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   Spaying and Neutering
 

 Spaying and Neutering - why it’s important

Picture the scene.  It happened almost overnight, your cute, well mannered little bunny reached puberty.  Suddenly you are in possession of Atilla the Bun.  He has taken an unmistakable liking to your legs.  The circling and honking are certainly very cute, but the nipping and mounting definitely must stop!  Sound familiar?  Read on……

Rabbits reach sexual maturity between 3 to 6 months depending on size and breed, and at this time their behaviour becomes driven principally by his or her hormones.  When this happens, you can expect:

Behaviour Problems

- Urine spraying to mark territory.  Both males and females can do this.  If you have ever had the ‘honour’ of being marked with this sign of affection, you’ll know it’s not very pleasant!  The high hormone level in the spray really makes it smell.  I now possess a pair of waterproof trousers to wear when I visit the unaltered outdoor buns.

- A previously litter-trained bun may lose their good toileting manners and won’t bother with using the litter tray.  This is due to their overwhelming urge to mark their territory.  They may also leave scatterings of ‘purlies’ all over the place, again to mark their territory.  We adopted a couple of houserabbits about a year ago and when they first arrived, their room looked like it had suffered a downpour of black hailstones!  Rabbits ‘read’ the droppings by sniffing them and my two wanted to let any other passing rabbit know that they’d been there. 

- Your previously cute bun may suddenly become aggressive and start growling, lunging, scratching and nipping.  Females may also start ‘nesting’ and plucking the fur from her chest to line the nest with.

- Chewing and digging activities may intensify.  Note that chewing and digging are normal rabbit habits, but when hormones kick in, it happens more often and they almost become obsessed with it.

- Mounting (not acceptable behaviour when the vicar comes to tea!).  Many things can become the object of your bun’s affection including: other pets, your legs, your feet, soft toys, cushions, slippers etc.  Some females mount as well.  Honking and circling the object of his or her desires.  This is normal rabbit courtship behaviour, although some rabbits will continue to circle and honk after neutering.

- Previously bonded pals may start to fight to establish dominance

We know that spaying and neutering reduces, if not eliminates, most negative behaviours associated with sexual maturity within 3 months.

It’s unfair to surrender your rabbit to a rescue centre, or condemn it to a life of solitude in a tiny hutch at the bottom of the garden just because he or she has become a hormonally-charged nuisance. 

HAVE YOUR BUN SPAYED OR NEUTERED AND GIVE HIM OR HER A CHANCE TO REMAIN AN INTERACTIVE MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY!

Health Problems

Unspayed female rabbits have a very high chance of developing uterine, mammary or ovarian cancer during their lives.  Unofficial statistics indicate that between 50% and 80% of all unspayed females will be affected by cancer, by the age of 5.

Unaltered male rabbits can develop testicular cancer.  The incidence of this is lower, but it does occur.

By contrast, spay and neuter surgeries, IF CARRIED OUT BY A RABBIT SAVVY VET, carry only a small risk as with other pets.  For more information on this and a list of member-recommended vets, go to www.houserabbit.co.uk

Preventing Unwanted Litters

In addition to the many health and behavioural benefits of having your rabbit spayed or neutered, there is also the benefit of preventing pregnancies.  Female rabbits can become pregnant at any time, they don’t need to come into season like female dogs do.   

Please make sure that you never put an intact female in with an intact male, there are enough irresponsible people in the world!  Finding homes for unwanted litters is not an easy task and often leads to baby rabbits being released into the wild (where they will become food for other predators, or may be trapped and subject to mindless cruelty from people who have nothing better to do).  There are simply more rabbits in need of homes than there are homes willing to adopt them.  See www.rabbitrehome.org.uk

So to summarise:

Un-spayed female rabbits may show territorial behaviour, aggression towards other rabbits and aggression towards you, growling and nipping, incessant digging, start nest building, have false pregnancies, possibly urine spraying, and premature death through cancer.

Un-neutered male rabbits may show aggression towards other rabbits and aggression towards you, behavioural problems, urine spraying, growling and nipping, incessant digging, and possibly develop testicular cancer.

Spayed and Neutered Rabbits = contented buns and happy owners!