I don’t know about y’all, but I’m over this whole winter thing. As the official start of spring grows nearer, I’m getting more anxious for warm weather. Now that that’s been said, let’s get down to the important stuff: Rabbits.
Rabbits are a great pet, but it can seem overwhelming to try and care for them with mixed information online. Last week I touched on this with an overview of my tips and tricks for rabbits- but I want to narrow it down even further. So without further ado, let’s talk nutrition!
Rabbit’s diet should primarily consist of pellets and hay, and should be supplemented with snacks like fruits or veggies.
From 0-6 months, your bunny should have unlimited access to pellets (i.e. free-feeding), after that point you should consult with your vet about an appropriate daily allotment for your bun. Keep in mind- bunnies come in a range of sizes, so there’s no one portion size that works for every rabbit. ALSO, rabbits need a diet high in fiber and pellets are their main source of this key nutrient. It’s recommended that pellets should always have a minimum of 18% fiber to maintain your bunny’s health.
* Try not to buy more than 6 weeks supply of pellets at a time, because they can go stale or become spoiled.
Hay is super important for rabbits, as it provides roughage. Roughage helps to stop blockages from occurring and reduces the chances of hairballs.
As bunnies grow older, hay should make up a majority of their diet, as pellets are slowly limited. The variety of hay to lookout for is grass hay, as this is what is recommended for rabbits. This is because its high in vitamins such as A and D, hay also provides nutrients like protein. It also supports healthy teeth (rabbit’s teeth will grow continuously and become uncomfortable if they don’t have enough things to chew on to wear them down), as well as aids digestion.
Your bunny should always have access to hay!
From birth to 6 months, bunnies can have alfalfa hay. However, alfalfa has a high caloric value, and more protein that most bunnies need, so after 6 months they should be transitioned off of it. Afterwards, you can feed your bunny timothy hay, which should be widely available in most pet stores. Mixing grass hays is also recommended, there are several varieties such as orchard, oat hay, brome, etc.
Apart from hay and pellets, leafy greens are great additions to your rabbit’s diet. Dark leafy greens are the best choice, as more watery greens such as iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea. Other safe greens include things like kale, and arugula.
Something to watch out for are alkaloids, which are common toxins in plants. Though they don’t affect humans or animals in small doses, they can damage the kidneys and cause the tingling of skin and mouth in large doses. The most prevalent alkaloid is oxalic acid. Again, in most plants there are low levels of oxalic acid, but some notable plants with levels include parsley, spinach, and mustard greens. Reminder: this isn’t so say your rabbit can’t have those greens- but they should be given in small quantities, and greens should be given throughout the day, not all at once. Greens should also be mixed, rabbits need some variety in their diet; just like us!
Rabbits can also have other varieties of vegetables, like roots vegetables or “flowers”. Think broccoli and cauliflower. These foods are higher in starch than leafy greens though, and should be fed in lesser quantities.
*Avoid foods in the onion family
Last but not least, rabbits l o v e fruits. I had a rabbit growing up who would do just about anything for a strawberry. Fruit is a great treat to give to your bunny- but like everything else on this list, only in moderation. Bunnies are small little friends, so they can only handle so much at a time. Some great fruits for your bunny are apples (sans core and seeds), peaches (with the pit removed), and banana- no peel though! These are just a few in a broad list, but feel free to search up more. I’ll also include a list of links I found helpful!
Links to pages I loved on this topic:
As soon as March rolls around I’m ready for spring and all that comes with it. Budding flowers, warmer temperatures, and Easter (IF you celebrate it, if not just enjoy a little extra chocolate and the previously mentioned benefits)! This holiday brings up the next topic of our blog: bunnies!
My family has had pet rabbits on and off throughout my entire childhood, so to me rabbits are no more daunting than a pet hamster- but I understand how even these little guys could seem a little daunting. Bunnies aren’t as hard as people say though, and there are actually some benefits to having these fluff balls around. I wanted to compile a list of tips and tricks to hopefully make you guys feel more comfortable as rabbit owners, or just to aid in your caretaking.
