Feeding Rabbits

Vet Clinic Yuen Long, Sheung Shui, Tuen Mun

Pet rabbits sold in Hong Kong are descendants of the wild European rabbit, which live in fields and forests and eat grass and leaves. Rabbits are unique in that their teeth constantly grow throughout their life. They need to chew a very high fibre diet to balance this tooth growth and maintain a healthy condition. Fibre in their food is also important for healthy digestion, and several disease conditions can occur if their diet is not balanced.

Recommended Diet:

  • Grass Hay – Grass hay such as Timothy hay should be available at all times. It is sold in a dried form, it should smell fresh and should not be dusty. Apart from maintaining dental and intestinal health, eating adequate grass hay will decrease the chewing of inappropriate objects such as furniture, wiring, wallpaper etc.  Nb. Alfalfa hay has a higher energy and calcium content than Timothy hay. It is ok for growing rabbits (until 6 months old) but should not be fed to adult animals.
  • Green foods – Equally important as hay in a rabbits diet. Remember rabbits are designed to eat grasses and leaves; green foods are the “leaf” part of the diet. They have the same benefits as hay but also give a wider supply of vitamins, nutrients and water. Even though you provide water in the cage, rabbits often do not drink as much as they should. If you have not fed green food in the past, introduce them slowly.

Important points:

  • Wash any green foods first
  • Feed at least three types of greens per day
  • Feed a minimum of one packed cup of greens per Kg bodyweight per day.

List of Green food:

  • Broccolli (leaf and top)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Celery tops
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Mixed salad leaf
  • Carrot tops
  • fresh cut Grass

Fruit and other Vegetables (treats)

The following foods should only be fed in limited quantities, especially because some rabbits “love” this type of food and will eat them rather than all others crating a possible health problem. Offer no more than one tablespoon per Kg per day of:

  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Melon
  • Mango
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cherries
  • Carrots
  • Squash

Dried fruit can be fed but, because it is concentrated, feed half the allowed amount.  Avoid banana and grapes as they can become “addictive”.

Forbidden foods

The above foods are all that your rabbit needs.  Please avoid any other starchy or fat foods for your pet, for example:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar

There are many commercial treats available in pet shops – do not feed these.

Water

Water should always be available, and change fresh daily.

Rabbit Pellets

It may seem odd that pellets are last on our diet list. This is because commercial pellets DO NOT need to be part of a healthy house rabbit diet.

Rabbit pellets were originally developed for the rabbit in the meat, fur and laboratory animal industries. They are overloaded with energy to provide rapid growth. Rabbits in these industries have a short lifespan, unlike the house rabbit. Pellets cause obesity, intestinal disease, dental problems, promotes chewing of furniture etc.

If you decide to include pellets please use a high quality product (Oxbow) and limit pellets to one teaspoon per Kg per day.

Never leave pellets available to eat at any time.

Photo Credit