Why do I need to have my rabbits neutered?
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!
The main reasons for neutering rabbits:
- Prevent accidental pregnancies. Rabbits can have a litter of babies each month, and with over 33,000 rabbits already in rescues awaiting homes, you don't want to add to the overpopulation.
- Unneutered rabbits have raging hormones which make them aggressive toward other rabbits - ever kept them from babies then one day they start fighting? They've hit puberty and need neutering then they can be friends again!
- Male rabbits will constantly be humping the female which can cause aggression, create bald patches on the female, and generally leave both the rabbits feeling frustrated and uncontent. Neutered males are much happier and more relaxed. They can enjoy life without constantly looking for a mate and are less aggressive and smelly!
- Up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age - neutering prevents this. Females who are not spayed when young and in good health may have to undergo the operation in later life if a uterine infection or cancer develops, although usually it is too late and the cancer has already spread.
- Neutered rabbits are less territorial so you won't have to fear them lunging at you or attacking you if you put your hand in the hutch!
- Neutered buns are more easily litter-trained if you want to keep them indoors as a houserabbit
- Unneutered males (bucks) frequently spray urine
- Unspayed females have repeated false pregnancies which are very stressful for the bunny and makes them pull out their fur to make a nest
- Unspayed females may growl at, scratch and bite their owners
- Both sexes if unneutered will attack other rabbits for no apparent reason
- 2 females together - even if they are sisters - will still fight if they haven't been spayed
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!
Choosing the right vet
It's important to choose a suitable veterinary practice to neuter your rabbit. Ask your local rescue for a vet they recommend.
The following information has been taken from the RWAF website:
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.
Is spaying / neutering safe?
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.
How much do the operations cost?
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.
Post operative care
Your rabbit should be awake, alert and preferably eating when you collect it after surgery. Remember to check:
- Has the rabbit been given pain relieving drugs? If not, request some.
- Who should be contacted if there are any problems?
- Do you need to book an appointment for a check-up, or for stitches to be removed?
- How long should the rabbit be on cage rest? (usually 2 days for males, 5 or 6 for females)
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...
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.
Mix 'n' Match
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.