Did you know that a rabbit can have a false pregnancy even if she lives singly? Yep, a rabbit’s false pregnancy can occur anytime, with stress and hormone fluctuations happening here and there.
In this article, you will learn:
- The symptoms, causes, and meaning of rabbit false pregnancy
- How to prevent false pregnancy in rabbits
- The effect of a false pregnancy on your rabbit
Let’s start and discuss everything you need to know about a rabbit’s false pregnancy!
What is Rabbit False Pregnancy?
Rabbits can feel like they are pregnant even though they are not.
Rabbit false pregnancy happens when a rabbit’s body thinks it is pregnant. This then makes the rabbit exhibit signs and symptoms of pregnancy, leading to mood and behavioral changes.
False pregnancy in rabbits can show different symptoms, and it may be different for every rabbit. If you see your rabbit pulling fur, being cranky, or nesting, it might not always be a result of true pregnancy. Sometimes, these symptoms may be due to false pregnancy.
Rabbit false pregnancy is also known as “phantom pregnancy” or “pseudopregnancy.” Phantom pregnancy mimics true pregnancy, which might be tricky for pet owners to identify and differentiate.
Rabbit’s False Pregnancy Symptoms
There are many symptoms that your rabbit may show during a false pregnancy. Here is a helpful list of habits and changes that your rabbit may show:
1. Fur pulling
The first and most apparent symptom of a rabbit’s false pregnancy is fur pulling. Your rabbit would constantly pull out fur around her abdomen and chest.
You would also start to notice bald patches all over your rabbit’s body. Bald spots are often seen in a rabbit’s abdomen, nipples, shoulders, and dewlaps.
Fur pulling is common in rabbits with genuine pregnancy because of their nesting habits. They use their fur to build and line nests in preparation for their delivery. But with false pregnancy, they tend to pull out fur as a sign of nesting because they think they are pregnant.
2. Building a nest
Apart from fur, your rabbit may start collecting hay to make a nest for her babies. Again, they do this because their bodies believe they need to prepare for their future kits.
3. Being moody
As your rabbit experiences symptoms in her body due to false pregnancy, your rabbit starts to exhibit mood and behavioral changes. They may be too aggressive and cranky as the false pregnancy progresses.
You might also notice that your rabbit is not keen on human interaction. Also, they may not like being with other animals. They may isolate and keep themselves quiet in the corner of a room too.
4. Not liking food
During rabbits’ false pregnancy, rabbits tend to not enjoy eating. They would stay away from eating even their favorite foods!
5. Developing mammary glands
Mammary glands are needed to feed a doe’s babies during their first few weeks of life. With a rabbit’s false pregnancy, mammary glands develop too. This is because their bodies think they are pregnant, and they need to be ready to provide for their kits.
How long does a rabbit’s false pregnancy last?
In rabbits, pseudopregnancy usually lasts approximately 18 to 20 days. Real pregnancy, on the other hand, takes place at around 31 days.
Real Pregnancy vs False Pregnancy
The symptoms of rabbits’ false pregnancy and genuine pregnancy are alike. Your rabbit can not differentiate between the two. You, too, can have a hard time deciphering whether the pregnancy is real or not.
Sometimes, the only time you can know if it’s a real pregnancy is after a successful delivery. Even vets can give a false negative or false positive result during consultation.
Rabbits False Pregnancy
Real Rabbit Pregnancy
Stress, hormone fluctuations, and sexual stimulation can make your rabbit believe that she is pregnant.
The female rabbit mates with a male rabbit leading to a real rabbit pregnancy.
A rabbit undergoing a false pregnancy starts to eat more. She may also show aggressiveness towards her male counterpart.
A pregnant rabbit starts to eat more and behaves untowardly. She will not like having male rabbits around.
The belly of an unpregnant rabbit will remain the same.
A true pregnant rabbit will show a growing belly, with grape-like lumps of babies inside.
A rabbit undergoing a false pregnancy will try to make a nest and exhibit other nesting behaviors, but will likely lose her interest as the rest of the week passes by.
Nesting habits, like fur pulling and collecting hay, are exhibited by the pregnant rabbit.
Usually, a rabbit forgets about her phantom pregnancy in 3 to 4 weeks.
