Animals have been divided into 3 major categories on the basis of their nutrition. Omnivores eat meat and plants as well. Herbivores eat plants only, while carnivores live solely by eating meat. Pet parents want to know which category their bunnies belong to so that they can prepare their meals accordingly. Here are complete details of whether are rabbits herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores.
Can Rabbits Eat Meat?
Rabbits are not meat-eaters. The digestive system of these small animals is not designed to digest meat. The underlying reason is that they cannot digest their food without the aid of fiber, which must be provided through their diet. Check out the nutritional facts of any meat-based treat, and you will come to know that it is high in proteins with a very small amount of fiber. Hence, they cannot eat meat and are not omnivores.
Though rabbits need protein in their diet for strong muscles and a healthy coat. But this requirement can be fulfilled by the amount of protein present in the plant diets.
As long as the rabbit has enough fiber in the diet, the gut bacteria grow and work normally. It also helps them to let the hairballs pass smoothly, which they eat while grooming themselves. But as the amount of fiber reduces in the diet, bacteria start growing abnormally. They produce toxins and gas that disturb the digestive system and cause pain and bloating. Hairballs get stuck in the intestines, blocking the pathway. Unlike a cat or a dog, a rabbit is not capable of vomiting. Contraction of the stomach and intestinal muscles is reduced, accompanied by loose stools and diarrhea. All the conditions are collectively called gastrointestinal stasis.
If the rabbit shows signs of pain, like lethargy, grinding its teeth, difficulty breathing, or a hunched posture, especially after eating meat, take him to a vet immediately.
Adding too many proteins to a rabbit’s diet can put him at risk of obesity. Though one small bite of meat won’t make him obese instantly. But if you feed him meat or alfalfa hay (high in protein content) in large amounts, it can make them obese.
Symptoms of obesity include increased body size, excessive moisture on the skin, and sticky bottom syndrome. Obesity can further lead to heart diseases and fatty liver syndrome. Rabbit seems quite healthy and fat from the outside, but it does not have enough energy to do anything and becomes lethargic.
Can Rabbits Die From Eating Meat?
It’s not like you can stop a pet rabbit from eating meat. Bunnies eat whatever is available to them. They won’t even leave wires and mats and end up chewing them. Do you think these fluffy creatures won’t taste meat?
Whether meat can kill the rabbit or not depends on the quantity of flesh, it has consumed. If they have taken a bite or two of the crunchy bacon or the spicy chicken, they can get sick from gastrointestinal stasis. But if they have consumed a lot, GI stasis can become severe due to the lack of treatment. In such a case, rabbits can die within 24 to 48 hours. So yes, copious amounts of meat can indirectly kill your pet rabbit.
Talking about spicy chicken, many herbs and spices are harmful to rabbits.
Do Rabbits Eat Meat in the Wild?
Just like pet rabbits, wild rabbits are also unable to digest meat. Rabbits are not hunters in the wild; infact, the opposite is the truth. They are being hunted by their natural predators, which include species of eagles, hawks, raccoons, and cats. As a result, theyy lie very low in the food chain. Due to this reason, several species of cottontail rabbits have been reported as critically endangered. If these species are not protected, they can become extinct without any doubt.
Yes, snowshoe hares have been seen eating meat. They are cannibals, which means they eat the members of their own species. But they are not strict carnivores; they are omnivores. They eat various types of grass, flowers, twigs, and bark too.
In short, snowshoe hares are omnivores, but they are not rabbits. They do belong to the family of Lagomorphs, but they have an entirely different species.
What Do Rabbits Eat?
Rabbits are considered herbivores and have a strict plant-based diet. Green treats are high in fibers and low in proteins. Not only they are digestible, but rabbits also find them tasty.
Hay and Pellets
Hay and pellets make up the major portion of the rabbit’s diet. Hay is dried grass with a lot of fiber content and other nutrients. Though fresh grass is more nutritious than hay and rabbits always prefer it. But usually, owners either don’t own a backyard or garden or don’t let the rabbits out due to the risk of predators. So, they just feed their rabbits with some fresh hay from the market.
