Diet of rabbits

What Do Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits are very popular as pets, especially among children. Although these cuddly creatures are a delight to watch, their diet needs to be monitored carefully to avoid health problems. To ensure the same, this Buzzle article provides information on what rabbits eat.
Did You Know?
The digestive system of rabbits makes up for 20 - 25% of their body weight.

Rabbits are cute, furry, and extremely lovable creatures. Raising them can be really fun, and they prove to be great pets for the family. They can be kept outdoors as well as indoors, which would depend upon the kind of environment that you can offer them. Being social animals, one would need to ensure there is ample interaction between their pets and other rabbits, and also between their pets and themselves. Rabbits basically are found in varied environment from the forests to the deserts.

These animals are essentially ground dwellers. Their popularity is such that one can notice them as fictional characters as well. Br'er Rabbit and the very popular Bugs Bunny won the hearts of people all over the world. If you wish to raise rabbits, there are a few things you would have to bear in mind as far as their food habits are concerned.

Diet and Food Habits of Rabbits

Rabbits have a unique digestive system that needs a proper diet to function well. A slight imbalance can lead to diseases in your pet. An improper diet is one of the major causes for health problems in rabbits.

One interesting fact about rabbits is that they do not vomit. Digestion takes place constantly. It is recommended never to fast or starve a rabbit, even before a surgery. High-fiber food is very important for these animals, otherwise they can be affected by gastrointestinal problems. Rabbits eat vegetables, hay, fruits, and pellets. However, even among these foodstuff, certain items are not to be fed to them. Given below is the diet of rabbits in detail.

Hay and Grass
Hay and grass are the most important components of a rabbit's diet. The fiber content in hay is very important for good digestion, and the constant chewing that is required keeps the growth of teeth in check. It also helps keep the movement of the intestine smooth, thereby, preventing an intestinal impact. The best variety that can be fed to your rabbit is fresh grass hay like timothy hay. Other types that are also good are oat, wheat, and coastal hay. Varieties such as Alfalfa and clover contain very high levels of calcium and protein, and hence, they must be fed rarely.

Vegetables
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is to feed your rabbit fresh and, if possible, organic vegetables. You should wash the vegetables thoroughly, but not dry them. Serve them wet to your rabbit as the water on them aids digestion. The vegetables should be varied so that your pet gets all the nutrients. Among the ones that you can start with, Romaine lettuce is good. Feed lettuce that is dark in color and more fibrous.

Other popular vegetables to start with are carrots and kale. Another reason to provide a variety in the vegetables is because rabbits otherwise become used to certain ones and do not like to eat any others. While introducing new veggies, feed them in small quantities and one at a time so that you will know which ones, if any, are causing an upset stomach in your rabbit. All veggies must be introduced slowly. Their treats include most fruits, root vegetables (carrot and sweet potato), and capsicum.

Fruits
Fruits are considered as treats and must be fed in moderation because of their high sugar content. Too much feeding of fruits will result in an overweight bunny. Rabbits can eat all kinds of fruits. Apples and pears can be given for their fiber content. Other fruits that can be given are peaches, tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines, and papayas.

Pellets
Good-quality rabbit pellets must be fed to your rabbit in small quantities every day. These provide the minerals and trace nutrients that hay and vegetables lack. The pellets must not contain any nuts, dried fruits, or seeds as these are extremely harmful to rabbits. The quantity of pellets must be reduced after the rabbit becomes about a year old. It should not be more than 20 grams per kilo of body weight. Pellets have a high calorie content, do not require to be chewed much, thus, not controlling growth of teeth. They are also dry and lack moisture.

Water
Rabbits need a constant source of freshwater. The water supply can be provided using heave crocks or bottles. If you are providing sipper bottles, make sure that the rabbits are able to drink from them. However, crocks are preferred. The water must be clean and changed daily. It is better to change it twice a day. The crock must be washed with hot water and soap daily to prevent bacterial buildup.

Caecotrophs
This is also known as night feces. This feces is soft and glossy in color as compared to the normal feces. This is very high in nutrients and is consumed by rabbits. It is very important for their growth and nutrition requirement. This concept is known as caecotrophy.

Avoid
• Human treats like crackers, candies, chocolates, cookies, bread, pasta, or any pet foods with a high sugar content must not be fed to your pet under any circumstances.

• Cereals, grains, nuts, and seeds must be strictly avoided.

• Some vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower may cause gas in certain rabbits. Foods that must be absolutely refrained from feeding to rabbits are corn, beans, peas, and nuts (as these can cause blockage), spinach, potatoes, muesli, coffee or tea leaves, and onions. You can consult your vet and prepare a diet chart for your pet.

• Iceberg lettuce is not recommended as it has high water content and low nutrition, which can cause stomach problems in your rabbit.

All food items must be fed to rabbits in a balanced manner. Too much or too less feeding of any one item may cause health problems in your pet. Hay, fresh vegetables, and pellets can be fed every day in appropriate quantities. Fruits are to be given as an occasional treat, and providing clean and fresh drinking water is a must. Keeping these basic but important considerations in mind will ensure that you have beautiful, healthy, and happy rabbits.
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