It is always best to let a mom bun take care of her own kits. However, sometimes kits are separated from moms and found alone. Cats often bring in “found” kits. Very young moms (under 6 months) may refuse to feed the kits. Sadly, sometimes mommy buns die. If you find yourself in the situation of having to care for a baby bun with no mom here is what you can do.
If there is a live mom you can coax her to let the kits feed by holding her over the nest. Alternatively you can lie her on her side and put the kits on her. Be gentle and patient. There really is not good substitute for mommy bun milk so the effort will be worth it. You can put the kits to her teats twice a day. The milk is very rich so this is enough.
If coaxing mom to feed is not possible, look for a mom bun with kits of a similar age and see if she will adopt them. This might mean that the kits don’t get to stay with you. Even though this might feel hard for you, remember that getting rabbit milk is their best option.
You Will Need:
If none of these solutions are available to you, you can attempt to hand raise the buns. You will need:
- Royal Kitty Milk (no other brands are recommended)
- 2 ml & 5ml syringes
- Protexin (animal probiotics)
- A small notepad and pen to record feeding times and amounts
- Baby wipes
- A lot of patience
If you live near an experienced hand-raiser it is highly recommended that you get lessons before you try to feed your kits. Feeding mistakes are usually fatal for the kits. If you can’t get Royal Kitty Milk right away, you can use Evaporated Milk in an emergency. Water and honey can also be used short term, to keep the kit hydrated, until you can get proper kitty milk.
Mix the kitty milk and protexin according to the instructions on the containers. Don’t skip the protexin. Hand-raised kits are very susceptible to tummy upsets which can quickly become fatal. If you can get a rubber tip for the syringe, this will help the kit feed.
Hold the kit upright in one hand with your fingers firmly around the head. With your other hand put the syringe in the kits mouth. Behind the front teeth there is a gap with no teeth. Put the syringe in through this gap. Squeeze the syringe very gently and very slowly. Kits cannot cough. If milk goes down the wrong way your kits will “aspirate”, i.e. die. Feeding young kits is messy. You can gently clean your kit with baby wipes however, be careful not to leave your kit wet. Kits cannot regulate body temperature.
Keep a record of the time of feeds and how much your kits drinks. This is particularly important if you are feeding a whole litter as it can be harder to keep track of otherwise.
Kits aged 1-7 days: Feed 1-2ml every 3 hours. You cannot do a big feed before bed and sleep through the night. You need to get up and feed. The reason for this is that bun milk is much richer than kitty milk. Mom buns only need to feed small amounts once or twice per day but you will need to feed much more regularly for your kits to survive. Total 12-16ml per day.
Kits aged 8-14 days: Feed 2-3ml every 3 hours during the day with one night feed. Total 20-24ml per day.
Kits aged 2-4 weeks: Feed 5ml every 4 hours. Once your kit understands what feeding is about you will be able to put it on a solid surface and just offer the syringe. The kit will take the syringe and suck furiously. Remember to regulate the milk flow. Even though it’s a relief that things are going faster, aspiration is still a danger. Kits at this age will also start to eat solids. Soft leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce), oat hay and lucerne are good first foods. Introduce new foods one at a time. Total milk 20-24ml per day.
Kits aged 4+weeks: At this age you can offer milk in a small bowl and let kits drink as much as they like. Continue to offer milk in a bowl as well as solids, up to at least 6 weeks of age. Some kits enjoy the syringe so much by this point (and their human moms enjoy the bond) that they continue to syringe feed. Either is fine.
- Don’t hold the kit upside down. Even though this is how they feed from their mom, you and your syringe are not a rabbit mom. Kits are more likely to aspirate when fed upside down.
- Don’t use a kitty bottle. Rabbit kits are MUCH smaller than cat kits. Unlike cats, they can’t cough. It is difficult to regulate the milk flow from a kitty bottle so your kits is more likely to aspirate or overfeed and get bloat.
- Don’t skip the protexin. Rabbit kits are very susceptible to tummy upsets which are quickly fatal.
- Don’t be lazy about feeding through the night. Your kit needs regular top ups to stay hydrated and to get the much needed nutrients for growth.