While a rabbit “can” eat cat food because it is non-toxic for rabbits, your rabbit should never be fed dog or cat food. Cat foods are designed for cats and are typically extremely high in carbohydrates, protein, and fat. High-protein diets can be dangerous for rabbits which leads to kidney damage. Too many carbohydrates and fat can cause your rabbit to put on significant amounts of weight, quickly making your rabbit obese.
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Differences Between Cat and Rabbit Diets
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they are obligated to eat meat. Cats literally need no fruit, vegetables, cereals, or grains in their diet at all. Their digestive system is designed to process mostly protein and fat. In the wild, cats eat only prey animals.
Rabbits are obligate herbivores – the opposite of cats. Rabbits need no meat or animal products in their diet at all. Cat food has much too much protein and fat for your rabbit, which can lead to weight gain and other problems, while simultaneously lacking in the vitamins and minerals your rabbit needs the most.
A healthy rabbit should be fed a balanced mix of mostly grass and hay, a few fresh and leafy vegetables, and just a small amount of high-quality pellets or treats. Keep an eye on your rabbit, and be sure to keep your rabbit a healthy weight. Not only will healthy rabbits become happier, but they will live a longer and more enriching life.
What Is a Healthy Rabbit Diet?
A healthy rabbit diet should revolve around fresh hays and grasses at the diet’s core. Your rabbit should eat any type of hay or grass, including oat grass, alfalfa grass, timothy hay, or wheat grass. In total, about 80% of your rabbit’s diet should be dedicated to a continuous supply of grasses. While fresh grass is always preferred, even dried grass has enough fiber and nutritional value to keep your rabbit healthy and happy.
About 15% of your rabbit’s diet should come from fresh and leafy green vegetables. Rabbits love to nibble on kale, spinach, or broccoli. Opt for different lettuces, like romaine or arugula, but try to stay away from iceberg lettuce which offers little to no nutritional value. Always use fresh vegetables, and be sure to remove any uneaten vegetables from your rabbit’s cage to prevent rotting.
The remaining 5% of your rabbit’s diet should come from high-quality rabbit pellets that are packed full of fiber. Leave about 1% of your rabbit’s diet for treats, which should always be used sparingly. Tasty treats can include black oiled sunflower seeds, fresh fruit, or fresh vegetables. Commercially bought treats from the pet store can be safe. However, they are often packed full of fats and sugars and should be used sparingly.
What Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Can My Rabbit Eat?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great option to give your rabbit some much-needed minerals and vitamins into their diet. Vegetables should account for about 15% of your rabbit’s total diet. Always use green and leafy vegetables that are home-grown or organically grown. Certain herbicides and pesticides can prove harmful for your rabbit. Some great vegetable options for your rabbit include basil, arugula, broccoli, bok choy, carrots (sparingly), fennel, kale, spinach, turnip greens, and zucchini.
Comparatively, fruits are also great options for your rabbit but should be used much more sparingly. Fruits are high in sugar which could upset your rabbit’s digestive system. Fruits make excellent training tools and can help encourage good behavior in your rabbit. Some great fruits to give your rabbit include apples, cherries, kiwis, mangos, papayas, pears (see also ‘Can Rabbits Eat Pears?‘), and pineapples. If the fruit is out of season, dried fruit can be used instead. However, dried fruit is often much higher in sugar content than fresh fruit.
How Do I Know What a Safe Weight For My Rabbit Is?
One issue with feeding your rabbit cat food is that this food is extremely high in fat and protein, which can cause your rabbit to become overweight quickly. Plus, cat food does not have the right vitamins and minerals that your rabbit needs to grow into a healthy adult. Understanding the ideal weight for your rabbit can help your monitor and adjust its diet so that your rabbit is as healthy as possible.
The ideal weight for a rabbit varies depending on the specific rabbit breed. Some dwarf rabbit breeds, like the Netherland dwarf, may only weigh 1 kg, while larger species, like the Continental Giant rabbit, may weigh upwards of 8kg. Visual and physical inspection is the best way to determine your rabbit’s healthy weight.
When feeling your rabbit, you should be able to feel the ribs just behind where the elbows sit. If there is too much fat on your rabbit, it may be difficult to discern the rib bones through the fat, skin, and fur. If your rabbit’s ribs are too sharp, it may indicate that your rabbit is too thin.
Other ideal factors for a healthy weight on your particular rabbit include:
- The rib area should feel like a pocket that is full of pens.
- The pelvis should be palpated but not necessarily rounded.
- The rump is flat.
How Can I Help My Rabbit Lose Weight?
If you notice your rabbit is overweight, getting the weight off your rabbit can be challenging. Generally speaking, you can help your rabbit lose weight in one of two ways, but preferably, a combination of exercise and diet is the ticket to success.
In the wild, a rabbit will roam about two acres in a single day as they hunt and forage for food. Getting enough exercise can be a challenge when your rabbit is confined to a small hutch or cage. If you are trying to help your rabbit lose weight, be sure to provide plenty of exercise.
You’ll want to get your rabbit outside the cage at least once per day. Try to get your rabbit out for about two hours and encourage your rabbit to romp around and play. Be sure to keep your rabbit in a safe and secure area where it will not chew wires or be harassed by other pets in the house. If you do not have adequate space to exercise your rabbit outside the cage, consider providing additional toys or chews inside the cage to encourage more activity.
Often, an unhealthy diet is to blame for a rabbit putting on too much weight. If your rabbit has too many fats or carbohydrates in its diet, it will quickly become obese. If you notice your rabbit is larger than it should be for its age and breed, immediately cut pellets and fruit from your rabbit’s diet. The high sugar in the fruit, combined with the densely packed pellets, is a sure way for your rabbit to pack on unnecessary calories.
You can also try to limit the number of vegetables your rabbit consumes. Although vegetables are good and healthy for your rabbit, they are high in carbohydrates which could cause weight to accumulate. If your rabbit is morbidly obese or having difficulty shedding weight, you may want to switch to an all-grass and hay diet for a short period. Keeping your rabbit on an all-hay diet for about a month or maybe two months might be just enough to help your rabbit lose weight.
Related: Can Rabbits Eat Guinea Pig Food?
Rabbits should always be fed a high-quality diet that is packed full of hay and grasses. Fresh vegetables should be used to help supplement your rabbit’s diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals to fight off disease and keep your rabbit healthy. Although not toxic for a rabbit, Cat food is not formulated correctly for a rabbit’s metabolism. Cat food has a high amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates which are dangerous for your rabbit, causing weight gain. An overweight rabbit is prone to disease and injury and will not live as long as a rabbit with a healthy diet. If you own cats and rabbits, make sure to feed your felines where your bunnies can’t get to the cat food.