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I adopted a 1 year old neutered New Zealand boy a little over a year ago. He weighed 8.75 lb when we adopted him. Ever since we adopted him he's been slowly gaining weight. All of our 4 rabbits live cage free, have unlimited supply of hay (timothy and orchard), no pellets, greens in the morning and evening.
As I said, he weighed 8.75 and now he is at 9.58 lb. And it doesn't stop. We've had him on a strict diet of no breakfast, the equivalent of 2 twigs of parsley (varies each day) in the evening and unlimited hay for the last 9 months. Our other buns receive their greens when he is not around so he can't snack there. He's been seen by our vet, but he got a clean bill of health.
He has a small dewlap and looks a little chubby.

Any idea what could cause this steady weight gain?

Thank you in advance for your help

Dear Andrea,

> Any idea what could cause this steady weight gain?

Yes. His genes.

New Zealand rabbits were originally bred as meat animals (I hate even writing that), and they have been artificially selected by breeders to put on weight with relatively little caloric input.  It's a curse of his breed.

I would not deprive him of his breakfast.  Instead, provide him with a pile of fresh greens (which are NOT going to make him fat!) such as parsley, cilantro, kale, dark green lettuces, etc.  The main thing that makes a bunny fat is pelleted food, and if you're withholding that, you're doing the best you can.

If he's active, then he's getting exercise that will help his body support his weight.  There are some rabbits who are just going to be a bit chubby, no matter what you do.  It's the tragedy of their genetic heritage.  You can't starve him to death to make him slim.  It's just not going to happen, and it's not fair to him.

Not everyone will agree with me on this, but here goes...

So take a deep breath, appreciate his zaftig morph, and do the best you can to keep him healthy without making his life one of deprivation.  Give him those big green salads and unlimited hay, and even an occasional treat.  Life is too short.

Just my two cents.

Hope it helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

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For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

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Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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