Rabbits can sometimes eat their own babies. This is most likely to happen if your pet is feeling particularly anxious, lacks dietary protein, or has become excessively territorial.
Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Own Babies?
Rabbits are herbivores, i.e., they don’t eat meat. But sometimes, they eat their own babies.
Below are 6 reasons to explain this paradoxical behavior.
1. Lack Of Protein
Sometimes, a lack of dietary protein also induces baby cannibalism in rabbits. After giving birth, they are often drained of energy.
So, it is imperative to feed pregnant rabbits a good protein-rich diet in the late weeks of pregnancy to prevent them from malnutrition.
2. If The Baby Is Stillborn
Rabbits will know if their litter is stillborn, and if that’s the case, they’ll not hesitate to eat them.
They don’t like leaving traces around them.
So, despite being herbivores, they devour their stillborn litter.
3. Weak Litter
Rabbits are strong believers in the survival of the fittest theory.
In this case, rabbits find out that their litter is weak and don’t have enough nutrition and strength to survive; they’ll probably kill and eat the babies themselves.
This is primarily the scenario when rabbits feed on some kits while sparing the others. They probably ate the weakest ones, letting the stronger babies live.
Rabbits most probably evolved this way to be able to focus all the attention on healthy Babies, who’ll possibly live long enough to pass her gene to a new generation of offspring.
4. Escape Predation
Rabbits are almost at the bottom of the food chain. In the wild, they are an easy target for larger predators.
So, when it comes to fight or flight, they choose to flee away. And before doing so, they erase all the traces to keep the predators as far away as possible.
So, it is most probably an evolutionary behavior of rabbits to eat their babies if they sense something wrong.
5. Stress And Confusion
Humans are not the only species that fall victim to stress and anxiety. Rabbits are no different.
If her surrounding environment is noisy and confusing, they might feel that there’s a predator on a hunt.
So, due to fear and anxiety, they eat their babies to make sure that the predator doesn’t catch a scent.
Also, if motherhood is new for the rabbit, she might be overwhelmed by a baby coming out of her. In fact, she might be afraid and confused about the babies.
So, unlike other mammals where maternal instincts kick in quickly, it might take a while for a rabbit to get in touch with reality.
6. Territorial Feeling
Many animals have territorial instincts and feel threatened when there’s another organism nearby.
While in some, maternal instincts win over such feelings, and the mother feels okay to share the hutch with her babies.
However, some rabbits feel territorial over the babies. The lack of security then induces such horrifying behavior in the mother rabbits.
How Can I Prevent My Rabbit from Eating Her Babies?
To minimize the risk of your rabbit eating her young, take these precautionary steps:
- Avoid breeding rabbits younger than six months of age. Until this point, your rabbit will still be immature. She won’t be ready for the responsibility of having a litter.
- Keep your rabbit calm before, during, and after the pregnancy. If your rabbit is stressed or anxious, she is more likely to eat her baby. Ensure that your rabbit feels safe and secure.
- Increase the protein content in your pregnant rabbit’s food. Add alfalfa hay to her hutch in the last few weeks of pregnancy. This way, she will not feel that she lacks adequate nutrition.
- Distract The Mother With Food Or Toys: If the bunny mom starts showing interest in having her babies for the next meal, distract her with other food or toys for the time being. Such cannibalistic interests in rabbits are often fleeting and will probably stop after some time.
- Monitor the mother and newborn Watch them very closely immediately after birthing. The mother will eat the placenta to restore important nutrients and should be watched carefully to ensure that she does not accidentally eat one of her babies.
Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?
A popular myth dictates that you must never touch baby rabbits. The legend claims that a mother will eat her babies as they are ‘tainted’ by human scent.
This is completely untrue. Your rabbit will be indifferent to your scent on her babies. If you have a good bond, she may even find the smell comforting.