Did you know that both rabbits and guinea pigs should eat a ball of hay the size of their body each day, and it should comprise AT LEAST 80% of their diet?
Not eating enough hay can seriously affect their dental heath, their digestive health and longevity but many owners struggle to get their little one to eat enough hay.
Read on for my tips and tricks to get them eating more!
Hay eating is essential for your rabbit or guinea pig's dental health and also their digestive health, to keep their guts moving and avoid gut stasis, which is where the gut isn't in constant motion as it should be, it is sluggish or stops altogether. It is a concern for both species as it could be fatal. Dental issues are one of the most common problems for rabbits and guinea pigs, and while some of them are genetically determined, quite a lot are avoidable by simply encouraging more hay eating. Recent research also suggests that rabbits that are destructive chewers often don't eat enough hay and that there is a direct co-relation between the two, so encouraging better hay eating habits may help with this too!
Here are my top tips for figuring out why they aren't eating enough hay and encouraging your fur baby to eat more!
ARE THEY FILLING UP ON OTHER FOODS?
This is the most common reason for not enough hay eating in my experience. Pellets are usually the culprit here, with many manufacturers advocating larger portions of their food than necessary in order to sell more! Both species only need a small handful each day once fully grown. If you feed this in two sittings (morning and night) it is possible that your fur baby is never really hungry enough to eat much hay (think toddler filling up on sweets and not wanting their more bland vegetables!). I recommend feeding pellets only once a day, and at the other 'mealtime' feed hay - they should be hungry enough then to eat a good portion of hay!
If they get a lot of vegetables, they may also fill up on them, - but in reality, a balanced pellet and 80% + hay means most rabbits and guinea pigs don't actually need vegetables each day - yes, sure they enjoy them, but be careful not to overfill them on them, and remember the golden rule for feeding vegetables is to mix them up each day - too much of any one vegetable or fruit can cause health issues eg cauliflower can cause gas, carrots are too high in sugar, kale causes calcium overload so can lead to bladder sludge or kidney stones. So if you are going to feed vegetables, mind the portion size, mix it up each day for a good variety, and again, I recommend feeding it with the pellets, so that they get it all in one go, and are hungry enough for hay next meal
HANG HAY OVER THE LITTER TRAY
Or even in it - they like to poop and eat at the same time!
STUFF HAY INTO TOILET ROLL TUBES
Or into toys and balls to encourage your bunny to pull at the hay, especially effective if you can stuff pellets or treats in behind the hay! Check out my youtube video below for some fun ideas!
SERVE IT DIFFERENTLY -
Use a hay rack if you usually give it on the floor, or toss it on the floor if you usually use a hay rack, or pop it in a special bowl - some bunnies are fussy!
MAKE IT MORE INTERESTING!
Try different flavours, brands and types of hay - eg Timothy hay, meadow hay, (alfalfa hay only suitable until 6 months as it is high in calcium and calories) or hay with added herbs, - dandelion hay is popular here! Most pet shops sell hay with added chamomile, mint etc. Fresh is best though and companies like www.HayYourWay.ie sell farm fresh hay delivered straight to your door, with less dust than pet shop packets, so if you can get that your pet will probably prefer it.
Hay your Way also sell a fun range of forages, as does www.furrydubs.com - that you can add to the hay to make it more attractive, but you can also scatter their pellets and vegetables in it (more stimulating for them to forage for too!), add fresh herbs, or a dry herb mix made for small pets. As a last resort, you can also try spraying a little apple juice on the hay too! But generally, if they are hungry, they will eat it, and if they aren't eating it, they may not be hungry enough so reduce pellets / vegetables and the amount of times you feed them per day. Do it gradually though or you will have a hangry fur baby on your hands!
Don't forget there is an amazing 15% off your Hay your Way orders for members of www.fionashappybunnyclub.com - and you can join now for just €1 for the first 14 days with our Bunny Bliss Challenge - 14 days of Hoppy Happiness! Get a fun challenge each day delivered right to your inbox with fun activities to do with or for your bunny, or information on an important care topic, all while having FULL ACCESS TO THE BUNNY CLUB LIBRARY AND LIVE EVENTS!
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