Orphaned Wildlife:  Rabbits

Q: I found a nest of baby rabbits.  Are they orphaned?

A: If the nest is intact and the babies are not injured, leave them alone!  Mother rabbits only visit their young 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators.  If the nest has been disturbed, or if you think the babies are orphaned, you can put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest to assess if the mother is returning to nurse her young.  If the “X” is moved but the nest is still covered by the next day, the mother has returned to nurse them.  If the “X” remains undisturbed for 24 hours, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you for assistance.

It is vital to keep all cats and dogs OUT of the area because they will surely find and kill the helpless young rabbits.  Try not to touch the babies because mother rabbits are very sensitive to foreign smells and may abandon their young.

Q: My cat (or dog) caught a baby rabbit.  What should I do?

A: Unfortunately,  one of the main causes of orphaning in baby rabbits is free-roaming cats.  If the rabbit has any puncture wounds, bring the animal to a veterinarian or rehabilitator quickly.  Cats have toxic bacteria in their saliva that becomes lethal unless the victim is put on antibiotics immediately.  A tiny, almost imperceptible wound caused by a cat’s tooth can be fatal, possibly puncturing a vital organ. A rehabilitator or veterinarian should start the animal on antibiotics ASAP. Only if the animal is definitely unharmed should he be released.

People can save hundreds of wild animals by keeping their cats indoors, especially in the spring and summer when wild animals have helpless babies!  If you won’t keep your cat(s) indoors, you need to use multiple-bell collars which will alert some wild animals to the cat’s presence.  One bell is not loud enough – pet supply stores sell a variety of breakaway collars, but you should purchase two additional large bells (sold separately with s-hooks) and attach them to the cat’s collar.  Also, stealthy cats learn how to keep one bell still – that’s why at least two bells per collar is needed.