Why neuter/spay rabbits?
It is recommended that bunnies are neutered for health and welfare reasons. The risk of reproductive cancers for an unspayed female rabbit is very high and by spaying it is virtually eliminated. Your neutered male rabbits will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with others due to his sexual aggression and will help improve friendships with their bonded partner. Neutering can also reduce aggression and territorial behaviour towards their owners, making the bonding and handling with their humans a much gentler affair.
How much does neutering/spaying rabbits cost?
The cost of neutering/spaying is wide ranging depending on area, veterinary centre and the individual rabbits needs. It is best to discuss this with your vet.
What to Expect?
- They may be a bit drowsy and wobbly after surgery, but this is completely normal. These days anaesthetic is usually administered in the form of gas as it can be gently breathed out after surgery.
- Your vet may use stitches below the skin to hold the wound together with a spot of skin glue on top. Both glue and stitches tend to be dissolvable and will disappear naturally over the course of 14 days or so. The area will be shaved and may look very sore, however try not to worry – it often looks worse than it is!
- Upon going home, your vet should give you some antibiotics to ward off infection, and you should ask for some probiotics to settle the tummy (as antibiotics can upset the flora in the gut and put them off their food – something we really don’t want during their healing process).
- Your rabbits should ideally be kept on their own for 4 – 6 weeks to allow any leftover sperm to die and for the wounds to heal. If adult males are introduced to a female any sooner than this, the risk of pregnancy increases.
- Don’t worry if your bunny doesn’t particularly touch his food straight away they probably won’t feel like eating right away and their appetite should gradually return. You can try tempting them with small pieces of his favourite veggies and fresh hay. Then monitor their intake carefully – if you have any concerns at all you must seek veterinary advice.
- Keep them comfortable. Never bed a freshly neutered/spayed bunnies on woodshavings or other similar substrate as it may irritate the wound and cause discomfort, pain and infection. Alternative options would be fleece blanks, puppy pee pads or something soft such as Carefresh type substrates. Wash and/or replace the bedding daily.
- You can use some water boiled in the kettle (and then cooled!!) with some cotton wool pads (not cotton wool balls as the fibres can get stuck in the wound) to gently clean the wound once every day or two until healed.
- Be sure to take them both for their check-up appointment to make sure all is healing well and there are no complications.
After neutering your bunnies will need to be re-introduced to each other.
After neutering your bunnies, it is important to wait 4-6 weeks before allowing full contact interaction. This will give them time to heal after their operations and for their hormones to settle and in the case of bucks, allow time for any remaining sperm to die off.
During their healing they should be kept together in adjoining cages. This will allow them to become accustomed once more to each other scents and enable them to smell and touch each other without the risk of fighting. If you don’t have an enclosure for your house rabbits, you can put the two rabbits in adjoining rooms with a baby gate or similar barrier between them. It is important that they are able to see and smell each other. If you have an outdoor enclosure, you will need another and need to place them so that the two are facing each other so that they can see.
Give them a few days to settle. The rabbits will be very curious about each other, touching noses through the bars and probably displaying some courtship behaviour such as honking and circling even though both are neutered/spayed. It helps to have a good understanding of rabbit body language so ready up about rabbits if you are not yet savvy in bunny behaviour is a great thing to do. A very positive sign to look for is both rabbits lying down either side of the barrier as this shows they are relaxed together. It will also be beneficial to feed them both together at the barrier so that they get used to eating together again.
Introducing rabbits is a tricky affair and can take anything from a few days to a few weeks.It is all dependant on the individual’s personalities, and patience will be key. If either rabbit is displaying aggressive behaviour such as growling and biting, wait a while longer before allowing them to interact fully.
The Bonding Process
When they are ready and the relaxed behaviours of lying side by side in their own cages has been seen on several occasions you can start to slowly introduce them with the bonding process.
Prepare a neutral space for the introduction, somewhere that neither rabbit feels is “their” place. This should be a safe space that has not belonged to either rabbit before. The area should be as large as possible but broken up with various obstacles and perhaps a few favourite vegetables to act as distractions. Things such as cardboard boxes with door cut into them and tubes are a great way to allow bunnies somewhere to run and hide if they become nervous.
The potential pair should then enter the area simultaneously.
You need to stay with your bunnies. They should NEVERbe left unsupervised during the bonding process. If they get upset or stressed, you need to be there to either separate them or lend them support as a chaperone.
What happens next really depends on the pair. Sometimes after a little ‘eyeing-up’ and perhaps a little chasing the rabbits may lose interest in each other and do their own thing. Often, you’ll find that one of the pair shows far more interest with the other seemingly indifferent to their new follower!
In the most common scenario, one of the rabbits will take the lead and approach the other, sniffing and circling them and trying to mount them. This is not so much for courtship as for dominance and is the rabbit’s way of figuring out who is going to be the “boss”. A submissive rabbit will let this happen, putting their head on the ground, while a less submissive rabbit may nip or run away. Stay with the rabbits at all times and intervene if you feel one or both rabbits are becoming too stressed.
Occasionally the ‘introduction’ may culminate in fighting. If this happens split the pair immediately and try again later, returning them back to their adjoining cages for a day before repeating the meet and greet process. Because there is a risk of fighting, it is important that introductions are always undertaken with close supervision so that any fights can be broken up immediately.
Allow them time.
Providing fighting has not broken out between the pair allow them 10-20 minutes of interaction before returning them to their respective cages. The process should then be repeated daily with the interaction time being gently lengthened each day.
All being well, the rabbits will eventually stop taking notice of each other and become curious about their surroundings instead. This is the turning point when it is usually safe to let the rabbits roam free together, however, continue to separate them when you are not there to supervise.
When the rabbits start to lie down together or groom each other, the bond is made and will continue to deepen with time. At this stage the pair can be put into the accommodation that they are to share together to see how they react. All being well, they can then be left together but regularly observed to ensure that no fights break out.
This is a lengthy process and should never be rushed. Bunnies need to time adjust to one another and given the freedom to do this in their own time. If you see that one or both bunnies are becoming distressed or are showing aggressive behaviors – stop. Go back a step and start again.
Once a bond has been formed don’t forget that they should never be separated for any length of time. This will likely cause you to have to back to the beginning and reintroducing all over again.
If one has to visit the vets – they both go. If one comes out to be groomed – they both come out. They should at all times be kept together.
They once bonded, are inseparable and are dependent on one another. Please do not cause your bunnies unnecessary stress by separating them.