RAW: Diet

Another massive topic for rabbit welfare that we just couldn’t cover off in a single blog. So, here’s the tip of the iceberg for you.

It’s estimated that over 80% of rabbits are not being fed properly. A similarly large percentage of rabbits presented to the vet are obese from being overfed.

To major contributors to the problem: Rabbit Muesli and Carrots.

Muesli based dried foods generally are lower in key fibre and proteins that other dried foods offer. Rabbits more often than not will also selectively feed from these foods, so the likelihood of them getting the full benefit of the little nutrient value of these is further reduced. They are often much higher in unnecessary sugars that the average rabbit can handle.

We recommend switching to nuggets, such as Burgess Excel. Your rabbit may turn their nose up these at first (mainly due to change) so slowing introduce them into their existing food and use them as foraging treats around their environment to encourage them to start eating them. They are much higher in fibre, and as your rabbit will learn not to selectively eat (its all the same) they will get the nutrients they need from this food.

Bear in mind though that all dried food is only a supplement. A rabbits actual diet should be around 80% hay/grass, 18% fresh veg, fruit or herbs, and only 2% dried food supplement. A rough guide is that your rabbit will eat its own body size in hay every day. However, they will eat less hay if “easier” foods are provided in too great a quantity. So too many nuggets/muesli = less hay = dental and/or gut problems! The correct amount of dried nuggets then is typically only an egg cup size per day.

Carrots should also not form part of a rabbits stable diet, and in fact should only ever be given in very small quantities (less than a carrot each) as an occasional treat. Carrots are high in sugars, and aside from contributing to an overweight rabbit, the additional sugars can ferment in the stomach and cause a series of further gut related problems. We often liken it to chocolate for humans, and whilst your rabbits may love to wolf down those carrots it doesn’t mean that we should allow them to.

We understand that people love their pet rabbits very much, and want to spoil them. But poor diets are a direct contributor to many domesticated rabbits not enjoying a lifespan as long as they could. Research confirmed by the Rabbit Welfare Association has shown that a rabbit fed on an appropriate diet, neutered and given all the other basic needs we’ve covered this week will live on average between 10 and 12 years. We have many examples of rabbits living in excess of this too. The common perception that rabbits live for 3 or 4 years is largely a result of too many rabbits being poorly fed.

But you can still treat your rabbit. There are lots of healthy treat options you can give them, and its important to offer the opportunity for them to forage for their food, so hide it around their environment and let them find it!

We’ve created this list of Safe & Unsafe foods to help you think of new treats for your rabbit, and keep a good variety in their diet too.