Can Baby Rabbits Drink Cow Milk?

There’s nothing quite as adorable yet vulnerable as a newborn baby bunny. If you’ve ever come across an orphaned nest in your yard or had a mother rabbit die, you may have wondered if these tiny fuzzballs can survive without mom. Is cow’s milk safe for them? What do their little tummies need? Caring for orphaned kits is a huge commitment requiring round-the-clock bottle feedings and attentive care. But with the proper techniques and nutrition, even newborn rabbits can grow up healthy and strong. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about feeding motherless baby rabbits, from milk options to feeding schedules. You’ll learn how to be the best substitute mama bunny so these precious orphans can hop their way to a bright future. Let’s dive in!

Do Baby Rabbits Need Milk?

Baby rabbits, also called kits or kittens, do need milk to survive and thrive. In the wild, baby rabbits would get all the milk they need from their mother rabbit. Mother rabbits only feed their babies once or twice a day, but the feedings contain very nutrient-dense milk that allows the babies to grow quickly.

Mother's milk contains the perfect balance of fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals to promote growth and development. The milk changes composition over time to meet the changing nutritional needs of the kits. Kits are completely dependent on their mother's milk for the first 2-3 weeks of life.

Around 3 weeks of age, kits will start to eat solid foods in addition to nursing. They begin to nibble on grass, hay and pellets. But the mother rabbit's milk remains an important part of their diet until 6-8 weeks of age when they are weaned.

So in summary, yes baby domestic rabbits absolutely require milk from their mother rabbit while they are newborns and young kits in order to survive, just like wild rabbits.

Can Baby Rabbits Drink Cow Milk?

Cow's milk is not an adequate substitute for a mother rabbit's milk. There are some major differences between rabbit milk and cow milk:

  • Fat content – Rabbit milk has a very high fat content, around 15-20%. This helps the kits grow very quickly. Cow's milk only has about 3-4% fat.

  • Lactose content – Rabbit milk contains less lactose (milk sugar) than cow milk. Too much lactose can cause digestive upsets in young rabbits.

  • Protein content – Rabbit milk has 12-15% protein content versus 3% in cow milk. The extra protein is key for the kits' rapid growth and development.

  • Minerals – The mineral content, especially calcium and phosphorus, differs between rabbit milk and cow milk. The balance is optimized in rabbit milk.

Because of these differences, straight cow milk can cause significant digestive upset in baby rabbits. Cow milk may give young rabbits diarrhea. Over time, the nutritional imbalance can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

Some orphaned wild baby rabbits are mistakenly fed regular cow milk by well-meaning people. But this almost always ends badly for the rabbit kits. They fail to thrive and survive.

So in summary, no regular cow milk should not be fed to orphaned domestic or wild baby rabbits. The composition is not suitable and can make the young rabbits very sick. There are better options for feeding orphaned kits.

Can Baby Rabbits Drink Goat Milk?

Goat's milk is a better option than cow's milk for orphaned baby rabbits, but it still does not completely substitute for rabbit milk. Here is how goat milk compares:

  • Fat content – Goat milk has a higher fat content than cow milk, which is beneficial. But rabbit milk has even higher fat than goat milk.

  • Lactose content – Goat milk is lower in lactose than cow milk, closer to rabbit milk. This helps prevent digestive issues.

  • Protein content – Goat milk has higher protein than cow milk but still less than rabbit milk.

  • Mineral content – The mineral balance in goat milk is not perfect for growing rabbits but better than cow milk.

Overall, because goat milk is richer and more digestible, it can be better tolerated by baby rabbit kits than plain cow milk. The higher fat and protein is certainly an improvement. But the nutritional profile still does not match what Mother Nature intended for baby rabbits.

There can still be issues like soft stools, dehydration, gut dysbiosis, and malnutrition if goat milk is fed long-term. It should only be a temporary solution until a proper rabbit milk replacer can be obtained. The goat milk may need to be diluted with water or have nutritional supplements added.

So in summary, goat milk can potentially serve as a short-term solution for orphaned baby domestic or wild rabbits, but a proper rabbit milk substitute is still a better option for their health and survival.

