Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Hand-rearing rabbits

Contributor(s): Molly Varga, Anna Meredith

Introduction

  • Rabbit kittens can require hand-rearing if they are true orphans due to maternal death, or because of mis-mothering or lactational failure of the doe.
  • It is important to remember that does only suckle the kittens once every 24 hours, at night, for a period of only 5 minutes or so. The rest of the time she will leave them in the nest and ignore them completely - this is a survival strategy to avoid drawing the attention of predators to the nest.
  • Does with a new litter can take 24 hours to start lactating. Mis-mothering can be diagnosed if the kits have not been fed for 48 hours. Unfed kits will have thin abdomens and wrinkled skin.
  • Hand-rearing is difficult and time-consuming, especially if the kits are under 7 days old. It should not be undertaken lightly, but successfully raising an orphan is enormously rewarding. The most common causes of failure and death are aspiration pneumonia   Pneumonia  due to inhalation of milk into the lungs, and diarrhea   Sticky bottom syndrome  due to the failure to establish a normal gut flora.

Print off the owner factsheetRearing orphan kittens   Rearing orphan kittens   to give to your client.

Housing

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Milk substitutes

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Feeding regime

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Weaning

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers


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