Not all rabbit lovers have only bunnies as pets. Some also take care of cats and dogs. Because rabbit pellets and dry cat or dog food sometimes resemble each other, some fur parents may think it’s okay to let their buns nibble on grub meant for their other companion animals. It might even be tempting to give all pets the same chow for convenience’s sake. But can rabbits eat cat food or dog food?
Dogs, cats, rabbits, and other furry creatures that share your home have different dietary needs. Thus, feeding them the same food can lead to unpleasant consequences. For this article, let’s examine what dining on cat chow can do to your bun.
What’s in Cat Food?
Cats and rabbits belong to different species. As such, what they need to live a long and healthy life varies. For example, cats must have certain amino acids to survive. These include taurine and arginine, which come from fresh meat. They also require a high-protein diet, which plant-based food can’t satisfy. That’s because a cat’s body can’t fully extract or synthesize these dietary requirements from feeds made from plants. So their food is often made from fish meal, beef tallow, chicken, and poultry by-products.
Will Rabbits Eat It?
Long-time bun owners will attest to the fact that rabbits will eat almost anything. If they chew walls, wires, and carpets, you can be sure that cat food is fair game for them. Rabbits will not only chow down on cat food, but on any food, you leave unattended.
Can They Eat It?
Although your bun will willingly eat cat food if you offer it, the question is will it be good for them to do so? We mentioned that chow meant for kitties contains meat and meat by-products and is rich in protein, fats, and carbs. Rabbits, on the other hand, are herbivores. That means they thrive on a diet that’s composed mainly of hay and plant materials.
High-quality hay, fresh leafy greens, some veggies, and fruits are what go well with a bun’s sensitive digestive system. Also, because of their delicate digestion, they need fiber that will push the food along in their gut. If not, the undigested food can lead to digestive issues such as GI stasis.
What Can Happen If My Rabbit Eats Cat Food?
Don’t panic if you catch your bun tucking away the contents of your kitty’s food bowl. Although eating cat food can impact your rabbit’s health, a small amount probably won’t cause harm. Just observe your bun for signs of illness, or if you’re worried, you can always take your fur baby to a rabbit-savvy vet.
Digestive distress and other health issues may arise when you feed cat food regularly to your rabbit. Here are some of those conditions that may occur.
Cats require a high-protein diet while rabbits do not. Moreover, buns have a digestive system that’s geared to breaking down only plant matter. They have trouble processing food with high levels of protein, especially that which comes from animals. As a result, eating protein-rich food can lead to kidney damage in your pet.
The teeth of various animal species are often designed for chewing the food they’re meant to eat. Cats’ teeth are sharp as they need to tear animal flesh apart. Meanwhile, rabbit teeth are suited for grinding fibrous plant material, such as hay and leafy veggies.
Those pearly whites also grow continuously. Gnawing on hay and other hard plant matter helps wear down your bun’s teeth, so they don’t become too long. Overgrown teeth can lead to dental troubles such as tooth and gum infections.
Urinary Tract Infection
Cat food contains a significant amount of calcium, which felines need for their teeth and bones to grow properly. Buns require calcium for optimum development, too, but not as much as cats. The calcium level in hay is just about right for them. Getting more than that can cause the mineral to build up in their urinary tract and cause infections and, as we mentioned, kidney trouble.
Meat products naturally have high levels of proteins and fats. Because cats need carbs, too, their food contains a significant amount of this energy-giving nutrient. Rabbits who eat foods high in protein, fats, and carbohydrates can become obese, which, in turn, can impact their health. Buns have fragile bones, and being overweight will cause strain on their joints in the long run.
The fats and proteins animal products contain are hard on rabbits’ digestion as the enzymes in their intestines can only efficiently digest plant matter. Moreover, rabbits require only about 12-16 percent protein in their diet. Eating too much of the nutrient can upset their intestinal flora. In some cases, this leads to the growth of Clostridium, which can cause enteritis.
Aside from the regular poop your bun produces, they excrete a special kind of fecal material at night. Called cecotropes, this type of poop is formed through the fermentation of the food in their intestinal tract. This unique poop contains nutrients rabbits need, so they often eat the cecotropes they produce. But if their food is high in protein and calcium, they won’t eat their cecotropes, which lessens the amount of nutrients they get.
How to Prevent Your Rabbit from Eating It
Even if you don’t give cat food to your bun, he’ll sometimes find some to eat if you have a cat. That means you’ll have to ensure that your rabbit can’t get to your kitty’s food. Here are some things you can do.
- Don’t leave your cat’s food bowl lying around long after feeding time. Even if you keep your bun inside a cage, he can still get to the food when you let him out, and you forget to keep track of his activities.
- If you let your cat feed at will, consider placing the bowl in a place that your bun can’t reach, such as a table or shelf.
- Cats can be messy eaters. As such, they may end up spilling bits of food on the floor, which your rabbit can stumble upon and snack on. Remember to clean up after your cat’s feeding time.
- Rabbits sometimes go for cat food because they’re hungry or have gotten tired of their own food. Give your bun new foods from time to time and some toys, too, especially chew toys. This will keep them from getting bored and make them more interested in their rabbit-safe meals.
Can rabbits eat cat food? They can and will. However, it won’t be be safe for them to do so. Food meant for your kitty has nutrients that may not agree with your bun and can lead to illness or even fatal consequences. So take steps to ensure that your rabbit only eats the food meant for his kind.
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