Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feeding too Much Fruit is Bananas

First, I want to thank Dana Krempels, Ph.D. for writing some of the most informative and helpful articles on the internet about companion rabbits.  You can see them at this link. This past week her article "What Should I Feed My Bunny?" was referenced in the UK's Daily Mail online. The video shows a bunny cradled in its caretaker's arms eating a banana.  Fortunately, the journalist  sought out some expert advice online and located Dana's information on feeding rabbits. (I also appreciate Dana's sense of humor on her website - see this link. )
I cringed when I first saw the video since it sends all the wrong messages about how to handle and feed a domesticated rabbit. First, it appeared to me the rabbit could be in jeopardy of choking. Even when I syringe feeding a sick rabbit, I try to keep them upright on their paws in a natural position. After all, rabbits were built to sit on their haunches and graze grasses.  As much as we want to anthrophomorphize our pets, rabbits do not have the same anatomy as human babies.  Also, the rabbit's posture was close to inducing tonic immobility.  There has been some controversy over “trancing” or “hypnotizing” rabbits. I no longer practice nor support the use of this technique. I trust the science and the scientists who have studied Tonic Immobility (TI) in animals and particularly rabbits. The studies show this phenomenon is “a short-term reversible paralysis which can be readily induced in susceptible ‘prey species’ such as rabbits.” It's stressful, not calming. See my web page on TI at this link.

I have never met a rabbit that didn't have a "sweet tooth." But fruit is high in sugar and causes weight gain. Plus, it upsets the balance of bacteria in the cecum and can cause many medical issues both short and long term. A diet primarily consisting of  timothy hay, some leafy green vegetables and very small bits of fruit once or maybe twice a day may seem boring to us humans, but it will promote a long and healthy life in rabbits.  One of my young bunnies (8 years old) who just ran very fast circles around the living room and joined me at the computer is living proof.