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Rabbit-Welfare / Back

Importance of Neutering

IMPORTANCE OF NEUTERING

 

Rabbits are social animals and can suffer from loneliness, so should ideally be kept in bonded pairs or groups. [45] It’s advised that rabbits are neutered to prevent accidental breeding or fighting. Rabbits can become very territorial and aggressive, with males frequently spraying urine. Unneutered females can repeatedly suffer from phantom pregnancies which can be stressful and cause them to tear out their fur to make a nest. Once neutered, a rabbit is more calm, relaxed and happy, and less likely to display behavioural problems. [49]

 

Neutering a male rabbit is called, ‘castration’ (removal of testicles), and neutering a female is referred to as ‘spaying’ (removal of womb and ovaries). Male rabbits can be castrated as soon as the testicles descend (3-4 months old) [58], and female rabbits are usually spayed at around 5-6 months old, when they reach sexual maturity. Female rabbits should be spayed to prevent uterine cancer developing. Up to 80% of unneutered females develop uterine cancer by the age of 5 years old [57], it’s better to prevent it early than risk problems in the future when it may be too late.

 

To get a rabbit neutered can cost around £50-80 for a male rabbit to be castrated and £60-100 to spay a female. [49]

 

Choose a rabbit savvy vet who has the right experience and facilities to perform the operations. Castrating a male is a less complex operation than spaying a female. [57] It’s recommended that you ask the vet to talk you through the procedure and explain options available to you during neutering. After the operation, your rabbit may need to be kept at the surgery overnight for observation, but usually, you’ll be able to pick your rabbit up on the same day. [66]

 

Before leaving the vet, find out as much information as you can on how best to care for your rabbit following their operation, when to go for postoperative check ups, and request pain relieving drugs. It will usually take a few days to recover, so rabbits should be left to rest in a clean and comfortable place. Ensure your rabbit is kept warm enough – outdoor rabbits may need to be brought inside until fully recovered. Keep an eye on any stitches, ensuring they don’t tug or pull at them, and check for any signs of redness, swelling or discharge. It’s important to keep your rabbit eating to maintain a healthy gut. If your rabbit is not eating after 24 hours, or not producing droppings, then consult your vet. [66]

 

Pair of Bonded RabbitsMale rabbits can remain fertile for up to 3 weeks after castration. It can take a while for hormones to reduce, and may take weeks, or even months, for spraying and mounting behaviour to disappear. Before introducing rabbits you should wait until behaviour is significantly improved, which can be 4 weeks after neutering. [58]

 

After spaying, your rabbit should be kept away from other rabbits until stitches have been removed/dissolved, which can take 1-2 weeks. It can take weeks, or in some case, months, for the hormones in females to reduce after being spayed, so they should not be introduced to another rabbit until their behaviour is improved (which can take 4-6 weeks). [57]

 

If you adopt a rabbit from a rescue centre, it’s most likely that they will have already had the procedure done.