So What Milk Can Rabbits Drink?

The best milk options for baby rabbits are:

  • Mother rabbit's milk – The perfect food for growing bunnies.

  • Rabbit milk replacer – A commercial formula designed to mimic the components of real rabbit milk.

  • Goat milk – A decent temporary substitute if diluted and supplemented.

  • Sheep milk – Similar to goat milk but less commonly available.

A proper rabbit milk replacer is the ideal solution for an orphaned kit. Two brands of powdered rabbit milk replacer suitable for wild or domestic kits are Wombaroo and Fox Valley. The powder is mixed with water before feeding.

Rabbit milk replacers contain the proper proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals baby rabbits need. This prevents digestive issues and provides complete nutrition for their rapid growth and development.

Homemade rabbit milk substitutes can also be made by diluting and supplementing powdered goat milk. Recipes for homemade rabbit milk replacers can be found online. But the nutrition may not be fully complete, so they are an option for short-term emergencies only until rabbit milk replacer can be obtained.

Mother rabbit’s milk is the gold standard but is only available if foster mother rabbits are available. Doe rabbits will sometimes adopt orphaned kits and nurse them along with their own litters.Having a veterinarian or rabbit breeder show you how to get the doe rabbit to accept the orphaned kit is best.

So in summary, the milk choices that are safe and nutritionally adequate for infant rabbits, in order of preference, are: rabbit milk replacer, mother rabbit's milk, short-term goat milk, or homemade rabbit milk substitutes as a last resort.

Caring for an Orphaned Baby Rabbit

Caring for an orphaned domestic or wild baby rabbit requires dedicated round-the-clock care. Here are some tips if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Keep the kit warm – Use a heating pad on low under half the enclosure. Baby rabbits can't regulate their body temperature well.

  • Handle carefully – Rabbits are fragile, especially newborns. Support the whole body when picking up.

  • Check for dehydration – Pinch the skin to see if it snaps back. If it stays tented, the kit is dehydrated.

  • Feed frequently – Young kits need to be bottle fed every 2-3 hours, even through the night. Their stomachs are small.

  • Stimulate to urinate/defecate – Gently massage with warm cloth after feeding to mimic mother's licking.

  • Use proper milk – Rabbit milk replacer is ideal. Goat milk can work temporarily. Never cow milk.

  • Transition to solid foods – Start offering grass, hay and pellets around 3-4 weeks old as their teeth emerge.

  • Provide nest box – Place soft blanket or t-shirt that smells like the litter to help them feel secure.

  • Visit an exotic vet – A rabbit-experienced vet can provide medical guidance and care.

With diligent round-the-clock care and proper nutrition, orphaned baby rabbits can survive and thrive, whether they are domestic kits or rescued wild nests. Get them to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as they are stable so they can be released.

What to Feed Baby Rabbits without a Mother

Feeding baby rabbits without a mother requires finding the most suitable substitute for mother's milk. Here are the steps:

  1. Day 1 – Electrolytes – For the first day, give an electrolyte solution like unflavored Pedialyte. Provides hydration and energy during transition.

  2. Days 2-4 – Transition milk – Goat milk or kitten milk replacer in small amounts mixed into electrolytes. Gets the gut used to milk.

  3. Days 5-8 – Increase milk – Slowly increase the ratio of milk to electrolytes until fully on the milk formula.

  4. Week 2+ – Rabbit milk replacer – As soon as possible, switch to a commercial rabbit milk replacer like Wombaroo or Fox Valley. Provides complete nutrition.

  5. Week 3-4 – Introduce solid foods – Once their teeth appear, start introducing grass, rabbit pellets, vegetables, and hay along with bottle feeding the milk.

  6. Week 6-8 – Wean off milk – Around 6-8 weeks old, kits can get all nutrition from solid foods and water. Slowly wean off the milk.

With this gradual transition protocol, orphaned kits get the nutrition they need at each stage while allowing their digestive system time to adjust. Pay close attention for any signs of diarrhea or intestinal upset and consult a vet.

