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Both my rabbits are fixed (spayed/neutered).

However, anytime there's a new pet in the house (currently a guinea pig), my rabbits start spraying (marking with pee).

While it would seem like this would coincide with questions about pecking order, it also occurred when we rescued a Yorkie off the highway and held it for a few days before its owner claimed it.

Moreover, I would attribute it to territory and having to share space, as the guinea pig and the rabbits like the same hideaways, but in the case of the Yorkie, it never entered their territory.

Are there some general tricks, or things I can do to discourage this type of behavior?

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+100

You are correct that the first and best step to modify spraying and poor litter box habits is spay/neuter. You are also correct that the behavior your are seeing is likely related to territory marking. Every bunny likes to be secure in the ownership of their space.

The scenario you mention is not unusual, but there is not one simple thing you can do to prevent or modify the behavior. Every situation is unique, and every bunny has their own personality so each solution must be tailored to each bunny. In researching for this answer, I found essentially the same things I am going to mention here repeated over and over. The following points are based on my personal experience, but are echoed by others.

We have 5 pet rabbits, living in 3 different colonies (or warrens) on the top floor of our two story home. Downstairs we have 2 spaces that are used for visiting foster or border rabbits. We work with other rabbits away from our home and often come home smelling like other rabbits.

  • Make your rabbit secure in the ownership of their space. As much as possible keep strange animals out your rabbits' space. In our home, every group is separated by a neural zone where no bunny is allowed.

  • If another animal is going to share space with your rabbit work to ensure that both coexist comfortably together (see related)

  • Do not allow unaltered animals into your home. Your bunny is not making sex hormones any more, but if the visitor has them, it may impact your rabbit.

  • When working away from home with unaltered rabbits change clothes. Particularly important before laying down on the couch. It only took one lesson for my rabbit to teach me this rule.

  • If caring for multiple pets, address the dominant rabbit first. In our house this tends to be in seniority of adoption.

  • Leave some poops around. Rabbit poop is the least gross product (liquid or solid) of pretty much any animal. Your bunny most likely will feel that their property is secure if the find their own poops marking the area. This may mean harvesting poops from the litter box to place strategically if some bunny came through without authorization.

  • Clean up "accidents" immediately with a 'bio-enzymatic cleaning agent' like Nature's Miracle

  • After visiting other animal(s), spend time with the rabbit that may feel their property is at risk. Give attention and maybe a treat. Remember you are also their property.

  • Add an extra litter box - if one particular area is being urinated or pooped on, your rabbit may be telling you, that a litter box needs to be Right HERE.

  • When adding a bunny to a space previously "owned" by another bunny, spray the whole area with a 'bio-enzymatic cleaning agent' and let it dry for a couple of days. Start the bunny with a small area first before letting them have the whole place to run in.

  • If you have a traffic area that bunny insists needs periodic pee, there are some door mats that have a watertight rubber back. Place as needed. We have an older disabled rabbit that sometimes just can't get from the comfort place to the litter box. We have had good luck with these rugs, they are easy to wash in the tub and drip dry in a day or so. (get two, so one can be in use while the other is drying).

  • If you have a bunch of rabbits who are all trying to claim ownership over the same territory on a recurring basis, get rubber floors see related question. If no bunny "owns" it then every bunny is going to try and claim it, every chance they get.

  • Ensure that the hay is over the litter box, your bunny likes to use the litter box while eating hay.

| improve this answer | |
  • you have 15 rabbits (5x3)? why not just make one warren out of them? I hear 11 is the magic number were you can just easily add another rabbit – virtualxtc Feb 26 '14 at 9:45
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    Made me ask a new question on enzyme treatments – virtualxtc Feb 26 '14 at 9:50
  • you should open with "Remember you are your your rabbits property" - I forgot that I'm owned, but it explains a lot of other behaviors I've been noticing. – virtualxtc Feb 26 '14 at 9:53
  • @virtualxtc, I have 2 pairs, and a single for a total of 5. I had a trio, tried adding a fourth, and it turned in to two pairs, then the 5th rabbit adopted me. – James Jenkins Feb 26 '14 at 11:32

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