Are rabbits herbivores? If you are about to welcome a resilient friend into your family and have already invested in one of the best rabbit cages and some toys, the next thing you want to learn is what you should feed your rabbit for optimal health and wellness.
Rabbits are actually herbivores, which means that their bodies are designed to eat vegetables and herbs. This does not mean that they will get terribly ill from accidentally eating a strange little piece of meat from time to time, but for your rabbit to grow, a vegetarian diet is necessary.
When it comes to the do’s and don’ts of feeding rabbits properly, sticking to botanicals and herbs is vital for several reasons. Not only does all that grinding of fibrous vegetables help get rid of their teeth, but their digestive system wasn’t designed to process large amounts of protein, which means a vegan diet is essential for digestive health.
Below, we reveal everything you need to know about the herbivorous fur friend, including the health issues that can occur from improper feeding and what exactly their diet needs to keep them performing at their physical best. lets take alook….
Are rabbits herbivores?
Rabbits are herbivores which means they must consume a strict vegetarian diet. The reason for this is that rabbits require a lot of fiber in their diet to help them wear out their four front teeth that are constantly growing. Fibrous foods provide the roughage they need to make it happen.
From an evolutionary perspective, there is also another reason that rabbits have always been herbivores and this has to do with the role they play in their survival. For rabbits living in the wild, eating plant foods allows them to eat outdoors where they can watch for predators.
Hay, plants, and herbs are also lighter in their stomachs than high-protein foods, allowing them to move quickly if they detect a threat. So, you see, being a herbivore is an adaptive strategy that guarantees our floppy-eared friends the best survival change.
Can rabbits eat meat?
If your rabbit does consume a small piece of bacon or any other type of meat, rest assured that although it may cause stomach problems, it is unlikely to cause any serious harm to him. Not that these foods are immediately toxic to rabbits, but that their digestive systems are not designed to break down the high protein content found in meat.
Rabbits in the wild will eat meat when they are starving and need to survive, but it is important that you do not intentionally feed your rabbit meat because not being able to digest it can make them sick and cause health problems.
Small amounts of accidentally consumed meat can cause minor problems, such as loose stools, but excessive amounts of animal products on a regular basis can be fatal. Always stick to plants for your rabbit and you will ensure that he gets the nutrients he needs to thrive.
Possible health problems from improper nutrition
Good nutrition is crucial when it comes to keeping your rabbit healthy with improper feeding being one of the most common causes of illness in pet rabbits. Here are some of the health issues that can arise if your floppy-eared friend is not fed the right diet:
- Inflammatory bowel – As a result of eating a lot of carbohydrates, enteritis leads to inflammation of the intestine, and if left untreated, it can develop into enterotoxemia, a disease of the kidneys due to high levels of pathogenic bacteria.
- Gastrointestinal ileus If your rabbit is getting too little fiber or too many carbohydrates, another potential problem is gastrointestinal ileus, a potentially fatal condition where the digestive system slows down or stops working completely.
- Dental disease Your rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing in, and the only way for them to keep their proper length and shape is to do a lot of chewing. Plenty of hay is vital to ensuring their teeth remain in good condition.
- hair balls For rabbits that don’t get enough hay and other plant matter, hairballs are common. Rabbits groom themselves frequently and eating adequate hay and other plant foods rich in fiber helps move the hairs through the digestive system so that it can be eliminated.
- Eclampsia Pregnant or nursing rabbits that don’t get the nutrients they need from plant foods can go into ketosis, which can lead to episodes of illness and death.
- Urinary tract stones A diet high in calcium (from animal products) can cause what is known as sludge in the urinary bladder which can lead to kidney stones and calcification.
As you can see, poor nutrition is responsible for a wide range of health conditions in rabbits that are less likely to occur when they are fed an adequate diet that contains the correct proportion of vitamins and minerals that their bodies need. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what to feed your floppy-eared friend for optimal health.
What to feed the rabbit
Since they adhere to herbivores, your rabbit’s daily diet should consist mainly of hay, greens, a small amount of fruit and plenty of water. Even with plant foods, which your rabbit is designed to eat, it is always a good idea to monitor the introduction of any new fruits or vegetables to make sure your rabbit is able to tolerate them.
To help ensure that you feed your fur friend the right diet, here is a list of suitable plant foods for your rabbit:
- straw Hay is the healthiest option when it comes to the staple food of your rabbit’s diet. Timothy, orchard, oat drizzle, or a mixture are all suitable options. Unless your rabbit is pregnant, nursing, or a young rabbit in the process of growing up, stay away from alfalfa hay, which is high in calcium and can cause health problems.
- vegetables The rule of thumb with greens is to offer your rabbit 1 cup for every 2 to 3 pounds of body weight. Include a good mix to provide a wide range of nutrients – think spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, mint leaves, radishes and carrots, collard greens, dandelion greens and cilantro. Make sure all greens are free of pesticides, and because the darker the green the higher the calcium content, feed them less often than lighter greens.
- Fruits and vegetables You can offer about 1 tablespoon per day of fruit or vegetables for every 2 to 3 pounds of body weight to add variety to your rabbit’s diet. Strawberries, blueberries, and berries are all suitable, as are things like kiwi, pineapple, peaches, and pears.
For more information on specific foods and whether they are suitable for your rabbit to consume, you may find the following articles helpful:
#rabbits #herbivores #carnivores #guide #rabbits #diet