The Most Common Mistakes When Feeding a Rabbit! (+ How To Avoid It)

Some owners make mistakes as they think they are doing the best for their pets. Some others don’t think at all and feed their rabbits with low-quality commercial food from a pet store.

No matter to which group you belong, everybody can make a mistake, that’s not a big problem but if you continuously repeat feeding mistakes that may cause a series of health issues to your bunny. I am sure you would like to avoid that.

So what are the most common mistakes when feeding a rabbit?

  • Rabbits are fed with unlimited amounts of pellet
  • Rabbits are fed with the wrong kind of pellet ( that are not appropriate for the age of the rabbit or condition)
  • Rabbits are fed with seeds mix including dry fruit ( muesli -type food)
  • Rabbits are fed with treats and dry food from a pet store
  • Rabbits are fed with fresh fruits every day
  • Rabbits are given the choice of two veggies, for example, spinach and carrot
  • Rabbits are fed with hay only
  • Rabbits don’t eat hay at all
  • Adult rabbits fed with alfalfa hay
  • Rabbits that are not allowed to eat their own poop
  • Rabbits are fed with Iceberg lettuce and other stuff that they shouldn’t eat

If you would like to know more about these mistakes, their consequences and how to avoid them keep reading this article.

How Much Pellet Does My Rabbit Need Daily?

Rabbits of 5 pounds or less should eat a maximum 1/4 cup of the pellet. If your bunny is larger, on every 5 pounds of weight goes another 1/4 cup of the pellet.

During winter you can give just a bit more pellets then usual, as during wintertime rabbits need to gain some weight. Be prepared that your bunny will beg you for more, but don’t give him more pellets.

If you don’t limit your bunny’s intake of pellets, several health issues will occur, that’s for sure. First of all, if you offer pellets and hay to your bunny, he will choose pellets over hay. Pellets are tastier and require much less effort to masticate. However, that is not good.

Rabbits have teeth that grow continuously and they need to consume hay to wear them down and keep them short and healthy. Some might think that pellets are hard and have an appropriate structure for this but would be wrong. Pellets cannot wear down teeth the same way hay can.

Too many pellets can also lead to obesity as well as gastrointestinal problems. Rabbits need hay to keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy and if your bunny eats more pellets and less hay then he will have a problem. Hay is rich in fibers which are essential for the rabbit’s gut. On the other hand, even the pellets with the highest fiber content you can find on the market cannot replace hay.

Some rabbit’s parents think that pellets are not a necessary part of the rabbit’s diet. As a matter of fact, this statement is true, a rabbit cannot find pellets in nature, right? But in the case of a pellet-free diet, you have to be very careful to make quality and balanced menu for your bunny so he gets all the required nutrients.

Many owners decide to feed their rabbits with pellets as supplement to hay and veggies, as a great source of vitamins and minerals.

To conclude – it is completely safe to feed your rabbit with pellets just be careful about the amount.

What If I Feed My Rabbit With Wrong Kind Of Pellet?

Change the pellets you are giving to your bunny! But don’t change his diet too suddenly. Every change you make in your bunny’s diet should be made very gradually.

For example if you have pellets for baby bunnies and you keep feeding your adult bunny with this food, you are making a big mistake. Pellets for baby rabbits are richer in proteins to support the growth. Baby rabbit needs food with about 16% of proteins while the adult rabbit needs less, between 12-14%. If you have still baby rabbits pellets left, you can start mixing them with pellets for adults. Gradually reduce the percentage of baby food and eventually give your bunny only the pellets for adults.

On the other hand, if you have a baby bunny and you have bought pellets for adult rabbits, not such a big deal. You can fulfill your pet’s nutritional needs if you give your bunny more pellets then usual quantity but pay attention not to fill his tummy with pellets so he won’t eat hay.

Is Muesli – type Food healthy For My Rabbit?

The short answer is NO. Muesli-type food is commercial food very often mistakenly considered as rabbit food. It contains many different components such as grains, peas, maize, dried fruit, seeds but it is still not healthy for your rabbit.