1. Rabbits are social!
Many buns will bond to other rabbits in duos or trios- or even with cats. Rabbits have super individualized personalities, so they’re great friends to have around.
Note: Bunnies are not known to be BFFs with dogs.
2. Find the right bunny for you
There are 40-50 breeds of rabbits. Smaller Netherland Dwarfs range in size from 2-3 lbs, all the way to Flemish Giants who top out around 20! Just like with dogs, decide some characteristics you’re looking for in a bunny, and ask the foster parent what the rabbit’s temperament is like. I’ve had shy, quiet rabbits, and rabbits that spent all day mischievously playing flip-cup with their food bowl. Both were delightful- but one may be more suited to you and your lifestyle than the other.
3. Spay/Neuter your new friend!
Bunnies are prone to reproductive cancers when not properly taken care of so it’s important to spay and neuter them. Male buns are likely to develop prostate cancer when left un-neutered, and females have a 60-80% chance of getting ovarian or uterine cancers. If proper precautions are taken, your bun should stay healthy and happy!
4. Let’s talk housing!
Domesticated rabbits should have a spot indoors, in a semi-controlled climate as they can’t tolerate super-hot or very cold temperatures. That being said, in more neutral weather, my bunnies have always loved having the opportunity to hop around outdoors. Rabbits love to exercise so having a home-base shelter and then a larger place for them to explore is ideal. Previously we’ve used chain-link dog-runs to give our bunnies a place outside – just be careful because bunnies love to dig, and some bunnies are tiny enough to slip through some fencing!
5. Pamper your pet.
Rabbits are excitable little creatures, so ideally their cage will be stimulating. Aim to find something with multiple levels, and make sure you have water bottles designed for rabbits. Another note: avoid wire flooring! Rabbits don’t have the same padding on their feet that cats and dogs do, and wire can hurt them. Rabbits love to explore, so having a cage with an interesting layout is perfect them. You can also buy toys and beds for your little guy.
6. Potty-train your bun!
That’s right, you heard me. Rabbits can be housebroken! Just like cats, rabbits can be trained to use a litterbox, which will definitely simplify cage cleanings and managing any smell. It should take about two months to fully litterbox train your bunny. BUT certain types of litter aren’t good for their digestive system. Avoid brands that advertise clumping, and stay away from pine and cedar chips. If you’re worried about finding the right kind, consult your vet!
7. Sadly, rabbits are the 3rd most surrendered animal.
You know what that means… ADOPT, don’t shop. There are plenty of cuddly guys waiting to find forever homes, and they don’t have to come from a breeder. Keep in mind that a pet rabbit is a five- to ten-year commitment, so never bring home a pet unless you’re 100% committed to care for it for its entire life.
Rabbits love it. There are two types, alfalfa and timothy (also good rabbit names!) From birth to 6 months, rabbits can have alfalfa, but after that you should switch over to timothy. Both varieties should be available at your local pet store!
9. Fiber isn’t just a people thing!
Bunnies need fiber too. Luckily, there’s plenty of fiber in standard rabbit food (i.e. pellets). Following the same timeline as with hay, from 0-6 months your bun can have unlimited pellets, but after that consult with your vet about an appropriate amount to feed daily.
Leafy greens are great for bunnies. Think kale, arugula, parsley, etc. Be careful though, because watery things like iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea, which can be dangerous for buns.
Fruit and vegetables can be great snacks as well (if only we could get kids to eat them this easily. Sigh.) Things like carrots, broccoli, celery, and banana slices will make for a very happy bun. Just keep the portions small – they’re little and don’t need much to perk them up.
Overall, bunnies are super fun pets to have around! I hope this helps you gain the confidence to adopt one, or just helps you better understand the tiny friend you have already.
This list was compiled with help from this website: https://www.care.com/c/stories/6110/so-you-want-to-adopt-a-rabbit/
Definitely check them out for other helpful resources and more information about bunnies.
Have a hoppy day!
Joy Shanahan is a student at Appalachian State University with a passion for community service. She can be found in the dance studios at ASU or researching helpful animal tips for Lee Shore.