Skip to Content

Why you should spay/neuter your rabbit

Rabbits should be spayed or neutered for multiple reasons, namely:

• To prevent diseases, mainly uterine cancer
• To be able to have two or more rabbits together
• To prevent stress caused by hormones
• To have a better pet

All of these factors will help the rabbit's health and may let it live longer. In this text, I will explain more thoroughly why spaying and neutering can help you maintain a healthy, happy rabbit.

Preventing diseases
Unspayed female rabbits are exposed to a high risk of uterine cancer. If spayed, the uterus and ovaries are removed, and the risk is therefore eliminated. Wild rabbits are meant to begin reproducing at a young age and continue reproducing frequently. As a result, the tissue in the uterus is fairly active. This means that the cells of the uterine tissue are constantly dividing, and mutations that can lead to tumors happen quite often. (Kruse 2003)

Different studies of uterine cancer in rabbits show different results. Regardless, it is agreed that it is a common disease that affects many unspayed female rabbits. Here are some quotations from books and articles that show the prevalence of uterine cancer.

“Up to 85% of female rabbits develop uterine cancer by the age of four if they have not been spayed.” (Kruse 2003)

“Unspayed female rabbits have a very high incidence of ovarian and uterine cancer – as high as 80-90% by age three.” (Smith 2003:32)

“Spaying eliminates the risk of uterine cancer (up to 80% in 5-years old).” (Harriman 2005:72)

“The classic study (Greene, 1958) which is so widely quoted in houserabbit circles showed 4% of does had uterine cancer age 2-3 years of age, rising to 80% at 5-6 years. It doesn't make any difference whether the doe has been bred from or not (Adams, 1962) or what breed she is.” (Dykes 2004)

Regardless of which statistics are the most correct, one can safely say that the risk of getting uterine cancer in an unspayed female rabbit is alarmingly high. Not only is the rabbit exposed to uterine cancer, she is also a prey animal and a master in disguising her pains. That will in most cases mean that it is too late to treat the cancer when it's first discovered, seeing as the cancer may have spread, often to the lungs. (Kruse 2003)

The risk of diseases for fertile males are not very well recognised today. It is possible that elderly, un-neutered males are exposed to testicular cancer, prostate cancer and other prostate tumors, but this is not conclusively proven through research. (Kruse 2003)

It is stated that by using less of the rabbit's energy to look for a mate, keep up the sex drifts, and protect their territory, the rabbit will have more energy for other bodily functions and generally be more healthy.

Two or more rabbits
Rabbits are social animals and appreciate the company of other rabbits. Sexual and aggressive behavior caused by hormones needs to be eliminated for the rabbits to be friends, regardless of sexes. When the rabbit is spayed or neutered, its body will stop producing fertility hormones, and its aggressive behavior is likely to stop, that is, if hormones were the cause of the behavior. (HRS)

Many are convinced that rabbits will have a better life by living together. If having multiple rabbits interests you, you may read the articles about bonding on the page Information about Rabbits.

Prevent stress caused by hormones and frustration
Stress caused by hormones and general frustration can be shown in sexual, aggressive and territorial behavior. The males may try to mate with objects like your hand or a teddy bear, and will run around you in circles, humming, to attempt to charm you into mating. The male rabbit will often mark its territory with droppings and by spraying urine over an area, and he can be aggressive towards people or other rabbits, especially in its own territory. These behaviors will often stop or fade with neutering. (Kruse 2003, SLD, Rabbit Welfare Fund, Pavia 2003, Davis & Demello 2003)

In female rabbits, stress caused by hormones and general frustration will be shown as repeated false pregnancies, aggressiveness and protection of her territory in connection with maturing and the estrous cycle. Female rabbits can make grunting noises and punch with their front paws towards people and other rabbits trespassing. They may also mark their territory with droppings and spraying. This behavior usually fades with spaying. (SDL, Rabbit Welfare Fund 2007, Pavia 2003, Davis & Demello 2003)

One should note that rabbits are colony animals; they live side by side in nature, each with their own territory. Rabbits will always be territorial because of this, but to a lesser extent when spayed or neutered.

To have a better pet
When the rabbit stops its aggressive, sexual and territorial behavior, it is of course better- suited to be a pet, especially if it lives indoors. The spayed or neutered rabbit will often be a better toilet-user and easier to handle. It is likely to get a more calm temper, want more cuddles, and decrease destructive behavior such as chewing and digging (HRS, Kruse 2003, Smith 2003)

By Ida N Hartvedt (http://www.hjemme.no/idaweb/kastrering.html) (Norwegian page)

Translated to English by Silje Hatlø Hagen

Sources

Books:
Davis, S. & Demello, M. (2003): Stories rabbits tell, a natural and cultural history of a misunderstood creature. Latern Books, New York.
Harriman, M. (2005): House Rabbit Handbook, how to live with an urban rabbit. 4. utgave, Drollery Press, California.
Pavia, P. (2003): Rabbits for dummies. Wiley Publishing, Indiana.
Smith, K. (2003): Rabbit Health in the 21st century, a guide for bunny parents. 2. utgave, iUniverse, Inc, Lincoln.

Articles:
Dykes, L. (2004): Uterine cancer in the doe: What's the story? Rabbit Welfare Fund (RWF): http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resource ... terine.htm Lest 14.01.08

House Rabbit Society (HRS): Spaying and neutering. http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/spay-neuter.html Read 14.01.08. No author/year mentioned

Kruse, A (2003): Why spay your rabbit? House Rabbit Network Articles: http://www.rabbitnetwork.org/articles/spay.shtml Read 14.01.08.

Rabbit Welfare Fund (RWF)(2007): The RWF guide to having your rabbit neutered. http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resource ... 8.8.07.pdf Read 18.01.08. No author mentioned

Smådyrakutten Lillestrøm Dyreklinikk (SLD): Kanin, Generelt. http://www.smadyrakutten.no/Kanin.html 18.01.08. No author/year mentioned (Norwegian veterinary clinic's informatin\on pages, Rabbits, General info)

Secondary sources:
Adams, WM Jr 1962 The natural history of adenocarcinoma of the uterus in the Phipps rabbit colony. N. Med. Sci Thesis, Henry Phipps Institute, Univ of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Greene, HSN 1958 Adenocarcinoma of the uterine fundus in aged rabbits. Am J. Pathol. 68: 653-56

Copyright (c) 2008. All rights reserved. Ida N Hartvedt