After 31 days, a pregnant rabbit will give birth.
Is a rabbit’s false pregnancy rare?
No. Adult rabbits can experience false pregnancy throughout life. However, there is nothing to worry about when it comes to a rabbit’s false pregnancy.
What causes rabbit false pregnancy?
There are many factors that may cause false pregnancy in rabbits. During ovulation, a rabbit may think and act like she is pregnant, causing behavioral and physical changes.
Here are the most common causes of phantom pregnancy in rabbits:
1. Fear and stress
Stress can cause rabbits to ovulate, leading to false pregnancy.
This can happen when rabbits feel anxious about being separated from their other bunny friends. Then, the anxiety will cause ovulation, which eventually makes female rabbits feel pregnant.
2. Sexual stimulation
You might’ve probably noticed that your rabbit humps and mounts. Rabbit humping and mounting are signs that your rabbit is sexually aroused.
If your rabbit is sexually stimulated, she may feel pregnant. This causes symptoms like developing mammary glands and fur pulling to start.
3. Hormonal fluctuations
When your rabbit’s hormones fluctuate, it can cause stress and aggressiveness. And as you’ve read earlier, stress is one of the primary factors that result in ovulation.
How to resolve rabbit false pregnancy
A rabbit’s false pregnancy resolves on its own. By the time your rabbit reaches the 3rd week of the phantom pregnancy, she will likely forget about it.
A good tip is to exercise your rabbit during pseudopregnancy. Keeping her active throughout the false pregnancy can help ease bodily changes such as weight gain.
Although self-resolving, some rabbits need hormone treatments to resolve a false pregnancy. Consulting your vet will be helpful in this case.
Can false pregnancy happen twice?
Yes. False pregnancy can happen twice, thrice, and a lot more times for a rabbit. False pregnancy can repeat multiple times, especially if a rabbit is constantly under stress.
Some rabbits even have a regular stream of phantom pregnancies, with a false pregnancy happening after the other.
Even rabbits that live alone can experience a false pregnancy. But because you are aware that stress can cause pseudopregnancy, you can do preventive measures that can avoid the condition.
Firstly, you have to ensure that your rabbit is in a comfortable and safe space. Make sure that she is away from stressors and predators that can cause fear and anxiety.
Secondly, love your pet! Show your rabbit that you care for her. This will reduce stress and make your rabbit feel at ease. Another thing that you can consider is spaying. False pregnancies can be prevented by having your rabbit spayed.
Lastly, keep your rabbit away from male rabbits that constantly hump or mount your bunny. This causes sexual stimulation that will result in ovulation. For this reason, it’s best to separate her from rabbits who stimulate her.
Will false rabbit pregnancy affect fertility?
No, false rabbit pregnancies do not affect her fertility. Pseudopregnancy does not do any harm to your rabbit’s health and well-being.
How do you know if a rabbit is truly pregnant?
The following are the symptoms of genuine rabbit pregnancy you should look out for:
1. Growing belly
As a rabbit goes deeper into pregnancy, her belly starts to go bigger and bigger every week. Palpate your rabbit’s belly and look for grape-sized lumps. As weeks pass by, these lumps enlarge until they’re ready to pop out!
A growing belly is a sign that you won’t see in rabbits undergoing a false pregnancy.
2. Weight gain
Because pregnant rabbits eat more, they will gain weight throughout their pregnancy. The growing babies inside their belly also contribute to their chubbiness.
3. Babies kicking
During the last days of a rabbit’s pregnancy, you will start to feel little kicks in its stomach during palpation. These little kicks are the active babies growing.
Of course, in a false pregnancy, there won’t be any kicks or lumpy babies inside.
4. Labor signs
On approximately day 31, a pregnant rabbit pulls out fur and loses her appetite. This is because she is nearing birth. A pregnant rabbit may also bleed during labor, and that is completely normal.
Differentiating between a rabbit’s false pregnancy and a genuine pregnancy is tricky. With similar symptoms, it’s absolutely difficult to decipher whether your rabbit’s pregnancy is real or not.
Rabbit false pregnancy is often caused by stress, sexual stimulation, and high hormone levels. What’s great is how it is preventable! Keeping your rabbit in a safe and comfortable environment helps avoid false pregnancy.