Rabbit diet in different life stages

Rabbit diet in different life stages – Pet rabbit care


Feeding rabbits at different life stages

Your rabbit’s dietary requirements will change with age. When young, they need food that’ll help them grow big and strong, as adults they’ll want food that keeps them at a healthy weight while providing nutrients, and when elderly they’ll need easily digestible food that won’t upset their tummy or cause them to become underweight. You want to make sure your pet’s growth, development, digestion and weight are optimal, and that’s why you need to give them the right food. In this article we’ll discuss the subject in detail. First things first, let’s see what the different life stages for rabbits are. If your bunny is a certain age, you can see the section below to figure out whether it’s a baby, or kitten as they are properly called, juvenile, young adult, adult or a senior. We’ve also included some other information that you might find useful, like tips for training and petting your pet rabbit

1. Baby rabbits

Baby bunnies, also known as kits, are between 0-8 weeks old. Once their eyes open, kits should be given chewing toys. Their teeth will start to grow soon, so they’ll need some time to get accustomed to the toys. Chewing toys are important because like rats and squirrels, rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their lifetime. If they don’t chew on hard surfaces to wear them down, their teeth will eventually grow too long, making the rabbit unable to chew. Make sure they have chewing toys all the time, even as adults. You can pet baby buns once they start moving around. They especially enjoy head and ear pets, because they think you’re grooming them. You can also brush them occasionally if you see any loose fur. Be very gentle with them, especially when picking them up

2. Juveniles

Rabbits between 8 weeks to 7 months of age are called juveniles. In human terms, they’re kids aged 3-12. Like young children, they’ll be full of energy and will want lots of space for running around in. You can start litter-training your rabbits when they’re juveniles. Reward good behavior, and make sure you change the hay in the litter box daily. Cat litter isn’t safe for bunnies, who tend to take a few nibbles while resting, which they like to do in their litter box. It’s also a good idea to train them to come when called. If your rabbits’s past the juvie stage, don’t worry. Older rabbits may take a little longer to train, but they can still be trained. If your bunny aren’t spayed or neutered, get them fixed before they turn into young adults, because at that stage they’ll start to mark their territory, and acting out in other ways because of hormones. Females can also become aggressive when they are not neutered. Spaying or neutering will protect them from diseases and make them easier to litter-train and handle as well

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3. Young adults

Is your bunny moody, and trying to set off on a quest with a fancy sword? Just kidding! Young adults are rabbits aged between 7 months to 1 year. They’re basicly effectively teenagers. They’re still growing, but they won’t grow much bigger, so their nutritional needs are less compared to juveniles. Rabbits are social animals and will appreciate the company of other rabbits. They can play together and bunnies also groom each other, which is necessary to stay clean. Just make sure they’re fixed, otherwise you’ll end up with another dozen rabbits in the blink of an eye, and a very weak mama rabbit, and you probably don’t want that

4. Adult rabbits

Rabbits between 1 and 6 years of age are considered adults. At this age, they’re fully developed and hopefully trained as well. Make sure they still have chewing toys, or they’ll chew on your furniture and damage it. Hide or protect cables as well, because rabbits love chewing on cables. Take your adult bun for annual check-ups to make sure they’re in good shape. At this stage they’re pretty easy to care for. As long as they aren’t gaining or losing much weight and don’t have digestive problems, all’s well.

5. Elderly rabbits

If your rabbit is over 6 years old, it’s considered a senior. Regular blood tests and general health checks will be necessary, since your pet could have health problems at this age. Tests are important, so you shouldn’t try to avoid them. If your bunny’s afraid, you can accompany them. Most vets will let you stay close by while they draw blood, in case the rabbit panics or gets upset. Generally, you’ll need to keep an eye on your friend to make sure they’re not having any problems, elderly buns are much more prone to stomach upsets, pain, etc. If your rabbit have become a senior, you can consider yourself a good caretaker, well done

