Prebble, J. L., Langford, F. M., Shaw, D. J. et al. 2015. The effect of four different feeding regimes on rabbit behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 169, 86-92.
Dietary composition and presentation impacts on the behaviour of animals, and failure to provide a suitable diet can lead to reduced welfare through the development of poor health, the inability to express normal behaviours and the development of abnormal behaviours. This study assessed the effects of two commonly fed pet rabbit diets (extruded nuggets with hay (EH) and muesli with hay (MH)) alongside hay only (HO) and muesli only (MO) on the behaviour of 32 Dutch rabbits observed over 17 months. Increased time spent feeding was observed in the groups fed ad libitum hay (HO, EH, MH) compared to the MO group (P < 0.05). A corresponding high level of inactivity was observed in the MO group compared to rabbits receiving hay (P < 0.05). In the groups provided with hay a preference to consume hay in a natural grazing posture was observed. The higher activity levels and absence of abnormal behaviours when hay was fed support recommendations that forage should form a significant portion of the diet for domestic rabbits.