of bacteria. With such a complex system, many things could go wrong, especially if the diet is not right.
You should provide food that mimics what they eat in the wild as closely as possible, that is, a wide variety of plants. Keep reading to find out what kind of food is best for rabbits.
So, what should you feed your bunny?
The best diet for rabbits should consist of hay or grass in large amounts, vegetables, fruits, small amounts of pellets, and water.
Hay: the most important rabbit food
A rabbit’s gastrointestinal system should get enough fiber. That is why 80% of a rabbit’s diet should be composed of hay. Hay is rich in fiber (at least 20%) and has moderate amounts of vitamins, calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients.
There are different types of hay: Timothy, Alfalfa, Oat, Meadow, etc. They all provide essential nutrients, and you can even mix them up. Here are some of the reasons why you should serve hay every day:
Promotes digestive system
Hay promotes a rabbit’s digestive system by providing large amounts of fiber. When consumed, it moves through the gut where the colon separates it into two parts.
Part 1: Indigestible fiber is quickly eliminated and passed out as fecal pellets.
Part 2: Digestible fiber is moved to the caecum (good bacteria), where fermentation occurs. The products of fermentation are vitamins, proteins, and nutrients. Some of these nutrients are used as a source of energy.
If you don’t feed your rabbit enough hay, serious health conditions such as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis could occur, causing the system to slow down and food to build up in the colon.
Maintains good dental health
Hay promotes dental health by keeping the rabbit’s teeth worn down. A rabbit’s teeth keep growing continuously. To keep them trimmed, they need regular chewing activity. Chewing on hay wears them down to a comfortable length.
Other important benefits of hay include:
- Meet the rabbit’s nutritional need
- Encourages foraging and grazing, therefore, increasing activity and reducing boredom.
- It helps get rid of hairballs. Hairballs or furballs form in the stomach when a rabbit accidentally ingests loose fur, which can block the digestive system.
If you are looking for a way to diversify your rabbit’s diet, provide greens and vegetables.
Leafy greens and vegetables should be part of your rabbit’s diet.
They provide essential nutrients and provide health benefits. Vegetable nutrients include vitamins, minerals (copper, zinc, etc.), antioxidants, and water.
While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some vegetables you can feed your rabbit.
- Broccoli (leaves and stems)
- Bell peppers (any color)
- Zucchini squash
- Carrots with leaves
- Herbs: basil, mint, cloves, cilantro, rosemary, etc.
- Kale (all types)
- Cucumber leaves
- Brussel sprouts
Vegetables should be washed and dried before feeding your rabbit. Aim to feed about one cup per day. If you’re introducing a new vegetable, gradual introduction in small quantities is important to avoid overwhelming your rabbit’s stomach. You should watch out for signs of appetite loss, gas, or diarrhea. Do not introduce more than one new item at a time.
Fruits: Once or twice a week
Fruits should be given as a treat item in limited quantities because they can be detrimental to gut health and cause obesity. Like vegetables, you should introduce one fruit at a time.
Examples of fruits that you can feed your rabbit.
- Kiwi fruit
- Apple (without the seeds)
Pellets: In small quantities
Pellets are part of a rabbit’s diet and can be considered a healthy diet. However, you should not feed your rabbit a complete pellet-based diet. You need to limit the intake as it can cause obesity and other health complications.
If you are planning to introduce pellets to your bunny’s diet, consider introducing all-natural hay-based pellets, especially for young or underweight rabbits, to provide them with extra calcium and protein to help them grow.
When buying, look for pellets that are high in fiber content and low in protein and fat content. Avoid pellets that have added nuts and seeds. Rather, choose plain pellets as they are safer (no additives) and more nutritious.
Water: unlimited supply
Rabbits should have an unlimited supply of fresh and clean water at all times, either in a water bottle or water bowl. Drinking water can help their bodies in four different ways:
- Keep all their body organs alive
- Increase blood
- A well-hydrated gut works properly
- It gets rid of excess calcium in the body
If your rabbit eats fresh vegetables, you might notice that they drink less water. That is because vegetables contain water. However, those that eat hay will want to drink water most of the time.
Foods that you should never feed your rabbit
Some foods are poisonous to rabbits and can cause serious health issues if consumed. Avoid giving processed foods, those with high carbohydrate content, sugary foods, and high-fat foods.
Here is a list of the most common foods that rabbits should not eat.
- Processed foods (bread, pasta, cookies, etc.)
- Meat, eggs, and dairy
- Raw onions
- Fruit pips and seeds
- Iceberg lettuce
So now you know the types of food that rabbits eat. The most important thing to note is that hay always comes first.
A nice mix of hay, vegetables, fruits (in moderation), pellets (small amounts), and unlimited amounts of water can keep your rabbit healthy and happy.
If you want to introduce new foods, you should make dietary changes slowly to avoid digestive upsets and give them time to adjust. There are safe and poisonous foods for rabbits- it is up to you to protect them.