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Rabbits/introducing fresh vegetables to diet and problems about using liter in cage.**

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hi , so first i should tell you that i have had george for one week and two days,  my 3 year old niece got him the past easter , so he is about 9 months old ( i think ).  my sister was never qualified to be a rabbit owner. she kept him in a cage outside all summer till last week when i took him. i spend a lot of time at my sisters helping her with my niece , so every time iwas there i would clean his cage for him make sure he had food and try to spend sometime with him.  and his cage was always disgusting , it was a free fall of poop everywhere , by the time i would clean it the following week when i came there would be no where in the cage that wasn't covered in poop. it really bothered me how gerorge was neglected and has such a horrible life. so when it started to gear towards the colder weather last month (we live in ny) i asked my sister what she was doing with george when the winter comes, and she said he will be fine in the garage he's a bunny , bunnys live outside in the wild .. and this didn't sit well with me, and i know my older sister well enough to know thats she's a diva and wouldn't allow george in her home for winter .  so after debating with the decision my conscience decided to take george home with me..

and now after a large amount of googling about household rabbits care i have questions and concerns for george .

first is his diet.
before i had taken him he was only fed pellets , and as far as i know there was only hay available to him once. my sister clearly didn't know that it was important in his diet. and when he was given the pellets he was given a whole large container filled , and it was probably only filled back up when someone noticed it was empty or i was there and did it myself . he wasn't fed a certain amount daily. and now after i have been reading it says that pellets are the smallest percentage of his daily intake, and some websites have said that its 1/4 cup a day and some suggest it should be only given in small quantities as a treat ..

i also read that for his age and size he should be eating about 3 cups of fresh lettuces and that it should be a variety of minimum  3 kinds a day, and that there is also specific kinds.

so when i read all of this i stopped giving him an unlimited amount of pellets an began giving him 3 cups of lettuce a day (which i did in am afternoon and pm) . i gave him  kale , arugla , romain , red lettuce and butter lettuce , i gave him little less than 1/8 cup handfuls of pellets , and handfuls of hay through out the day.

but then i read to gradually introduce fresh vegetables into his diet , and in another website that he has to be eating hay for at least two weeks . (which he hasn't )
and it also said if you notice his droppings being irregular shaped that you are probably going to fast and need to slow down on fresh vegg and introduce them gradually ..

and when i read that i did notice some of his droppings were not usual and either very little or not normal shaped .

so i then after a few days of giving him 3 cups lettuce a day , i tried to reduce the amount to half cups and only twice a day, and giving him an 1/8 cup of pellets twice a day and continuously giving him hay.

but for some reason i feel like i am miss feeding him and not going about introducing him to fresh vegetables correctly .

if you could please guide me on a daily meal plan for him and advise me on the correct amounts , i would really appreciate the help because i don't want to under or over feed him and i do want to give him the correct nutrition  that he needs , but i don't want to damage his little body by not doing it properly.


george is a really good rabbit , he is awesome and i love him . i don't really have any problems letting him roam free around my studio apartment when i am home , he uses a corner next to his cage where i put down a wee wee pad every time i let him out and primarily he uses there , he's had some mistakes but generally he gets the point of using the wee wee pad corner , ( i plan to get a liter box for there but i haven't been able to yet )

before i took him ,when my niece let him out at my sisters house he would always use this one spot in her playroom behind the door, and after i realized he was doing that over time i taught her to put the newspaper down there , and always he would roam around the house and only use that spot . but as i mentioned above in his cage it  was always everywhere , and that is actually another problem i am not understanding about him .

why when out of the cage he is really good about using the designated spot, but in his cage its everywhere. i bought a corner litter box for inside his cage , but he refuses to use it , he will always sit in in , but i don't think he uses it ever because he pees and poops everywhere , he docent designate it to a specific corner , and this is very frustrating to me . i move the droppings into the litter box but he still decides to go everywhere .

i understand that his whole rabbit life he spent in a cage in my sisters backyard and it was always covered in droppings and he never had a liter box in it till a week ago or even anyone who dedicated time to caring for him ( as i was only there 2 days a week ) so maybe its just what he is used to doing, but how can i brake this habit. i don't understand why he is able to be liter trained outside of his cage but not inside of his cage.

thanks id appreciate your help greatly
;)

Answer
Hi Elisha

Well done for taking this little chap on! Domestic rabbits do not do well in harsh US winters, they're designed for milder mid-European winters.