You might be confused about why this mixture is bad for your rabbit’s health. The fact is that rabbits are picky eaters and will eat the parts of the food that are rich in sugar and has nice flavor ( such as dried fruit) skipping other components that might have higher nutritional value.

As a result, you have a rabbit that is eating high sugar content and low fiber food. As you assume, this diet may lead to huge teeth and gastrointestinal problems ( as dry food makes rabbit’s metabolism very slow). Another issue that can occur if your rabbit is on a dry food diet constantly is the urinary tract problem.

Like I said earlier, any change you want to make in your bunny’s diet must be done very gradually. If you are feeding your rabbit with muesli-type food, start mixing that food with high-quality pellets (rich in fibers, at least 18%) and every day gradually reduce the amount of muesli in the mixture.

This transitional period should last for couple of weeks ( 2-4 weeks) in order to avoid upset stomach and other problems that may occur in rabbit.

Don’t forget to provide fresh hay and water on daily basis.

Should I Give Commercial Treats to My Rabbit?

Again, the short answer is NO. Treats designed for rabbits and bought in local pet stores, unfortunately, are not good for rabbits at all. They are full of fat and sugar. All this commercial stuff contains ingredients that damaging to your rabbit’s health. They usually contain sugar or honey, milk, yogurt, eggs… Not that rabbits absolutely don’t need any of these but these ingredients are not healthy for your rabbit at all.

Commercial treats may cause digestive issues in rabbits. Also, avoid giving any treats for pets in general. These are rich in carbohydrates ( variety of cookies, crackers, chips, pasta) and therefore not good for your bunny.

Don’t try to give your bunny treats for humans either. For example, chocolate is toxic to rabbits.

Fresh and natural treats like some fruit( banana or apple or blueberry ) every now and then is a much better option. Also, your rabbit will enjoy in oat or pea flakes as well, same as in some nice fresh herbs ( mint, basil or dill )

How Often Can I Give My Rabbit Fresh Fruit?

Fruit is strictly considered as a treat in rabbit’s diet. So it shouldn’t be on regular everyday menu.

Fruits are rich in sugar, so if your rabbit eats big portions of fruits every day that may cause obesity and dental problems.

Opinions on quantity are very divided among rabbits parents but majority of them agree that fruit is just a treat that should be given in small amounts.

Some people will offer 1-2 tablespoons of fruit per day, some others will give only 1 teaspoon a day. There are some rabbits owners that think that bunnies should eat fruit very occasionally, once or twice a week in small amounts ( 1 tablespoon)

That is why I looked for a professional opinion and found it.

Dr Laurie Hess from Veterinary Hospital in Westchester county says that you should pick high fibre fruit such as pear or apple or berries and reward your bunny every two days with 1-2 tablespoons of it.

Your rabbit is very clever and will try to get piece of apple even if he already has eaten enough. I know that this situation is tempting but don’t give up.

Just imagine – if your rabbit eats half of the apple, this is the same if you eat the whole cheese cake. And what will happen with your health if you eat that cheese cake every day? Nothing good, right?

Should I Give A Mix of Vegetables to My Rabbit?

You should make a mix of green,leafy vegetables, the variety is good for your bunny. But if you give your bunny some leafy vegetables for example spinach and a carrot, that is not good.

Why? Again, bunnies are clever, they will eat what they like more and the rest will leave behind. Something like kids.

The fresh, leafy, dark green vegetable is great to supplement the rabbit’s diet and your bunny should consume it on a daily basis. Some average portion is about 1cups of vegetables on every 2 pounds of rabbit’s weight

Fresh vegetables are an important part of the diet as they contain water and therefore provide more moisture to the diet. Water is crucial for the bladder and kidneys functioning well.

Other vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower are higher in sugar and starch and because of that should be found in smaller portions in the rabbit’s diet then leafy, dark green vegetables.

