Hand-raising Baby Buns
It is always best to let the bunny mom bun take care of her own kits, however, sometimes kits are separated from their mom and found alone. Cats often bring in “found” kits. Very young moms (under 6 months) may refuse to feed the kits. Sadly, sometimes mommy bun dies. If you find yourself in the situation of having to care for a baby bun without mom present, here is what you can do:
Get the babies to a lactating female
If there is a lactating mom present (even if it isn’t the kits’ actual 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 bunny milk is their best hope of survival.
If none of these solutions are available to you, you can attempt to hand-raise the buns.
Hand-raising baby bunnies
You will need:
Royal Kitty (Baby Cat) Milk (no other brands are recommended)
1 ml & 2ml syringes
Protexin (animal probiotics from a vet or Vetshop)
A small notepad and pen to record feeding times and amounts
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 or water and honey for a short time in an emergency simply to keep the kit hydrated, until you can get proper kitty milk.
Mix the kitty milk according to the instructions on the container or to the consistency of pouring cream. Add a pinch of Protexin to the mix. 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 more easily.
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 th at 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 bunny mom. Kits are more likely to aspirate when fed upside down.
Don’t use a kitty bottle
Bunny 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 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.
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