Pellets are mixtures of compressed hay, grains, and some other supplements. They are extremely beneficial for growing rabbits but are not recommended much for adult rabbits. Similarly, avoid feeding sick bunnies with pellets as they can get digestive issues. Furthermore, consult the vet for your rabbit’s diet.
Fruits and Vegetable
A rabbit can eat several fruits, including apple, banana, orange, pineapple, watermelon, peach, and plum. Make sure to take out the seeds before feeding any fruit to the pet. Rabbits can eat vegetables as well, butadd leafy green vegetables to their bowl. Vegetables having high carbohydrate content like carrots and potatoes are not safe for your rabbit.
Water is essential to humans as well as animals. Make sure to fill the rabbit’s bottle with fresh water at least twice a day. It helps in regulating the body temperature and absorbing nutrients. A study reports that rabbits can die from the lack of water more quickly than they would due to the lack of food.
Why Do Rabbits Have a Plant-based Diet?
All herbivores get a lot of benefits from eating plant treats, and bunnies are no exception. Not only do the bunnies eat plants, but the wild rabbits also search for plant life and get the same benefits. Let’s discuss some major ones.
Easy to Digest
Grass and hay are rich in fibers. Thanks to these fibers, pets get to digest their food with ease. In addition, fibers soften the stool, helping it tass smoothly out of the body via the digestive tract. They also help the body to absorb maximum valuable nutrients from the waste. In this way, they help in gut motility. Moreover, fibers are fermented by some gut bacteria and produce useful by-products.
Wear Down Long Teeth
Whenever you hear the word bunny, the first thing that crosses the mind must be its long teeth. The incisors are visible from the outside and have no roots. Without roots, they grow almost throughout the rabbit’s life. The rate of growth is 1mm per day, which makes almost 3 to 5 inches per year. ITheseconstantly growing teeth can pose several dental issues. If not taken care of, When overgrown, they form sharp edges at the end that can hurt the mouth, cheeks, and tongue. Similarly, molars can overgrow and result in the rabbit being unable to close its mouth completely. High-fiber diets help the rabbits wear down their teeth, saving them from a number of dental problems.
More Antioxidant Content
Though an animal-based and a plant-based diet have their outrients, but the comparison has shown that plants have 64 times more antioxidants than animals. Just like humans, pets need antioxidants too. Metabolism of foodstuffs produces reactive oxygen species that can damage the cellular organelles, DNA, proteins, and lipids. Antioxidants neutralize these reactive oxygen species and protect the integrity of cells.
Other Foods to Avoid
These social animals won’t turn down any treat offered to them; it is your responsibility to keep the harmful foodstuff away from their diet. Never feed your rabbit iceberg lettuce, as it provides less nutritional benefits. In addition, it contains a harmful chemical that affects the nervous system. Even small amounts are not safe. Chocolate can cause toxicity. Fruit seeds contain cyanide. Onions and garlic are not safe either. Avoid avocados, mushrooms, kidney beans, and processed foods like cookies and chips. If you suspect your bunny has consumed any of it, even in a small amount, better visit a vet.
Some related questions:
Can Rabbits Eat Eggs?
Eggs are a big NO to rabbits. They are listed among the animal-based foods and should not be fed to rabbits as they are high in proteins. Too much protein can make the rabbit sick and cause digestive problems like diarrhea. Most rabbits will not like to eat eggs if offered, but some extremely innocent souls will end up eating them without a second thought. It’s your responsibility to keep both the raw and the cooked eggs out of the rabbit’s reach.
How to Take Care of a Pregnant Rabbit’s Dietary Needs?
Rabbits have insatiable reproductive habits. They can get pregnant 12 times per year and give birth to a litter of 1 to 14 babies. each time If rabbit owners don’t want their rabbits to produce a lot of babies, they can go for the option of infertility. But if they let them have babies, they need to take good care of pregnant rabbits. Their diet doesn’t need to be changed. They should get the same treats but in enough amounts. Make sure to replace the previous hay with the fresh one and refill the water bowls too.
It is not safe to give rabbit meat. It cannot eat eggs either. Rabbit is not an omnivore and is unable to digest high-protein foods. Its diet includes hay, pellets, fruits, and some vegetables. Plant foods provide benefits like wearing down long incisors and improving gut motility. Moreover, rabbits find them tasty.