Tuesday, 20 December 2011

HAY IS HAY, RIGHT?

To most people, hay is hay. They don't know the difference between Alfalfa and grass hays such as Brome or Timothy. But there is a huge difference, one more importantly that impacts the health of pet rabbits.

Alfalfa is a legume, not a type of grass. The digestive system of rabbits is geared toward the low levels of nutrition and carbohydrates found in grass. Alfalfa contains much more of both supplying too much for a bunny to metabolize. The excess ends up as fat. Alfalfa, particularly the pelleted form, is geared toward fattening livestock in the prime of their lives.

As rabbits age, they need less nutrition and carbohydrates for growth. Like humans, overweight bunnies suffer from arthritis, congestive heart failure, and many other geriatric illnesses.

As I wrote in When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), I deliberately searched for growers of grass hay. I understood that my bunny, Gideon, needed roughage from a non-Alfalfa hay. My diligent search was rewarded, as this excerpt from my book shows.

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When December arrived, I discovered that I was almost out of hay. While talking with the woman who ran a grocery store, I learned about a farmer who grew the grass kind, not Alfalfa. I called the number and the farmer delivered the bails later that week. He only charged five dollars each and since he was so kind in hauling them to my house, I gave him a five-dollar tip.

I had taken a risk buying three bails, but fortunately the bunnies liked the hay. Poor Harry still had bouts of diarrhea and the grass hay seemed to help lessen them.

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When a Man Loves a Rabbit is filled with many more fascinating stories of life with house bunnies. These vignettes range from the tragic to the hilarious. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.