Little Thumper may be cuddly, but your male rabbit is just as capable of producing fascinating range of smells as any other animal. If he lives inside, he can cause the impression you cohabit with a tomcat/goat crossbreed. Fortunately, controlling your male rabbit's odors is straightforward.
Sources of Smells
The smells from a male rabbit have two obvious sources, his urine and his droppings. Although rabbit droppings are dry, in large quantities they can produce a farmyard odor, especially when soaked in urine or spilled water. Size for size, rabbits produce a vast amount of waste compared with cats or dogs. The bigger source of odors, however, is his urine. Unfixed male rabbits -- bucks -- may start spraying in the manner of a tomcat once they hit puberty at a few months old.
The first thing to do is housetrain your bunny, preferably starting soon after you bring him home. Keep him confined to his cage for the first few days and note where he has chosen as his toilet. Rabbits almost always stick to one corner of the cage. Place newspapers in this spot. Later, place a soiled newspaper in a litter tray and place this in the spot, which gets him accustomed to getting into a tray to do his business. After a few days, start letting him out into one room at a time. Prepare another litter tray with another soiled newspaper, and position it in a corner of the room or against a wall. Provided he uses the litter trays only and urinates nowhere else -- droppings don’t matter so much -- you can gradually give him access to more rooms in your home. Remember that these rooms must be rabbit-proofed, especially with regard to electrical cables.
Have all your pet rabbits spayed or neutered for health and behavioral reasons as well as to prevent unwanted bunnies. In the case of buck rabbits, neutering also reduces territorial spraying behavior, which should help reduce odors. You can have him neutered once his testicles drop -- usually at about 3 months to 4 months of age. Ideally, get this done early. Once rabbits have gone through puberty, they have developed habits that may linger even when the hormones have gone. Neutering is possible at any age, though. Unlike spaying, neutering is not really a major operation. Ask your vet for some rabbit painkiller for the first few days nevertheless. Human painkillers and other pet painkillers are not safe for rabbits.
Simple routine hygiene procedures also help keep smells at bay. Replace the newspapers or litter in his trays twice a day and wash the trays a couple of times a week, using a mild vinegar spray if you wish. Don’t use stronger cleaning products, which are not only dangerous to rabbits but may also discourage yours from using the trays at all. Rabbits sometimes splash even when they are 100 percent house-trained, so place a few layers of newspaper under each tray, especially those on carpets. If this encourages him to use the entire area as a latrine, try a square of something waterproof like linoleum instead.
rabbit image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.