Will tackle diet first!

Has he had a full vet check after you took him on? This is recommended to check his teeth as living on a pellet only diet could have caused him to start to develop molar spurs and dental disease - this will make eating hay properly quite painful. I recommend concentrating on getting him eating hay as a priority. Make the hay fun, make sure he has a pile he can burrow into, not in a hay container above his head, and hide it in things like toilet roll tubes so he can throw it around and play with it. Also hide all his other food in it so he has to eat his way to things he's meant to be eating. And provide a range of different types, he can have timothy hay, meadow hay and orchard grass, and different brands are better than others, it can be seasonal in terms of quality and cut too!! Long strands are better than chopped hays. A sprinkling of Readigrass on top can get them munching also.

A good daily meal plan would be this, at least this is what my two monsters get!
Morning - refresh hay, refresh water, give handful of veggies
Lunch - check hay, give it a shake up, check water
Evening - refresh hay, refresh water, give handful of pellets

For veggies, yes you do have to be careful as some rabbits have more sensitive guts than others. Natural forage is better for them than cultivated veggies. Spring Greens are a wilder type of cabbage which is a good one to have as staple. Dark leaved lettuces are better, such as Romaine, herby lettuces like Rocket are fine too. But finding wild forage is more beneficial, such as dandelion, blackberry or raspberry leaves, marigolds, sunflower petals, nettles, you can get an idea here, the dried stuff is fab to sprinkle around and get them active and foraging like they would in the wild, this is a UK site though so you'll have to do some searching for a US based supplier:
http://thehayexperts.co.uk/edibles/herbs-treats-by-the-hay-experts.html
If you notice sloppy or malformed poops, stop all greens immediately for a few days and let his gut settle.

I would also recommend trying these as a treat, very high fibre and good for getting his gut working as it should!
http://www.amazon.com/Supreme-Petfoods-Fibafirst-Rabbit-500/dp/B007P10B60/ref=sr

If you need more tips on diet, please let me know!

For litter training, is he neutered? This will help long term in any case.

He won't be litter trained in the cage as, so far as he's concerned, he's living in a toilet. They definitely litter train better in a large space where they can have a designated corner and then get far far away from it, as you've already found! Would doing extensive bunny proofing and letting him free range 99% of the time be possible? You can leave the current cage open and let him come and go as he wishes and use it only as his "safe" spot, a place to get away from people for a bit. Does that make sense?

Let me know if you need me to elaborate on anything!

Thanks
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I can answer questions around the welfare of pet rabbits, basic health queries including gut stasis, diet worries, bonding questions and the proper welfare standards around housing rabbits (i.e. no wire floors, no small cages and they should be kept in properly bonded de-sexed pairs in very large enclosures). I cannot answer showing questions nor complex breeding issues as I do not agree with either, seeing the other end of the story in the world of rabbit rescue.

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I have two 7 year old rescue rabbits and volunteer for a well established rabbit rescue here in the UK, both physically doing cleaning out etc and I am also their events and awareness co-oordinator, helping educate the general public on proper rabbit keeping, this means I have to ensure all information I give is correct and matches current welfare standards.

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I belong to the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund) and volunteer for a major rabbit rescue.

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I have no formal education on this subject, however read everything I can to keep up to date with current welfare standards and health problems. Both my rabbits have sensitive guts and constantly keep me on my toes.

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