Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they are physically adapted to eat plant material. Your pet rabbit should eat the same as what their wild cousins would mainly, hay or grass with 5% pellets and 10% leafy green vegetables added to their daily diet. Good quality, dust-free rabbit hay and rabbit grass are vital for good gut health and the tough, fibrous material helps to wear down your rabbit’s ever-growing teeth.
As well as providing key nutrients, hay has high fibre content and low fat, starch and sugar which is beneficial for the rabbit’s delicate digestive system. Hay itself is coarse as it is covered in silica and made up of long fibre, meaning it needs to be chewed in a side-to-side motion to eat which is what helps wear down the rabbit’s back teeth. As rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their lives, this chewing action when eating hay and grass prevents spurs from developing on the teeth which cut painfully into their tongue and gums.
Making sure that you buy hay that is dry, smells sweet and is free from dust and mould is not only important for your rabbit but will also last longer in storage too. Fresh hay and grass will stimulate your rabbit’s appetite, increasing their intake which ensures good digestive and dental health.
There are also different types of hay such as Timothy, meadow and oat, all of which provide an excellent foundation for your rabbit’s diet. Alfalfa is actually a legume, not a grass hay, and is quite rich with a high protein content so should really be fed as a treat.
Feeding hay and bedding hay or straw are both dried grasses but feeding hay is fresher and contains more beneficial nutrients. Bedding hay or straw is dryer, ideal for your rabbit to snuggle down in and sleep on but not so good for eating. Although, it won’t cause problems if your rabbit eats it.
Your rabbit should eat their body weight in hay daily, with at least 85-90% of their diet being made up of fresh hay or grass. If you find that your rabbit is not eating enough of this, it may be that you are feeding too many pellets, greens or treats. Remember, fruits should be fed in very limited quantities only and commercial treats such as beans, corn and bread are not recommended for rabbits and should be avoided altogether.
A great way to entice your rabbit to eat more hay is to make it more interesting! Mixing different types of hay such as Timothy hay and meadow hay together or adding fresh herbs such as coriander and basil will make the mixture smell much more tempting and encourage your rabbit to forage and eat more.
Some rabbits prefer to eat hay from racks instead of from the floor so adding these may also help. Also, rabbits typically graze whilst pooping so placing hay next to or above their litter tray will positively reinforce them to eat whilst using their bathroom.
Rabbits are very good at hiding when they are sick or injured because they are prey animals and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. If you notice your rabbit’s appetite has changed, then take them to a vet immediately, especially if they don’t take their favourite treat when offered. It may be the reason why your rabbit isn’t eating enough hay is that their teeth have become overgrown, preventing them to pick up the hay strands or chew the hay properly.
We at FirstVet know that you want the best hay and grass for your rabbit so why not have a look at our great range at the FirstVet shop where you can take advantage of!
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