I am one of many people who keep rabbits as pets… they are in fact one of the nation’s favourite domestic animals. Well they are soooo cute!
But like dogs and cats, the RSPCA are seeing a large number of pet rabbits end up in their care and needing treatment and foster homes – because many don’t understand how they should be kept. Apart from those that end up in one of the RSPCA centres, they also see thousands more in unhappily are often small hutches where the rabbits are kept all day with no company, and no opportunities to play, exercise or graze.
As part of a study the RSPCA discovered that people are unsure about what rabbits should eat. Nearly one in four people think a bunny should mainly eat pellets or museli from the pet shop. One in five people think a healthy bunny eats mostly carrots (I think Bugs Bunny is to blame for that!). But actually the bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be hay and grass – and less than one in ten people knew that.
The RSPCA have therefore launched a new campaign aimed at helping people care for their bunnies better… starting off with the Hay Fever campaign which encourages owners to feed their rabbits on mainly hay and grass.
Here’s some do’s and don’ts from the campaign:
A healthy rabbit diet should consist of:
- Mainly good quality hay which should be available at all times (a bundle of hay that’s as big as the rabbit every day) and ideally also access to grass for grazing.
- Fresh clean grass (growing or picked by hand).
- An adult rabbit-sized handful of washed dark leafy greens such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and herbs such as parsley.
- A small amount of good quality commercial rabbit pellets or nuggets (no more than 25g per kg of body weight).
- Constant access to fresh, clean water.
- Despite popular belief, a rabbit’s diet shouldn’t include too much lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is not suitable.
- Carrots and apples are high in sugar and should only be fed as an occasional treat.
- Fresh clean grass is great, but not lawnmower clippings! They can upset a rabbit’s digestive system and make them ill.
Thankfully I can say Chocolate and Ginger have a good diet thanks to their constant grazing on hay and opportunities to eat grass. They have fresh veg in the morning for breakfast (spring greens and brussel sprouts are their current favourites), a bowl of pellets to share in the evening for dinner, and the odd carrot or apple in between. They also love fresh parsley which I grow for them and go nuts when I pick dandelions from the lawn for them. Oh and they love those carrot and dandilion sticks you can hang from the top of the run (makes them stretch) and those bags of “herbal delight” which include dried bits and bobs I’ll sprinkle on their hay which gives them variety. I have to admit I have given them a handful or two of grass cuttings before but I’ll stop that, we’ve never had a poorly bunny as a result but I’ll not do it any more.
If you keep bunnies, or are planning too, please take a look at the RSPCA website for advice on how to look after them – as pet owners we can always learn something about caring for our animals even better than we do already.