Are Rabbits Vegetarian?

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If you are a vegan, you probably can’t stand seeing one animal feeding on the meat of the other. Lest you want to keep a pet that feeds only on a vegan diet, a cat is not the option for you. If you love cats and want to feed them vegetables while keeping these pets, we are telling you that it is practically impossible.

Cats are obligate carnivores, and they cannot live without meat. Even the cat food available in the market contains meat to some extent. They cannot live entirely on vegetables. Rabbit can be the best vegetarian companion for you.

Yes, rabbits are truly vegan. However, it would not be wrong if one says that they are obligate herbivores. They live entirely on leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables.

Their stomachs are designed so that they can only digest high-fiber foods. Greens and fruits fulfill their demand. But do the wild, and the pet rabbits have the same diet?

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?

If you have ever walked in wild, you must have encountered wild rabbits’ warren in a grassy area. Yes, these creatures form their houses, or we can say tunnels near their food source. As the grass is the main green source in the wild, it has become their main food source.

So if these rabbits happen to find a way to a farmer’s field loaded with fresh fruits and fresh veggies, they won’t give it a second thought. This is the reason why farmers find wild bunnies harm to their fields. But in fact, they have no intentions of causing harm; they are just trying to survive.

Unfortunately, in their struggle to survive, they might ruin a farm.

Cold climates can suppress the growth of leafy greens, mainly grass, so they have to change their diet and go for twigs and tree branches as their diet.

What Do Pet Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits are vegetarian pets. Their diet is no different than their wild friends or a vegetarian human companion. A vegetarian rabbit owner can feed most of his foods to his rabbit. Though a major portion of rabbit’s diet includes:

Pellets

Rabbit pellets have traditionally been considered to be the most important part of a bunny’s diet. The pellets available at the pet store are specially manufactured for baby rabbits rather than adult ones. It is because the nutritional requirement of the baby bunnies is a bit different from that of the adult rabbits and needs more care.

The most common ingredients of rabbit pellets are grains like wheat, corn, rice, other components like sorghum, bran, pollard, vegetable, and plant proteins, vegetable oils, calcium, chlorine, and lysine methionine, vitamins, mold inhibitors, etc. The base of the pellets is usually made up of hay.

These food items are condensed forms of nutrients required by the young domesticated rabbits for growth and weight gain. However, regular consumption of these pellets can lead to obesity and related problems; therefore, an adult rabbit’s diet should ideally consist of veggies, fruits, and hay.

In addition, these pellets are enriched with a variety of nutrients, especially minerals and vitamins. Rabbits consume an ounce of rabbit pellets per pound of body weight in general.

Fresh Hay

What is hay? Well, that’s an important question before adding it to your rabbit’s diet. Hay is the grass or the herbaceous plants that have been dried. First, the grass or plants are harvested either by hand or by machines. Then it is raked into horizontal rows called windrows and is left in the fields to get dry.

The dried grass is now called hay and is carried to the market, where it is packaged as animal fodder. It can be used as a food for animals in the region where there is a deficiency of grass and other greens. It’s also a great food for domesticated animals.

Hay is the alternative for pet rabbits to grass for wild rabbits. Feeding rabbits fresh hay is an excellent choice. In fact, hay makes up 80 to 90% of the adult bunny’s diet in contrast to pellet, which is the major food of a baby bunny. Make sure its dust free and has been dried under the sun.

It will be more appetizing and palatable for rabbits if it smells sweet. It’s a common misconception in many rabbit owners that hay is only used for the bedding of rabbit nests, but it’s a myth. Though the soft grass and hay make a great bed in their local shelter, it is also a great food source.

If the hay gets molded, or you didn’t notice it was molded in the first place when you bought it from the market (due to airtight packaging), don’t feed rabbits with it. Moldy hay should never be part of the diet of both young and adult rabbits, as mold produces aflatoxins.

Small doses may result in an upset of the intestinal tract. Large amounts can cause liver diseases, including cancer. Mold can also reduce the amount of Vitamin K in a rabbit’s body. This nutrient deficiency can result in hemorrhage. So always enlist fresh hay in the rabbit’s food items.

Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is grass hay. It includes the leaves and branches of timothy grass. Its grass grows in the cold season and is a perfect food item for bunnies with sensitive stomachs.

Low calcium, low protein, and high dietary fiber content make it a great choice for feeding pet bunnies regularly.It comes from the farms where it is dried naturally by the sun and, in most cases, is free of pesticides.

