One common thing amongst all female rabbits is how quickly and often they birth their offspring. That’s why it’s advised that female rabbits are spayed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and other life-threatening issues.
However, even after spaying them, there’s a chance that rabbits can still develop false pregnancies, otherwise known as “phantom pregnancy”. If you are new to rabbit pet care, such an occurrence might seem strange.
That’s why in this guide, we will look further into phantom pregnancy in rabbits and how you can effectively manage your rabbit through the process. Let’s get into it!
What is Rabbit Phantom Pregnancy?
Phantom pregnancy is simply a state where the rabbit feels false signs of pregnancy. The phantom pregnancy cycle has the potential to stimulate mammary development, noticeable behavioral changes (such as increased irritability), and several other pregnancy symptoms.
Unfortunately, the rabbit is unaware of this, so she gets ready for the birth of an offspring and starts to handle it as best she can. The rabbit may begin to remove fur at this time to construct a nest for the young.
Phantom pregnancies are anticipated to happen a few times when a female rabbit has passed the age of breeding and is at the point where she may be fertile.
At What Age Can a Rabbit Experience Phantom Pregnancy?
There is no exact way to identify the time or age that your female rabbit might start to experience a phantom pregnancy. That’s because it’s possible for the female rabbit to reproduce and still not experience false a pregnancy.
Nonetheless, going by the general rule, phantom pregnancy will occur in female rabbits when they are prepared to mate. On average a 3-month-old bunny can have a false pregnancy.
How Do you Know That your Rabbit is Experiencing Phantom Pregnancy?
If you are totally unfamiliar with phantom pregnancy in rabbits, there are common signs that might help you figure things out quickly. Some of these typical signs of a phantom pregnancy are listed below:
1. Increased Appetite
Like in a real pregnancy, notice when your rabbit’s appetite for food starts getting higher than usual; it could be that your bunny is going through a pregnancy phase as rabbits do not eat purely for pleasure.
In some cases, the rabbit might be eating as many as 10 to 16 younglings. Always ensure to pay attention to your instincts about a potential pregnancy or fake pregnancy as it’s mostly correct.
2. Increase In The Size Of The Rabbit Belly
For some rabbits, the size of their stomach might not be an indication that they are bearing a phantom pregnancy. Notwithstanding, you may want to keenly observe your bunny to find out in time whether their belly is increasing in size or not; a rapid increase could be a strong sign of phantom pregnancy.
3. Regular Mood Shifts in Your Rabbit
Although most people already think rabbits to be shy and quiet animals, phantom pregnancy can cause them to experience daily mood swings daily.
You might need a lot of emotional intelligence to deal with your rabbit during this phase. Else, you might get bitten; they can become aggressive and protective when you attempt to touch or clean their shed.
4. The Rabbits Embarks On Building a Nest
When a female rabbit suspects that she is pregnant, she begins to make space for her young one. First, she may start to gather items like hay and even fur to build the perfect nest.
While building a nest, you may notice your rabbit moving quickly in their shed as they assemble materials for the nest. If the rabbit comes across any clothing, such as a small blanket, they can use it to make the nest even more comfortable.
However, the problem is that the rabbit might complete the nest only to find out that they are carrying a false pregnancy.
Overall, all of the symptoms mentioned above can occasionally indicate a real pregnancy; the only distinction between the two is that a real pregnancy lasts longer than a phantom pregnancy. It takes just a few weeks for the rabbit to realize that it was never actually a pregnancy.
What are the causes of a phantom pregnancy?
Rabbits are quick to believe that they are pregnant once ovulation occurs. Usually, they retain this belief for 20 or more days. Here are several events that could result in your rabbit ovulating, which would subsequently result in a false pregnancy.
1. Sexual Stimulation
Sexual stimulation happens when two rabbits of the same or different sexes have physical contact. After getting mounted or humped by another rabbit, a phantom pregnancy may occur as the female rabbit is typically in heat during this time, which makes it easier for her to ovulate.
Due to her constant stress and other numerous factors, a female rabbit can ovulate. What can get the rabbit stressed? Being away from their companion, especially if they shared a shelter; getting withdrawn from that bond can make them stressed.
Also, fear or anxiety can trigger stress, loneliness, and ovulation in rabbits. All of these occurrences can lead to phantom pregnancy
How Long Can a Phantom Pregnancy Last?
The duration of a phantom pregnancy lasts for three weeks at most; a rabbit experiences it between a total of 18 to 20 days. By day 20, the rabbit would have begun to realize that it was not a true pregnancy and that it will eventually return to normal life in a matter of days.
How to Manage Phantom Pregnancy in your Rabbit
The best course of action to take when your rabbit starts going through phantom pregnancy is to figure out how best you can assist and ease the situation for them.
By consistently giving your rabbit the necessary treatment required during this time, they should be able to ease off by the third week. That said, the following are several techniques you can employ to manage your rabbit while it is carrying a phantom pregnancy.
1. Ensure That Food is Always Available
Making sure food is accessible whenever your rabbit needs it is one of the methods to ensure its comfort during a fictitious pregnancy.
That’s because like a real pregnancy, phantom pregnancy comes with an increased appetite for food. The rabbit also tries to input all their energy into building a home for their anticipated offspring at this time.
So, you must prepare leafy vegetables, that contain mainly hay, and other meals that will help to strengthen their body. If you are lucky, you might catch it busy using some or all of the hay to construct a nest.
3. Give The Rabbit Space
As much as you must give the pet rabbit your whole attention during this time, it is also best to allow them some room so that they can have some privacy.
If your pet female rabbit notices any unusual movement around or in its space, she will not want to be bothered, particularly if she is going through a phantom pregnancy.
Not giving the rabbit some space might cause them to bite and nip you to leave their territory. This is more reason you must exercise caution, especially as you would need to clean their shelter once in a while.
Can Phantom Pregnancy in Rabbits be Prevented?
Well, spaying female rabbits in the early stages of their life can help to control their reproductive hormones. That way, the likelihood of stress-based ovulation is minimized.
Since phantom pregnancies are frequently caused by hormone stimulation, it is nearly impossible to prevent them in female rabbits. Despite that, you can take some precautions to lessen the possibility of phantom pregnancies happening frequently.
One of these measures is removing or reducing potential stressors in your rabbit’s environment. Additionally, spaying your female rabbit helps to control hormonal stimulation and prevent ovulation from occurring the often chance that it may.
Is Phantom Pregnancy a One-time Experience for Rabbits?
A female rabbit’s phantom pregnancy is not a one-time experience. In fact, phantom pregnancy can occur as many times as possible, provided the rabbit is in the reproductive age range.
Can Phantom Pregnancy Hurt Your Rabbit’s Health?
No, the rabbit’s health is not harmed by phantom pregnancy, and it quickly resumes its normal state without showing any signs that it recently underwent a tumultuous period. Hence, you do not need to be concerned that your rabbit will suffer harm as a result of a false pregnancy.
Having to experience phantom pregnancy is one of the most challenging periods of a female rabbit’s life. As a rabbit owner, your duty is to ensure that your pet is provided with the best care possible during this time.
Fortunately, it does not leave a physical or emotional scar and once the fake pregnancy is over, your pet returns to being amiable and content. Have you had to care for a rabbit with phantom pregnancy? You can share your experience below!