Gourmet Hay & Pellets For Rabbits

You can almost excuse the public for buying these carelessly thought out products that populate the shelves of virtually every pet store in America, but I cannot let the companies that produce this junk off the hook. They are not thinking of the health of our pets and I feel it is shameless that they produce and sell such terrible products, most of which are not good for your rabbit.

Anyone who knows ANYTHING about rabbits knows that they need to have a very high fiber diet that is about 80-90 percent grass hays. They also know that rabbits have a voracious sweet tooth and will gravitate to all the wrong foods, just like most children.

I am only going to discuss gourmet pellets and hay in this article, but most of the other treats produced by the large pet companies are awful for your bunny as well, including all treats with seeds and nuts, yogurt or dairy and those with lots of flour and sugar as main ingredients.

We as our rabbit’s quasi parents, need to gently guide them into eating what we know is best for them, just as we would our own human children. In that quest, many bunny moms and dads will wrongly turn to gourmet pellets and hay. They often think that by putting carrots, corn, dried peas, and all kinds of other unhealthy treats into the mix, that they will be eating more hay and therefore getting more of “the good stuff”.

In practice, it never works that way. Rabbits are foragers and will pick through every piece of hay to find the best pieces. Just watch a rabbit eat and you will see this. When giving them a mix with lots of treats inside, you will see your bunny eat every single treat piece first and leave all the stuff that you really wanted him to eat in the first place.

Only when every single treat piece is gone, will you see them turning to the relatively boring hay or pellets you gave them. While I can understand why some people try the hay varieties, the gourmet pellet varieties are just silly and illogical. Rabbits should not have very many pellets each day, if at all and making it even more potentially harmful for your pet by adding a bunch of junk does not make sense.

When I talk to people in the public about their rabbits during my educational efforts, you would be surprised to find out how many people out there buy and feed this stuff to their bunnies. They tell me that they love their pet and want to give him something extra special. What they do not know is that their loving gesture is in reality not a good thing.

I condemn the large pet companies who make this stuff, because they promote and sell it, knowing that most of it is not good for our pets. We assume because of their vast resources and marketing that they would never sell something that is bad or actually harmful for our bunnies. That general assumption could not be further from the truth.

These types of products have now spawned a new breed of less harmful merchandise where herbs and dried carrots, etc. have been inserted into bags of Timothy hay. This is probably due to the fact that many pet rabbits will not eat the pet store hay that these companies sell. It is too dried out and old and most rabbits like their grass hays fresh and somewhat moist.

Many rabbit owners confuse their rabbits not wanting old store bought hay into meaning that they do not like to eat hay. These people think that if they get a treat hay with all these things in there, that their rabbit will become healthier and eat more hay.

The truth is if the bunny’s parents sought out and provided fresher, tastier hay, that their bun would eat it non-stop. I have yet to meet a rabbit who simply will not eat aromatic fresh green hay, but they will always defer to tastier and sweeter foods like herbs and carrots if it is available. The problem arises when they eat so much of these other things and do not eat enough of their hay. The treats replace large amounts of hay that would normally otherwise be eaten.

I think a more healthy and logical strategy would be to find a source for tasty fresh Timothy hay or Orchard grass for your bunny and then supplement it with good healthy treats that you provide on the side, when it is appropriate. You can find fresh herbs or very small pieces of fresh carrots at your grocery store and control the amount that they get and the quality, too. Fresh foods are almost always better than dried and preserved varieties. If your bunny is getting a small variety of healthy leafy greens and herbs each day (equal to twice the size of his head), then he will be receiving the best possible diet, along with his unlimited fresh hay.

He does not even need rabbit pellets at all to be healthy and certainly not gourmet pellets. The gourmet hays are not the answer, either. While I do not feel that they are nearly as harmful, they are not the way to get your rabbit to relish his daily meals of hay. Find your local feed store and if you cannot use and store a whole bale of fresh Timothy hay, then ask them to sell you a couple of flakes or a large bag full. Most will do this and then you do not have to store a complete bale.

Be certain to keep it very dry and out of the direct sun. Moisture is the enemy of your rabbit’s hay because it can cause mold, which can be toxic for your bun. We use tight sealing plastic garbage cans that have never been used for trash to store our hay. There are some nice plastic bins available online for storing bales of hay, should you decide to go that route.

Each of my rabbits eats about 8-10 pounds of hay a month. So with my three rabbits it would take a little over three months to use a whole bale of hay. A person with just one bunny will probably find that it is not practical to buy and store bales of hay, unless they have other critters that are eating it, too.

We are lucky here in San Diego, because our local House Rabbit Society buys bales of hay and repackages it into boxes to sell to the public through several outlets around the county. It raises money for the organization to use to provide medical care for rabbits and the public get very fresh hay in manageable amounts to give to their bunnies. What a great win-win for us all!

If you have a rescue organization in some other area of the USA, you might find this is a great way to raise funds and provide a great service to the rabbit lovers in your area. Most people whose rabbit will not eat pet store hay, will suddenly eat tons of it when given fresh stuff. If the pet food companies would find a way to deliver fresher tastier hay to public, they could forget about having to produce the gourmet treat varieties to get rabbits to eat it.

Just the opinion of…
The Bunny Guy

The “Cuteness” Factor

I have observed that the chance of a rabbit getting poorly adopted from a shelter or impulsively bought at a pet store is directly proportional to how cute he or she is. I always worry when a new super cute dwarf or over-friendly loppie gets brought in and it is not because I am worried that they are going to languish there for a long time.

Actually, just the opposite is the case. Those “cute” types of rabbits rarely last more than two weeks in the shelter awaiting adoption, while other types of rabbits can wait for six to twelve months before someone decides to take them home.

