Are Rabbits Omnivores? What you need to know

You may have observed rabbits eating foods that are not “typical” from the diet of their species. However, rabbits are considered herbivores because their digestive system is specially optimized for vegetables and herbs.

This is not to say that rabbits won’t smuggle meat-based foods like a crunchy piece of bacon in their mouths. They do, especially if they are hungry. While such a diet won’t hurt your rabbit right away, too much of it will hurt them in the end.

Here’s what you need to know about rabbit diets, which foods are safe, what’s not, and why they should only follow a plant-based diet.

multiple-divider

What Feeds Rabbits: A Plant-Based Diet

Rabbits are classified as obligate herbivores, meaning that they MUST consume only plants and herbal ingredients in their diet to thrive and stay healthy.

There are various reasons why these creatures evolved to depend entirely on a plant-based diet. They include:

1. It Plays a Vital Role in Their Defense Strategy

Rabbits evolved to require a plant-based diet due to natural selection, ensuring that animals adopt traits that enhance their survival in the wild. These furry creatures are constant prey to many predators in the wild. For this reason, they have a variety of adaptations to help combat predation and survive, including relying on plants and herbs for food.

First, plants allow rabbits to eat in open fields, a habitat that makes it easier for them to detect approaching predators. Plus, the dry fibrous diet helps the rabbit to react quickly to flight. The plant-based diet was not significantly heavier on the animal’s stomach like other fat-rich foods which hindered its ability to escape from harm.

three rabbits eat

2. Helping to Lose Teeth

Rabbit teeth are constantly growing, which means that rabbit parents should help their pets pull them out before they develop into problematic lengths. Unfortunately, the only way to help lose teeth is to let the rabbit eat the fiber. Plants and herbs have the most fiber content.

3. Their Digestive System is Designed for Plants and Herbs

As mentioned earlier, the rabbit digestive tract is designed to process large amounts of fibrous material and limited protein.

READ ALSO:   Amami Rabbit

divider-rabbit1

Can Rabbits Eat Meat?

Some rabbits eat meat, and unfortunately, some female rabbits eat their offspring, though rarely. These creatures could eat meat when there was nothing else to eat, and they starved.

However, NEVER feed your rabbit meat as they are not made to eat that kind of food. They can’t digest meat, so if your rabbit eats it, he’ll get sick even in small amounts.

Your animal may experience loose stools from eating less meat. However, if you feed them too much meat, you run the risk of killing them.

Plus, rabbits need fiber to survive, a component you may not find in a meat diet in significant amounts. This diet is rich in fat and protein that rabbits don’t need in drastic amounts.

This means that if you offer meat to your rabbit, they will get minimal nutrition from them. So, if they don’t die from eating the meat itself, your pet will surely die from lack of proper nutrition.

rabbit eating

The Problem of Feeding the Rabbit

Rabbits fend for themselves in their natural wild habitat and eat foods that enrich their dietary needs. However, you can easily feed rabbits in a way that deprives them of certain important nutrients in captivity.

When these creatures lack the nutrients they need to evolve, such as fiber-rich plants, it has a detrimental effect on their health.

These animals are prone to digestive problems due to improper diet such as limited fiber content, high protein content, and too many carbohydrates. Also, feeding your rabbit unconventional can upset his digestive system.

two rabbits eat

Health Problems Due to Improper Feeding

Inflammation of the intestine

Young rabbits that eat too many carbohydrates can develop enteritis, which is inflammation of the intestines. Untreated enteritis can progress to enterotoxemia, which is caused by an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.

Worse still, another form of enteritis known as mucoid enteritis can also develop, causing excess mucus secretion that can build up in the rabbit’s intestines.

Gastrointestinal Stasis Syndrome

Offering your rabbit an inappropriate diet can trigger GI Stasis syndrome, which often results in intestinal obstruction that requires surgery.

READ ALSO:   Can Rabbits Eat Cauliflower? What you need to know!

