Animal Care - Caring For Baby Rabbits - by Sandy Koi


In The Spirit Of Saint Melangell

This, the story of Harvey and Millie, and their four surviving babies, Miffy, Arby, Melangell, (named after Saint Melangell, the Celtic patron saint of Rabbits), and Marshmallow, is not unusual. It is an unfortunate shared reality of many who find themselves caring for Rabbits who have been bred by default. Default meaning the results of not having Spay and Neuter surgery performed when Rabbits are sexually mature.

Whether caring for Rabbits who have been seperated from their Mothers to early, caring for Cottontails orphaned or mistakenly "rescued", or a shelter Rabbit who has come in to a local Shelter pregnant, over and over again the hard to accept facts of Rabbits and their sensitive digestive nature, as well as other care needs, becomes evident through stories such as these.

Luckily, others have gone before us and have learned the how to's and how not to's of both the care of orphaned Rabbits, and families of Rabbits. One of these people, Sandi Koi has had extensive experience in this area through both her wildlife rehab work and her domestic Rabbit rescue work.

Sandi has graciously allowed us to publish an edited version of an article that she wrote, Domestic Rabbit Rehabilitation: A Health Care Handbook for Wildlife Rehabilitators, Veterinary Technicians, And Animal Shelter Caregivers.

Before we go to her article though, we wanted to share with you the story behind the pictures that illustrate Sandi's article.

On January 3, 2000, Mary, of Louisville Kentucky, read a post on Pet Bunny, an internet newsgroup for people who love and care for Rabbits, about two abandoned Rabbits in nearby Lexington. She contacted the person who had found them at a garage where they had been dumped. She learned that they had been living under rusty cars for several weeks. They were also out of time, the woman reporting them could no longer watch over them, and was concerned that the female might be pregnant. Despite a limited amount of experience with Rabbits, and no experience with Baby Rabbits, with no other more experienced people offering to rescue them, Mary decided to take the Rabbits in.

She picked up Millie and Harvey on January 8th and immediately took them to her veterinarian for a check-up. Harvey's front teeth were badly misaligned, the top ones behind the bottom ones, and were so overgrown that he couldn't open his mouth very far. He was starving. Both were filthy, malnourished, had ear infections and fungal infections on their skin. Since Millie was in such poor shape, there was some thought that she should be spayed, since she might not be strong enough to go through giving birth. The Vet palpated her abdomen (and also x-rayed her), and it was subsequently found that she was full term and could give birth at any time, so a spay at that point wasn't an option.

Millie delivered nine babies on January 14th. After the ninth one was born, Mary knew something was wrong, but wasn't sure what. Instead of placing it in the nest, she just dropped it onto the cage floor. It was the largest of the litter. She then laid down, and the next thing Mary saw was her vagina/uterus prolapsing, blood was pouring out of her. Mary wrapped her up in a towel and raced to the emergency clinic. She was in shock upon arrival, and died while the Vetrinary staff began their work. The vet discovered that her uterine artery had torn when the prolapse occurred, and she'd lost so much blood that there was nothing that would have saved her. Mary returned home and tried to clean up the babies as best she could. They and the nest had been splattered with blood. She managed to save a good part of the nest Millie had made, and the babies were put into it. As Mary thought, the smell of their Mother was an important part of Mary's ability to give them what they would percieve as safe place. The next day Mary began feeding them. Within three weeks time she lost five of them. One the second day, from unknown causes. The two smallest, who never learned how to suck, were never able to get strong and grow like their littermates, and eventually just gave up. The fourth died of septicemia, and the fifth from pneumonia. In regards to this experience Mary said, "Every death broke my heart, and at times I felt it was too much sadness to endure, but what else could I do? There were still survivors struggling to stay alive, and as long as they weren't giving up, I wouldn't either." As of the beginning of March, the remaining four are doing fine. Eating hay and pellets with wild abandon and growing like weeds. Well on their way to weaning, they're down to half their ration of formula, and don't seem to mind at all. Two of them will jump off of Mary's lap before they get their full share of formula, opting to go over to eat alfalfa nibbles instead. All weigh in at over 700 grams now. We will update this page in a month to let you know of their progress.

To learn the techniques to mirror this success, and to see pictures of the Babies that Millie, pictured above, gave birth to, as well as a picture of one of the Babies kissing Harvey, their Dad, follow the link below to Sandi's article.

Rabbit Family And Baby Care   >>

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