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Spaying, Neutering and Cage Aggression

    When rabbits are between 12 and 16 weeks old, their hormones start coming in (it can be earlier in males). At the rescue, we separate the males from litters and neuter them around three months old. Females may not be spayed until they are 16 to 18 weeks old. Their operation is more involved and it is safer for older bunnies. A female rabbit who is not spayed will always be in an excited, hormonal state. She is always ready to ovulate, as they have forced estrus. Spaying them alleviates this stress. Female babies often go through a huge personality change starting around 3-4 months old. They may become moody and not tolerate touch. Their litter habits will become messy. This is why we recommend older rabbits rather than babies to new bunny parents. This personality change can be huge and many rabbits are dumped at shelters because of it.


    A mature rabbit will not have this sudden change--their personality is already fully formed. Male rabbits may also have a personality change, but more often they have behavioral changes. They will start spraying everywhere--their hormone-filled urine has a strong odor. Rabbits also end up at shelters for this behavior. Spaying and neutering rabbits not only prevents unwanted litters, it makes your pet happier.

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A whole litter of hormonal bunnies comes with a lot of attitude.

    Unfortunately, not all aggression in rabbits is caused by hormones. Sometimes it can be genetic or biological in origin, but many times, it is simply behavioral.

    It's not me, it's you. It is apparent that some rabbits just do not like some people. Volunteers at the rescue who have been sprayed or boxed by an otherwise friendly rabbit can attest to this fact. Rabbits are very opinionated. Most often, we see cage aggression.

    Cage aggression. As you learned earlier, rabbits live in burrows. This is their home and they have spent a long time making it their own. Rabbits will pat down fake dirt and move things around as though they were making an actual burrow. If someone enters their burrow and they don't have an exit--they attack. You can work with them by giving them their space and showing them that good things happen when you visit, like getting food. However, many bunnies are simply stressed by things like cleaning--you can either remove them from their cage during litter cleaning or place your hand over the rabbit's head to calm them, then remove the object you need. One hand always for the bunny--it prevents bites and boxing.

    Food aggression. Many rabbits at our rescue have come from scary backgrounds where they were never fed or had to fight other bunnies for their food. This leads to food aggression. You can work slowly with the rabbit to build trust and show them that nothing bad will happen and food will never be taken away. Do not remove the food to teach them a lesson--you just confirmed their worst fear. In some rabbits, it will not go away. Like above, use one hand for the bunny.

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