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Rabbit Feeding

Feeding pet rabbits is easy because nutritionally complete and balanced commercial pelleted diets are readily available. One of these pelleted diets and fresh water are all a pet rabbit requires. The pellets should be offered at all times unless overeating and obesity have become problems. Clean, fresh water also should be available at all times.

Pellets should be as fresh as possible when purchased and should be purchased in relatively small quantities. The pellets should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent premature spoilage. Pellets that will probably not be used within 2 months of purchase should be frozen immediately after purchase. Refusal to eat rancid pellets is a relatively common cause of inappetence among rabbits.

Fresh water should be offered daily, either in a bottle or in a heavy ceramic dish that cannot be easily overturned. Many hobbyists find the hanging drop-style bottles most satisfactory. The water container, regardless of the type used, should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at least every 1-2 days.

Good quality hay (grass, alfalfa or clover) and/or grass clippings should be offered daily. Some researchers believe this practice reduces intestinal problems and the tendency to pull out and chew on hair. Other food items (lettuce, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, carrot tops, beet greens, carrots, apples, etc.) can be offered in small amounts daily. These food items should not be offered in larger amounts because they are water-rich and lack the nutrient density of the pelleted diets. Furthermore, many rabbits develop a preference for these items over pellets if they are offered in large quantity. Rabbits can tolerate table food items offered daily if given in small amounts (no more than 20% by volume of the total diet). This is especially true of rabbits fed in this fashion from an early age.

Vitamin-mineral supplementation is not necessary if a pet rabbit is fed as outlined above. Some rabbit owners provide salt licks for their pets, but experts do not regard this addition as a necessity. Many rabbits love to gnaw and chew on their cage and on items within the cage. A well-boiled roundsteak bone (marrow removed) and/or small dog chew toys are often accepted as challenging gnawing substitutes.

Eating of Night Feces: Rabbits engage in relatively uncommon but normal behavior when they deliberately eat small, soft, moist (often mucus covered), light green fecal pellets directly from the anus. These special night stools are especially rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Rabbits must obtain these nutrients in this fashion. This behavior is most often carried out in the early morning hours and is rarely observed by rabbit owners. Sometimes, however, they choose not to eat the night pellets, and you may notice these slightly different droppings in the morning.

Milk Formulas for Orphaned Bunnies

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 8 oz (240 cc) canned evaporated milk
  • 8 oz (240 cc) bottled water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 cc) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5 cc) pedantic vitamin/mineral supplement

OR

  • 1 can Esbilac (Borden)
  • 1 raw egg (white and yolk)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 cc) Neocalglucon (Sandoz Pharmaceuticals) or similar liquid calcium supplement