Conjure up an image of a cartoon rabbit and you will probably picture it chomping on a carrot.
But despite the close association, the root veg should not be at the top of the shopping list when it comes to your bunny’s diet – and lettuce, which is dangerous to rabbits, shouldn’t even feature at all!
As part of Rabbit Awareness Week, an annual campaign to raise the profile of rabbit welfare, Lucy Ross, head of training at Pets Corner, discusses what constitutes a safe and healthy diet for rabbits so you can keep your pet in tip top condition.
Lucy said: “We are all familiar with Bugs Bunny, who would regularly whip out a carrot to munch on, but carrots are not the best thing to be feeding rabbits on a day-to-day basis.
“The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of hay with 10 per cent of what they eat comprising of vegetables. For example, curly kale is among some of the veggies rabbits can enjoy on a daily basis.
“But iceberg lettuce – a popular staple among humans that can often make it into the pet food pile is dangerous and should never be fed to rabbits.”
A healthy diet for a pet rabbit should mimic what his cousins in the wild forage for – grass, plants and vegetables.
Good quality hay is an excellent alternative to grass and the foundation of a healthy diet for pet rabbits. As well as strengthening teeth and jaws, it provides fibre to maintain a healthy gut and nibbling on hay keeps bunnies busy, reducing boredom and helping prevent behavioural problems.
Lucy continued: “Alongside hay, which should make up 80 per cent of your pet’s diet, we recommend adding one and a half mugs of fresh, raw fruit and veg per rabbit every day with complete nuggets and mix making up the remaining 10 per cent.”
Lucy has put together the following feeding guide for rabbit owners: Feed often – most days: bell peppers (remove seeds), raspberry leaves, watercress, coriander, courgette, curly kale
Feed frequently – two to four times a week: parsley, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower leaves, broccoli, tomato (not stems or leaves), mangetout, Brussels sprouts.
Feed occasionally – once a week: apple (remove seeds), mint, carrots, pak choi, blackberries, cucumber peelings, dandelion leaves, celery.
Never feed: avocado, coconut, garlic, iceberg lettuce, hot peppers, chillies, potatoes, tomato leaves and stems, onions.
Fresh water – always ensure your rabbit has plenty of fresh, clean water.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund – a national charity supported by Pets Corner – advocates the hay and veggie diet. However, it advises commercial foods should not be cut out as they contain important nutrients that can be deficient in a totally hay/veggie diet.
Lucy added: “Take care to introduce any new foods gradually. An abrupt change to a rabbit’s diet can trigger digestive upsets, which could prove fatal to some.”
To find out more about rabbit health and wellbeing, visit Pets Corner’s Petopedia page www.petscorner.co.uk/petopedia
Rabbit Awareness Week runs until Sunday, June 26. for more information visit: www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk