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Why does my rabbit spray urine?


Urine, urine everywhere! Urine spraying in rabbits is a common concern for owners. If you have a rabbit who sprays, you’ll know it can be extremely messy as they do indeed spray everywhere! This behaviour is very natural for this social species. But can be commonly confused with inappropriate urination, which has very different causes. Understanding why spraying behaviour occurs and how to prevent it is essential for every rabbit owner. Read on for more!

Is it urine spraying, or just weeing?

If you’re having some difficulties with your rabbit’s urination habits, it is first important to differentiate between normal urination and urine spraying. 

Rabbits usually prefer to urinate in one place, which is why they can be fairly easily litter-trained. If you are finding that your rabbit is urinating in a different place to usual, or with increased volume or frequency, there are a few things to pay close attention to.

  • Is the urine in a puddle on the floor or is it covering a vertical surface? Spraying is usually done on a vertical surface. Whereas small patches of urine on the floor is more likely inappropriate urination.
  • Is the urine normal, or super smelly? Urine spraying often has a stronger odour than normal wee.
  • Are there small patches of urine, or is it everywhere? Urine spraying can get very messy as it is often extensive!

If your rabbit is not spraying, just urinating in a different or inappropriate place, it is a good idea to seek veterinary attention. 

They may have a medical problem such as an infection in their urinary tract, for example. Diabetes in rabbits can cause excessive urination, and arthritis can make litter trays more difficult to access. If your rabbit is checked over and is found to be healthy, it may be that their preferred toileting area has become unattractive, such as being too dirty, the litter tray has been moved or the substrate changed. Rabbits don’t like new things and may well be protesting to some minor alteration. Getting on top of these changes is best done quickly, before your rabbit develops a new favourite place to urinate. 

It’s definitely urine spraying, but why are they doing it?

Once you’ve established that your beloved bunny is urine spraying, it is helpful to understand why they might be performing this unwanted behaviour. Here are the common reasons behind urine spraying in rabbits. 

Territorial behaviour

Rabbits are both a social and a territorial species. Urine spraying is also called ‘marking’, and is used by rabbits as a form of scent communication. Both male and female rabbits can urine spray. But it is most common in unneutered rabbits, especially males, from puberty onwards. Rabbits will spray urine around their territory as a way of communicating their boundaries to other nearby rabbits. This is why urine that is sprayed has a distinct and strong odour, and why rabbits spray extensively around their home environment. Rabbits who are unsettled or anxious (perhaps due to the addition of a new rabbit, or changes in the home) may spray more than usual to reassert their confidence in their home area. 

Courtship

You may have noticed your rabbit spraying onto their companion rabbits (usually onto a female), other pets, or even on you (lovely!). Sexually mature male rabbits use urine spraying as part of a courtship ritual, marking females that take their interest. This spraying behaviour can extend to other animals or people that they feel close to. It’s actually a compliment, although it might not feel like one!

How do I stop my rabbit urine spraying?

Urine spraying is unpleasant: smelly, inconvenient and messy. If you are unsure if your rabbit is spraying or has a problem causing excessive urination, first get them checked over by a veterinary surgeon. 

If they are definitely spraying, the best way to stop this behaviour is to have your rabbit neutered. Marking behaviour is much more common in entire rabbits. This undesirable behaviour often resolves completely once the rabbit is neutered. If you are concerned about the surgery or anaesthesia for your bunny, speak to your vet about the neutering procedure and read more about the safety of neutering rabbits here. 

If you don’t want to neuter your rabbit, keeping unneutered rabbits separate can help diminish their need to spray (rabbits do need companions, so the entire rabbits should have at least one unneutered friend!). And keep their territory area manageable so that it is more easily cleaned.

Urine spraying: a summary

Urine spraying is a perfectly normal and natural behaviour in rabbits. It is usually related to territorial and sexual behaviours, so is often markedly reduced by neutering. It can be confused with inappropriate urination, which may be due to stress and anxiety or due to some medical concern.

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