If you get a pet rabbit and do research online as to what type of diet your rabbit should be eating, you’ll soon come across the pellet-based diet versus vegetables and fruits diet. That’s because some people are adamant that rabbits should be fed nothing but pellets and timothy hay, while others say rabbits in the wild eat grass and green vegetables so why on earth wouldn’t you feed these to the rabbits that live in your house?
As a long-time pet rabbit owner, all of which have lived very healthy, very long lives I might add, I know which type of rabbit diet I believe is the best, and which diet I always feed my pet rabbits. But here are the arguments for both rabbit diets and I’ll tell you later the one I think every rabbit owner should be feeding their precious pet.
The Pellet-Based Diet – One branch of the rabbit diet advocates believe rabbits should be fed nothing but pellets and timothy hay. The pellets in limited amounts every day and the hay as much as your rabbit wants to eat. That means making sure your rabbits have access to large bowls or racks of timothy hay throughout the day, and bowls of whichever rabbit pellet brand you believe to be the best.
The rational for this diet is that pellets contain all the nutrients your rabbit should need, and the timothy hay ensures your rabbit’s digestion is working correctly, thus making it less susceptible to potential killers like GI stasis.
Some of these people are quite extreme about their beliefs, saying vegetables or fruit of any kind should not be given to rabbits at any age. Others are more conciliatory believing this should be a ‘pellet-based’ diet with a small portion of vegetables added every day and some occasional fruit for a treat.
The Vegetables and Fruit-Based Diet – Those who advocate the vegetables and fruit-based diet say rabbits should be fed a very small portion of pellets, if any, unlimited timothy hay and large quantities of vegetables — preferably dark and leafy. Various types of fruit can be added for a treat every couple of days.
The rational for the vegetables and fruit-based diet is that rabbits in the wild eat green things like vegetables and grass, and that pellets have never been a part of a rabbit’s diet up until a few decades ago. That’s when the meat industry introduced rabbit pellets as a way to fatten up a rabbit for early slaughter for food. Eating pellets can make a rabbit obese and, because they are dry, if your rabbit doesn’t drink enough water they could be a contributing factor to GI stasis. Vegetables, on the other hand, have a high fiber and water content, both essential for digestive health.
Some in this group also advocate an entirely ‘pellet free’ diet, as they believe pellets have no place in a healthy rabbit’s diet, particularly as some manufacturer’s are adding corn, molasses and seeds to the pellet mix, all of which are dangerous for rabbits to eat.
Which Diet is the Best? – While neither side seems to have won the argument, either among each other or from veterinarians and animal specialists, many of whom seem to be in one or other of the camps as well, I know which diet I prefer to give my rabbits.
Since I bought my first rabbit almost a decade ago, I have given mine a diet that primarily consists of vegetables and fruit, with a small portion of pellets and unlimited timothy hay. All my rabbits are given at least eight types of fruit every day and either a small piece of apple, banana or watermelon as a treat. I restrict their pellet intake to less than a 1/8 of a cup, however, and as they have grown older I am limiting it even more.
That’s because, not only do pellets seem to make them fat but, during periods where they have eaten more pellets than normal, two of them have come down with dangerous cases of GI stasis.
It is, of course, entirely up to you what you feed your rabbits, as long as they get enough food to support their growth, health and well-being. For me, however, all my rabbits have lived or are still living long lives on a vegetable and fruit-based diet, so I don’t see any reason to change that. I’ve also made this decision as I’ve seen the rabbits of friends, who do stick to a pellet-based diet, be in and out of the vets due to GI stasis, other digestive problems, infections and more.
It could, of course, be a coincidence, but with six rabbits and no major health problems ever, I’m not so sure.