Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Young? (How to Stop It)

Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Young
Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Young

Rabbits may eat their young out of stress, rejection, or inexperience with having kits. Rabbits do not eat their young very often, however when they do it is usually their way of trying to survive. Ways you can stop this include supervising very closely and keeping the kits around only during feeding times.

What Makes a Rabbit Want to Eat Their Young?

Well, Rabbits Are Naturally Prey Animals, Which Makes Them Fearful by Nature. Even as A Mother, A Rabbit Will Still Put Their Survival First. If There Is a Situation in Which A Rabbit Feels Threatened, They May Eat Their Young Because They Feel That Will Cover Their Scent from Predators. Also, Some Rabbits are Inexperienced with the Birthing Process, and May Not Realize One of Their Rabbits is not Afterbirth During the Birthing Process, Causing the Desire to Eat the Kit. So, What Should be Done About Each of These Factors?

Why would would they do it?

  • Eating young as a means of survival:

What Should You Do?

If s rabbit is eating their young as a means of survival or fear, the mother and kits should be monitored very closely. The kits need their mom, so separating them should be your last-resort option. Sometimes the mother will reject her young, and when this happens the rabbits must be separated. When this happens, the kits should not be left alone with their mother, and they should only be put in a space with her during feeding times. Since the kits still need their mother for feeding, they will need to be around her for this, however, this interaction will need to be monitored very closely.

  • Eating young as confusion during birthing process:

What Should You Do?

Since the mother is confused and inexperienced, they may just need more experience. Let her have more kits if this is what you plan on doing. If this happened with the first litter, it may not be something to be concerned about. However, if two or three more litters experience the same issue, the doe should not be bred anymore.

What Else Should You Know About Rabbits Eating Their Young?

  • There is not one known cause or cure, there are multiple ideas of why the behavior may exist and how it can be helped, however, this is a somewhat rare behavior and still being examined.
  • If a doe feels unsafe in their environment, they are more likely to eat their young since it is often a survival instinct. Providing a comfortable, safe environment for your rabbit will create the best chance of the doe being a better mother.

What Instincts Differ in a Rabbit When it Comes to Raising Young?

We All Know Dogs and Cats Have an Instinct to Protect Their Young, but How Does This Differ from Rabbits? Dogs and Cats Have a Motherly Instinct Which Causes Them to do Anything Necessary to Protect their Young. Rabbits Have a Motherly Instinct to an Extent. They Will Feed Their Young When They Live in The Nest Box, However, if their Young Leave the Box, They Will not Bring them Back in. Also, As We Discussed Earlier, if a Rabbit Feels Threatened it is not Uncommon for a Doe to Save Herself While Sacrificing Her Young.

One reason rabbits eat their young is because of their natural instincts as mothers. Their instincts differ greatly from animals like dogs and cats in the sense that rabbits put their own survival before their kits. This results in some of the problematic behavior we see with eating their young.

Sometimes rabbits will neglect their kits completely, and either eat their young, or just leave them to die. The limited instincts rabbits typically have are not present here, so they choose not to nurture their young in any way. This may go as far as cannibalism.

Why Else May A Rabbit Choose to Eat Their Young?

Traits Related to This Behavior, but Why Else Would a Rabbit Make the Choice to Eat One of Their Kits? Sometimes, As We Saw in the Birthing Process, Choosing to Eat a Kit May be a Product of a Misunderstanding or Confusion. Rabbits May Eat Their Kit if They Mistake it for Something Else Since They Do Not Have the Level of Parental Instinct Other Animals May Have. Along with Misunderstanding, Lack of Resources May Drive a Rabbit to Eat Their Offspring, so Making Sure there is Always Plenty of Food and Hay Available May Help Eliminate This Habit.

It is not uncommon for a rabbit to mistake their kit for an animal which may be a competitor in nature, such as a rat or a mouse. If they mistake their kit for a rat or a mouse, they may kill, or eat it out of instinct. Since a rabbit is a prey animal, often times they will just act on their survival instinct, even if it means hurting their young in the process.

Since rabbits are known for acting out of survival, even if it means putting their own needs in front of the needs of their young, eating a kit as a result of food shortage is not unheard of either. If a doe feels something is lacking in her diet, she may eat her young as a way to make up for it. One way to help eliminate this habit is making sure fresh hay and greens are available. If this is the reason cannibalism is happening between your rabbit and her young, providing a well-balanced diet is the first step to eliminating the behavior.

There are quite a few reasons why a rabbit may eat their young. In a rabbit’s mind their safety is never guaranteed, so they are always on high alert and will practice their survival methods whenever they feel necessary. Since rabbits do not form an emotional connection to their young, harming them to protect themselves is not something that is bothersome to them. It is a rabbit’s instinct to feed their young, but not offer much more support than that.

Aside from survival, rabbits may become confused by their young, especially if they are having their first litter of kits. If a rabbit does not know what something is, they will react in the way their instincts tell them to. Circling back to the instincts of a prey animal, it is better to get rid of something if it is unfamiliar as a rabbit, than to leave it as a precaution and possibly end up as a meal. Also, if a rabbit feels it may not be getting enough food it may eat its young. It must eat to survive, and if the resources are not available, they may resort to cannibalism.

When having rabbits as pets and planning to breed them, it is important to understand their instincts. Creating a safe environment in which the rabbits will have sufficient food is essential to making sure the doe does not feel a desire to feed on her young. Also, if this behavior does develop, understanding how to handle it is essential to keeping the kits safe. Knowing when to separate the kits from their mother and to return them at mealtimes is essential to their healthy growth.

While this is not a desirable behavior, it is the reality of handling rabbits. This behavior can be handled with the correct knowledge. Handling the situation with patience and care will give the mother and the babies the best possible circumstances.