If Bugs Bunny taught us anything, it’s that rabbits eat carrots. Right? I’m sure you might have guessed that the answer is a bit more complicated. Naturally, rabbits don’t eat roots (carrots are considered a root, for those that don’t know). They can have them in moderation, but carrots are full of sugar and the RSPCA has, interestingly, discovered that “eleven per cent of pet rabbits suffer from tooth decay and 11 per cent have digestive problems” due to vegetables like carrots being offered a few times too many.
Instead, you should be providing your bunny friend with an adequate amount of hay. There are two primary types that you can find in petstores: timothy and alfalfa. If you’re like me, then the word “alfalfa” makes you laugh and you’ll want to buy it just for the giggles. Timothy hay, however, is much better for your bunny. The higher amounts of calcium contained in alfalfa can cause urinary stones to form – which is not a good thing. So make sure little Judy Hopps has unlimited access to a good, dry source of timothy hay.
In addition to the hay, which should make up a large percentage of your rabbit’s diet, you should offer a good pellet for supplemented nutrition. I like the Oxbow brand, personally. If you can’t find a store that sells this, look for a brand that provides the highest amount of fiber. This should preferably be 20% or more. Protein comes next at about 10% minimum.
Lastly: the vegetables. I like to go to the salad section of Wal-Mart and grab a bag of the “Spring Mix.” If you’d prefer to chop the veggies yourself, just make sure you grab lots of leafy greens. The darker the color green, the more nutrients it has! Avoid things like iceberg lettuce because it’s lack most essential nutrients and is more akin to solidified water (that’s why it’s so light in coloration). It’s good to feed approximately 1 cup of raw veggies to your bunny per day.
Oh petstores. What will we ever do with you? Those cages that they sell? Terrible for bunnies. Especially for anything larger than a baby rabbit. They simply don’t offer enough space to bounce around and exercise. The best thing I have seen available for rabbits are these DIY storage cubes. You can customize your rabbit cage to be the size that you like. You build it taller or longer. You can even give your bunny the luxury of his own sectional rooms if you so choose!
I really like this tutorial on how to build your own rabbit cage. Just be sure to include lots of things to chew on, provide a litter box, and stay away from wire mesh floors. Hopping around on wire all day long is a good way for your rabbit to be injured. It can lead to serious issues like bumblefoot or, if your rabbit gets caught, a broken bone.
I had never thought of rabbits as social animals, but they very much are! If you can’t provide a little friend for your bunny, you need to fill that space yourself. Your bunny will need lots of social interaction and stimulation. In the wild, rabbits form groups called a warren. The father is actually very involved in the raising of the babies and he is very gentle with his babies, too. He also becomes very bonded to his mate. Being such a family-centric species, you can see why it’s important to make sure you let them out for playtime as often as possible.