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I got a question third hand, (friend > wife > me) and a quick search leaves me wondering where to look for the answer.

The friend has an 11 year old female rabbit that has not been spayed. She wants to know if rabbits experience menopause, and what if any similarities it has with human menopause (transition to a non-reproductive state, with associated symptoms)

A quick glance at Wikipedia teaches us that rabbits are induced ovulators which means they don't have normal cycles, they ovulate in response to sex. So obviously there are going to be some differences from humans. The closest scientific study I find is Efficacy of red clover isoflavones in the menopausal rabbit model. which uses "experimentally induced menopause" to test a drug. So while not really addressing this question does provide for the probability of a rabbit/human similarity.

Do rabbits experience menopause? At what age, and what kind of symptoms? Are they able to reproduce until they die of old age (16+ years old)?

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    I went digging a not a single animal medical book I have mentions menopause for Rabbits and there's some indication that human-style menopause is actually a bit uncommon in mammals. However, since absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, I'm not going to post this as an answer, but from what I can tell they can still ovulate, but that they shouldn't be bred after about 5 years (as I assume you would know!). – John Cavan Sep 16 '14 at 0:10
  • @JohnCavan Because I work mostly with rescue rabbits I was not aware of the of the 5 year thing. It might be worth while to write an answer around that here. Using what I know of human reproduction (limited egg supply) and combining that with induced ovulation in rabbits, leads to a good argument to spay pet female rabbits around age 5 if for no other reason then to prevent accidental pregnancy that can harm the pet rabbit. – James Jenkins Sep 16 '14 at 12:19
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Rabbits do not have menstral cycles like humans.

The female rabbit, however, does not have an oestrus cycle with regular periods of heat during which ovulation will occur spontaneously. Does are considered to be in oestrus more or less permanently. Ovulation occurs only after mating. A female rabbit is therefore considered to be in heat when she accepts service and in dioestrus when she refuses. (SOURCE)

So a rabbit is not going to have menopause in the way that a human does since they do not have regular menstral cycles anyway. Anecdotally I have talked with breeders who have had rabbits survive litters after 5 years old(many dont) but they just never recover from the experience and generally do not make great mothers. Most breeders will tell you to stop breeding around 4 though they also admit when you have a favorite that produces consistantly great rabbits and consistently raises healthy litters they may be able to produce longer.

  • +1 Thank you, a combination of experience and what looks like a reliable reference. – James Jenkins Sep 16 '14 at 16:51

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