Timothy hay is excellent for the evergrowing teeth of bunnies. The hay can help them wear down easily. Well, coarse timothy hay plays a wonderful role for this purpose.

The medium one is easy to chew and perfect for aging rabbits as they have become choosy eaters. The soft one is great for all rabbits as it’s a perfect diet supplement.

Oat Hay

If you are looking for hay that provides a lot of minerals and nutrients along with fibers, oat hay is the solution. Being highly nutritious, it’s good for a regular vegan diet.

In addition, the hay is harvested just before the oat head is ready to be developed into the seeds. As a result, the husks make it a crunchy food that can make pet rabbits happy.

Orchard hay

Orchard hay is also a cold-season product. It grows in almost all the temperate regions of the world. It has flat leaf blades that are quite soft. It has a sweet fruity smell that can stimulate your pet rabbit to run and eat it up. It is mixed with timothy hay to make a delicious treat for bunnies.

They have less protein content and are extremely rich in fibers. It can help improve a rabbit’s digestive system by breaking down the food, assimilating the nutrients, and removing the waste materials from the body.

Meadow Hay

Meadow hay is different from other types of hay. Like other hay, it is not one species. Instead, it is a blend of different grass hay and small herbaceous plants. When not refined, it might have some debris and small stones. It’s better to get a clean and packaged one for your rabbit.

Many rabbits are picky eaters and might end up eating their favorite hay leaving the others. It might result in a bunny ingesting calories and proteins more than his daily requirements. Without any doubt, there will be fewer fibers in his diet. More calories can potentially lead to obesity.

As an owner, you must be aware of the adverse effects of obesity in rabbits. Similarly, fewer fibers mean inefficient digestion.

The mixtures of various hays and plants are set in such a way to give the meadow hay an overall nutritional value of almost 33% fibers, 7% proteins, and 6% calcium. Therefore, if a rabbit eats the whole meadow hay without leaving out some portions, he will not be at the risk of any ill health.

Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa hay is not a grass hay. It is a legume. It is rich in proteins along with fibers. It’s rich in calcium, among other mineral content. It makes a tasty meal for rabbits. It serves as an energy boost providing them long hours to play and have fun. Alfalfa is part of pellets as well.

So if your bunny already has pellets in his diet, feeding alfalfa separately won’t be a good idea. In this case, you need to cut it short.

However, this hay is great for putting on some weight. It is an outstanding choice for young rabbits who are on their way to becoming adults and getting healthy. It’s also good for underweight rabbits. If your rabbit is already healthy, he doesn’t need much of this treat.

Though small amounts can be fed so that he can remain in a perfect and healthy shape. An overweight rabbit doesn’t need alfalfa much in its diet.

Fresh Vegetables

Both the wild and pet rabbit eat a variety of fresh vegetables in addition to hay. You can feed your rabbits as many fresh veggies as they desire every day. But there is an exception of carbohydrate-rich vegetables like potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.

Yes, carrots!!! You may have thought of the bunny and the carrot pair to be perfect, thanks to our favorite “bugs bunny.” This pair, in reality, is not a good one. All veggies which are high in sugars should not be a part of the regular rabbit diet. Large amounts of carbohydrates upset the balance of natural microflora of the rabbit’s digestive tract.

This results in incomplete fermentation of the carbohydrates in the gut. The products of this incomplete fermentation can upset the pH of the digestive system. This altered pH favors the growth of several pathogenic bacteria, which cause different types of diseases in the rabbit.

Leafy greens are the most suitable as rabbit food. These are typically rich in fiber, and rabbits require fiber-rich and low-carbohydrate diets. Basil, cilantro, lettuce, parsley, kale, carrot tops, dandelion greens, mustard greens, beet greens, broccoli greens, and kohlrabi are some of the dark leafy green vegetables that rabbits can eat safely.

Other veggies that are safe for them include pepper, broccoli, squash, and Brussel sprouts. On the other hand, Iceberg lettuce is not suitable for rabbit consumption. The sensitive rabbit’s stomach allows them to eat plants and vegetables rich in fibers to digest these with the utmost ease.

Fresh Fruits

A tasty meal of fresh fruits sounds appealing and healthy for your bunny, but the reality is opposite to it. Fruits should not be added to the daily meal of bunnies. These should only be fed in small quantities once or twice a week.

