Taking Care of your Pregnant RabbitDr. Bobby Ortiz M.V.B
Rabbits can reproduce from as young as 4 months, so if you own a male (buck) and female (doe) rabbit who have not been neutered yet, there is a high probability that they’ll have a litter. Rabbit litters can vary in size but generally there are 2-12 babies, called ‘kittens’ or more commonly, ‘kits’. Smaller breeds tend to have smaller litters, with larger breeds of rabbit producing more kits per litter.
It’s important to know what to expect from your pregnant rabbit so you can ensure they are given the proper care and treatment. In this blog post, I’ll explain symptoms of pregnancy, caring for your pregnant rabbit, and what happens next.
Symptoms of Rabbit Pregnancy
If you believe your rabbit is pregnant, there are a few ways you can tell, so watch out for:
- Nest building –does will begin to collect materials such as hay or straw to build a nest for her kit.
- Pulling fur-Does will also pull off fur from their chest (called a ‘dewlap’) to use as sides or a blanket to put into nest to warm her babies.
- Aggression – the pregnant doe may growl defensively, or retract when you try to pet or stroke her.
- Feel for bumps: A great way to tell if your rabbit is pregnant is by gently feeling her belly after two weeks. You may feel a small, grape-sized lump.
If you notice these symptoms, I recommend taking your rabbit to your vet so they can confirm or deny the pregnancy and provide care advice going forward. Gestation usually last between 30-32 days on average.
The Birthing Process
A female rabbit giving birth is called a ‘kindling’ and her babies are known as ‘kittens’ or more commonly, ‘kits’. Before and after the birth, make sure she gets plenty of water and fresh food to keep her energy levels up. If her male mate lives with her, it is a good idea to keep them separate for a while due to increased aggression from the doe.
The birthing process usually takes around 30 minutes. There is no need to intervene while she is giving birth and it is best to leave her alone; however, you should monitor every now and then. Ensure the kindling is kept in a quiet, stress-free environment and if possible a covered box for her to craft her nest in.
Once she has given birth, she will clean the kits, eat her placenta and usually cut the umbilical cord herself. You may notice her ingesting any afterbirth substances up to 5 days post parturition; this is completely normal behaviour, and nothing to be worried about.
After Birth Care
After birth, it is advised to monitor the doe and kits, but to leave the mother to care for them. Any disturbance can cause undue stress on the doe, and could lead to abandonment of her babies.
Female rabbits usually nurse overnight, lasting for about 5 minutes in total. Does have 4 mammary glands, but you may notice she has more nipples; this is so she can feed all her kits. Don’t worry if the mother isn’t appearing to be spending much time with them; it is normal for kits only to be fed once or twice a day.
Make sure the male mate is still separate from the mother; rabbits can get pregnant again immediately after giving birth!
Looking After The Kits
Most baby rabbits will be cared for by their mother and require no assistance from humans. They are usually weaned when they reach 4-5 weeks old. You can gently handle baby rabbits when they’re about ten days old. This helps them become comfortable around humans, which is especially important as they grow older. Make sure you handle with clean hands to remove bacteria and eliminate any smells from other objects that may stress the babies or the mother.
The kits will bury themselves in the nest and begin to eat it when they are around 1-2 weeks old. They will start to explore more and eating hay around 2-4 weeks old. By 4 weeks, they are on their own and will need access to fresh drinking water. It is a good idea to place a water bottle down low on the enclosure so the kits will be able to access it.
Watch Out for False Pregnancies
Sometimes rabbits experience a false pregnancy, where the doe may display usual pregnancy symptoms such as nest building. The most certain way to know for sure if your doe is pregnant is by taking her to your vet. If you want to avoid your rabbit getting pregnant, I recommend getting your rabbits spayed/neutered.
Any More Questions?
If you have any concerns regarding your rabbit’s health, I recommend you consult with your local veterinarian. For more on feeding and caring for your rabbit, speak to a member of the Petmania team in store today.