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Diet

Rabbits…

…are hindgut fermenting herbivores and are selective feeders who choose to eat the more luscious parts (leaves and shoot tips) of vegetation when they can. The natural diet of rabbits is a large volume of high fibre foods that helps to naturally wear teeth. As an adaptation, rabbits have evolved constantly growing teeth (these grow at a rate of 2-3mm per week). Eating fruits, seeds and roots is normally opportunistic to rabbits and does not make up a large amount of their diet.

Guinea pigs…

…are strict herbivores and hindgut fermenters too. A good diet is important to maintain the balance of bacterial flora in the guinea pig. Guinea pig bacterial flora is quite sensitive to antibiotic therapy.

The natural diet of guinea pigs is a large volume of high fibre foods that helps to naturally wear teeth. As an adaptation, guinea pigs have evolved teeth that continue to grow throughout its life.

 Choosing the Best Hay

Hay should be the mainstay of every rabbit and guinea pig’s diet. You need to provide as much fresh hay as they will eat. It maintains the digestive system and helps to provide dental exercise preventing dental problems. Hay should be available all the time.

Hay, ideally oaten or grass hay, should make up 80-90% of a pet rabbit’s diet. Hay should make up 70% of a pet guinea pig’s diet. The rest of their diet should consist of fresh vegetables and dark leafy greens and grass.

It is very important to provide the best quality hay to your rabbit and guinea pigs; they are often very fussy and will only eat large amounts of the best hay around! There are a few important points when it comes to choosing the best and tastiest hay…

Always check that your hay:

    • Smells fresh
    • Looks green
    • NO prickles
    • NO excessive dust
    • NOT too dry and crackly
    • NOT in a plastic bag (increased humidity is created and this hay generally has less taste. Plus you cannot see the hay properly)

 Hay Taste Scale

hay taste scale

 Changing the Menu

It is very important to remember that any diet change has to be done gradually, even with the introduction of a new bale of hay, fruit, vegetable or brand of pellets.  If you are introducing a new bale of hay, slowly introduce the new by mixing with the old bale. If you are introducing a new food or removing those pellets and grain mixes, gradually change the amount over 2-3 weeks, and only introduce one food at a time.  If there is any adverse change in behaviour or health, stop the new addition.

The ideal diet is mostly hay with a variety of different greens (a little bit of everything and not too much of one thing).  It is best to keep a consistent diet once you work out what your pet likes.

 Pellets & Mixes

Many pellets and mixes available in the supermarket and pet shops are very high in protein, fat and sugar. If your pet’s main source of food is low quality pellets, they will most likely be overweight and prone to stomach upsets. Muesli mixes, even when marketed at bunnies and guinea pigs, are JUNK FOOD.  They pick out what they want and, like us, this is often what is the tastiest but least healthiest for them (generally the pieces of dried fruit, sunflower seeds and nuts).

Diets high in pellets and mixes cause a high risk of urinary problems, intestinal problems, nails and feet problems in your pet rabbit and guinea pig.

A good quality pellet will contain at least 18% fibre. A limit of one tablespoons of a good quality high fibre pellet, like Oxbow, is enough to supplement a balanced diet for your pet rabbit or guinea pig.

 Food You Should Never Feed Your Pet

    • Iceberg lettuce
    • Onions or garlic plants, including spring onion
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes
    • Rhubarb
    • Tomato plants (branches, leaves)
    • anything spicy; Jalapeno peppers, anything with cinnamon
    • Branches from poisonous trees such as cedar, plum, redwood, cherry and oleander
    • Bird treats (seeds and nuts)
    • Bread
    • Cheese
    • Chocolate or other caffeine-containing products
    • Cake or cookies or doughnuts
    • Corn kernels or popcorn
    • Dairy products
    • Ice cream
    • Any processed or fried foods that you would eat, including potato chips, nachos or chips
    • Meat or fish