Like any other food fed to the rabbit for the first time, fruits should also be introduced to the rabbit’s diet bit by bit to make sure the rabbit has no allergies to that particular fruit. The experts recommend feeding your rabbit a tablespoon or two of the fruits per five pounds of the weight of the rabbit. Any serving more than this amount is likely to cause stomach problems in him.

Apple, banana, melon, watermelon, grapes, peach, pear, plum, pineapple, papaya, orange, and berries like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all safe for rabbits when fed in small amounts one or two times per week.

However, if fed in large quantities, too much sugar in fruits can cause an imbalance of their gut microflora. As a result, the rabbits become prone to different gastric issues and several other diseases due to the production of certain disease-causing bacteria.

Moreover, large blood glucose levels can cause severe problems in already diabetic rabbits; fruits should be strictly avoided in such cases.

Related Contents

Can Rabbits Eat Meat?

House rabbits don’t eat meat. Wild rabbits also don’t eat meat for most of their lives because they cannot digest meat, and eating meat can harm them. However, there can be some exceptions in which they eat meat.

For example: if one of the newborn rabbits in a litter dies, the smell of the dead baby rabbit can attract the predators to the nest in the wild. Therefore, the female rabbits eat their dead babies to protect other babies from predators. Therefore, the mother rabbit puts her own health at risk to save her offspring.

Although there are many plants to feed on in the wild,  sometimes in extremely cold conditions when there is no vegetation around, the rabbits feed on other animals like insects to stay alive. Some people also believe that wild rabbits eat their placenta; others call it a myth.

Whatever the case is, eating meat is not common in rabbits, and it happens very rarely in some wild rabbits.

Why Rabbits Cannot Eat Meat?

Rabbits cannot eat and digest meat because their digestive system does not allow them to do so. Nature has designed the digestive system of rabbits, especially for digesting greens and vegetables.

As explained earlier, rabbits cannot digest low-fiber foods with more carbohydrate, fat, or protein content. The meat is high in protein and fats and low in fibers; therefore strictly contradicts the nutritional requirements of the rabbits.

If your bunny has long been fed on hay, meat can be heavy to digest by his small and sensitive stomach. It may lead to digestive blockage in some cases.

What if a Rabbit Has Stolen Meat From Your Dinner Plate?

The house rabbits tend to taste every food they encounter due to their curious nature. If your rabbit has eaten a small chunk of meat, it is not something to be worried about.

It is highly possible that he will gnaw the meat due to its texture, but he will not swallow it due to its taste. If he doesn’t like the taste, he will leave the loaf there without taking a bite further.

Although a bite or two doesn’t cause significant harm, large amounts of meat can lead to digestive issues in rabbits because their sensitive stomach is unable to digest it. Some owners have reported no harm in their rabbits after they have eaten meat. You should still at least keep a check on your rabbit for a few hours to make sure he doesn’t face any signs of illness.

Is There a Carnivorous Rabbit in Wild?

It would be no wonder if you see a rabbit eating meat in wild. The pathetic species might be struggling to survive rather than dying from hunger.

Some rare cases might also occur when a rabbit eats its own dead child and eats the placenta right after giving birth to its young one. or might lick the blood from the young baby. But these are all the efforts of mother rabbit for her litter and happen occasionally.

Wait! Hares Are Carnivores

Yes, hares eat animals and animal carcasses. They have been seen feeding on dead bobcats, which are their primary predator. Eating habits of many hares, such as Snowshoe hares, involve biting and eating their fellow hares.

To state the facts, Snowshoe hares live in cold weather and might not find something for feeding. So, they eat their fellows for survival. It has always been the rule of competition that the tougher and the healthier one survives in all the cases; the same is the case with hares.

Do remember that snowshoe hares lack sharp pointed teeth for tearing an animal; they will only eat their dead fellows whose skin has been ripped by another wild animal. But why are we discussing hares when actually we were concerned about the edibility of meat for rabbits?

It is because many people confuse both the species.

Hares look like rabbits in appearance but are a bit larger in size. Some people even call them big rabbits. But to tell the truth, both are separate species. Both belong to the same order Lagomorpha and the same family, Leporidae, but rabbits belong to the genus Oryctolagus while hares belong to the genus Lepus.

Rabbit is a herbivorous lagomorph, while hare is a carnivorous lagomorph. Rabbit’s fur retains the same color around the year, while the hare’s fur changes color with the change of seasons. Moreover, hares have longer hind legs and longer ears as compared to the rabbits – their fellow lagomorphs.

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