Feeding Pet Rabbits
Feeding pet rabbits properly will help keep them healthy. Rabbits are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. In the wild, rabbits will eat shoots, leaves, bark and roots of various plants they find. Domestic rabbits can't forage for themselves, so they depend upon people to feed them what they need.
You can find several good rabbit pellets on the market. These run from 14% protein to 18% protein.
The higher proteins are good for growing rabbits and rabbits that are used for breeding or growing wool. The animal needs the extra protein to grow litters or thick wool.
Pet rabbits that are neutered and spayed can be very healthy on a lower protein pellet diet. The lower protein is fine for maintenance of a grown rabbit.
Pellets should be given in measured amounts according to the size of your rabbits. Dwarfs do fine on ¼ cup per day, while larger breeds may need ½ or more, depending on their size and if they are nursing a litter.
When feeding pet rabbits, grass hay provides fiber, entertainment and nutrition. Get a good quality grass hay like orchard grass or timothy. The second cutting is better than first cutting because it has more leaves and fewer stems.
Since rabbits lick themselves clean like a cat, it is important to have enough fiber in the diet to move any swallowed hair through the digestive system. Rabbits cannot spit up hairballs like cats do, so they just keep accumulating in the belly until they obstruct the passage of food. Fiber grabs hold of the hair while it is still loose in the gut and moves it out. Rabbits should have as much hay as they can eat.
When feeding pet rabbits, fruit and vegetables can be fed to your rabbit occasionally as treats. They should not make up the majority of the diet. A chunk of carrot has a lot of sugar, so don't give it to them daily. Fruit is the same. Feed them as treats only, and don't give them a whole fruit. A few slices of apple are fine for a treat.
Dark green lettuces, herbs like parsley and dandelion leaves are excellent nutritious treats. Always be sure anything you offer your pet has not been treated with any chemicals like insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
Rabbits love to chew; in fact, it is very important that they have hard items to chew on to keep their ever-growing teeth in check. If you have access to unsprayed apple trees, they love to chew on sticks of apple wood. Willow branches are also welcomed by most rabbits. A piece of untreated wood can also offer a nice chew toy for your pet.
Feeding pet rabbits should include access to clean, fresh water 24 hours per day. This is so important during weather extremes, whether it is hot or cold outside. If you offer water in a crock or bowl, make sure and check frequently that the water has not been tipped or soiled. Consider using water bottles instead.
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