Pregnancy Toxemia

Pregnant or nursing rabbits that are not getting the proper nutrition needed for their current condition can develop pregnancy toxemia, also known as ketosis. It can cause seizures and has a high mortality rate.

Kidney illness

This is especially the case if the rabbit’s diet consists of excess calcium. However, too much calcium can also cause urolithiasis, which involves the formation of urinary stones.

carrot-divider

Rabbit Diet Essence

The main sources of a healthy rabbit diet should consist of fresh vegetables, high quality pellets, fresh hay, and clean, fresh drinking water. You should consider anything other than these essential foods a “treat” and offer them in limited portions.

1. Pellet

rabbit eating pellets

It’s important to remember that the amount of essential rabbit diet you offer your pet varies with age. Pellets are necessary among young rabbits as they contain the concentrated nutrients that these animals need in their developmental stages.

Provide your rabbit with nutritionally balanced pellets, and they should contain no less than 18% fiber content. However, minimize pellets when your rabbit reaches maturity and replace it with vegetables and hay.

Too many pellets for adult rabbits lead to obesity and other health problems.

2. Straw

rabbit eating hay

Rabbits should have a 24-hour supply of fresh hay! Alfalfa hay is suitable for rabbits less than seven months old, while adults can have timothy or oat hay.

Hay provides ample fiber which helps with dental health, reduces hairballs, and prevents intestinal blockages.

3. Water

Make sure your pet has fresh and clean water at all times. Change the water in the bottle daily and rinse the water container at least once every week before adding more water.

4. vegetables

rabbit eating

Any rabbit from 3 months of age can have vegetables, which offer fiber and vitamins. You can gradually introduce this diet plan one vegetable at a time while keeping an eye on possible allergies.

Eliminate those that cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea and continue to provide leafy vegetables and different colored roots. These vegetables include:

READ ALSO:   Giant Leaf Tailed Gecko

  • Carrot

  • Basil

  • a type of mustard

  • Broccoli leaves and stems

  • peas

  • Mustard greens

  • cabbage

  • Celery

  • bok choy

  • Parsley

  • Spinach

  • Lettuce (except iceberg lettuce)

  • peppermint leaves

  • mint leaves

  • watercress

  • raspberry leaf

  • clover

  • dandelion leaves

5. treat

bunny eating fruit

Foods like fresh fruit are higher in calories than necessary, so feed them to your pet sparingly.

Rabbits can also digest other foods such as barley and oats. However, they also have excess calories and carbohydrates which have been linked to enteritis in rabbits.

Fruit snacks can include:

  • berries

  • Apple (seedless)

  • Wine

  • pineapple

  • Cherries (seedless)

  • banana

  • orange

  • Pawpaw

  • Watermelon

  • Pear

  • Plum

6. Chewing Items

Healthy chewable foods like hay and vegetables can help protect your rabbit’s teeth and prevent them from overgrowing.

You can also include chewing sticks, cardboard tubes, untreated borer, or untreated webbing.

rabbit eating vegetables

Foods to Avoid

Some foods can make your rabbit sick, so you shouldn’t offer them to your rabbit under any circumstances. They include:

  • Treat Humans

  • cereals

  • Cabbage

  • beans

  • Chocolate

  • Biscuits

  • Corn

  • peas

  • Cauliflower

  • Crazy

  • Sugar

  • yogurt

  • Seed

  • Potato

  • iceberg lettuce

  • Beetroot

  • Green radish

  • Mustard greens

  • Some kind of spaghetti

Rabbit-divider2

Summary

Evolution shapes the food needs of rabbits, because high fiber feed allows rabbits to survive and thrive. Rabbit parents should take this fact into account when keeping their pets in captivity.

Make sure you imitate the natural diet of rabbits in the wild as much as possible as any deviation can cause serious health problems. Avoid the meat diet at all costs.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay