In domestic or wild rabbits, lactation is of very short duration. The doe feeds her kittens once a day, for 3 to 5 minutes. The babies are not nurtured much by their mother and are often left alone in the nest during the day. Rabbits are not very maternal, but this is nothing to worry about. You can always check that the kittens have a full stomach and that they’re in good general condition. The young rabbits will open their eyes around the age of 10 days and the weaning will take place between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Starting at 2 weeks of life we can start feeding them hay, feed and dark green leafy vegetables. As well, they can drink on their own.
Orphan kittens Sometimes, kittens can be abandoned by their mother or become orphans. In these cases, we must feed them ourselves with milk replacer for kittens, or using the kitten milk replacer recipe provided at the end of this document. They must be fed with a syringe or ideally a kitten bottle. See infant care section.
The first week of life, it is necessary to give 2 to 2.5 ml every 12 hours. At the second week of life, give 5 to 7 ml every 12 hours. Then, from the third to the sixth week, give 13 to 15 ml every 12 hours and also offer hay, feed, dark green leafy vegetables and water. Weaning should occur around 6 to 8 weeks. The more solid food the rabbit eats, the less milk replacer is provided. Weaning is a critical period for kittens. They have a weak immune system and intestinal bacterial flora, which increases the risks of catching diseases and pathogens. Few orphan rabbits survive after separation from their mother, despite the care received.
How to feed:
- Prepare the mixture/ milk replacer and heat it in a bain-marie or in the microwave.
- Check the temperature by putting some milk on your wrist.
- Hold the kitten on its stomach and feed it its milk orally.
- After feeding, rub the rabbit’s hindquarters with a warm, wet wipe to stimulate urination and defecation.
Ideally, the kittens should stay warm in the doe’s nest. Otherwise, put them in a cage with a thin wire mesh and stuff the bottom with blankets. The ambient temperature should be between 20°C and 23°C.
Kitten milk replacer recipe
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) corn syrup
Can be kept for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.