Why do rabbits spray urine? Unneutered male rabbits and unspayed female rabbits will spray urine as a method of marking their territory. Some rabbits may also spray other rabbits that they live with – or even you! This is a natural behavior that isn’t too problematic, but it can be inconvenient and frustrating for owners, especially if you have house rabbits.
Most veterinarians will recommend that you fix your rabbit in order to prevent this behavior. However, if your rabbit is excessively urinating, rather than spraying, this may not stop anything. It’s important to learn the difference so that you can step in if there’s a chance the urination is linked to a health problem.
Do Rabbits Spray?
Spraying by rabbits is a behavior also known as marking. Both male and female rabbits can spray around your home or their hutch, but the behavior is most common in unfixed males. However, it’s important that you can distinguish rabbit spraying from other urinary problems.
Spraying is slightly different to other types of inappropriate urination. For instance, just because your rabbit isn’t using their litter tray, it doesn’t mean they’re spraying. If you find some urine on the floor, particularly in a regular place, your rabbit isn’t spraying. But, if you are finding rabbit urine everywhere, it’s likely your rabbit is spraying. And this doesn’t just mean on the floor. A rabbit that is spraying will spray urine up your walls, furniture, and even on other rabbits and members of the household.
Many owners will also report that rabbit spray has a distinctive, and very strong, smell. So, it’s unlikely that you will miss it if your rabbit has started spraying. Not only will you see the markings on the walls and around your home, but you will be able to smell it.
Why Do Rabbits Spray?
The most common cause of rabbit spraying behavior is unneutered rabbits wanting to mark their territory. Studies and observations have shown the same behavior in wild rabbits, as well as domestic bunnies. In wild rabbit colonies, the most dominant male rabbit will often spray and mark other rabbits in the same colony, as well as the territory itself. So, you may find that if one of your rabbits has started marking your walls, they will progress to marking any other rabbits you have. Some may even start to spray on you!
However, it isn’t just male rabbits that spray. In fact, owners of unspayed does may also find rabbit spray around their homes. Any rabbit can spray to mark their territory, but this behavior is most common in sexually intact rabbits.
What Does Rabbit Spray Look Like?
There are two main ways that owners will notice rabbit spraying. Either, they will experience it firsthand when their rabbit sprays on them! Or, they will start to notice signs of it around their home. So, if you suspect that your rabbit is spraying, what should you look out for?
Well, rabbit spraying will usually be extensive. So, we don’t mean one or two small puddles on the floor near the litter tray. We mean everywhere. You will start to see urine stains on your walls, on furniture, on other pets, and more. You will also start to smell rabbit urine around your house. And you can clean it up, but it’s likely that your rabbit will continue spraying, especially if they have not yet been spayed or neutered.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently bad about this behavior. But, it will leave a lasting impact on your home and your cleaning regime. If your rabbit starts spraying, most of your home will start to smell quite bad, and if not cleaned properly, you will start to see urine stains throughout your house. So what are you meant to do to stop this behavior?
How to Stop Rabbit Spraying?
So, if you are being plagued by rabbit urination, you’ll likely want to know what you can do to stop this smelly, messy behavior! You can either deal with the problem by upping your cleaning regime, or by speaking to your vet about fixing your rabbit. Of course, increased cleaning won’t stop the behavior. It will just tackle the urine in your home. Your rabbit will likely continue spraying. So, it will be a lot of work for you, but will help you keep your home clean and smelling fresher.
A more permanent solution is to neuter or spay your bunny. Of course, this is a big decision for a lot of pet owners and isn’t feasible if you’re planning on breeding your rabbit. However, for many bunny owners, it is the best solution. If you’re having problems with rabbit spraying and want to look into neutering your rabbit, the best place to start is with your veterinarian. Speak to your vet about the procedure, the risks for your bunny, and the ideal time to do it. They will be able to provide you with up to date research, and to answer any questions you may have about the process.
Other Potential Problems
Of course, excessive rabbit urination isn’t always related to spraying. Excessive urination, or polyuria, can be a sign of many other serious health issues. For instance, rabbits suffering from diabetes may urinate excessively around your house.
On top of this, rabbits who have been house trained for years may suddenly stop using their litter trays, but this isn’t necessarily a marking behavior. It could be because they don’t feel safe using the tray for some reason, because you have changed the brand or type of litter that you use, or even because you have too many pet bunnies trying to share a litter tray that is too small.
So, if your rabbit has suddenly started urinating around your home a lot more, but they aren’t spraying on the walls and furniture, it may be worth checking in with the vet. That way you can rule out any health problems and find out exactly what is causing the behavior.
Why Do Rabbits Spray Urine? A Summary
Most rabbits will spray urine around the house as a way of marking their territory. However, occasionally, spraying can be confused with excessive urination outside of the litter tray, which can be a sign of a different problem. So, it’s important to make sure your rabbit is healthy before resorting straight to fixing them. If another issue is causing excessive urination, it’s best to get this treated first!
Have you ever experienced problems with rabbit spraying around your house? We would love to hear your stories in the comments!
References and Resources
- Crowell-Davis, S. ‘Behavior Problems in Pet Rabbits’, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (2007)
- Baker, B. & Hanley, C. ‘Urinary Abnormalities in a Mini Rex Rabbit (Oryctolagus Cuniculus)’, Lab Animal (2013)
- Hussen, H. (et al), ‘The Anti-Diabetic Effect of N-Hexane Extract of Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seeds in Diabetic Rabbits’, World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research (2017)
- Magnus, E. ‘Understanding Rabbits Part Three: Addressing Behavior Problems’, Vet Times (2009)
- Magnus, E. ‘Behaviour of the Pet Rabbit: What is Normal and Why Do Problems Develop?’, In Practice (2005)