In this day and age, obesity is an international problem so it’s not surprising a large number of pet owners also have obese rabbits. An obese rabbit, while it might look cute and cuddly, can have a myriad of health issues, and these can actually kill him.
A few months ago, I decided my rabbits were looking a little chunkier than I would like, especially the female bunny who likes nothing better than to lie around all day doing nothing except occasionally eating.
Not being able to put a rabbit on a treadmill and tell her to “Exercise the fat off”, obviously I had to think of other ways to help her lose weight, without starving her or forcing her to feel bad. Luckily, with just a few changes in the type of food I feed my rabbits, as well as an added ‘exercise program’, within just a few weeks my girl was back down to a healthy weight and my boy looked quite svelte as well.
If you have an obese rabbit that you’re worried about, here are a few things I did to change my house rabbit’s eating habits and get them back looking healthy and fit.
Get rid of the pellets – My rabbits don’t eat many pellets anyway, as they are one of the worst things you can give an adult bunny. Rabbit pellets were originally created for the meat industry, so that a rabbit could be fattened up quickly before it was sent to the butcher. This, of course, led to the commercialization of rabbit food, with pellet companies telling you that pellets are far healthier for your rabbit than vegetables. They’re not.
Pellets can be a good choice for baby rabbits, as they have all the nutrition they need to make sure they grow up healthy and strong. But, past six months of age and, honestly, your rabbit doesn’t need them.
I had kept mine on a small portion of rabbit pellets twice a day, but after I noticed they were looking too fat, I slowly reduced the portion size they were getting each day until, about six weeks into the program, and I had stopped feeding them pellets altogether. After all, a timothy hay and vegetable diet is far healthier anyway.
Reduce the treats – I used to give my rabbits a snack or a ‘treat’ in the middle of the day or at night before they went to bed. While only small, these treats all add up calorie-wise until they were obviously adding too many calories to my rabbits’ diet. So, I immediately reduced the number i gave them.
Out went the piece of banana every morning, as well as the two raisins they get at night, but instead of cutting them out completely and really making my rabbits feel deprived, I just cut down the frequency of them. Instead of a small treat in the morning and one again at night, they now get either a piece of banana, a bite of apple or two raisins just once every other day.
Weirdly, they actually seem to enjoy it even more as, now it’s not part of their daily routine, it feels like it really is more of a ‘treat’.
Give them more timothy hay – Along with unlimited timothy hay, my rabbits get a huge number of green vegetables every day — kale, cilantro, Thai basil, holy basil, Chinese celery with the leaves still on, mint, watercress and the occasional dark green leafy lettuce. As I didn’t want to have two obese rabbits living in my home, however, I decided to cut down the amount of vegetables I give them every day by around 10 percent and hope they would eat more timothy hay instead.
Timothy hay is one of the healthiest things a rabbit can eat, as not only does it keep their teeth ground down, but it’s also vital for their digestion. A rabbit with a poor digestive system can get GI stasis and die very quickly, but those rabbits who eat copious amounts of timothy hay rarely suffer from it.
As soon as I cut down the vegetables’ portion size, I noticed quickly that my two rabbits were starting to eat even more timothy hay than normal. It keeps them regular, it’s great for their digestion and, as they started to lose weight just a few weeks into my new ‘rabbit diet program’, it was obviously working for bunny weight-loss as well.
Add exercise – Obviously, you can’t have your rabbit doing jumping jacks or skipping rope when it comes to adding an exercise program. What you can do, however, is play with her more so she’s moving around and getting more exercise without even realizing it.
I added an extra 15 minutes of ‘exercise’ every day, by simply playing with them longer when I put them back in their pen for the night. Rolling a small fabric ball so they chased it, putting some shredded newspapers in a big box and helping them dig through it — little things that only take a few minutes to do but, if done every day, can cause your rabbit to lose weight without even trying. Plus, you’re paying them even more attention than normal, and that can only be a good thing.
Two and a half months after I put my rabbits on a ‘rabbit diet’ and each of them has lost around half a pound. They are both normally around the 7 pound mark, so a half pound weight loss is excellent for them, and they definitely look better as well.
Just remember, if you decide to help your rabbits lose weight, do it gradually as a rapid change in their diet can make their digestive system to go haywire and even cause GI stasis, and that can kill them.