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Are rabbits rodents?

Our veterinarians in Oak Grove address common misconceptions about rabbits being rodents and explain the differences between the two. They also provide tips for caring for and feeding your pet rabbit.

Are rabbits rodents or mammals?

There is a common misconception about whether rabbits are rodents or not and which family they belong to. In this post, we will clarify the confusion and provide practical advice for their care. 

Rabbits belong to the Leporidae family, one of two families in the Lagomorpha order of mammals, the other being Ochotonidae or the Pika family.

Although rabbits and rodents share some similarities, history is partly responsible for the confusion between the two. 

The rabbit and other lagomorphs were previously classified under Rodentia (rodents) until the early 20th century, which includes rats, squirrels, mice, and marmots. 

However, upon closer inspection, there are three significant differences between lagomorphs and rodents.

Rabbits have different digestive systems

The charming tales of Peter Rabbit and the Easter Bunny lose their appeal when considering their digestive system.

The cecum sits at the head of the large intestine and houses beneficial bacteria that break down and ferment cellulose in plants.

Because rabbits need to maximize the digestion of vegetation, they essentially eat their food twice, which increases the amount of nutrients they absorb.

It's worth noting that certain rodents possess a cecum. When rabbits eat plant material, it passes through their digestive system and emerges as a soft black pellet called a caecotroph.

The rabbits then consume the caecotroph and undergo another round of chewing and digestion before eventually excreting the familiar hard round pellets that rabbit owners are accustomed to seeing.

Though some rodents also engage in this process referred to as coprophagy, it's an exception, whereas all rodents do.

Rabbits are almost exclusively herbivorous

While rabbits and rodents both consume plant matter, rodents have a more diversified diet that includes roots, grains, seeds, and nuts. Rabbits, on the other hand, are obligate herbivores, meaning their diet primarily consists of vegetation.

Rabbits have four incisor teeth

Rabbits have four incisor teeth, whereas rodents only have two. In addition to their top incisors, rabbits also have smaller peg-like teeth. These teeth are about ¼ the size of their first set of incisors, and many believe they may help rabbits bite through vegetation more easily.

However, misalignment of these teeth can cause dental problems, which require the attention of a veterinarian experienced in caring for rabbits. Another distinguishing feature is the color of their incisors - rodents' incisors are orange, while rabbits' are white.

The Care and Feeding of Rabbits

Want to keep your rabbit healthy, fed and well-cared for? Here's what to keep in mind:

Provide vegetables and leafy, fresh greens

About 10 to 20 percent of your rabbit's diet should consist of vegetables such as broccoli, celery, beet tops, Asian greens, spinach leaves, and Brussels sprouts. You might also try herbs and dark-leafed lettuce such as parsley, dandelion, dill, and coriander.

Offer a constant supply of high-quality grass hay and fresh grass

Grass hay and fresh grass should make up about 80 percent of your rabbit's diet - think Ryegrass hays, pasture, oaten, wheaten, Timothy, meadow, and paddock.

Skip alfalfa and Clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium and may cause your long-eared companion to develop urinary stones.

Avoid cereals and grains

Rabbits that eat cereals and grains may experience nutritional imbalance or obesity - conditions that will need to be treated by your vet.

Keep feeding habits consistent

Whatever your rabbit's normal diet, make any changes that may be required gradually - spaced out over 2 to 3 weeks - to decrease the risk of upsetting your rabbit's digestive system.

Give your rabbit objects to chew on

Since rabbits' teeth continually grow, they must keep them trimmed and shaped by chewing on hard objects. We recommend old cotton towels, paper, hay, books, chew blocks or apple branches.

Provide enough love, attention & companionship

Rabbits possess unique personality traits akin to other pets and are known for being gentle, social, and sensitive animals. They are typically most active during the dawn and dusk hours.

Though rabbits may feel restricted when held, they enjoy approaching people on their own terms. To interact with a rabbit, speak calmly and soothingly while petting them gently between the eyes as they come closer.

Schedule annual exams with your vet

Just like dogs and cats, your rabbit will require annual visits to the vet to undergo comprehensive physical examinations. These visits will help detect any signs of illness early on so that proper treatment can be provided. Moreover, you'll get a chance to ask any questions you may have about your rabbit's health during these routine check-ups.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about the health of your pet rabbit? Our veterinarians in Oak Grove provide care for exotic pets. Schedule an appointment today at Oak Grove Animal Hospital

We Are Always Welcoming New Patients

Oak Grove Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about animal health and are proud to serve our patients. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment and to get started.

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