If you have a rabbit as a pet then it’s good to want to know as much about it as you can. The more you know about your bunny, the better you can take care of it. Knowledgeable and good care is important.
The average life span of a rabbit is between five and eight years and looking after your pet well can help it to reach the age it should.
One of the questions you may ask yourself, when your rabbit first comes to live with you is “are rabbits herbivores?”.
We’re going to take a look at that question, and a rabbit’s diet, in more detail. Let’s start by considering what a herbivore is…
What is a herbivore?
A herbivore is an animal that is physically adapted to eat only plant material. They do not have the physical ability to eat and digest meat, as they do not need it. Often, herbivores have adaptations to their digestive system to enable them to digest plant products more easily.
Are rabbits herbivores?
The short answer to that question is yes; rabbits are herbivores and are physically adapted to exist on a diet of plant material.
If you have a rabbit as a pet then 80% of its diet should consist of hay. You should also include fresh vegetables in your rabbit’s diet, although these should be included in small amounts.
It’s not a good idea to include the highly coloured rabbit food you can buy from pet shops; just stick to rabbit pellets. As a rule of thumb you should not give your pet more than around half a cup per 2lbs of rabbit per day. If you stick to a diet like this for your rabbit then its digestive system should stay fairly healthy, although you should be aware that rabbits can easily succumb to problems with their gastro intestinal (GI) tract.
As well as feeding your rabbit correctly, you should also make sure to groom them regularly, as any loose fur that they swallow can increase the risk of GI tract problems.
How does your rabbit’s digestion work?
It helps to know how your rabbit’s digestion works, so you can see how important the right diet is.
As we mentioned earlier, some herbivores have adaptations to their digestive systems. This applies to rabbits. Your bunny has a stomach that’s pretty large for its size. This means it can eat lots of plant material really quickly.
In the wild, rabbits are crepuscular (this is one of our top rabbit facts!) which means they are active early in the morning and in the evening. This is when they do most of their eating as it helps them to avoid predators. This is why it’s important that rabbits can eat a lot in a short space of time.
As well as a large stomach, a small intestine and a large intestine, rabbits have a part of their digestive system called a cecum. The cecum is in the rabbit’s body where the large and small intestines join together. It is full of healthy bacteria and other organisms that help with digestion. A rabbit’s digestive system is very clever as it knows which bits of food need to be sent to the cecum for more digestion. Any food that is digested in the small intestine goes directly to the large intestine. It’s this food that leaves your pet’s body as droppings.
Any fibre that your bunny eats which needs more digestion goes to the cecum, where it is broken down. Moist pellets called cecotropes that are the result of this action. They are passed through the bunny’s system and the bunny eats them straight away in order to re-digest them. Every part of this process is important, to keep your pet’s GI tract working as it should. That’s why it’s important that a rabbit’s diet includes all the right types of fibre.
To summarise: rabbits are herbivores and they have a digestive system which is developed to help them make the most of a vegetarian diet.