SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Desexing your pet rabbits saves lives

Domestic rabbits are a popular companion animal in New Zealand. However, many owners do not have their rabbits desexed, which can lead to health problems and overpopulation.

SPCA is concerned about the oversupply of companion rabbits. The desexing of companion rabbits is an important component of population control and has health and welfare benefits for the desexed animal.

We are committed to reducing the number of unwanted rabbits in New Zealand. All rabbits rehomed from SPCA centres will be desexed, unless it is deemed inappropriate by a veterinarian for a particular individual (e.g. for specific health reasons). If there is a valid reason why an animal cannot be desexed prior to rehoming, we will make sure that they will not be rehomed to a location where breeding can occur or where conflict or fighting is likely to occur with other undesexed rabbits.

Common questions about desexing

What is desexing?

Desexing is the surgical removal of part of the animals’ reproductive system. There are many different words to describe this procedure (desexing, spaying, neutering, altering, castration, sterilisation etc.), but they all refer to the surgical altering of an animal to prevent breeding (having babies).

Should I desex my companion rabbit?

Yes! SPCA advocates for all companion rabbits as deemed appropriate, to be desexed before selling or rehoming, except registered breeding animals. Desexing is an important component of population control and has welfare benefits for the rabbit. You can read more SPCA’s position on desexing, and other position statements, here.

At what age should my companion animal be desexed?

SPCA supports pre-pubertal desexing - that is desexing before the animal reaches puberty and is able to reproduce. Rabbits have evolved to reproduce at a high rate. Companion rabbits still retain their evolutionary capacity to have multiple litters of multiple kits each year. Female rabbits can get pregnant easily and as early as 4- 6 months of age, depending on the breed. Rabbit pregnancies last about 31 days, and the doe can become pregnant again immediately after giving birth.

Rabbits can be desexed at any age, however, we recommend that all rabbits are desexed as early as possible in accordance with veterinary advice.

Not all veterinarians will offer desexing services for rabbits. Ask your veterinarian, your local SPCA, or rabbit society/interest group for recommendations for a veterinarian who does offer desexing for rabbits and is experienced and familiar with anaesthetising and desexing these small animals.

Fun fact! Male rabbits can still be fertile for up to six weeks post-desexing, so bear this in mind when considering housing arrangements during this time.

Will desexing change my rabbit’s nature?

Desexed rabbits are calmer and more friendly with people. They are also less destructive and easier to litter train. Desexed male rabbits are less territorial and less likely to fight. Desexed male rabbits are also less likely to spray urine, which is a benefit for indoor rabbits.

Should my female rabbit have a litter before being desexed?

No! Well-meaning people may tell you that your female rabbit should have a litter or experience a heat cycle/season before she is desexed. However, veterinary science tells us that the opposite is true! Female rabbits that have not been desexed are at seriously higher risk of developing cancers of the uterus and also at risk of developing cancer in their ovaries and mammary glands.

I want to get my animal desexed, but I can’t afford it – what should I do?

Certainly, there is cost involved and this can be a barrier for some people to get their animals desexed. Fortunately, the cost of desexing is a one-off expense and there are many initiatives that offer lower cost (sometimes free) desexing for people who can’t afford normal veterinary fees. You can keep an eye out for SPCA Desexing Services on our Facebook page and website.

What can I do to help prevent companion animal overpopulation?

  • Have your own companion animal desexed!
  • Ask your veterinarian about pre-pubertal desexing - Why wait? Do it today!
  • Encourage friends, family, and neighbours to have their animals desexed.
  • Support and even donate towards the desexing of shelter animals and stray cats in our communities.

Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem: Desexing Saves Lives

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