Rabbit neutering during the pandemic
- During the pandemic, some veterinary practices (including PDSA) have had to delay preventative services such as neutering in order to prioritise sick and injured pets.
- Unneutered bunnies are at a higher risk of behavioural problems, certain health problems, and pregnancy (female rabbits can get pregnant from three months old).
- If your vet isn’t able to neuter your rabbit at the moment, you may want to contact another practice in your area to see if they can help.
- If you can’t have your rabbit neutered, it’s important to keep him/her safe until you can.
- Remember, rabbits will mate even if they are related - keep all unneutered rabbits of the opposite sex separate from three months old.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have asked vets across the UK to prioritise urgent/essential treatment, and to comply with social distancing at all times. Sadly, this means that some practices are unable to offer their routine procedures such as neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping. If your vet is unable to neuter your rabbit at this time, you may want to contact some other local vets to see if they are able to help, and in the meanwhile, follow our guidance below to keep them safe. Please keep in mind that your vets will be doing their best to care for some very sick pets and will really appreciate your patience and understanding during this challenging time.
I am a PDSA client and I want to have my rabbit neutered, what do I do?
Sadly, PDSA are not able to offer preventive services such as neutering at the moment. This is because, we are facing a huge demand for our services, and at present, our priority is treating pets in need of urgent or lifesaving treatment. We hope to start providing preventive services again at some point, but it’s likely that a reduced service will continue into the foreseeable future. We recommend that our clients try to find another veterinary practice for their rabbit’s neutering - try a local private practice, or use the RCVS website to find vets in your local area. Don’t worry, even if your rabbit is neutered elsewhere, they will stay registered with us should they become unwell at any point. We really appreciate your patience and support during this difficult time.
Risks of being unneutered
The most obvious risk of being unneutered is pregnancy, and rabbits can mate from three months old, even if they are related!
In the long term, unneutered rabbits are at increased risk of certain cancers, for example uterine cancer and testicular cancers.
Unneutered rabbits (especially two rabbits of the same-sex) are more likely to fight. Unneutered rabbits are also more likely to act aggressively towards their owners.
Unneutered rabbits are more likely to spray urine to mark their territory.
Keep male and females apart
Keep male and female unneutered rabbits apart from three months old. Unneutered rabbits can breed even if they are related (i.e. brothers/sisters and father/daughters).
Keep wild rabbits out
Keep your pet rabbits away from wild rabbits by rabbit proofing your garden or double fencing their living space if they live outdoors. If you have enough space to keep them happy, you might want to keep your rabbits inside until they are neutered and vaccinated.
Check if you can have them neutered elsewhere
If your vet isn't able to neuter your rabbit at present, try another local vet practice, or use the RCVS website to find vets in your local area.
Although rabbits love to have company, they sometimes find it difficult to get on with their bunny friends at times, and it’s very important to step in if you notice changes in their relationship. Signs of a problem include:
- Excessive humping
- Pulling each other’s fur
Fighting is most common in rabbits once they reach sexual maturity (like puberty in humans), and can even be a problem in rabbits that have up until that point, been really good mates! Fighting behaviour can be improved by neutering.
If your rabbits are fighting regularly, contact your vet to discuss neutering, separate them, but make sure they can still see and smell each other. Try putting two cages or runs next to each other and swapping them over every few days. Hopefully, once they’re neutered, you will be able to reintroduce them.
My rabbits are humping each other, what should I do?
Mounting behaviour (or humping) is not always related to hormones, and is often a sign that your rabbits are trying to sort out who’s boss. Unless your rabbits are humping each other all the time, or it’s becoming a problem, don’t worry too much and don’t separate them. Neutered rabbits will often still mount, nip and pull each other’s fur from time to time.
Published: December 2020
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst