We love meat, fish, poultry, pork, wild boar, venison, and other animal meats. Sometimes, one may want to share these foods with rabbits. Should we share these foods with them or not?
Should they eat meat, chicken, or fish?
No. Rabbits should not eat raw, roasted or cooked meat, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, duck, wild boars, or any other animal meat or product such as bacon, hotdog, salami, ham, sausages, eggs, chicken nuggets, corned beef, and etcetera. Here is why:
1. Rabbits are herbivores
To begin with, rabbits, hares, and jackrabbits herbivores. While in the wild eat mainly grass as well as some herbs, twigs, sprouts, tree barks, leaves, seeds, fruits, and other plant material. Similarly, domesticated rabbits derive their nutrients from similar foods.
In a typical rabbit food list, hay, especially grass types, should account for 80%, high-quality pellets 5-10% of their diet, and fresh foods 10-15%. Fresh foods are mainly leafy veggies and plants with fruits and non-leafy vegetables fed as treats.
Therefore, their digestive system is only adapted to handle plant materials, not animal products. They lack some enzymes necessary to facilitate the digestion of meat, fish, poultry, and so forth.
2. High fats and proteins
Nutritional analysis of nutrition of 70% lean raw meat, fish, chicken with skin (broiler or fryers:
|Total fats (g)||30||4.9||12.2|
|Vitamin B12 (mcg)||2.1||9.4||0.3|
Additionally, some have small quantities of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B5, B6, E, K, folate, iron, manganese, copper, sodium, and potassium, among others.
Looking at the above table, meat, chicken, and fish are high in calories, have lots of fats, cholesterol, proteins, especially if you consider the quantities on dry matter basis by removing water.
Excessive proteins will slow gut motility, increase urine production, strain their kidney and liver, while changing their cecum microflora balance and pH. Expect enteritis, soft stool, diarrhea, stomach upsets, among others. Also, they will fatten your bunny.
On the other hand, rabbits require only 1-3% of fats, while these foods have higher fats, which can lead to hepatic lipidosis, obesity, and GI issues.
3. Low to no fiber
Fiber is essential as it helps in wearing their teeth, promoting gut motility, cecotrophy, and source of energy (via hindgut soluble fiber fermentation), and so on. Therefore, your bunnies will suffer from all these problems, should they eat these foods in large amounts.
Therefore, don’t allow your rabbit to eat meat, fish, poultry, other animal meats or products.
What happens if a rabbit eats meat?
As curious animals and chewers, it is normal for them to want to eat almost anything they come across. If your rabbit ate a small amount of meat, don’t worry. It won’t kill them. However, they may suffer from some gastrointestinal problems.
On the other hand, if your rabbit eats a lot of meat, fish, chicken, pork, and other meats and consistently, they may suffer from severe GI and digestion issues, including inflammation or even die. Therefore, also ensure you don’t leave these foods in any places that your rabbits can access.
Reports of rabbits eating meat, chicken or fish
While they are not meat-eaters, there have a few cases of this happening. For instance:
- A pet rabbit owner reported that his Fleming giant bunny picked and ate pork several pieces of cooked lamb chops.
- The story on previous owned but now feral bunnies New York City eating chicken wing by Dnainfo.com.
- Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) in Yukon’s Territory in Canada caught on camera scavenging for and eating carcasses, including their main predator, the lynx, their kind as well as grouse loon’s feathers during winter. This shocking case was by an ecology Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Michael Peers, to Northwestern Naturalists.
For the case of snowshoe hares, while they are also herbivores, they don’t belong to the same genus with a domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus Cuniculus). However, the behavior may have been influenced by food scarcity, the encroachment of their habitat, among other reasons.
For others, this may be a case of nutritional deficiencies, pica, or curiosity. These animals have a sweet tooth, just like human beings.
Bunny cannibalism characterized by does or bucks eating offspring does occur but on rare occasions. Some common triggers include the following:
1. Malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies
Lack of some vital nutrients may be a reason why does eat their offspring. This cannibalism happens to help them gain the nutrients and energy they require. Also, inadequate food may cause it.
2. Survival tactic
This carnivorous tendency may be a survival tactic if they live near predators or sight one. They don’t want their nests discovered, a reason the reason why does may eat their placenta, defective or stillbirths as well as leak any blood near their nesting area.
When they note survival chances are low, bunnies would instead regain their energy by eating their progenies that having then discovered and devoured by predators.
3. Extreme stress
When extremely stressed, some female bunnies may eat their kits and not because they are hungry. Injury, small cages, the sight of a predator, and so on can make them stressed.
Some males may eat kits to remove competition, especially when they want to mate again.