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Imagine you’ve caught a stray rabbit (easier said than done), and you’ve brought it home and now you need to feed it.
The answer to what should you feed to all rabbits is hay.
It’s the rabbit equivalent of eating their vegetables.
Conversely, rabbits eating vegetables is our equivalent of eating the protein/carb portion of our meal, and rabbits eating fruit is like our dessert.
If you don’t have hay pull grass, but wash it first and dry it on a paper towel. Remove what’s uneaten after half an hour and pull fresh grass regularly rather than storing a load. It can ferment and cause gas build-up (this can be fatal in rabbits and horses, which is why you never feed them grass clippings from the mower).
If you have rabbits already…
We’re just gonna do a crash course here, because you probably know what to do.
The rabbit may not have eaten ‘proper’ food in a while, and you don’t want to upset their stomach.
Plenty of hay, fresh water, and a teaspoon of pellets is plenty.
Once you’re confident they’re eating and pooping well, maybe some herbs and veggies. Avoid anything overly starchy, and don’t give sugary treats. If you feel they need a treat, go for herbs rather than fruit.
If you don’t have rabbits…
Rabbits are one of those animals that a lot of people assume they know about but actually don’t.
Rabbits have a very delicate digestive system that has to be kept going constantly. They have a very fast metabolism (hence why the dosage of some medications is the same for rabbits as it is for dogs ten times their size) and if there’s an issue (a blockage, lack of food) everything stops and the rabbit can literally die in 24 hours.
The problem is, rabbits stop eating when they’re stressed and in pain. Being stray can cause stress and pain BUT survival instincts tend to kick in. However, being caught and then put in a strange place can cause everything to shut down again.
You should be able to keep the rabbit alive BUT you need to make sure you don’t give it the wrong food.
I’m assuming that you won’t have the one thing a rabbit needs (hay) in your house if you don’t have rabbits. If you have, or can get hay, then that’s what you need.
Pellets are nice, but definitely not necessary. Ask neighbours or friends that may have rabbits/horses if they can spare some.
If you don’t have hay or pellets, you can give rabbits vegetables.
A lot of people know that rabbits shouldn’t have iceberg lettuce, but romaine lettuce is a great option. If you have nothing green, go outside and pick some grass. Maybe a couple of dandelions too.
Foods like broccoli, spinach and carrots are perfectly fine for healthy rabbits (in moderation) but not ideal for stressed ones, as they contain sugars and starches that can cause GI stasis.
If the rabbit is fairly bright, perky, you can be more liberal with the foods – just google what you have and see if it’s suitable.
If the rabbit is hunched and withdrawn, stick to grass, herbs, and romaine lettuce. Don’t give fruits like apples or bananas – these are great in moderation for healthy rabbits, but we need to keep GI stasis at bay and stress can exacerbate stasis a lot.
Rabbits will try and chew everything, so just because they perk up at the sight of a foodstuff doesn’t mean it’s suitable for them.
Mine love bread, shreddies (chex), and oats, but they’re not great for them long term, and certainly won’t help out a poorly rabbit (though oats can be good to increase the weight of underweight rabbits, they can cause stomach upsets).