Caring For Your Pregnant Rabbit
Book Focus: “The Rabbit Handbook” by David Taylor has a great chapter on breeding rabbits, including caring for a pregnant rabbit, mating rabbits and caring for the babies (called “kits”.) We certainly recommend it as a more thorough resource if the following article doesn’t answer all of your questions.
Is your rabbit pregnant? Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a female rabbit is pregnant or not. Even veterinarians may have a hard time discerning if a rabbit is pregnant. One thing you may notice is that the female will not like any advances from the male, therefore you know she is pregnant. You may also be able to feel the kits (young rabbits) in her stomach, which will feel like little marbles. Once you determine that your rabbit is pregnant, there are a few tips you should know about caring for the mother and her litter once they are born.
Firstly, we will look at how to care for the mother during pregnancy. The gestation period for rabbits is only thirty one days. When her time has nearly come (after twenty eight days) your rabbit will prepare a nest of hay and fur so she can give birth. She may leave this till only one day before having her litter.
You dont need to change the type or amount of food you feed your pregnant rabbit, as long as you have been feeding her a nutritious and adequate diet before pregnancy.
Once the female is ready to give birth, it can take up to 10 minutes and usually produce anywhere from seven to thirteen kits. Once they are born, the female may stay at a distance from her litter. Do not be concerned if she does this because it is normal for rabbits to do that.
The time it takes to give birth to the whole litter is surprisingly short, taking only about ten minutes. Then you will suddenly be presented seven to thirteen newborn kits. Once she has given birth, your rabbit will probably move to another part of the cage away from her kits. Thats to be expected. As soon as they are all born, make sure the babies are warm. If the kits do not feel warm, it is important to quickly warm them up. One of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to put a hot water bottle in the nest and cover it with a thick towel. The bottle needs to be warm, not hot. When you are happy with the temperature, place the babies gently on the towel.
If the male rabbit is still in the cage now is the best time to separate him from the others and have him spayed. Doing this will increase the chances of the kits surviving and prevent any more pregnancies.
You wont see the mother feed her kits during the day. She will wait till night time when she is unlikely to be disturbed. Stay away from her when she is feeding because if she doesnt feel safe, she may not feed her babies. If you notice that some of the kits are not warm and are underweight, they may not be getting enough milk.
You can hand feed the kits with special formulation cat milk which is sold at many pet stores and by some veterinarians. You cant bottle feed them because their mouths are too small; they need to be fed with a syringe or a medicine dropper two times a day. It can take a bit of time initially (around an hour) but as the kits become used to drinking from a dropper or syringe and you learn to handle the situation, it will only take about thirty minutes.
After about ten days the kits will open their eyes and they should be growing fur. When they are a month old you can start feeding them other things such as leafs of hay. Around ten weeks the kits will begin weaning, at which point they should be on solid rabbit food. Also the male can be brought back into the cage with the female and litter as long as he has been spayed.
This article has given you a few pointers on what youre likely to encounter if your rabbit is pregnant. But remember, this is a special time so dont forget to enjoy your pets, especially the tiny ones!