At Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care we are strongly of the belief that it is a vital welfare need for ALL domestic rabbits to be neutered (castrated or spayed). There are a number of reasons for this.
Preventing Unwanted Litters: The most obvious being population control. Rabbits have their reputation for breeding for a very good reason and failure to neuter a male-female pairing can quickly result in an unmanageable situation. Does are fertile again within 24 hours of giving birth so it is often the case that by the time an owner realises that there has been a litter the mother is already pregnant again. This is obviously far from ideal as it breaks down the original bond as dad has to be removed, the first litter almost always has to be weaned early when a second arrives meaning they don’t get the proper start to life and it is incredibly tiring for the mother, not to mention you can easily find yourself with a silly number of rabbits! There are already an estimated 67,000 unwanted pet rabbits registered through rescue centres every year in the UK with even more being given up to friends and family or given up via internet sites such as Gumtree. We want to avoid breeding more! Simplest way to do this – neuter your rabbits!
Behaviour: Neutered rabbits are far easier to litter train making them excellent house pets, but even outdoor rabbits are easier to clean out as they tend to keep their hutch cleaner. Many of the rabbit behaviours which people complain about with their pet rabbits are solved by neutering. Spraying for example, and “humping” is a natural instinct for an unneutered rabbit, particularly boys but girls too can be guilty of this. This is natural instinct which is caused by the high levels of hormone and ensures that wild rabbits are able to reproduce. Neutering greatly reduces the hormone levels and therefore the need to mount everything that moves which can become a nuisance in the domestic situation. For girls and extension of this is false pregnancy. Often people will keep a pair of rabbits, neutering only the boys to prevent babies but leaving the girls unneutered. The problem with this is that the Doe still has the hormones and instinct to reproduce and being with a partner can be enough to make her believe she is pregnant. There have even been reports of single females “bonded” with a human believing she has been mounted after grooming and having a false pregnancy. So what’s the problem with a false pregnancy? Nest building can be incredibly labour intensive, involving her pulling out fur and becoming very territorial, sometimes even aggressive towards her partner and or owners. They will often lose weight and conditioning and become very stressed for weeks at a time. In the worst situations a female rabbit can suffer from repeated false pregnancies never able to fully recover. This exhausting condition can be completely avoided by neutering females too, preferably at a relatively young age, before a problem develops.
Bonding: Rabbits are very sociable and should always be kept with other rabbits, however, they are also very territorial and introducing an unneutered rabbit can be incredibly difficult. When all rabbits in a group are neutered introductions are normally a lot more straightforward.
Health: Neutering can vastly improve a rabbit’s health. Cancers are very common among rabbits, particularly girls with 80% developing cancer of the uterus by the age of 3. A neutered female rabbit can have a life expectancy of 10 or 12 years!
Health: Recent research has identified that as many as 80% of un-neutered female rabbits develop deadly cancer of the uterus before the age of 3. That’s a lot of rabbit lives cut short. The saddest thing about this fact is that simply spaying the female as soon as possible from the age of 6 months could prevent this and help towards ensuring a long and happy life for the rabbit.
With all of these factors taken into account, and with vets ever more confident about the procedures for both males and females, for us the benefits of neutering far outweigh the risks and all rabbits from Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care old enough to be are neutered prior to rehoming.