Having your rabbit neutered does wonders for their health and happiness, and both male and female rabbits should have it done. Un-neutered rabbits would have to live alone, which isn't fair on an animal that needs company. Neutering a female rabbit (doe) is also referred to as 'spaying' and neutering a male rabbit (buck) is called 'castration.' Please don't think that by neutering your pet you are "taking away their manhood" - it's a human emotion that doesn't benefit your rabbit!
Nearly all rescues have their rabbits neutered before they will let you adopt them, saving you money - another reason to adopt not buy!
Rabbits that have been got rid of by their owners due to 'behavioural issues' are normally friendly but hormonal bunnies that just needed to be neutered!
It's important to choose a suitable veterinary practice to neuter your rabbit. Ask your local rescue for a vet they recommend.
Castration (males) is a relatively minor operation which can be performed as soon as the testicles descend (10-12 weeks) although most vets wait until the rabbit is 4 or 5 months old, when the operation is easier to perform and the anaesthetic risk is reduced. The testicles are removed via the scrotum or lower abdomen.
Spaying is a bigger operation than castration. It's usually performed when the rabbit is at least 4 or 5 months old. The uterus and both ovaries are removed via the abdomen.
In the past, rabbits gained a reputation for being difficult to anaesthetise, but the risks of rabbit anaesthesia have fallen significantly in recent years. Surgery on healthy rabbits is almost as safe as in cats. However, low risk does not mean no risk. Surgery on any animal can have unexpected complications. But for most rabbits the benefits of neutering far outweigh the very small risk. Older rabbits and those in poor health are more difficult to neuter safely. If your pet rabbit is older than 3 years or has medical problems (such as obesity, dental disease or "snuffles" and related disorders) you must discuss the risks and benefits with your vet in order to choose the best option for your pet.
As a very rough guide, expect to pay £50-80 for a male rabbit to be castrated and £60-100 to spay a female. (Free if you adopt!)
Take your rabbit to the vet well before the operation date for a health check and to discuss the procedure. Ask if any pre- operative blood tests are advised. Don't change the diet in the week or so before surgery. Rabbits can't vomit, so they don't need to be fasted before surgery. They should be offered food and water right up to the time of surgery and as soon as they wake up.
Your rabbit should be awake, alert and preferably eating when you collect it after surgery. Remember to check:
When you get your rabbit home, put it in a disinfected cage indoors with comfortable bedding (e.g. clean towels or Vetbed) and a clean litter tray or newspapers. Most vets use special suture techniques to prevent rabbits chewing at stitches, but you should still check the operation site daily for any discharge or swelling.
Males usually bounce back from their operation, but females may be quiet for a day or so. The most important thing is to get your rabbit eating, or the digestive system may grind to a halt. Vets try very hard to avoid this complication, using drugs to relieve pain and stimulate the gut, but you should be prepared to tempt the rabbit with nibbles of favourite food. Freshly picked grass or herbs often work. If your rabbit isn't eating by next morning, call the vet for advice. You should also monitor the rabbits' droppings for a few days and contact the vet if few or none are produced.
If you have two rabbits of the same sex living together, have them neutered at the same time and keep them together. If you have a male and a female, you need to be a bit more careful. Male rabbits remain fertile for up to 4 weeks after castration. Females must be kept away from males for about 14 days after being spayed. It's best to keep them separate (but in adjacent cages) except when you can supervise them very closely.
Every bunny needs a friend. It's wonderful watching a bonded pair interact, but rabbits are territorial creatures - introductions must be gradual, and carefully supervised!
Neutered male + spayed female is by far the easiest combination.
Keeping two males or females together can be difficult or impossible unless they have grown up together. They must be neutered as soon as possible, and never separated, even for short periods of time.
Seek expert advice before trying to introduce two rabbits of the same sex who are more than 3-4 months old.