How to feed your rabbit at different life stages

Feeding baby bunnies

Young kits are quire easy to care for, and only feed on their mother’s milk for the first three weeks. The first couple days after birth, their mama’s milk will have high levels of antibodies that’ll help protect the young rabbit from diseases. It’s important that you don’t separate the kit from its mother at this stage. After three weeks, the baby can be given some alfalfa hay and pellets. It’ll take them some time to get used to it, so don’t worry if they seem to eat very little of it. They also need mother’s milk at this stage. By the time the kit is seven weeks old, they can usually eat hay well, and around the time they’re 8 weeks old, they’ll be weaned. What is weaned you probably wonder.. being weaned means that the baby will be able to eat food other than its mother’s milk

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Feeding juvenile rabbits

You can give juveniles access to unlimited alfalfa hay and pellets. When your bunny is three months old, you can start introducing veggies to its diet. Vegetables have lots of nutrients, plus they’ll help diversify your bun’s diet and make their digestive system stronger. Hold off on fruits, however. They’re too sugary and can cause digestive problems. You can give them leafy greens like watercress, parsley, collard greens and spinach (in small quantities, spinach has high oxalates which aren’t good for buns in large quantities), veggies like broccoli leaves and stems, beet tops (not the root, but the stems/leaves), mint leaves, edible pea pods and watercress. Some others include pesticide-free dandelion greens and romaine lettuce (light colored varieties like iceberg can be harmful, definitely avoid those). Introduce one veggie at a time in small amounts, and observe the rabbit closely to see if it’s digesting it well. If they show any signs of distress or an upset stomach  like gas, bloating, pain, odd behavior, diarrhea, reduced appetite, avoid giving them that vegetable in the future. If your pet seems seriously ill, take them to the vet immediately

Feeding young adults

Introduce the rabbit to timothy, grass hays and oat hay which should be available throughout the day. Hay contains fiber, which bunnies need to digest food properly. Young adults don’t need as much alfalfa hay or pellets, because they’re high in nutrients and calories, and rabbits don’t need large amounts of either once they’re young adults. Restrict their pellet intake to around half a cup of pellets per 6 lbs of body weight daily. You can give your pet some more rabbit safe vegetables to make up for the decrease in pellets, and you can start introducing him to fruits. Bear in mind, however, that  fruits tend to be fattening for rabbits, so give them small amounts only. To much sugary fruits can also upset the rabbits sensitive digestive system. The general rule is to have 85% of their diet be pellets and hay, and 10-15% can be fruits and veggies, with the focus being strongly on healthy veggies

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Feeding adult rabbits

Adult rabbits should have unlimited access to timothy, grass hay and oat hay. You should further cut back their pellet intake to one-fourth of a cup per 6 lbs. of body weight daily, or half the amount you were giving them as young adults. You can further increase their vegetable intake up to two cups per 6 lbs. of body weight daily. Bear in mind, however, that when we say vegetables, we mean dark green, leafy veggies. Others can be given occasionally as treats and to diversify their diet, as long as they’re non-toxic. You can also give them dark orange and yellow vegetables. You can find safe foods in the rabbit food section here, or run a search for rabbit foods on Google. Fruits should be given in small quantities, as rewards for good behavior

Feeding senior rabbits

Elderly rabbits start to have digestive and weight loss problems, so you need to be a little more careful about what you give them. They may be used to getting sweet sugary treats and therefore demand them, but if you find your pet having digestive issues following treats, you know you need to cut back. Generally, senior rabbits can be fed the same as adult rabbits, but if they have weight loss problems you may need to give them more pellets. Sometimes, vets even recommend giving sugary foods such as sweet potatoes and carrots to help with the problem. In other cases, bunnies who have low, or even normal calcium levels, may be given alfalfa hay to help with the weight issue. We recommend consulting a vet about this before making a decision.

This guide will help you ensure your pet’s nutritional needs are met as they grow older. For information about specific foods or the most common rabbit breeds, take a look at our other rabbit articles. If you need immediate assistance, contact your local veterinarian. We recommend finding someone who deals with rabbits and storing their number on your phone for quick access

Remember to contact your local veterinarian or rabbit breeder if you have questions or concerns regarding your rabbits diet or general health. There are also online veterinarians that you can ask questions about your pets for free, like for example on the mainpage of the site PetCoach. You can also find others by Googling search terms like online veterinarian and ask a veterinarian

See safe foods and treats in the Rabbit Food section. Remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel for weekly animal videos