Leo Chows Down


Leo chows down on kaleLeo dictated a change in topic from what was planned for today. I got his dinner greens ready for him and he had absolutely no interest in them. Now having no interest in eating for a rabbit can be due to not feeling well or having a digestive problem going on. It could be they have been given something they don’t like to eat. It could be they have already eaten too much of something else and aren’t hungry.

In this case with Leo, I was suspicious it was in the not liking it category. We were reaching the end of a bag of kale. It was still within the Use By Date. The kale still looked green and not spoiled. However, it was a bit stronger smelling which I have noticed in the past can happen sometimes with kale as it ages just a bit in the refrigerator. I wasn’t sure Leo was going to like it. He didn’t. Fortunately, Blaine was already on the way home with new provisions. As soon as we put fresh kale in front of Leo, he began to eat right away.

I thought the smell might turn Leo off because of something that happened once with Tigger and Shadow. We opened a new bag of greens which looked very fresh and lovely to us.  There was nothing we could see or smell that would show any problems. When we put the plate down in front of them, they sniffed the greens and looked right back up at us. The looks on their faces would best translate to, “Really ???” It was obvious that they picked up on something that was wrong that we could not. We threw out the bag, opened another one and then they were happy to eat.

Getting the diet balance right for good digestive health in a rabbit is really important. They don’t always make it so easy though.  As we have learned with our rabbits, they all have very different tastes and preferences for what they like to eat. It is a bit of a trial sometimes to get the right combination of what is good for them that they like to eat and will eat in the right proportions for a healthy rabbit diet.

Tigger was our worst challenge and beyond finicky about eating in ways I don’t even want to remember now. I remember too many times in her life following her around with food trying to get her to eat.  Shadow ate everything and I do mean everything. If he could sink his teeth into it and chew it, he considered it food. The challenge with him was keeping him eating true rabbit edibles and not clogging up his digestive system with things that weren’t even remotely food. We had to watch him like a hawk when he was running free.  Thumper and Portia were our best bunnies with food, I don’t remember them being bad about eating or particularly fussy about anything unless they were ill.

Now there was one time we had a massive bunny food strike here.  We received a new batch of timothy pellets and hay from a company that we had ordered from for years. When we served up the new pellets and hay to the rabbits, all three rabbits refused to eat them. Now Tigger I could understand as she had always been on and off finicky, but Shadow and Portia had never been fussy about pellets or hay. I called the company who put me through to one of their nutrition departments. The previous season the weather had been significantly different in their area in regards to the amount of rain during the growing season. That meant the hay was not exactly the same taste as past seasons and they were getting reports some rabbits were noticing the difference and not happy about it. Fortunately, we had a friend who had a bag of pellets from a previous year’s batch that was still within use dates. We mixed old pellets with new. We made sure there were multiple hay choices besides timothy out for grazing. Within two days Shadow and Portia were back to eating their timothy hay and pellets in normal amounts. Tigger held out for two weeks before accepting the new hay and pellets. During the two weeks, we had to have her in to the vet to make sure there wasn’t something else going on. We offered her other hays and more greens to try to make up for the hay and pellets she wasn’t eating. Fortunately she was not ill or losing weight. She was just being incredibly picky and slow about accepting the new batch.

So little Leo is like Tigger in being a more of a bunny food critic than I would like. We are having to put lots of things in front of him repeatedly and throw lots of things out when he refuses to try them. If you have a picky bunny, you are probably going to have to try lots of varieties of things in hay, pellets, vegetables and fruits to be able to find out which ones the rabbit will eat. I remember a friend’s rabbit that she called the junk food bunny. She had a terrible time getting him to eat anything that was good for him. He only wanted the bunny junk foods: lots of pellets, sweets and treats. She had to really work to get him eating more of the good things, hay and healthy greens. So Leo will eat timothy pellets, but he won’t touch timothy hay. He will eat oat hay and orchard grass. Thank heavens there are a variety of different hays and grasses to try. Leo will eat kale but it is really hard to get him to eat any other greens.  We have managed to expand him to spring greens and leaf lettuce and are working to see if we can get him to accept a wider variety.

Although sweets / treats should be given in very small quantities, it can be very important to know which treats your rabbit likes best.  With all of our rabbits if we thought they were becoming ill, a good test was offering them one of their treats. If they refused a treat, something was really going on and we knew we needed to figure out what to be able to help them. Sometimes that meant a vet visit if we had no clue what might be wrong. Other times, we knew from experience what to try to see if we could bring them back to normal.  We have identified Leo likes fresh baby carrots and has his doctor prescribed limit of just 2-3 per day for his size. Tigger and Shadow went gaga over bananas and couldn’t stand fresh carrots. Leo has no interest in bananas and goes first for any carrots he is given. Leo also likes dried apples and papaya and some bunny biscuit treats we have. The dried fruits and biscuits bring on a bunny dance around the feet. So if we would ever offer those and aren’t getting the bunny dance, it would be a strong sign that Leo is sick.

If you need some good information about all the different things you can try when working on a good rabbit diet, here are two resources from House Rabbit Society: