Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits

Pet rabbits have the same nutritional needs as any other rabbit. Scientists at several universities have studied care and feeding of pet rabbits. Dr. T. E. Reed is one of the foremost specialists on rabbit nutrition, having co-authored the definitive book on rabbit care, Rabbit Production, with J. I. McNitt and S. D. Lukefahr.

Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits - Hay

Dr. Reed recommends plenty of fiber in your rabbit's diet. Fiber gets to the rabbit in the form of hay. Grass hay and timothy hay are high in fiber and low in protein, which is what the rabbit needs to keep their digestive tract healthy.

When buying hay, find out what cutting it is. First cutting has lots of fiber in the form of stems, but the rabbit may not eat it as readily as second or third cutting hay. These subsequent cuttings have a better balance of stems to leaves, making it more palatable to the rabbit.

Pet rabbits should have access to hay all the time. Hay gives them something to chew on to occupy their time. It also helps keep their digestive tract healthy.


Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits - Pellets

Pellets are a balanced diet that has been scientifically created to meet the needs of your rabbit. Get the kind that fits your pet best. Read the labels. Pellets range from 14 to 18% protein. Pet rabbits don't need 18% protein unless they are still growing themselves or raising litters. Get a lower protein pellet.

Manna Pro Rabbit Pellets

Pellets also contain fat, fiber, salt, vitamins and minerals. Do not overfeed your rabbit. No matter how well-balanced the feed is, if the rabbit gets too much of it, he will become overweight and may suffer digestive problems because of it. Measure your pet's feed every day.

Pay attention when you buy pellets; they are not all created equal. Rabbit pellets should be bright green and smell like fresh hay. Pellets that contain off colored bits, have turned tan or yellow or that smells moldy or musty should not be fed to any rabbit. Don't buy pellets with colorful added bits. This is like feeding your rabbit candy every day.

You want a healthy pellet that will provide balanced nutrition. You can buy pellets at local feed stores. Some companies also sell them online. One company also makes pellets from timothy rather than alfalfa. It is lower in protein than alfalfa pellets. It may be adequate for your pet or it may be too low. If you decide to try the timothy pellets, you may need to supplement with alfalfa hay to make up for nutrients that the timothy lacks.

Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits - Water

Your rabbit needs clean, fresh water every day. This is especially important during warm weather. Keep the crocks or bottles clean. Refill as needed so your rabbit is never without water. This cannot be stressed enough. A thirsty rabbit will not eat.

Once rabbits stop eating, they can suffer from digestive problems. Once a rabbit is off their feed, the internal organisms that live in the gut may become unbalanced. Ask your veterinarian about probiotics to help get your rabbit back in shape.

Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits - Fresh Foods

You may see recommendations to feed your rabbits a large portion of fresh vegetables. Greens like parsley, carrot tops, dandelion leaves and so on can be a nice treat for your rabbits. Be sure none have been sprayed with pesticides or fertilized recently with topical fertilizers. Herbs and wild greens are excellent choices to give to your pet as a treat or even as a daily addition to their diet.

They should not replace your balanced pellet ration, but merely supplement it. Most rabbits have been raised on pellets and are not used to a large part of their diet coming from vegetables. Think about each variety you give, too. Carrots are sweet because they contain sugar. Feed them sparingly. Try to stick to leafy greens that offer a lot of nutrition.

Care and Feeding of Pet Rabbits - Foods to Avoid

Do not feed your rabbit soybeans, broad beans or any other kinds of beans. Members of the cabbage family can be fed in moderation. Too much will inhibit production of the thyroid hormone.

Spinach and Swiss chard should only be fed in moderation because they contain oxalates, which is the same substance that makes rhubarb leaves toxic.

Certain weeds such as deadly nightshade (related to tomatoes and potatoes) and milkweed are toxic, as are foxgloves, delphiniums, and lupines.

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