Caring for Your First Rabbit: Diet, Enrichment, and Bedding Essentials

April 22, 2024

Welcoming a rabbit into your home can be an exciting, fun and extremely knowledgeable period in your life!

These beautiful small pets can become affectionate companions when their environment and diet is appropriately set up for their needs, health and wellbeing.

To ensure the correct standards for your new furry friend, it's crucial to understand the basics of proper diet, enrichment, and bedding, along with the best types of hay to keep them healthy and happy.

Optimal Diet for Rabbits

Hay

According to HayDay’s in-house nutritionist Briony, “Hay is the basis to a rabbit's diet and should make up about 80-90% of their daily food intake”.

It is essential for maintaining correct dental health as the constant nibbling helps wear down their continuously growing teeth. Additionally, hay provides the appropriate fibre to assist with a healthy digestive system.

Best Types of Hay

#1 Timothy Hay - The favourite option for rabbits! It has a good balance of high fibre and protein.

#2 Meadow Hay - With its diverse taste and softer texture, Meadow Hay is adored by the fussiest of rabbits!

#3 Ryegrass Hay - Highly palatable, with stalky stems and sweet to taste - it's suitable to be fed in moderation to enrich your rabbit's diet or to top up nutrition where required.

#4 Alfalfa Hay - Its leaf is where all the goodness (protein) is! Alfalfa Hay is suitable for young (up to 6 months), growing or ill rabbits where high calcium and protein is required for growth and development. Adult rabbits can enjoy Alfalfa Hay as a treat too!

What else should I Feed My Rabbit?

Fresh Greens

A handful of fresh greens and vegetables, per day, should complement your rabbit's hay diet.

Approximately 5-10% of their diet can include leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, and parsley. Avoid vegetables high in sugar or starch, like potatoes and corn.

Pellets

An egg-cup full (approximately 5%) of rabbit specific pellets are recommended in your rabbit’s daily diet.

Treats

Fruits can be fed as the occasional treat due to their high sugar content. Some suitable fruits include:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas

These are just a few of the good options to enrich your rabbit’s diet!

Enrichment: Keeping Your Rabbit Entertained and Active

Rabbits need mental stimulation and physical exercise to prevent boredom and promote overall health. Here are some enrichment ideas:

Toys

Provide chew toys made from untreated wood, cardboard, egg boxes and other rabbit-safe toys from small pet specific online stores to help them stay engaged and satisfy their chewing instinct. Not to mention, with more enrichment they’re guaranteed to eat more!

Hideouts

Offer places for your rabbit to hide and feel safe, such as cardboard boxes or rabbit tunnels and wooden houses.

Exercise

Ensure that your rabbit’s enclosure/space meets the requirements set out by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.

A rabbit’s living area should be at least 3m x 2m x 1m high where they can hop, run, and explore! Rabbit’s can also be allowed to free roam outside whilst supervised as long as it’s a rabbit-proofed area.

Interaction

It is widely recommended that rabbits live in pairs as they are extremely social animals!

Interaction between you and your bunny, including gentle handling, feeding treats and brushing them can help build a bond between you and your pet.

Bedding: Creating a Comfortable Resting Place

Bedding is crucial for providing a soft surface where your rabbit can enjoy a nap and a material to absorb urine.

Best Bedding Materials

Hay Bedding

Meadow Hay can be paired as a great bedding as it is soft and dust-free, making it the ideal choice for a comfy bedding option whilst also still being great to taste!

Paper Pellets

Highly absorbent and effective at controlling odour. Ensure they are safe for rabbits and free from harmful chemicals.

Top Tip: Sprinkle a light layer of straw on top of any paper pellets to make them even softer to sleep on!

Straw

Straw is a great option as it provides good insulation during colder months - especially for outdoor buns!

Avoid cedar and pine shavings, as their aromatic oils can cause respiratory and other health issues.

Conclusion

Caring for a rabbit requires understanding and meeting their specific dietary, enrichment, and bedding needs.

By providing a diet rich in high-quality hay, pellets and leafy greens - paired with a stimulating and enriching environment, and comfortable bedding, you can ensure your rabbit lives a happy and healthy life.

With the right care, your furry friend will thrive and become a beloved addition to your family.

FAQs

​​How much hay should I feed my rabbit?

Hay should make up about 80-90% of your rabbit's diet. Provide unlimited access to fresh hay every day to support their digestive health and dental care.

Can rabbits live on hay alone?

While hay is the most critical component of a rabbit's diet, it should be supplemented with fresh vegetables, a small amount of pellets, and occasional fruit treats to provide a balanced diet.

This variety ensures they receive all of the necessary nutrients.

How often should I clean my rabbit's cage?

Clean your rabbit's cage at least once a week, with spot cleaning as needed when you notice waste or wet bedding. A clean environment is crucial to prevent diseases and maintain overall health.

What are the signs of illness in rabbits?

Common signs of illness include changes in their eating or bathroom habits, lethargy, sneezing, breathing difficulties, runny eyes or nose, and a dirty bottom.

If you notice any of these signs, or any symptoms that you’re unsure of - always consult your exotic vet for further advice.

Is it okay to keep my rabbit outdoors?

Rabbits are suited to live indoors or outdoors as long as they have the recommended housing size. It’s key to note that if you choose to keep your rabbit outside, ensure they have a secure and insulated hutch which is predator proof.

 

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