SPAYING AND NEUTERING RABBITS
“Neutering” in this article often refers to both spaying females and castrating males.
BEHAVIOR REASONS TO CONSIDER NEUTERING
- Neutering will decrease sexual behavior in rabbits, including aggressive behavior in male and female rabbits. It will not completely eliminate sexual behavior, and it is not predictable how much or how little it might decrease it.
- Day length will influence behavior of both neutered and un-neutered individuals. Males may show increased aggressive behavior and females may dig a burrow or build a nest in the Spring.
- Mounting behavior directed towards other rabbits, by both male and female rabbits, often continues after neutering, because it is a normal part of excited and dominant behavior and not just sexual behavior.
- Un-neutered bucks are prone to mounting their owner’s legs, toys, mats, and other household objects; neutering will usually significantly decrease this behavior.
- Male aggression is decreased, so the incidence of fight wounds is decreased.
- Scent marking by spraying urine and depositing feces is decreased.
- There is a good chance that aggression towards the owner will decrease appreciably following neutering.
- Rabbits go through puberty at 5 to 8 months old. The older they are past this age, the less likely it is that neutering will significantly change their behavior.
PHYSICAL HEALTH REASONS TO CONSIDER NEUTERING
- Neutering prevents unwanted pregnancies, allowing both sexes to be housed together.
- Neutering prevents false pregnancies.
- Spaying might decrease the incidence of female reproductive disorders, including mammary, uterine, and ovarian cancer and endometritis.
SPAYING TO PREVENT FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE PROBLEMS: MORE DETAILS
- The original research on this topic was done in the 1940s.
- The idea that spaying rabbits would prevent reproductive problems became the conventional wisdom, but it has not been supported by additional research.
- In our experience at Yarmouth Vet Center, the incidence of female reproductive tract problems in rabbits is very low.
- Also, we have seen reproductive tract problems in both spayed and un-spayed females.
- Puberty occurs at 4 to 5 months old in small breeds and 5 to 8 months old in large breeds.
- Testicles descend at 10 to 12 weeks old in all breeds.
- Approximately five months old is the best age to neuter both males and females. More specifically, three months or older for males and five months or older for females.
- The time of neutering until the time of infertility in males is 4 weeks. In other words, a male is potentially capable of impregnating a female for up to 1 month after neutering. We recommend waiting until 6 weeks after surgery to house a neutered male with females.
- It takes approximately 2 weeks for the internal and external incisions made when spaying a rabbit to heal. We recommend waiting until two weeks after spaying to introduce or re-introduce a rabbit that has been spayed to other rabbits.
- At Yarmouth Vet Center, we consider neutering male rabbits and spaying female rabbits to be routine procedures. We are experienced at performing them and very comfortable doing so.
- Most pet owners correctly understand that the risk of complications with neutering and spaying dogs and cats is very low.
- Because of their unique anatomy and physiology, the risk of complications is higher with rabbit spaying and neutering than dog and cat spaying and neutering.
- Surgical complications are more common with spaying female rabbits than neutering male rabbits.
- We recommend neutering male rabbits.
- We recommend spaying female rabbits only if modifying the rabbit’s behavior and preventing unwanted pregnancy are important concerns, and then only if the owner understands and accepts the possibility of surgical complications.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center
2015; updated 2017