Hay is one of the single most important things to your rabbit. It’s high in fiber, great for wearing down your rabbit’s teeth, and offers many nutrients essential to your rabbit’s health. Getting your rabbit to eat is usually never a problem, but eating the right thing can be. If your rabbit is not eating anything at all, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Not eating can be a very big indicator of other issues. But if your rabbit simply just won’t eat his timothy hay, then there are some steps you can take.
1. Make sure you don’t have faulty hay
Quality matters. Getting your rabbit to eat hay should never be an issue, and yet it won't. Often times this is due to a number of quality issues such as:
- Poorly packaged hay. Hay is delicate. The large scale providers do not have the resources to carefully hand pack hay. Machine packed hay is done indiscriminately and usually simply by weight. Often times, hay is packaged and shipped many times before arriving in your rabbit’s paws. Rabbits usually will not eat powdered hay and will drop and sort through all of the little bits looking for larger strands.
- Old or stale hay. Timothy Hay for rabbits has a surprisingly long shelf life. One year, if properly maintained, is completely fine. Hay that has been stored in the sun will be void of many of its nutrients and usually will be stale. Storing hay in sealed plastic bags can also be risky as it is susceptible to mildew.
2. Pick the right location
Rabbits tend to have preferred spots for everything. They like to eat here, poop there and play over there. This can either work for you or against you. Many times we try and fit our rabbits into our neat and tidy world. This can cause a lot of strife for us and them.
If your rabbit loves to eat in his litter box, feed him there. If you always sit on the couch and feed him his favorite treats don't be surprised when he only likes to eat next to the couch. Often times, feeding him where he wants to eat can shift the tide of rejecting the hay.
3. Keep an eye out for health issues
Rabbits have two very distinct chewing mechanics. Soft vegetables and small pellets require completely different chewing mechanics than timothy hay. If your rabbit hasn't been eating hay for some time, there is a good chance that he has spurs or over grown teeth. This can make chewing on hay very uncomfortable. If your rabbit is having teeth problems read this blog about how to deal with it. A visit to a rabbit savvy vet will be required.
4. Give your rabbit toys
Rabbits love to play, especially with their food. There are many rabbit-safe toys on the market that encourage play and eating. Here is one of our favorite feeding balls. Usually getting your rabbit to become more interested in eating hay, especially through the use of toys, is an interactive experience for both of you. One more note on using toys and hay together: It is a very messy activity. The good news is, once you are done playing with your rabbit small pieces of hay vacuum up easily.
5. Put a “Cherry” on Top
Ok… Don’t really put a cherry and sprinkles on your rabbit’s timothy hay, but the equivalent in the rabbit world is rabbit-safe herbs. Sage, rosemary, basil, parsley, peppermint and cilantro are all great additives to your rabbits hay. He will love it. Remember a little goes a long way, and often times the oils in these herbs are where the flavor is. So, rubbing the hay into the muddled up herbs will help spread around the delicious flavor.
Getting your rabbit to eat more timothy hay can be a challenge. It can also be a lot of fun and a great bonding experience between you and your rabbit. Be patient and have fun. Make sure that your rabbit is getting plenty of food and is eating. If he isn’t eating at all take him to the vet right away. Otherwise relax and train your rabbit to love the best food for him, Timothy Hay!