Rabbits/Behavior control for a bunny too young to be neutered
I am a first time bunny owner with a female Holland Lop that is nearly four months old now.
She has been a dream pet; she was litter box trained within a week and a half, loves all three of my kids and loves me the most.
We have been leaving the cage door open all day long as long as we're home, and she hops around the living room happily.
HOWEVER. In the past week she's started peeing all over the carpet, never in the same place twice. And what's more, for the past three days when I've been out on the floor with her, giving her love, she'll hop up on my lap and sometimes pee on ME.
When I try to read up on this, the answer is always the same: "Get your rabbit neutered, and this behavior will magically go away." But in the same breath, they add, "But you have to wait until they're 6 months old to neuter females, and not only that, but it may take a month or more for the hormone levels to drop afterwards."
So my question is: What in the world am I supposed to do in the meantime??? Is there any way of keeping this behavior under control? Am I supposed to keep my previously-free-ranged-bunny in her cage throughout this teenage time? Peeing on the carpet several times a day for 3+ months is simply not acceptable in our family!
Here's my grasping at straws for a solution:
Some people have suggested time-outs, but so far they haven't made a difference for me. But I can never catch my bunny until she's in the middle of urinating (ie most of the pee is already on the floor by then). Am I supposed to magically catch her earlier?
How do other bunnies react when they're upset about a bunny peeing on them/peeing in their territory? (I don't mind telling my bunny "No" in very clear bunny language!) Is there a way I can teach her that I'm the dominant bunny here?
You definitely sound like you have a struggle on your hands, and I'm sorry she's been a challenge as of late.
Timeouts won't work. I'm not sure how that suggestion came about, but a young bun going through these kinds of changes is not going to understand. Since, as you mention, there's also really no magical way to catch her in the act earlier, I would recommend getting some absorbent materials to lay down over your carpet to save it from stains. Blankets of some kind would be your best option, since they can be washed.
As for how you express your own displeasure at being used for a pee-pad, you can always try a grunt or a "foot stomp" since this would most closely resemble what a rabbit would "say". If you're, for example, on the couch when this happens, maybe make a grunt, slap your hand on the couch cushion, and put the bun on the floor to show them you're not happy.
I know this isn't an ideal solution, but I would be remiss not to mention that this IS temporary - within a month or so you can schedule her appointment to be fixed and I've been witness to how much they calm down once this is done.
Hopefully this helps, and please let me know if I can assist further.
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QUESTION: Well, I can't really keep a blanket covering my entire living room carpet every day for 3+ months (not to mention all the washing that would entail), so.... any additional recommendations? Do you think I should limit her roam space to a smaller area, perhaps? It would end up pretty limited, because of the room setup, and I think she'll be sad not to have so much binky-jump space. But she'll have to make a sacrifice if she's going to be peeing on my carpet, I think!
I'll definitely try the foot stomp thing when she pees on me, but I've never ever heard a bunny grunt before, so I'm not even sure what it would sound like. My attempts sound very growly, is that okay?
For my quick rant, why is there such a dearth of information on bunnies too young for neutering? I mean, when I was researching what bunny to get, I was forewarned about several things.
Chewing habits: check.
Need to be litterbox trained: check.
Cage size: check.
Need for exercise: check.
Need to neuter when they're older: check.
But nobody nobody nobody ever mentions what to do about bunnies who've reached adolescence who are too young for neutering. Nobody ever forewarns you: Oh yeah, by the way, when you get a bunny, you'll have to endure 3+ months where they pee everywhere while you're waiting for them to get older. Oh, and there's really nothing you can do about it except make clean-up easier on yourself.
I mean, seriously?
Other than this issue I do so love my furry ball of cuteness. I was totally surprised (knowing nothing about rabbits beforehand) by how incredibly affectionate she is. I hope her love of being petted never goes away. I was also pleasantly surprised by how unphased she is by screaming children who'll run right up to her face with excitement. She just stares at them like, oh, hi. And then starts sniffing them and everything they probably brought to show her. ("Show this to the bunny!" is a favorite game at our house. For the bunny as well as us!) Occasionally she'll turn her back and hop a little ways away from them, especially if they're over-touching her, but I've never seen her freeze or bolt away. She always looks so relaxed. I always thought bunnies were way more skittish and aloof.
Other than this issue, perfect pet for our family. But really. How does everyone get through these 3+ months without having a house they'd be ashamed to invite visitors to?
