Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Orphan

My adopted baby, Wiggly Ticklemint.

Sunday morning when I checked in on the Jersey Woolies and opened up Miss Flossy's cage, I found a surprise. Four babies. I only got a quick glance before I shut the cage and ran in to tell Lee. He came out to see the little ones, but when I opened up the cage the second time I was able to observe that some of the babies weren't moving. 

It turned out that three of the four babies were cold and lifeless, but hadn't been dead for long. The little pink one was still moving, so I picked her up and tried to warm her little cold body.

For any number of reasons, Miss Flossy had abandoned her young. It could have been that it was her first litter and she wasn't quite sure what to do, something could have startled her, her cage could have been too small... I've read countless possibilities. 

I felt it my obligation to do what I could to save the last one, and told Lee that we were going to have to make a trip into town to get some kitten formula. However, after looking up what to do for an orphaned infant rabbit and learning that in most cases they will die after three or so days, I felt absolutely useless. Apparently rabbit milk is impossible to replace. 

So knowing that it would be useless to hand feed the baby, I decided to turn Miss Flossy on her back, holding her in my lap because the family I adopted her from said that she would lay like this for great lengths of time as if hypnotized, and it was going to work in my favor. I then laid the baby on her stomach. The first attempt at this was not successful, as the baby was still cold and unable to feed. The second time was successful. I've been feeding the baby this way twice a day, which is how often a mother rabbit feeds her young, as well as having to clean the baby's hind end with a warm, dampened cotton ball. I knew this whole procedure from having pet rats. Rabbits, like rodents and many other mammalian mothers, have to clean the babies hindquarters in order to get them to eliminate wastes, otherwise the babies will die from blockage. 

I've named the baby Wiggly Ticklemint, it's such a wiggly little thing when it feeds and it's little feet tickle when they kick. Sadly, Miss Flossy doesn't want to have anything to do with little Wiggly, she has made no attempt the last three days to get in the box and feed her on her own or clean her. In fact, she tried to snap at her this evening after feeding when I let the baby cuddle up at her side to sleep while both of them sat on my stomach. So I've decided for Wiggly's safety, I am going to remove her from her mother's cage. I will continue to have Miss Flossy nurse, since I can hold her and she seems calm enough for that job, but it's fairly obvious that she has rejected the baby as her own and can't be trusted not to harm it while unattended.

From what I have read, rabbits are really odd mothers compared to other pets that I've owned. I've had rabbits before, just never bred them, so this is new to me. Rabbit mothers don't lay with their young like dogs, cats, or even rats. They only feed the babies twice a day by standing over them for about five minutes at a time, and amazingly enough, this sustains the baby. The rest of the time the mother spends away from the nest. This is something wild rabbits do to ensure that predators will not be alerted to the nest, and apparently domestic rabbits still have this instinct. 

Wiggly is almost four days old now, and every day I've noticed how rapidly she is growing. She was practically bald when I found her, but now she has a fine velvet peach fuzz of white fur sprouting up. Her ears have been changing, and it's the cutest thing when she wiggles them. In six or seven more days, she will be able to see me. I've totally fallen in love with this funny little creature and can't wait to see how she changes each day in the coming weeks.