Three Little Ladies Rabbitry, Jersey Wooly
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Dealing With a Urine Spraying Buck

Author Intro

I have many times had a buck that just won't stop spraying everything. In fact one of our bucks sprays every time we pick him up at a show. Recently he got another exhibitor right in the hair. It was embarassing for her, and also for us. Today I read an article from Teresa Wooden of Brightside Woolies and just had to post it. Teresa has many excellent articles, please be sure to visit her site.

Khemo's Buck Spraying Story

Khemosabi was a little Polish buck that became a favorite character here in the rabbitry. From the moment he was born, with his gorgeous markings and lively attitude, he got more than his fair share of attention from both Anna and myself. He spent lots of time being carried about, cooed to, and lovingly stroked and snuggled. Needless to say, he became spoiled rotten and obnoxiously demanded attention as soon as we set foot inside the door. Which he got. Without fail.

In his opinion, he OWNED the rabbitry, a point which he made clear to the rest of the herd as he ran up and down the aisle way during feeding time, stopping at each cage to tease the other rabbits. I'm sure he was sticking his tongue out and blowing raspberries, in rabbit language.

We first noticed a problem with Khemo after he had been in a weaning cage for several weeks. These are smaller-sized units with solid dividers ('dwarf' cages) into which we separate litters after they've been weaned. Oh, he did just fine for quite awhile, but then one day Anna picked him up out of his cage and went, "Ewwwww!" and I saw her wiping her hands on her old barn coat. His butt was covered with yellow pee, the remnants of which you can still see in the photo above, where his old coat hadn't molted out yet.

Khemo had come into his adolescent stage, and had just discovered that he could mark the walls of his territory. He fell in love with his own perfume, in fact, and his little cage soon became a hideous urine swamp that took constant cleaning and wall-washing just to try and stay ahead of it. Soon he was covered from nose to tail with yellow, sticky, yucky urine. But he was happy.

"Something has to be done, here," I muttered one day as I tried to un-glue my hands from his fur. "He needs a bath. Now!" You're really not supposed to give rabbits a bath, but understand that this was a desperate situation. There was no way this little guy was going to ever be shown, and it was unlikely that any doe would even let him within three feet of her. He was pathetic. But he was happy.

So up to the bathroom we go, and Khemo gets a good warm bath, followed by some blow-dryer time. He looked a little better on the outside, but he was definitely not happy. In fact, he began to get listless and his body temperature was dropping. I realized with horror that he was going into shock! I gave him injections of fluid and ran to the vet's office to get some meds while Anna held him on a heating pad, wrapped in a towel. Once he got the right medications he began to come around, and he sat and watched TV with us all evening until we were sure he was going to be okay.

Obviously we couldn't put him back into the same cage or he'd just get soiled again (the walls were covered), so we moved some rabbits around and gave him a big cage with open wire sides. Khemo was happy. Very happy.

This is when he discovered his talent for target shooting. At first, it was the doe next door. One day we came out and her head was yellow. We stuck a feed bag up between her cage and Khemo's.

In frustration, he began to aim for the window behind his cage, and then the storage cabinet next to his cage, and then one day, to his delight, he discovered that he could mark US! This was too sweet. moving targets were much more satisfying. A challenge for the truly gifted.

Initially, he would just spray wildly in our direction and hope by chance to hit home. Pretty soon, though, he began to gain control and accuracy and could hit us in the head from across the aisle way. We were getting pretty 'peed off' to say the least. This is when we installed a towel across the front of his cage, hanging by hooks on either end. Khemo was definitely NOT happy, and began to run up and down in front of his door and get a little frantic. So we gave him a toy, an empty plastic Coke bottle. He rolled that thing all over the cage, beat it up, jumped on it, and wore himself out. He didn't mark quite as much. He liked his bottle buddy.

Eventually his new coat came in enough to make him show-worthy again and we decided to take him to the ARBA Convention. While I filled out some paperwork there, Anna put rabbits into their coops. She had most of them cooped by the time I returned. "So, did you get the Polish put up?" I asked.

"Yup, they're over there. Khemo's right there on the corner." I looked over and there sat Khemo, on the top row of coops, right on the corner of the main aisle way. He looked happy, very, very happy.

"Ummmm. Where's his towel?" I asked Anna. "I didn't bring it. I thought you had it." With a sinking feeling I realized there wasn't a whole lot that I could do here. just hope for the best. I looked at Anna, she looked at Khemo, and the truth of the matter began to dawn upon her face. "Oh, crud, Uhhhh Let's limit his water?" I fumbled.

"Yeah, right" she said, as we both did a visual scan of the area to see if any victims were coming into range. Actually, he did pretty well at keeping himself entertained with the new sights and sounds for the first couple days. Then, to my horror, I came in one morning and realized that they had set up the Polish breed judging tables RIGHT IN FRONT OF KHEMO! I grimaced as the crowd started to gather. From across the room I could see Khemo go into high alert, ears forward, eyes bright, and a definite grin beginning to curl upon his lips. He did a whirly hop around his coop. He was happy.

I'm not sure how many people, over the next couple hours, we noticed grabbing the backs of their necks and looking around behind them. To be fair, I did go over and warn people a time or two, but the crowd kept changing and new and unsuspecting souls would come into range. After awhile I saw Khemo stretched out, relaxing in his coop. He was just tuckered out after a good day's work, and feeling a little (dare I say it), drained.

What To Do?

Spraying is a hormonal, territorial behavior. You will not be able to override this basic instinct with reprimands or discipline. The rabbit is just being a rabbit. What can you do if your rabbit is a urine-sprayer?

1) Provide a larger cage with solid dividers. If he's in a small cage with solid dividers, he'll rub against the walls and soil himself.

2) Keep them in a cage on the lowest level. They'll be less likely to hit you as a target.

3) Give the rabbit something to do. Provide a toy, give them extra grass hay. Keep them occupied.

4) Suspend a towel across the front of the cage to protect yourself. Make sure you are allowing for adequate ventilation.

5) Neuter. If yours is a pet rabbit, then neutering will usually stop the territorial marking behavior provided it is done within the rabbit's first year of life.

Written by
Teresa Wooden
Brightside Woolies

Posted by
Rob Usakowski
Three Little Ladies Rabbitry