Alright, friends, we’ve got a new rescue story for you, with the moral of the story being why it is so important to spay and neuter your rabbits.
Austin Animal Center reached out to House Rabbit Resource Network on behalf of a family who had become overwhelmed by their pet rabbits accidentally and prolifically breeding.
Over the course of one year, two rabbits became approximately 63. According to the family, many did not survive. HRRN was able to rescue the remaining 25 rabbits. All came from a single pair of Rex rabbits, who themselves are now just over one year old. You’ll sadly only see 22 rabbits listed, as 3 have passed away. The remaining all appear to be in relatively good health.
We want to state that we are not blaming or criticizing the previous owners for what has happened here. Unfortunately, the accidental breeding and subsequent explosion of baby bunny litters is a very common story for those who purchase or are gifted rabbits without much knowledge or information about their care.
This story started like so many. The owners were gifted a pair of rabbits for their child. Many people think rabbits make great kids’ pets (we’re here to mention that they don’t. Want to know why? Just ask!). But the gifter was likely told by the breeder or pet store that these baby bunnies were the same sex, or that they were young enough they didn’t need to worry about them breeding yet.
And like the story goes so frequently, the breeder/pet store had mis-sexed the rabbits or just flat lied about it. But the new owners don’t get to figure that out until there’s a litter of 4 to 7 newborn baby bunnies in the cage. The next problem with that? If mom and dad are together during the birth, the male buck can and usually will impregnate the female the same day she gives birth!
Because the owners don’t realize this, they aren’t expecting another litter in 28 to 32 days because the female already got bred again, beginning a vicious cycle that can quickly spin of control.
Adding more fuel to the fire is the fact that baby rabbits are infamously hard to sex even by experienced rabbit caretakers. So when you have several litters going simultaneously, and you try and separate the boys and girls, one wrong sexing, and you’re on your way to having a new litter beginning–from siblings at that.
This is where the “breed like rabbits” saying comes from, and it’s 110% accurate.
So how do you prevent falling into this same dire situation?
- Adopt Don’t Shop. Legit rescues will have the rabbit’s correctly sexed and already spayed/neutered for you, so nothing to worry about! PS. The cost of the adoption fee is usually much cheaper than the cost of getting the spay/neuter surgery done yourself at the vet.
- Do not take any breeder or pet store’s word about the rabbit’s gender. Even if they did check, there’s a good chance they misidentified them, so take your new rabbit(s) to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately to have them properly sexed.
- Schedule them for a spay/neuter appointment with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian for as soon as they’re old enough.
- Female rabbits can be spayed as soon as they are sexually mature, which is usually around 4 months of age (yes, they can get pregnant at 4 months old!)
- Male rabbits can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend, usually around 8-12 weeks.
- Depending on the size and health of your rabbit, some veterinarians may prefer to wait until the rabbit is 6 months old to perform surgery. If this is the case and you have two rabbits, you must keep them separated to avoid accidental pregnancies (just because the vet wants to wait until 6 months doesn’t mean they can’t breed at 4 months).
Besides preventing a vicious cycle of unwanted pregnancies like the story above, spaying/neutering your rabbit helps with many other things.
Just a few things spaying and neutering reduce or prevent: aggressive behavior, territorial spraying and pooping, and prevents uterine cancer in females (80% of unfixed female rabbits get uterine cancer after 3 years of age). The one-time upfront cost of a spay/neuter surgery is also drastically cheaper than taking care of litter after litter of rabbits.
So back to our story. Of the 25 rabbits HRRN took in, we guess there are probably rabbits from 6 or 7 different litters based on their respective sizes. Several are probably inbred, as they were kept all together in a barn. The youngest seven bunnies are 4 weeks old, one rabbit is at 6 weeks old, and one 8 weeks, so as you can see, it’s not just one female birthing them at these close birthdates.
All are currently in quarantine. We have separated all the bunnies into same-sex groups to prevent any further accidents. Each rabbit is undergoing treatment for coccidia, fleas, and mites. Thankfully besides a few cases of Cheyletiella (mites), most all appear relatively healthy. Each rabbit will receive their Pasteurella and RHDV vaccinations, be microchipped and spayed/neutered when ready.
All of this comes at a cost that is not easily spread out when so many are taken in at one time. This is the part where we ask that our friends, adopters, and supporters please consider donating whatever you can to our Wellness Fund to help these buns get all the medical care they need before so they can eventually be put up for adoption. You can donate by clicking the button below:
A big shout out to all of our amazing volunteers. Several took the time out of their evening to go to the property and “sexing” all of the rabbits before transporting them to the HRRN shelter. Thanks to our volunteers who helped weigh each bunny, for those who took the littlest ones home for closer watching. Thanks to the other hardworking volunteers who cleaned out lots of cages in the shelter and medroom during the weekend and then set all the cages up to be ready for intake. We literally could not do any of this without you!!
And last but definitely not least. If you’re looking for a rabbit-savvy veterinarian to spay or neuter your rabbit in the Austin, Texas area, here are a few that have exotic pet/rabbit specialists on staff. Disclaimer: HRRN does not make any claims regarding levels of expertise, preferences for specific antibiotics, anesthetics, or fees. Therefore, each rabbit owner should inquire about these issues when choosing a rabbit veterinarian. It is the owner’s responsibility to make informed decisions about the care and/or treatment the rabbit is to receive.
- White Rock Veterinary Hospital: https://whiterockvet.com/
- Westgate Pet and Bird Hospital: https://www.westgatepetandbird.com/
- Research Blvd. Pet and Bird Hospital: https://researchpet.com/
- For the National List of Rabbit-savvy Veterinarians, check out House Rabbit Society’s National List by State here: https://rabbit.org/vet-listings/