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Since I got a rabbit a couple months ago, he's been eating mainly kangkong, a vegetable popular in Southeast Asia in the morning glory family. (It's also called "water spinach," but it is not a Brassica.) Some research (1, 2) suggests that this food is alone suitable for raising healthy rabbits, but mine is a pet, not livestock.

He has never eaten any hay. When we go for walks, he likes to nibble on grass and random plants, but it's not a significant part of his diet. He seems healthy and active. There was some tooth decay, but it's gone away since I stopped feeding carrots and tomatoes. He eats his poop and then leaves hard pellets, which is supposed to signify good digestive health.

Today I finally found some hay. He sniffed it with curiosity, then turned it down.

Should I be concerned? Is there a longer-term risk?

  • Several months on, and he eats a kilo per day. No ill effects, aside from ~1/2 liter of pee. He's a machine. – Potatoswatter Aug 2 '14 at 4:41
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This is a very good question, I have parts of the answer, but this answer will not be conclusive. The dietary requirements of livestock rabbits has been the subject of much research, but as you correctly point out, the requirements of pet rabbit are different and not as much research exists for the pet population.

You have made a good choice in limiting carrots and tomatoes which are not a healthy choice think of them more like candy, occasionally OK in moderation.

The primary question here is the appropriateness of kangkong for long term diet. The first place I looked was the Suggested Vegetables list at rabbit.org which does not provide an answer but does indicate the difference between leafy greens in the suggested diet is the amount of oxalic acid high levels can be problematic in for long term use, with kidney stones being the concern. Spinach is notably high in Oxalic acid, but "water spinach" is not a member of the spinach family.

So what is the 'Oxalic acid' content of 'Ipomoea aquatica' (kangkong)? There are lots of answers to that question 1, 2, 3, 4, and I don't find a reliable reference that clearly defines it. Some sources say high, some say low, some don't say. So pending a clear reliable reference the 'Oxalic acid' content of 'Ipomoea aquatica' should be considered potentially high.

Is 'Ipomoea aquatica' (kangkong) an acceptable substitute for hay? Hay is a critical part of a rabbits diet the two primary reasons being to keep the ever growing teeth worn down, and to assist in moving hair through the digestive tract to prevent hairballs from being problematic. While both of these issues are potentially life threatening they are not acute, they develop slowly over time, so regular visits to a qualified rabbit vet should be sufficient for monitoring for these symptoms.

In Summary While not definitive there are potential risks, you should be concerned. There are potential long term impacts, with kidney stones being the highest risk of sudden onset. Sudden diet changes can be fatal and would be of much greater concern than the risks of the current diet. Hay should be available 24 hours a day, with leafy greens feed 1 to 3 times daily. You can begin transitioning over a couple of weeks to a cost effective choice from the Suggested Vegetables list at rabbit.org in our family, romaine lettuce is the primary leafy green choice. With hay always available your bunny should begin to eat it between meals, and it should become a staple part of both keeping their belly full and an enjoyable daily activity.

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  • I should mention that he eats a lot of it. We feed bunches throughout the day, because he doesn't seem to self-regulate. Also it provides all his water; he doesn't even seem to know what the water dish is for. And, the "water spinach" name isn't even apt; it comprises mainly thick, fibrous stems. The leaves are tastier but the scent of stems also puts him in seek-and-destroy mode. Well, no harm in keeping the hay around and seeing if he develops an interest. And, we'll check in with the vet at some point. – Potatoswatter May 31 '14 at 14:01
  • Maybe a first step could be to add gras-like plants with longer fibres to the rabbits diet. Some rabbits do not like dry food, so you can first try to feed them fresh plants (of which the hay will be made of) – Allerleirauh Aug 27 '19 at 17:26

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