Why is Timothy Hay the Best Hay for Your Pet Rabbit?

Why is Timothy Hay the Best for Your Pet Rabbit
Why is Timothy Hay the Best for Your Pet Rabbit

What Makes Timothy Hay the Best for Your Pet Rabbit? I am asked that question all the time. Let’s answer it right now.

Timothy hay is the best hay for your pet rabbit because it provides just the right balance of nutrients your rabbit needs. Some other choices may not provide the right balance. Having the right hay is important because your pet rabbit needs hay for digestive, dental, and muscle health.

Why Is Timothy Hay A Better Choice Than Alfalfa Hay for Your Pet Rabbit?

One common type of hay that is considered a good choice among pet owners is Alfalfa Hay. While it does have its good qualities, Timothy hay tips the scales for well-balanced hay for a pet rabbit. We compared the similarities and differences of Timothy hay vs. Alfalfa hay.

What Is It?Similarities?Differences?
Timothy
Hay and Alfalfa
Hay
Both Timothy hay and
Alfalfa hay are forages
available to provide to
your pet rabbit.

Both provide a benefit to a rabbit at some point in their life.
Alfalfa hay contains higher
concentrations of protein
and calcium.

Alfalfa hay belongs to the
legume family,where Timothy hay belongs to the grass
family.

Calcium metabolism in rabbits is different than other species. Rabbits excrete excess calcium due to their ability to absorb calcium. Because of their unique metabolic system, rabbits may be at risk of urinary stones if they are fed sources with too much calcium. This is why it is important to feed your pet rabbit Timothy hay to provide a balanced source of calcium and avoid urinary stones.

What Is the Nutritional Composition of Timothy Hay Vs. Alfalfa Hay?

Nutrient Timothy Hay Alfalfa Hay
Crude Protein (%) 8.0 13.0
Crude Fat (%) 2.6 1.3
Crude Fiber (%) 34.0 38.0
Acid Detergent Fiber (%) 40.0 45.0
Neutral Detergent Fiber (%) 65.0 59.0
Ash (%) 5.0 8.0
Calcium (%) 0.4 1.2
Phosphorus (%) 0.2 0.2

What Else Should You Know About Timothy Hay Vs. Alfalfa Hay?

  • Alfalfa hay is not all bad, it can be useful in certain situations like for a rabbit with certain health issues, or a picky rabbit.
  • Baby rabbits also benefit from having Alfalfa hay at first due to the higher protein and calcium content present.
  • At around 7 months it is considered an appropriate time to use Timothy hay as the everyday source for hay.
  • Timothy hay is considered the “gold standard of nutrition” for hay, as it is the best overall hay to use for rabbits.
  • Legume hay, which is what Alfalfa hay is classified as, is denser than grass hay, which Timothy hay is classified as.
  • Alfalfa hay can be fed as treat hay due to its high density.
  • Other grass hays that can be used to entice your rabbit if they are not eating their Timothy Hay are orchard or oat hay.
  • Your pet rabbit’s diet should be: 75% hay, 20% rabbit pellets, 5% treats.

Why Is Timothy Hay A Big Deal for Rabbit Chewing?

To begin, Timothy hay is extremely high in fiber. This is very important to your rabbit’s digestive health. Their digestive tracts are specially adapted to break down fibrous vegetation. If you give your pet rabbit too many treats, and not enough fiber to keep the digestive system moving, it may throw off their digestive health. This can lead to obesity as well as gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea. On the more severe end, gastrointestinal stasis may occur, which means the rabbit’s digestive tract becomes compact and cannot pass anything through. This can be a potentially deadly condition.

Not only is Timothy hay important for what goes on after it gets digested, but it is helpful for the rabbit while eating. Chewing of Timothy hay is highly beneficial to the dental health of a rabbit because a rabbit’s teeth continue to grow. The hay helps to wear down the teeth. Rabbits who do not eat enough Timothy hay are more susceptible to have dental issues such as molar spurs, sores, and infections in the mouth. These issues may compromise the health of your rabbit, as well as their ability to use their mouth for activities like eating. If a loss of appetite occurs, GI stasis is more likely to become an issue. If these issues become severe enough, they may need to be corrected by a veterinarian.

Providing a sufficient amount of Timothy hay for your pet rabbit is essential for providing healthy muscles as well. A diet high in long strand crude fiber will help promote well-toned digestive muscles. This will aid your rabbit in passing any hair or food through its digestive system.

Many know, but some may not, Timothy hay is not a treat. This is a great thing because rabbits do not think of treats the same way humans do. They are strictly herbivores. Quality rabbit care should not include fruit, nuts, seeds, etc., because these are not in their diet naturally. Rabbits thrive when they are fed a diet of high-quality Timothy hay and the occasional leafy green.

1st, 2nd, And 3rd Cutting of Timothy Hay for Pet Rabbits: What’s the Difference?

  • 1st cutting: The 1st cutting is full of fiber and is a great choice for rabbits who may have gastrointestinal issues. Even rabbits who may need to shed a little bit of weight would benefit from the 1st cutting. This hay is high in stem and low in leaf, which means it is not quite as soft as the second cutting of Timothy hay, but it’s still enjoyable for the rabbits.
  • 2nd cutting: This is a well-balanced choice for any rabbit. With large amounts of fiber, protein, and fat, this hay is one that should make up approximately 80% of your pet rabbit’s diet. This hay is beneficial for cleaning teeth, foraging, and keeping the GI tract moving.
  • 3rd cutting: The 3rd cutting is super soft, green, and high in leaf. There are lower levels of fiber present in this cut, but higher levels of protein and fat present. This hay is perfect for rabbits who need to add on some extra weight or any bunny that’s looking for a yummy treat.

Where Should You Purchase Timothy Hay for Your Pet Rabbit?

When it comes to finding quality Timothy hay for your pet rabbit, this can be found at most pet stores. Make sure you keep an eye out for quality when taking this route. Check for variation in color and texture, as hay should be more vibrantly colored rather than “dusty” looking. While this is an okay choice to feed your rabbit if you are finding quality hay, the most economical choice is to purchase the hay from local farmers. This can easily be found in your local classifieds.

Hay can be purchased in bulk (by the bale) for much less than you would pay in a pet store for just a bag of hay. You pay much more for hay from a pet store because you are paying for the brand, packaging, transportation, and retailer’s markup, rather than just the hay. One bale, if stored properly (a cool, dry place), can feed a rabbit for months. If there are no local farmers in your area, hay can be bought in bulk online for less as well.

Timothy hay is the most well-balanced, all-around nutritionally sound choice of hay for the general population of rabbits. While other types of hay like Alfalfa hay may be good when used for treats or baby rabbits who are growing, the calcium and density are not suitable the majority of the time. Having hay is essential for a rabbit’s digestion, dental health, and muscle building, and it is important to make sure you are feeding your rabbit the type of hay that is most suitable for their needs. Choosing to add Timothy hay to your rabbit’s diet will give you a happy, healthy rabbit.