Pet Rabbit Breeding Behaviors

by on March 1st, 2011
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All pet animals experience behavior changes when their reproductive urges kick in. But rabbit breeding habits include urine spraying, aggression to other rabbits and mounting people. In order to eliminate these habits as well as prevent unwanted offspring, rabbits should be spayed or neutered.

Time Frame

Rabbit breeding habits begin appearing in pet rabbits as young as four months of age but can appear as late as 18 months, according to Sari Kafner, DVM. Both male rabbits or bucks and female rabbits or does engage in these behaviors for the rest of their lives. Neutering or spaying operations ideally should be done before a rabbit is two years old. Older rabbits can successfully survive the surgeries but need medical tests first.

Urine Spraying

Urine spraying in rabbits is similar to urine spraying in cats. Both bucks and does will spray. It not only marks territory but also advertises the health and virility or fertility of the rabbit. Rabbits can be amazingly accurate in the aim of their urine stream. They will mark the ground, furniture or even people. Rabbits will also make little piles of feces to mark territory and get the attention of other rabbits, but rabbit feces tend not to have the offensive odor of many other pet species. However, rabbit urine can be quite pungent.

Aggression

Rabbits are surprisingly strong creatures for their size, able to scratch, bite and kick with their powerful hind legs. Both bucks and does often become aggressive to other rabbits as part of normal rabbit breeding behavior, but they may also become aggressive to other pets, especially guinea pigs. They can also become aggressive to people, nipping and biting hands, legs or feet. Best Friends Animal Society states that many rabbits will grunt before they bite, but not always.

Mounting

This is similar to mounting in pet dogs. Both bucks and does may mount other rabbits, other pets, soft pieces of furniture, fuzzy slippers, stuffed animals or the feet of their caretakers. Mounting is not only embarrassing, but can destroy furniture, small objects and can knock a person down. Mounting behavior can sometimes happen after a rabbit has been neutered or spayed but can be eliminated through positive training, according to Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, Dip ABVP.

Feet Circling

This behavior is not as annoying as other rabbit sexual behaviors, but can serve to accidentally trip people. The rabbit will hop around the feet of a person. They also quickly hop around other rabbits. Although primarily a courtship behavior, it can also be a sign of affection. This habit can sometimes crop up rabbits that were neutered or spayed before they were six months old. It may also remain after an older rabbit is neutered or spayed, so rabbit caretakers need to anticipate this behavior in order to not fall over the rabbit.

In Conclusion

Rabbit breeding behaviors in both sexes can be alarming and disruptive. Spaying or neutering can cut these behaviors down significantly. Remember to never hit a pet rabbit, as rabbits are far too fragile to stand abuse. Training with positive reinforcement such as clicker training methods can help stop ingrained rabbit sexual behaviors.

Sources

“Rabbit Red Alert.” Sari Kafner, DVM. “Critters 2007 Annual.” Bow Tie Press; 2006.

Pet Education. “Spaying and Neutering Rabbits.” Holly Nash, DVM. http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=18+1803&aid=2147

Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2001. “Small Mammal Behavior.” Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, Dip ABVP. http://www.vin.com/VINDBPub/SearchPB/Proceedings/PR05000/PR00299.htm

Best Friends Animal Society. “Basic Bunny Behavior.” http://www.bestfriends.org/theanimals/pdfs/bunnies/rabbitbehavior.pdf


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