Food and water intake and selective feeding in rabbits on four feeding regimes

J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2014 Oct;98(5):991-1000. doi: 10.1111/jpn.12163. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Diet plays an important role in maintaining rabbit health. Feeding an incorrect diet, particularly a low fibre diet, has been linked with digestive, dental and urinary tract disease. However, food intake and dietary requirements have been poorly studied in pet rabbits. This study assessed the effects of two commonly fed pet rabbit diets [extruded nuggets with hay (EH) and muesli with hay (MH)] alongside hay only (HO) and muesli only (MO) on food and water intake in 32 Dutch rabbits. Dry matter (DM) intake was greater in the HO group and lower in the MO group than in the EH and MH groups (p < 0.001). The portion of the diet made of hay was greater in the EH group than in the MH group (p < 0.001). Water intake was positively correlated with DM intake and was greatest in the HO group (p < 0.001). Selective feeding occurred in all rabbit groups fed muesli, whether or not hay was also available. Pellets were rejected, and grains and extrudates selected. The presence of selective feeding in all rabbits fed muesli leads to the consumption of an unbalanced diet. In addition, hay intake and water intake were lower when muesli was fed. Conclusions drawn from this study are based on general recommendations for pet rabbits, and clinical disease may have developed by feeding the study diets over a longer time period, as many diet-related conditions typically present in older rabbits. However, the study demonstrates that the feeding of muesli diets cannot be recommended.

Keywords: fibre; hay diet; muesli.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods*
  • Animals
  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Rabbits*