Did you know that a rabbit’s diet should consist of at least 75% hay? Hay is the most important food in a pet rabbit’s diet.
A good rule of thumb is that rabbits should eat their own body size in clean hay every day. That seems like a lot of hay doesn’t it? But there are very good reasons why rabbits need to eat so much hay.
It’s important make sure your rabbit has unlimited access to clean hay each day because eating lots of hay is vital for their health and wellbeing.
Eating hay keeps your rabbit's gut healthy
Rabbits have a complex digestive system that can easily slow down or get blocked. Rabbits sometimes eat their own fur, which causes fur blockages. They can’t really digest fur, so fur blockages can be a serious problem. It’s even more of a problem for rabbits with long fur like Angoras and Cashmere Lops.
Rabbits need to eat hay constantly throughout the day to help move food through their gut.
Hay is an essential source of long strand fibre that helps the muscles of your rabbit’s gut stay strong. It also keeps the bacterial flora in your rabbit’s gut balanced. When your rabbit’s digestive system is working well, it can absorb the nutrients from the food it eats more efficiently. This helps to keep your rabbit healthy.
Eating hay keeps your rabbit's teeth trim and healthy
Rabbits’ teeth are very different to human teeth in that their teeth grow constantly.
This is an adaption that’s seen in herbivores – animals that mainly eat vegetation like grass and branches. The vegetation is very fibrous and tough, so the animals’ teeth wear down quickly from chewing and gnawing on their food. Herbivores have adapted to this diet by having teeth that grow constantly to replace the worn down teeth.
Rabbit teeth can grow an incredible 12cm a year! That’s more than 2mm a week! This means that if they are not eating enough of the fibrous food they need, their teeth can grow too long and this can cause dental problems.
Hay is an essential food for rabbits because chewing on hay regularly helps rabbits to wear down their teeth to keep them trim and healthy.
What happens to your rabbit’s teeth when they don’t eat enough hay
When a rabbit doesn’t have enough hay to eat, its teeth grow incorrectly. This can cause a range of health and behavioural problems including:
- Overgrown teeth that look like tiny elephant tusks (yes, really)
- Deformed or broken front teeth (incisors)
- Painful inflammation around the roots of the teeth, which often leads to infection and sometimes deadly abscesses
- Inflammation and swelling around the face and below the ears
- A condition called malocclusion where the top and bottom teeth don’t meet up properly
- Teeth that can cut into the lip, mouth and nose area
- Overgrown front teeth can make it harder for your bunny to eat properly, swallow and groom themselves. When your pet can’t chew and eat properly, it can’t get the nutrients it needs, and can quickly lose weight and become sick
- Changes in behaviour like grumpiness, clinginess or avoidance
If your rabbit has overgrown teeth, make sure to get them checked by your vet.
Eating hay provides essential nutrients
Hay contains essential nutrients that rabbits need such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Rabbits need a diet that is low in protein and calcium. Sweet smelling hays like Timothy hay, oaten hay, rye grass hay are best because they are low in protein and calcium.
Eating hay encourages natural foraging and grazing behaviours
Finding that perfect piece of hay keeps your rabbit busy which may decrease boredom. This is important especially if your pet is kept in a small enclosure.
Eating hay also satisfies your rabbit’s natural chewing urge.
Eating a variety of hay is good for your rabbit
Different types of hay contain different levels of nutrients and each variety has a different smell, flavour and texture.
Providing your pet rabbit with a variety of hay is beneficial:
- A wider range of flavours makes hay more appealing
- Provides different vitamins and minerals
- Encourages natural foraging behaviours
- Desensitizes your rabbit to small changes in smell and texture, and
- Encourages them to be good hay eaters and less fussy eaters
Peters make a range of premium quality hay for pet rabbits and guinea pigs
Peters make a range of premium quality hay for pet rabbits and guinea pigs to enjoy. All our hay is high in fibre, low in calcium and low in protein, making it an ideal pet food for rabbits and guinea pigs.
Peters range of hay is available in different pack sizes and includes:
1. Oaten Hay
Peters Oaten Hay is our most popular hay product. It is grown in Australia and has a delicious nutty flavour with a crunchy texture.
2. Timothy Hay
Peters Timothy Hay has a sweet flavour that rabbits and guinea pigs love. More and more pet lovers are giving their fluffy fur friends Timothy Hay.
3. Timothy & Rye Hay
Peters Timothy & Rye Hay is a combination of Timothy Hay and Rye Grass Hay. It has an abundant natural flavour and soft texture due to the combination of hay varieties. Peters Timothy and Rye Hay is proudly grown in Australia.
4. Pasture Hay
Peters Pasture Hay has an appealing flavour and texture and fresh aroma. Our Pasture Hay is not only a healthy and nutritious food, it also makes soft and comfy bedding!
You can help your rabbits to stay happy and healthy by making sure they have access to plenty of good quality hay each day.