Marking objects or urine spraying is a normal territorial instinct that many domestic and wild rabbits display. Unfortunately, pet rabbits that spray urine create a problem for their owners. Those who own rabbits that spray are constantly faced with how inconvenient and costly this behavior can become. There are a few tips to help prevent this behavior, but the most efficient method is to have your rabbit surgically altered.
It is important to distinguish between urine spraying and inappropriate urination due to environmental or medical factors. When rabbits spray urine, they tend to spray on vertical surfaces; however, rabbits displaying inappropriate urination will generally urinate on horizontal surfaces. In addition, if a rabbit has sprayed, the urine will have a stronger odor than urine that was released inappropriately.
Causes of Inappropriate Urination
Many things can cause rabbits to exhibit abnormal urinary habits. Many of these reasons can be traced back to the overwhelming effects of reproductive hormones. In certain circumstances, medical problems can contribute to this troublesome behavior. Be sure to regularly monitor your rabbit for signs of medical complications so that you can avoid any serious health disorders. The causes for urine spraying and abnormal urination habits can include:
The best way to avoid dealing with unwanted urination behaviors is to have your rabbit spayed or neutered. These procedures remove the reproductive organs that are responsible for the production of hormones that can play a role in territorial behaviors. Fixing your rabbit may also alleviate other behavioral problems, such as aggression or biting, that are associated with reproductive hormones. Altering also decreases the chance for reproductive complications, especially in female rabbits.
If you own rabbits that you plan on breeding, you will have to be prepared to deal with urine spraying. If your rabbit is intact, try to avoid letting your rabbit run free in the house. Allowing your rabbit to freely roam the house will only set your rabbit up for disaster. Rabbits will often spray items that do not already contain their scent. You can also house intact rabbits away from each other. Separating the hutches of these rabbits can help deter marking behavior.
If you choose to use a litter box for intact rabbits, make sure that the sides of the box are high enough to prevent urine from being sprayed outside the box. In addition, rabbits tend to urinate in corners, along walls, or along borders, so you may want to cover the wall of the hutch or room closest to the litter box with newspaper or plastic carpet protectors to allow for easy cleanup.
For rabbits housed in wire cages, metal urine guards may be purchased at most pet stores. These guards fit around the bottom corners of wire cages and help protect the surrounding area from urine exposure.
Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, Ph.D. and Amanda Young - University of Nebraska-Lincoln