There are a great many reasons for spaying or neutering your rabbit, even those rabbits that live alone and will not be allowed to breed. Spaying/neutering is important for the physical and emotional health of the bunny, and helps to avoid or eliminate behavioral problems as well.
Everything eats rabbits: foxes, wolves, people, cats, birds of prey, snakes – just about everything is a predator to a rabbit. Rabbits in the wild must constantly reproduce in order to keep up their numbers, so female bunnies – does – are designed to be able to become pregnant pretty much any time that they are not already pregnant. Hormones in both genders kick in around 3-6 months of age, and will remain at consistently high levels; this can lead to various undesirable behaviors. Previously sweet bunnies become growling, charging terrors, and will sometimes defend their territory to the point of biting at their owners! Marking their territory with urine, false pregnancies and fur pulling (to line a nest) commonly occur as well.
An unspayed female rabbit has extremely good odds (roughly 9 in 10) of developing several forms of deadly cancers, due to the above-mentioned constantly-high levels of hormones circulating in her body.
Cancers can develop in very young does, as young as 18 to 24 months of age, and include cancers of the reproductive system and mammary glands. The odds of developing these cancers increase with age.
Bunnies spayed by the age of two have nearly zero odds of developing these diseases, and spaying a doe at any age still reduces the odds of developing cancers
Male rabbits are not so predisposed to reproductive system cancers as are the does, but neutering eliminates any chance of testicular cancer, as well as eliminating the chance of injury to the rabbit’s testicles. Testicular injuries are not uncommon, and can lead to infections that can threaten the life of the rabbit.
Male rabbits that have not been neutered will also likely develop certain undesirable behavioral patterns, including the aforementioned aggression. Male rabbits who are not neutered will also spray urine. Your unaltered rabbit will spray your feet with urine to mark you as ‘his’ and look up adoringly at you, awaiting your approval. Neutering can eliminate these behaviors as well as reduce the strong odor of the male rabbit’s urine.
Another undesirable behavior of unneutered males is their mounting behavior (they mount your shoes – with your feet in them, your stuffed animals, your cat, etc). Neutering will eliminate this behavior as well.
Once rabbits reach sexual maturity, even same-sex pairs who tolerated each other as young kits will often begin to fight. Altered rabbits are calmer, less destructive and generally ‘snugglier’ once hormone levels have dropped after surgery. Both genders are easier to litter train and tend to be quite ‘religious’ about using the litterbox after they have been altered.
Over 15 million adoptable pets – rabbits included – are euthanized in animal shelters every year in the United States alone. Unwanted rabbits are often abandoned in fields, parks, or on the roadside to fend for themselves. These domestic rabbits have no street skills and usually no camouflage, as their markings usually stand out to predators. If they do not promptly fall prey to other animals or are not promptly hit by cars, these rabbits will suffer from starvation and disease. Spayed and neutered rabbits won’t contribute to the overpopulation problem.
Rabbits are social animals and most rabbits enjoy being with other rabbits, but of course your rabbit cannot have a rabbit friend unless he is neutered.
For the health and happiness of your rabbit, please make sure s/he is spayed or neutered by a bunny-savvy veterinarian.
For more information on spaying and neutering, help in locating a bunny-savvy veterinarian or any aspect of house rabbit care, feel free to contact:
Dayton Area Rabbit Network
Buckeye House Rabbit Society
Ohio House Rabbit Rescue
Columbus House Rabbit Society
Snowflake (pictured) is a Polish rabbit who was found in a rural field which is frequented by hawks. Snowflake is less than a year old and loves endive, dandelion greens and treats. He has perfect litter box habits and despite his small stature, he has mastered stairs and even jumping up on the couch. If you would be interested in meeting this little boy who is so full of life, please contact the Columbus House Rabbit Society at (614) 470-0093.
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