Feeding the proper diet maintains the health of your rabbit by encouraging digestive health, tooth health and the prevention of hairballs. With just a little thought and daily preparation, you can provide a diet that meets your rabbit’s needs.
A rabbit’s diet should include fresh water, fresh grass hay, a variety of greens and root vegetables, and a small amount of commercial pellets. Rabbits can also have a few treat items, but these should be used in moderation.
Hay is vital to a rabbit’s diet and should be available at all times. Hay can be eaten as soon as a rabbit is weaned.
Two basic types of hay exist: legume and grass. Legume hay is most frequently made up from alfalfa or clover. While loaded with nutrients, these ingredients are higher in calories, protein and calcium than the average house rabbit needs. Alfalfa hay should be used in moderation, if at all, and only with rabbits that require it, such as nursing mothers, growing kits or those needing to gain weight.
Grass hays are made from timothy, meadow, oat, rye, barley, or Bermuda grasses. These hays are rich in needed nutrients but lower in calories.
Make sure the hay you purchase for your rabbit comes from a reputable source and smells fresh. It should be stored in a dry place with the bale left open so the air can circulate and the hay remains fresh.
Vegetables Add Variety
Green foods provide high fiber variety to a rabbit’s diet and all of the benefits of hay, but contain a wider variety of micronutrients and water. Green foods allow the rabbit to consume the necessary amount of water and keep its GI tract, kidney and bladder function healthy.
Appropriate greens for rabbits include the leaves and top of broccoli; Brussels sprouts; bok choy; red, green or Chinese cabbage; celery leaves; chicory; collard greens; basil; dandelion greens; Swiss chard; endive; kale; mustard greens; escarole; and carrot or beet tops. Root vegetables can also be added to the greens for variety, in moderation. Appropriate root vegetables include carrots, peppers and squash.
All vegetables should be washed before being offered to your rabbit. If your rabbit is eating a variety of appropriate hay, you can increase the greens, as there is no upper limit.
Measure Those Pellets
Choose a pelleted diet for your rabbit that is 18 percent or higher in fiber, 2.5 percent or lower in fat, 12 to 14 percent or less is protein, and 1 percent or less in calcium. A high-fiber, pelleted diet should be doled at out 1/4 cup per 5 pounds of rabbit body weight. Diets that contain dried fruit or seeds have higher levels of sugar and might cause health issues, so consult with your vet.
Pour On The Water
Provide fresh water and change it daily for your rabbit, as dirty water can contain bacteria. A water bottle or heavy dish that won’t tip are preferable containers. Nothing should be added to the water, as a slight change in color or odor may stop your rabbit from drinking its water. Be aware that a rabbit eating plenty of greens may not drink much water.