Mercury and Zoe have both been “fixed.”

One of my friends is thinking of getting two rabbits as family pets. It turns out that one is male and the other is female. She sent me a note asking whether she could have them “fixed,” so as to avoid the two rabbits turning into many. The simple answer is YES! Not only can you have rabbits neutered – you really should have them neutered.   

Why is that, you ask? First, it’s nice to know that your bunnies will not be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem, no matter how careless you get in segregating the genders. Second, unspayed female rabbits, as they age, become increasing susceptible to uterine cancer (adenocarcinoma, for those of you keeping track). In some breeds, the incidence is as high as 80%. To avoid this problem, it’s advisable to get them spayed between four and 12 months of age (certainly before two years of age, when tumors often start). Finally, many (some would claim most) maturing male rabbits develop a bit of an attitude. This may range from a mild irritability to an overt aggressiveness toward their cage mates or their humans. Add to this a nasty habit of urine marking, and you can see why it’s a good idea to have your male rabbit neutered between 12 weeks of age and puberty.    

But rabbits are not the only exotic pets you should consider neutering. Spayed female rats have a much lower incidence of mammary and pituitary tumors. Male rats have a risk of testicular tumors and neutering them, naturally, reduces the incidence to zero. Because approximately 75% of unspayed adult female guinea pigs develop cysts on their ovaries, they should be spayed, ideally before 18 months of age. Hamsters and gerbils are prone to both cystic ovaries and malignant uterine tumors; while the percentage of individuals that experience these problems is fairly low, it’s zero in spayed females. This is hardly a comprehensive list of exotic pet mammals you should consider spaying or neutering; but it’s a start.    

Before adopting an exotic pet mammal, do your research. If spaying or neutering is recommended, be certain that you’ve found a vet who feels comfortable performing the procedure (after all, most exotic mammals require special surgical approaches, anesthesia, and recovery care). Also, be sure that you include the cost of surgery in the adoption price of the animal.    

Spaying or neutering your pet may well extend its life while making your life easier, as well. I hope you’ll consider it!