There is no doubt that pets are great to have around. Bunnies are especially sweet and docile especially in their tender years. But pets are expensive – and you may not want your pets to have children. This is why consideration of the cost of raising a pet and the space for accommodating them may lead to the question of whether to neuter or not. Neutering is especially important if you do not intend to breed your bunnies.
The process of neutering your bunny is healthy, and is aimed at increasing the lifespan of your rabbit and controlling the occurrence of some diseases such as uterine cancer. Neutering also helps in eliminating general aggressive behaviour in both male and female rabbits.
As a pet owner, you may already be aware of the numerous benefits of neutering your bunny, or you simply do not want to raise a new litter. This said, deciding the appropriate time for neutering bunnies poses a challenge to many bunny owners, and that’s what I will focus on in this article.
Neutering is an effective procedure when done at the right time. With the right timing, neutering saves you the trouble of dealing with aggressive rabbits, the risks of an unwanted litter or fatal diseases. Neutering involves a range of surgical procedures that may be simple or complex depending on the gender of the rabbit. The surgery is relatively simple for males, but rather complex for females.
I can’t recommend enough that you take your rabbit to a qualified veterinary for neutering. Most castration (male) surgeries are done through the scrotum or the abdomen depending on the veterinary. Surgery through the scrotum is less complicated than abdominal surgery.
Neutering male rabbits (castration)
The male neutering process involves castration. That is, removal of the testicles. Neutering a rabbit before they are fully sexually mature is the safest choice for both health and social reasons. If your bunny is too young, they may not survive the surgery. Likewise, neutering an older rabbit may lead to surgical complications, which pose a higher risk of death for the bunny. It is also important to note that older male rabbits may still have fertile mature sperm in them up to three weeks after neutering if they were neutered after sexual maturity. If you castrate your rabbits when they are older, you will still need to separate them from the un-neutered females for six weeks.
Neutering female rabbits (spaying)
For female rabbits, we call the neuter process “spaying”. Spaying is a major operation that involves the removal of the uterus and ovaries. The surgery is usually done through an incision on the abdomen of the bunny. As for males, female rabbits reach maturity from the age of three months. It is therefore advisable to spay female bunnies when they are between 4 to 6 months.
Another reason why it is best to spay females before they reach adolescence, is because they develop body fat with age, which may actually hinder their surgery.
Once rabbits pass the age of two years, the risk of developing complications from neutering rises significantly. At this age, screening and health tests must be carried out to determine the suitability of neutering for your rabbit. Once rabbits are beyond six years, they cannot be neutered, as the risk of death from the surgery becomes too high. Older rabbits are also more likely to react negatively to anaesthesia, which naturally increases their rate of mortality.
Bunny breed and neutering
Behaviours that indicate it is time for neutering
During their early stages of life, rabbits are calm and docile animals, playful and friendly with each other. However, as they transition into sexual maturity, they often begin to display some unpleasant behaviours. When you notice any of these behaviours in your rabbit, it may be time for neutering.
Males are likely to spray urine as a means of marking their territory, mounting and humping objects- including your body, aggressive tendencies, circling (running around you or other rabbits in circles) and honking (a mating grunt).
Females may become territorial and aggressive towards other females. Female rabbits sometimes show a lot of destructive chewing and digging. Both males and females are likely to develop poor litter habits, even where good habits previously existed.
Keep in mind, however, that once neutered, your rabbits nearly always become calm and friendly once again and are better placed to relate well with other rabbits. It also becomes significantly easier to litter train them.
Your bunny requires being in good health before neutering. You can ascertain your bunny’s health by taking it to a veterinary a few days before the scheduled surgery. Ensure the bunny feeds well including right before the surgery. In many parts of the world, rabbits are considered “exotic” pets, and veterinarians are often not trained in rabbits as well as they are trained in ‘usual’ pets such as cats and dogs. It is therefore of utmost importance that the vet you select is qualified in handling rabbits.
Caring for your pet after neutering
Neutering is a safe procedure and has minimal risk when conducted by a skilled veterinarian. For males, recovery takes place within 2 to 3 days but it may take 5-6 days for females to heal. Neutering is done under anaesthesia, therefore, your rabbit will likely appear drowsy for the day following the operation. However, they should resume their normal conditions within a few days. Ensure that you rabbit gets some pain relief medication to help cope with the surgery discomfort.
During the recovery period, maintain a clean pen for your rabbit. You may line the cage with a towel to avoid irritating the wound. Clean and care for the wound until it heals. You should report any concerns about your bunny’s recovery as soon as possible.
Whether you are a new pet owner or already own a bunny or more, learning the right time for neutering you bunny is so important. Where you cannot establish the exact age of the bunny (in the case of adoption), consider seeking professional assistance from a qualified person, observation of physical and behavioural traits and comparison of size to bunnies of a similar breed. Make sure you get the right neutering care for your bunny, and most of all, search for a certified vet clinic, trained in caring for your special rabbit.