Few things cause more anxiety than weight. “Fat” and “thin” are in one sense relative concepts but, taken to the extremes of anorexia, obesity, malnutrition, or hedonism can cause real medical problems.
That’s true for humans, and it’s also true of rabbits as well. Even if you don’t have to worry about anyone “fat-shaming” your rabbit, you don’t want it to be so obese that it can’t move around properly. At the same time, just as different body types and weights are fine for different people, the same holds true for different rabbits, both individually and on a breed-by-breed basis.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at rabbit weights and how you can determine if your rabbit is at a healthy weight for its size and breed.
On average, adult domestic rabbits weigh around 2 to 11 lbs. Within that span there is a lot of variation according to breed, size, and the purpose for which the rabbit is raised.
To touch on the latter point first, fatter and heavier rabbits such as the French Lop are as big as they are in part because they’re fattened up before being sold for meat. If you have ever ordered rabbit for pâté rather than petting purposes, there’s a fair chance it was a French Lop or something similar.
Common rabbit breeds and their average weights include:
- American: 9 to 12 lbs
- Angora: 5 to 9.5 lbs
- Belgian Hare: 6 to 9.5 lbs
- Beveren: 8 to 11 lbs
- Californian: 8 to 10.5 lbs
- Champagne d’Argent: 9 to 12 lbs
- Creme d’Argent: 8.5 to 11 lbs
- Dutch: 3.5 to 5.5 lbs
- English Lop: 9 lbs
- French Lop: 10 lbs
- Harlequin: 6.5 to 9.5 lbs
- Havana: 4.5 to 6.5 lbs
- Netherland Dwarf: 2 to 2.5 lbs
- New Zealand: 9 to 12 lbs
- Palomino: 8 to 11 lbs
- Polish: 2.5 to 3.5 lbs
- Rhinelander: 6.5 to 10 lbs
- Satin: 8.5 to 11 lbs
- Silver Marten: 6 to 9.5 lbs
- Tan: 4 to 6 lbs
Cross-bred rabbits, meanwhile, are typically broken down into five size categories, Dwarf, Small, Medium, Large, and Giant, running the gamut from 2 to an astonishing 20 lbs. Needless to say, the heavier Giant rabbits aren’t typically meant to be kept as pets.
Indicators of Your Rabbit’s Weight
Deciding if you are “too thin” or “too fat” isn’t all about the numbers, however, and the same holds true for your rabbit. There are also several visual indicators that could help you determine whether your rabbit is underweight, overweight, or in good shape.
The biggest red flag for your rabbit being underweight is, unsurprisingly, ribs or bones showing up right against the skin. Whether they’re big or small, rabbits are meant to be balls of fluff, so if yours seems scrawny, chances are it’s being underfed or is otherwise suffering from a medical problem that is causing it to be underweight. Dangerously underweight rabbits tend to have depressions around the pelvis and spine, while the ribs are overrepresented against the chest. A lack of fat often means a lack of muscle for your rabbit, which means that they likely won’t be able to move around as quickly or fluidly as they normally should.
On the other hand, these same regions can also be an indicator that your rabbit is too fat. While you don’t want your rabbit to be so scrawny that their spine pokes up as you feel it along their back, you also don’t want them to be so fat that you can’t even feel their spine through all the rolls of fat. That may sound a bit hyperbolic, but in cases of rabbit obesity that is a distinct possibility. Large rolls of fat can also appear around their tail, ankles, and the folds beneath their chin, not to mention their stomach. While there’s nothing wrong with a plump rabbit, large rolls of fat that drag on the ground are a good indication that your rabbit has an obesity problem.
How to Help Rabbits Gain Weight
If you are worried that your rabbit is underweight, fear not, there are plenty of ways to perk and plump it up again.
The first and probably most obvious thing you’ll want to look at is how often you feed your rabbit. If you have already tried feeding it more, you’ll want to pay closer attention to whether your rabbit is actually eating its food and, if so, if it is eating all of it. If you find that your rabbit frequently leaves large portions of its meals, you’ll need to figure out why. There can be any number of reasons ranging from simply not having much of an appetite that day to a medical problem to aging. In the latter case, you can try feeding it foods richer in protein, since with age a rabbit may come to be deficient in it. In addition, you might try easier foods such as alfalfa hay and oats. If your rabbit continues to respond poorly, try giving it a treat or two to try and perk it up.
Your rabbit may also simply not like the type of food you’re feeding it. After all, if someone tried to feed you a meal you didn’t care for, it shouldn’t be a surprise to them that serving you more of something you already don’t like doesn’t make you want to eat more. If it’s been a few days and your rabbit’s appetite hasn’t improved, try switching food pellets. This can be especially helpful for older rabbits, who may again prefer pellets with a higher protein content, though you shouldn’t be too hasty to make that switch, either.
How to Help Rabbits Lose Weight
On the flip side, rabbits also tend to put on weight as they get older (who among us doesn’t?), so you may want to feed them pellets that have fewer calories. Of course, you could also try simply feeding them fewer pellets as well, or cutting back on treats. You don’t need to overfeed your rabbits – a little goes a long way with them. Age plays a key role in how much you should feed your rabbits, with young rabbits needing roughly half a cup of pellets per 6 lbs, mature rabbits needing a quarter of a cup, and older rabbits being fed more or fewer pellets according to their needs. Veggies are an important part of any healthy diet, and you’ll also want to make sure your rabbits are getting enough of these as well.
How to Check Your Rabbit’s Weight
There are many things you can do to get a better sense of your rabbit’s weight, not the least of which being taking a more hands-on approach. As mentioned above, big rolls of fat are a huge indication that your rabbit is overweight, but simply eyeballing your rabbit isn’t a good way of evaluating it. For one thing, depending on your rabbit’s breed, the length or shortness of its fur can exaggerate or mask rolls of fat or bony areas. You’ll thus want to gently feel your rabbit’s back and other critical areas for determining its overall weight.
Of course, just because you can feel fat doesn’t mean your rabbit is overweight, just as feeling bones doesn’t mean that your rabbit is underweight. In fact, being able to feel fat and bones at the same time is a good indication that your rabbit is in good health and at a healthy weight. If it starts to become hard to feel your rabbit’s ribs or spine, for example, or you only feel bones with no soft fat around them, chances are your rabbit is over or underweight.
In addition, you’ll want to take a top-down view of your rabbit. A healthy rabbit’s body is often somewhat pear-shaped, with fatter haunches and slimmer waist and shoulder areas. If your rabbit looks like a big furry shapeless blob, chances are it is overweight.
You’ll also want to view your rabbit from the side. Their body should slope upward in a consistent curve, not be angularly thin. Conversely, if your rabbit doesn’t have a curve from their chest to their shoulders but a straight line down to a large stomach, chances are your rabbit is too fat.
That said, one of the most important things to consider when determining whether your rabbit is actually fat or not is whether these things are normal for its breed. You’ll thus want to make sure you take your rabbit to a veterinarian regularly so you can speak with a specialist who can examine your rabbit properly and determine whether it is actually underweight, overweight, and what the proper steps to take should be. What’s more, if your rabbit’s weight loss or gain is indeed due to a medical condition, they can diagnose and treat it in a quick and timely manner.
You love your rabbit, and want to make sure that it lives as long, healthy, and happy a life as possible. By examining your rabbit carefully, consulting the experts, and adjusting your rabbit’s diet, you can make sure it stays at a size and weight that is perfect for your rabbit.