How to Make a Baby Bunny Milk Substitute

If you need to make an emergency homemade baby rabbit milk substitute, here is one recipe to try:


  • 1 cup goat milk (not cow milk)
  • 1 raw egg yolk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup plain full fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp vitamins and minerals supplement powder (optional)


  1. Whisk together the goat milk, egg yolk, honey, and yogurt until fully blended.

  2. Add in vitamins/minerals supplement powder if available. If not, the goat milk should still provide basic nutrition.

  3. Warm milk to about 100-103 F. Test on your wrist – it should feel slightly warm but not hot.

  4. Pour into a small animal bottle with a rabbit nipple attached. Let excess drip off nipple so kit doesn't inhale it.

  5. Feed the bunny 2-5ml per 100g body weight every 2-3 hours. So a 100g kit gets 2-5ml each feeding.

Refrigerate unused portions. Discard any leftovers after 24 hours. Clean bottles thoroughly after each use.

This homemade formula provides hydration, energy, proteins, fat, probiotics, and basic vitamins/minerals to support the kit until you can obtain commercial rabbit milk replacer. Never use plain cow milk. Monitor bunny's condition closely when using homemade milk. A veterinarian should be consulted to ensure proper nutrition and growth. This recipe is for emergency situations only.

How Often Should Orphaned Baby Rabbits be Fed?

Newborn orphaned baby rabbits need to be bottle fed very frequently to support their rapid growth and small stomachs. Here are the recommended feeding intervals:

  • 0-2 weeks old – Feed every 2-3 hours, day and night. Expect wakeups overnight.

  • 2-4 weeks old – Feed every 3-4 hours. At 3 weeks can try dropping the midnight feeding.

  • 4-6 weeks old – Feed every 4-6 hours. Can begin spacing daytime feeds further apart.

  • 6-8 weeks old – Feed every 6-8 hours as they naturally wean off milk.

The quantities at each feeding will be quite small – just a few mL per feeding. It will seem like you are feeding constantly, but that matches what mama bunny would naturally do.

Domestic kits and wild nests have the same needs. Always watch for milk bubbles coming out of the nose which means slow down. Discard any unfinished milk after feedings. Small bellies need frequent refills! With diligence and patience, the orphaned bunnies should steadily grow and thrive.

How to Bottle Feed Orphaned Baby Rabbits

Bottle feeding orphaned baby rabbits takes patience and proper technique. Here are some tips:

  • Choose the right bottle. Use a small pet nurser bottle with a rabbit nipple. Test nipples to make sure milk drops out with light squeezing.

  • Prepare bottle carefully. Measure powdered milk replacer precisely. Mix with warm water. Test temperature.

  • Gently insert nipple into the side of the kit's mouth. Never forcefully squirt milk in.

  • Tilt bottle at 45 degree angle to let milk slowly drip out. Gravity helps prevent inhalation of milk.

  • Feed 2-5mL per 100g body weight. So a 100g kit gets 2-5mL each feeding.

  • Let kits swallow at their own pace. Watch for milk bubbles from the nose indicating too fast.

  • Be extremely patient. Feeding can take 30+ minutes each time. Expect messiness and dribbles.

  • Alternate which side of mouth nipple is inserted to prevent sores.

  • After feeding, gently massage kit's abdomen and bottom with warm cloth to stimulate digestion and elimination.

  • Discard any unfinished milk. Thoroughly clean bottles after each use.

With practice and patience, you can successfully bottle feed orphaned kits the nutrients they desperately need. Get guidance from your veterinarian or an experienced rabbit breeder on technique. With proper feeding and care, the babies should grow rapidly and thrive.


In summary, baby rabbits absolutely require milk but cow's milk is not adequate nutrition. While goat milk can work temporarily, the best options are mother rabbit's milk, rabbit milk replacer formula, or homemade rabbit milk substitutes in emergencies only. Orphaned wild and domestic kits need very frequent bottle feedings and diligent care to survive. With proper nutrition and technique, even newborns can be successfully hand raised. Patience and commitment to round-the-clock feedings is essential when undertaking the responsibility of caring for baby bunnies.

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