People often ask me, “Is that really a curse”? While I feel the answer is not just a black and white one, I feel that many times it is. One can hardly go wrong bringing home a lovable friendly lop-ear rabbit, yet I cannot tell you how many times one has been returned to the shelter after six or more months of being at an adopter’s home.

I think the main reason that this happens is that the person who adopted the bunny was not prepared for what bringing a rabbit home was all about. So many people who adopt a rabbit on impulse do not give any thought about where or how a rabbit is going to be housed and cared for until AFTER they have brought him home.

They may have had good intentions and when they turned the rabbit loose to run free in the home, but that is a recipe for disaster. A unbunny-proofed home is no place for a new rabbit to roam. Inevitably there ends up being a lot of damage to computer and phone cords, not to mention other miscellaneous things that get chewed on, too.

Very often this results in the new rabbit being banished to a quickly built hutch out in the back yard. This never turns out well for the bunny and it is actually a blessing if his parents DO decide to return him to the shelter. Otherwise, he will live out his days very lonely and often not receiving the proper diet or care.

The other scenario that I have seen a hundred times is a small highly energetic and active Dward rabbit, such as a Netherland Dwarf being adopted within days of coming to the shelter. The people who bring him home were seduced into adopting him by his small size and “cuteness”. What they do not realize at the time, is that these high energy bunnies are best adopted by experienced rabbit lovers who know how to bunny-proof every nook and cranny of their home and to exercise the rabbit so that he does not become frustrated.

Sometimes the family will adjust and learn how to keep this tiny bundle of energy busy and end up with a happy rabbit. Too often, I hear them say, “What was I thinking” when they brought him home from the shelter because they do not understand until it is too late that they have taken on a huge responsibility.

I have found that larger rabbits and breeds that are not in high demand spend a lot more time in the shelter, waiting for their new forever homes. The good news is that when someone comes in looking for this kind of rabbit and adopts him, that it usually ends up being a better situation with people who know and have had rabbits before. I have many “happy ending” stories with these type of bunnies whom I have cared for at our shelter. It is what keeps me going, knowing that some rabbits do end up with a much better life after they are there.

My biggest worry is for the buns who are hastily adopted, usually by people who were sucked in by the “cuteness” factor. I always try and coach these people to take a step back and go become a little educated about the big step that they are about to take. If all of the adoption staff at shelters would coach potential adopters this way, it would lead to far better adoptions at the shelters.

To my disdain, many shelters are operating on a revolving door agenda where they need to adopt out as many of their charges as they can to make room for the new critters coming in. For them, it is the only way that they can keep from running out of room and being forced to destroy some animals that they cannot care for. While some shelters are moving away from this model, the harsh reality is that most cannot afford to. There is simply not enough space or money to care for unlimited animals that way.

I can only hope that “most” of these hastily made adoptions turn out well, but I know from seeing some of the results that there are some that do not. This is why I tend to feel sorry for the very friendly or overly cute new buns who come to the shelter. I know that their “handicap” will make them more vulnerable to a “bad” adoption.

California Taking A Huge Step Backward

A shocking proposal by Governor Jerry Brown wants animal shelters in California to no longer be required to hold cats and dogs for more than 72 hours. Shelters would not have to provide veterinary care to animals who need it, and rabbits, reptiles, and other animals could legally be euthanized as soon as they arrive.

Over the years I have been working at the local animal shelter, I have seen a slow improvement for the homeless animals, but this proposal will set all of our efforts back decades.

Please make a brief, polite phone call today to Governor Brown’s office at 916-445-2841, and ask him to scrap his proposal to remove basic protections for shelter animals.

On another subject:

I received my book proofs last night and I am extremely happy with how they look, except for the cover. For some reason, the printer chose to change the design by the way that they trimmed the book cover and I find it takes a lot away from the presentation.

We are waiting for a response from the printer before telling them to submit the book to Amazon for sale. They promised a response within 24 hours,. so it should not be long.

I have been working on the ebook non-stop for the last week. I had to completely relearn how to lay it out, since the ebook publishers will not accept a book that is not done in MS Word. I spent weeks learning how to do it in Adobe InDesign and now I am having to relearn the process all over again.

I have figured out the system and I have the first 1/3 of the book done and expect to finish the ebook by the end of this week. YIPPIE!

Waiting For Proofs of the Book

As with any monumental undertaking, there are always set-backs and problems and my book has been no different. I uploaded the newly proofread edition of my book to the publisher site and found that because I had added about 30 more pages to it, that the margins I had designed were no longer big enough. ARGH!

That meant I had to layout the book again from cover to cover. One thing that made it easier was to enlarge the final size of the book. I was able to do that but it also meant I needed a new cover. After I made the cover larger, too I am not sure I like the way it looks.

I went ahead and ordered proof copies, but I may end up changing the cover again in order to get exactly what I want. Meanwhile, I have to wait until Monday to receive my proofs. Only when I have seen the complete book printed out, will I know if all the writing, layout and graphix are what I had envisioned.

If everything goes according to plan, I will be able to upload a new cover and publish the book within the next week. I am very anxious and nervous at the same time after over eight months of work.

This weekend I have an educational event that I do monthly at a Petco store and then Sunday is the Superbowl, so I will have things to keep me busy. Come Monday, I will be chomping at the bit to see the fruits of my labor. I am praying for the need for minimal fixes and reworking to the book, so I can go ahead and release it.

I was very disappointed to find that I would not be able to simply convert the book into an ebook, like I had thought. With so many graphics, it was going to take another layout job to make it work in e-readers. I will be starting work on that project next week, as soon as I put the printed book to bed.

So for now, I will just keep on “trucking… what a long strange trip it has been.”

The Bunny Guy