Avoid any vegetable from onion family ( leeks or chives) as their consumption can cause blood abnormalities.

Carrots are very high in sugar and carbohydrates so you can give it to your bunny on very rare occasions as a treat (a portion should be same size as a coin). But don’t forget on the carrot’s leafy tops -that part you can give your bunny without a fear.

Vegetables such as potato, eggplant, peppers or tomato are not good for your bunny, not even the stem or leaves.

Can My Rabbit Live on Hay Only ?

Rabbits can survive on grass hay and water only (not recommendable). But it is advisable to enrich their diet with leafy, green vegetables and a small amount of pellets.

Grass Hay is very rich in vitamins A and D, calcium, proteins and other nutrients. Hay is irreplaceable for healthy teeth and gastrointestinal tract function.

You should provide fresh hay every day for your rabbit and some guideline regarding the amount is – the bale should be the same size as your rabbit.

What If My Rabbit Doesn’t Eat Hay At All?

This can be an issue. Grass hay is an indispensable part of the rabbit’s diet. Although in theory rabbits can survive without eating hay, this is not good for their health.

We all know that grass hay acts like sandpaper for their teeth so without it rabbits could experience dental issues and not to mention gastrointestinal problems that would occur.

If you have a bunny that doesn’t eat hay at all or eats hay but in smaller amounts then i recomend you to read our article ”What If My Rabbit Doesn’t Eat Hay”. It may help you to discover the possible reason why your bunny won’t eat hay and how to fix that problem.

Should I Feed My Rabbit With Alfalfa Hay?

Avoid feeding your adult rabbit with Alfalfa hay as this type of hay is rich in calories and proteins. This is not grass hay but a legume ( from the bean and pea family )

Alfalfa hay is a great source of nutrients for baby bunnies but offers far more calories than your adult rabbit needs.

Exception is if you have a skinny rabbit that should gain a weight. In that case you can feed him/her with Alfalfa hay but consult your vet regarding this issue as well.

Should I Allow My Rabbit To Eat His Own Poop?

Yes, although it seems totally disgusting, it’s quite normal thing to do for bunnies. And not just normal but useful.

Rabbits have that special type of digestion called hindgut fermentation. That means that they will eat their own poop so they can digest it for the second time and take out all nutrients they couldn’t during the first time.

But rabbits will not eat any poop they run into. They have two types of droppings – little,black, hard ones and more softer and moister also black ones called cecotropes. The rabbits will eat cecotropes.

You might not see your rabbit eats his poop as that happens late at night or very early in the morning. Moreover, they are usually eaten directly from the anus. But if you see him eating it, don’t try to stop him.

Cecotropes are very rich in nutrients, proteins and vitamin B so therefore very valuable for rabbits and their health.

Should I Feed My Rabbit With Iceberg Lettuce?

Believe or not, Iceberg Lettuce is not good for your bunny.

The light green salad contains mainly water and it is very poor in nutrients. It can contain lactucarium (more commonly found in the type called Wild Lettuce), a chemical that could be dangerous for your bunny’s health. This substance is like opium to rabbits.

Lactucarium was used in humans as mild anesthetic and sedative in the past. Something like morphine but as it’s a weaker alternative. Some studies showed that can cause anxiety, nausea, euphoria in humans so just imagine what can this substance do to the rabbit’s sensitive system. Better not!

Final Thought

Rabbits should consume grass hay, fresh, leafy, dark green vegetables, some pellets and water on a daily basis. From time to time you can reward your bunny with some delicious treat, nice-smelling herb, nuts, etc.

Pay close attention to the portions and type of food you are giving to your pet.

Don’t forget that rabbits are not humans and that their digestive system is significantly different from ours.

One more advice- don’t use the water bottle, the water bowl is a better solution. Many rabbits owners noticed that rabbits drink far less water from a bottle than from a bowl.

Rabbits require more water than other animal species. Some average amount they drink daily is about 50-150 ml on every 2 pounds of rabbit’s weight. They should have unlimited excess to water 24/7.

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