Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Choosing the Right Rabbit Food

Despite all the reading I had done prior to bringing Walter home, I still could not figure out what kind of pellets to start him on.  His breeder informed me that she fed all her bunnies Manna Pro, and would give me a baggie full of the pellets to mix into his new food for an easier transition.  At first, I figured the easiest thing to do would be to just continue feeding my rabbit the Manna Pro brand.  Unfortunately, the only stores that carry this brand were really geared towards the farm owner or multi-rabbit family.  I couldn’t find a bag of food that was under fifteen pounds! That was way too much food for one little rabbit; the food would go bad well before Walter was able to eat it all.

So, I just went to Petco and surveyed their selection.  After much debate and overwhelming frustration at my inability to decide or recall suggested brands from my rabbit books, I chose Healthy Select Rabbit Diet.  It was a timothy hay-based food, and contained flowers, herbs, and vegetables in the mix.  In my mind, this sounded delicious!  I purchased a five pound bag and brought it home to Walter.

I mixed it in very gradually with the Manna Pro pellets.  Over the course of two weeks, I put in more of the Healthy Select and less of the Manna Pro.  One day, I noticed that Walter had begun tossing out the Manna Pro pellets and only eating the Healthy Select.  I took this as a sign that he was ready to transition over completely.

And that’s when I started to learn that Healthy Select was like crack cocaine for my bunny.  He would only eat the tastiest portions of the pellet mix – the dried corn kernels, the oats, the dried flowers and vegetables – and he couldn’t get enough of them.  After every meal, I found the timothy hay pellets tossed on the floor of his cage, where they would remain until I cleaned them up.  I started noticing that Walter’s stool was softer than it should have been and knew immediately that his eating habits were to blame.

I went back to Petco.  This time, I picked up a bag of Oxbow Bunny Basics/T.  Again, I slowly started mixing the new food in with the rabbit’s meals.  Again, I’d find all the healthy pellets on the floor.

I had had enough.  As confirmed in my book, rabbits will eat based on taste.  Clearly, Walter was eating the dessert portion of his meal without eating his entrée.  He was gaining some considerable weight and his stool was still not looking good.  It was time for a total diet overhaul.  So, out with the old food completely – and in with the new.

Walter would not eat his new pellets.  He would let his bowl of food sit for hours in his cage, untouched.  I did not relent.  Eventually, he learned that it was this or nothing, and began to eat the pellets.  It’s been several months since then, and I’m happy to say that Walter will scarf down his apportioned pellet serving without complaints.

This taught me an important lesson.  Not all pellets are created equal.  I think it’s a misconception that all pet food producers truly have the animal’s nutrition in mind.  For rabbits, foods such as corn, seeds, and oats should be avoided at all costs.  These foods really are like a drug to the bunnies and quickly lead to bad eating habits, which of course can lead to bigger health problems.

What do you feed your bunnies? 


  1. Corn is terrible in most pets diets, but pet foods use it because it's cheap. We noticed Macy's behavior and stool changed when we started feeding her food without corn or crazy fillers :)

  2. My bunnies eat Blue Seal Bunny 16. I know it comes in 50 pound bags, but we have a lot of bunnies!!! I also feed them as much hay as they want to eat. Treats are ok once in a while, but only if they're eating well!

  3. "I think it’s a misconception that all pet food producers truly have the animal’s nutrition in mind."

    I agree with that entirely, and I'll go one further: *most* pet supply manufacturers and retailers do *not* have the animal's health or wellbeing in mind whatsoever. It's a great shame, but the fact is we cannot trust the market.

    I think Oxbow Bunny Basics/T is a great choice. I use Oxbow Pro but, annoyingly, it's not available online or in stores (only at vet offices).

    Aside from looking for a plain pellet, the nutritional info. can help people make the right choice. For example, Manna Pro and Healthy Select are both too high in protein (at 16% - most sources recommend something between 12 and 14%) and fat (3% min. for the Healthy Select, and 2.5% min. for the Manna Pro - should be 2% max). A good pellet should also be high in fibre (18% min.) and low in calcium (0.5 to 1%).