In rescues, we hear it all the time… “the pet store said they were the same sex,” “I had a rabbit and thought he was lonely,” “my boyfriend got me a bunny; and he was so cute, I had to get another”……..and THEN – “Help!! My bunny had 9 babies!” “The boy got out for just a minute or two and now I have 12,” “The first litter is now having babies AGAIN”.
The simple solution? SPAY and NEUTER all your rabbits!
It is not easy to determine the gender of young rabbits. Even some veterinarians may fail to identify correctly, and males are mistakenly considered females.
Gestation in rabbits lasts an average of 30 days. After giving birth, the doe can be impregnated within the next 24 hours. So, sometimes even before the first litter is discovered by the family; Mom is already pregnant again! Does can give birth to a litter anywhere from 1 to 10-12 newborns in size every 30 to 32 days.
Health Reasons to Spay
Besides the obvious reason of unwanted litters and the difficulty of finding homes for all the offspring, there are also behavioral and, most importantly, health concerns for unspayed females.
Female rabbits do not have heat cycles; they are “reflex ovulators” which keeps them in a highly stressful state. It was shown as far back as the early 1950s that by the time female rabbits reach age five, 80% have uterine cancer. Many sources now quote uterine cancer being found between 18 months and 4 years, some state even earlier. Spaying your females at 6 or 7 months of age will save her from this deadly disease.
Pseudo-pregnancies: Triggered by hormonal changes, maternal behavior and loosening of the hair can occur. The female rabbit will pull out abdominal or shoulder hair and begin frenetic gathering of various materials (e.g., hay, paper) to use to construct her nest.
Difficult to treat bacterial infections, abnormal swelling of the wall of the uterine artery (uterine aneurysm) as well as mammary cancer can also occur.
Hormonal Behaviors can be Avoided
Upon reaching sexual maturity, rabbits often display such undesirable behaviors as spraying, chewing, digging and ﬁghting with other rabbits, as well as becoming aggressive towards people. Spaying or neutering at the proper age greatly reduces and, in many cases, eliminates these behaviors. These behaviors are the most common reason rabbits are surrendered to shelters or rescues in numbers that are impossible to accommodate.
Neutered/spayed rabbits generally have much more reliable litterbox habits than intact rabbits.
Neutered/spayed rabbits are generally calmer than their intact counterparts and suffer less stress from sexual frustration. Less stress equals healthier life.
Rabbits who have been spayed/neutered can live with a rabbit companion of the opposite sex without the risk of unwanted litters.
Rabbits who are spayed/neutered will never contribute to the terrible domestic rabbit overpopulation problem.
In the past, rabbits gained a reputation for being difficult to anesthetize, but the risks of rabbit anesthesia have fallen significantly. The key is to be sure to use a very experienced, rabbit savvy exotic veterinarian. Surgery on any animal can have unexpected complications, but for most rabbits the benefits of spaying/neutering far outweigh the very small risk.
It may take a little time to find an experienced vet in your area, but the effort is well worth it. And while the cost of the surgery may seem high at first, the cost of not doing it is much higher. Since spaying removes so many health risks, it will not only save your rabbit’s life, it will save you from future heartbreak and much higher cost of caring for her illnesses that could have been avoided.
Your bunnies will be rewarded with a less stressful, much longer, healthier life. You will gain some of your sanity back when their hormones are gone. And, best of all they will be able to share that long life with you and with a companion bunny of their own!