Unless you get your rabbit from a rescue centre, chances are, your rabbit will be able to reproduce. Put a male and a female together and you will end up with babies. Doesn’t that sound cute? The problem is, babies grow and have more babies and on and on it goes. There is an abundance of abandoned rabbits in shelters so there isn’t a need for more bunny babies. The solution to this would be neutering and spaying.
What is neutering / spaying?
Neutering is done to male rabbits. The testes of the rabbit is removed by making a cut at the scrotum. (if you are a man reading this, rest assured your rabbit won’t find this quite as terrifying as you would! Spaying happens to female rabbits, their reproductive tract is removed.
Why should you neuter or spay your rabbit?
Aside from not flooding shelters with unwanted rabbits, there are many benefits for neutering or spaying your rabbit. Here is a list:
- Your rabbit will not feel stressed out by hormones that are urging him or her to reproduce. They would feel happier without these hormones.
- Your rabbit will be more calm and easier to bond with.
- Rabbits are happier with a companion, but they are less likely to get on if they are not neutered or spayed. If you have a male and female pairing, the male rabbit will not bother the female as much. Same sex paired rabbits will be less likely to fight. Bonding new rabbits will be easier.
^These two rabbits would not have been so friendly towards each other if they had not been neutered.
- Your rabbits will have a longer life span. Female rabbits that are not spay are highly at risk of developing uterine cancer The figures are high, with 80% developing this cancer after 5 years of age. Male rabbits are less likely to have testicular cancer.
- Litter training is more successful after neutering or spaying as your rabbit will have less need to leave territorial droppings. Urine spraying would also not occur, this can be done by both males and females but male rabbits do it more.
- Female rabbits that have been spayed will not suffer from phantom pregnancies. A phantom pregnancy is when a rabbit thinks she is pregnant and will prepare for babies by pulling her fur out to build a nest. This can become very stressful for the rabbit and she can become aggressive as a result.
What are the risks of neutering or spaying my rabbit?
There are some risks involved because it is surgery, however, neutering or spaying rabbits should be routine surgery for a rabbit savvy vet. Look for a good rabbit vet to lower the chances of any complications. Ask your vet questions and if they cannot give you a good answer or they seem disinterested, then perhaps you should consider finding another vet. It is ok to ask your vet how many neutering or spaying operations were done in the last year and how many had complications.
One of the main risks come from anaesthetic. Any unhealthy rabbits or rabbits undergoing other treatment should not be neutered or spayed. Consult a good rabbit vet. A rabbit should be fed right up to the operation and it is advisable to bring along some food for them to give your pet after the operation. If a vet tells you to not let your rabbit have food, find another vet! Since rabbits cannot vomit, there is no risk of food regurgitation when under anaesthetic.
Another risk is gut problems where your rabbit’s digestive system might slow down. If your rabbit refuses to eat, contact a vet straight away. Operation can also stress a rabbit. Your vet will help by giving a pain relief like metacam and if necessary, something to help stimulate the digestive system.
While there are some risks, they are fairly short term and the benefits far outweigh the risks. Provided you have a trustworthy vet with a high success rate, there will be less chance of complications.
When to neuter or spay your rabbit?
You can have your male rabbit neutered once their testicles descend. This happens around 14-16 weeks.
You can have your female rabbit spayed once she is sexually mature. This tends to be after 16 weeks but you will find that most vets recommend you wait till they are 24 weeks old as spaying is a more complicated operation and a slightly older rabbit has less risks.
It is recommended that you have your rabbit neutered or spayed before they are two years old as older rabbits may be more at risk, you might have to do a thorough health check and blood work which will increase the costs of the operation.
How much does it cost to neuter or spay your rabbit?
This will vary from surgery to surgery. You will be looking to pay anywhere between £50-80 for this operation, bearing in mind that some surgeries will charge more than that.
Post-operation care for your neutered or spayed rabbit
Your rabbit will recover fairly quickly, although female rabbits will take slightly longer. Keep your rabbits in a warm place after surgery and ensure they have food and water available. They may be slightly stressed or upset so you should leave them alone in a quiet place but frequently checking to see if they are alright and if to monitor how much they ate. Take away toys and obstacles, place a towel in the cage and avoid picking up your rabbit. Male rabbits should be ok in 2 days and females around 5-6 days.
Ask your vet if you will need to bring your rabbit back for a check up, who to call if there is a problem and what signs to look out for.
Most vets use sutures instead of stitches so you might not have to worry about your rabbit biting stitches but you will need to check the operation site daily for infection. Swelling, redness and pus may be signs of infection and will need veterinary attention.
I hope the information here has been helpful. Neutering or spaying sounds like a terrible thing but it really is a safe procedure when done by an experienced vet. Do some research, ask some questions and find a vet who cares about you rabbits. Neutering made my two boys easier to train and reduced their fighting. Feel free to ask me any questions using the comment box below!