I knew blankets wasn't an ideal answer. I thought maybe if it was a temporary thing it could be tolerated for a month or two. I can't blame you for nixing the idea though.
Yes, limiting her space would also limit the collateral damage. I would also suggest getting a play rug from a home improvement store (one with a small, tight weave and a non-slip bottom) and limiting her play space to that area. You are correct that she'll probably throw a fit, but that will pass and this is all temporary. Bonus - when you're done with the carpet, you can trash it. There's really no way to stop the behavior unless you kept her enclosed until you could have someone literally sitting by her at all times. Not even a trip to grab a glass of water, and lets face it - that's not really practical either.
Also invest in some good carpet cleaners to remove all smells and stains from any area she's already gotten to so there aren't repeat visits to the same spots. Definitely get her fixed as soon as possible, and make sure it's done by a rabbit-savvy vet. Tap into local rescues to see who they use - they're always good for recommendations.
A bunny grunt is... interesting. The best way I can describe it is a mix between a pig snort and a duck honk. It's good that you've never heard it. Impressive even. A very strange sound, indeed. You'll never forget it once you've heard it.
Admittedly this isn't an issue that's experienced that often, so it would explain why there's not much information on what to do. Rabbits have only become indoor house pets as a "thing" over the last 15-20 years, and even now it's still not a hugely popular choice, not to mention the fact that the general public is still grossly underinformed about care which is why you see so many bunnies flooding rescues a few weeks after Easter.
You definitely got lucky with your girl. Not all rabbits would tolerate that because there are definitely a few that run/stomp/grunt at anything remotely offensive to their nice quiet environment. I suspect that has something to do with her being a lop breed. I don't know for sure whether it's just a characteristic of the breed or whether the ears down blocks a lot of the noise that would normally scare the bejeezus out of them but I suspect it might be a mix of the two. My lop, just so you can compare, isn't even afraid of the vacuum - a fact I find incredible even years later.
To be honest, when you're a bun-lover, it's a commitment (part of the reason they get returned... again - little knowledge) and most people in your circle come to accept it, like a dog or a cat owner having hair everywhere. I think the play rug will work well, but let me know if that's not an option either and we'll come up with something that will work for you.
Out of curiosity, are there any other animals in the house, even if they don't go into her area?
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QUESTION: Thank you!
I didn't mean to say that blankets were a horrible idea period; only that I needed an additional idea. Your idea of a play rug and limiting her space to that area is a good one.
She hasn't re-visited the same spot twice yet so far, as far as my carpet is concerned. I have noticed that 90% of the times she pees is when she and I have been having a happy, special time together. And for those 90% she always pees within arm reach of me (or ON me, like I mentioned). So it all depends on where I am. What a strange way to compliment someone you like.... do bunnies really take being peed on as a compliment??? Seems like most animals would consider that an insult!
There are NO other animals in the house, and there haven't been for years, but like I said, I do have children. In fact, yesterday my bunny was hopping on and around me merrily, no problems, and then my toddler sat on my lap for a while -- as soon as my toddler left the bunny got real close to me, and I thought, "I'll bet anything you're gonna -- yup." She peed right smack next to me.
Perhaps the lack of info out there on dealing with bunny adolescence is part of the reason why so many bunnies are flooding the rescues. They say that this is the very time frame that most people are abandoning their buns -- makes sense if their personality starts to alter, their habits break down, and the only advice you can find is, "wait it out until they're older."
More info needs to get out there.
To my credit, I did look around to adopt, but I live in a small town out in the middle of nowhere (central Pennsylvania) and after all my online searching I couldn't find any adoption places or foster homes closer than 2+ hours away, with most of them being in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, both of which are 4 hours from me. So I got a baby from the pet store. :) She's such a cute choice for my kids, though.
I'll try the limited play area with something like a rug put down idea. That'll make me and husband happy, though I think bunny will be sad not to hop around me. I'm sure I may send new e-mails with new questions when I come across another problem I can't solve . :)
I welcome any future questions and will do my best to help. :)
Ahh... your bun is the jealous type! Can't stand to see you loving on someone else. *this is MY mommy*
That's cute, unless you're the one cleaning it up. Hopefully the limited play area and the grunts/stomps will temper the bad behavior until you can get her fixed.
Best of luck, and have a great day!