If you’re looking into getting a new rabbit as a pet, there are many questions you’ll have about how to find the right bunny for you. My first piece of advice is always to go to an animal shelter and meet some bunnies before making a decision. But when that’s not possible, there are some traits that are more common between male and female rabbits that may make one gender the better choice for you.
Male rabbits are easier pets for first time rabbit caretakers. They tend to be less territorial with fewer destructive habits and are known for having calmer personalities. However, female rabbits are also great pets if you are ready to take extra precautions.
It’s also important to point out that these are just generalizations and not all rabbits follow these behavioral norms. I have known female rabbits who are adorable with completely laid back personalities, just like I’ve met male rabbits who are more aggressive by nature. If you have a choice, it’s much better to go to an animal shelter to meet the individual rabbits to get a feel for their personalities.
The differences between male and female rabbits
The gender of a rabbit is usually not the main characteristic that determines their personality or habits. Other factors such as the rabbit’s breed, age, living conditions and whether or not they’ve been neutered have a much greater effect on how your rabbit will behave.
That being said, there are some common differences that you’ll find both in the rabbit’s personality and in caring for your bunny. Mainly these differences come down to instinctual territorial tendencies, destructive tendencies (such as digging, chewing and spraying), and the cost of healthcare for the rabbit. Once the rabbit has been spayed or neutered many of these personality differences become more subtle, decreasing the differences between male and female rabbits.
I want to reiterate that these gender differences (with the exception of a spay or neuter surgery) are just generalizations and it is not uncommon to find rabbits who break the gender stereotypes. As someone who works with rescue rabbits, I can say that you’ll get a much better feel for a rabbit’s personality by taking the time to meet with them at your local animal shelter.
In general, male rabbits are touted as being easier pets for rabbit beginners. They will usually get into less trouble and show fewer aggressive tendencies than female rabbits. This is especially true of rabbits who have been neutered. This doesn’t mean that having a male rabbit will be a walk in the park. Regardless of what gender you choose to get, you’ll want to make sure you do some research to make sure a rabbit is the best pet for you.
Wild male rabbits spend more time out of their network of underground tunnels foraging in the area outside. For this reason, the males tend to have weaker territorial instincts around protecting their homes from uninvited guests. As pets they are less likely to be aggressive and bite or swat at you when you reach into their enclosure.
While uncommon, male rabbits might show these kinds of territorial instincts around a larger area instead of their immediate enclosure. They may decide that the whole room that contains their habitat is part of their territory and snap at the heels of anyone who comes into the room, especially if they are strangers. Usually this kind of behavior will stop once the rabbit has been neutered.
Neutering a male rabbit is a shorter, less invasive, and less dangerous surgery. Because of this, neutering a rabbit is typically cheaper than getting a female spayed. There are also fewer serious health concerns associated with leaving a male rabbit in-tact, so it’s not as big of an issue if you cannot get him neutered right away as a young bunny.
The cost of both neutering and spaying can be avoided by adopting a rabbit from an animals shelter instead of from a breeder or pet store. However, if you’re the kind of person who really loves to get a pet when they’re a baby and watch them grow up, you will need to take the price of the neuter surgery into account. To learn more about why it’s so important to get your rabbit spayed or neutered, check out my article that goes in depth on this topic.
This is the hardest characteristic to delineate between male and female because every rabbit has their own unique personality. There is no way to know exactly what your rabbit’s personality is going to be simply because you know their gender. However, typically male rabbits will have more laid back and friendly personalities. If you are looking for a more social or attention seeking rabbit, then a male will probably be better for you.
Spraying is a behavior where a rabbit will urinate in places around the room as a way to mark their territory. While you will occasionally find females who spray, it is much more common among male rabbits. They are the ones who would go into the area surrounding the rabbit burrow and mark the borders of their territory to warn any unfamiliar rabbit to stay away.
This means you’re much more likely to be dealing with urine around the borders of the room or inside boxes and around corners. Since rabbit urine has a relatively high concentration of ammonia, it can damage the varnish on wooden floors, or easily stain carpeted flooring.
Most of the time, getting your rabbit neutered will stop this kind of spraying behavior unless you bring a new rabbit (or other pet) into the home. However, it’s best to make sure you’re ready with a good pet-safe cleaner and stain remover so you can clean up after your rabbit.
Male rabbits who have not been neutered will also emit a musky smell when they want to mate. Even though rabbits are not generally smelly pets, males like to challenge that notion and are more likely to make your house smell.
Male rabbits are also more likely to mount (hump) any and everything they can get on top of. This behavior is more likely in males who have not been neutered, but may continue even after surgery and hormones calm down. Mounting in and of itself is not a negative behavior, but it can be annoying or dangerous depending on what your rabbit is trying to hump.
|Less expensive to neuter
|Spraying and odors
|More aggressive when threatened
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Female rabbits are often more difficult for first time rabbit caretakers to connect with. Their behavior can seem more aloof and they typically have more destructive tendencies than male rabbits. However, that doesn’t mean female rabbits are bad pets. If you are willing to take the time to bond with your rabbit they can be incredibly affectionate and loving pets.
In the wild, female rabbits will spend more time staying inside their burrow with the baby bunnies. This has led to female rabbits having a much stronger instinct for protecting their space than male rabbits. This means that female rabbits are much more likely to be aggressive toward anyone who enters their perceived territory. They may bite or swat when you reach into their enclosure to feed or pet them. Often these aggressive behaviors will decrease once the rabbit has been spayed, but they don’t always go away completely.
Spaying a female rabbit is a more difficult and procedure than neutering a male. For this reason, the cost of a spay surgery is usually higher. A spay surgery can cost upwards of $600 depending on where you live and what veterinary office you go to.
It’s also more important that you get your rabbit spayed early on. Female rabbits have a very high chance of developing uterine cancer if they are not spayed, and this chance continues to increase with age. If you are not prepared for the high cost of surgery, then it’s best to either get a male rabbit or adopt a rabbit who has already been fixed.
I want to reiterate that the individual personality of your rabbit can vary significantly from the gender norms. Everything from how a rabbit is cared for, their past experiences, their breed, age, and even temporary mood will affect how your rabbit behaves. I can only give you tendencies and patterns that are common among the behavior of female rabbits.
Usually female rabbits will have stronger personalities than males. They’ll typically be stubborn and adventurous, behaving as if they are a little princess in the household. It’s also more common for female rabbits to be more standoffish toward human companions. They may show less interest in hanging out with you and prefer to do their own thing.
However, once a female decides that she loves you and accepts you as part of her family, she is likely to be very loving and affectionate. At this point, female rabbits are more likely to lick you or your clothing as a way of showing affection.
In the wild, the female rabbits are the ones who do a large part of the digging of new tunnels. They will also dig smaller tunnels off of the main network to use as a nest when they are ready to have babies. That’s why female rabbits are usually much more insistent diggers than male rabbits.
They’ll dig into carpets, cardboard, hardwood flooring, and really anything that is under their feet. It can be a very destructive habit to deal with if you haven’t done a lot of work rabbit proofing your home in preparation. This is a habit that usually continues even after a rabbit has been spayed, and it’s not something you can teach your rabbit to stop doing. Instead you’ll need to find ways to give your rabbit objects she can dig into while covering and protecting the areas you don’t want her to destroy.
In general, female rabbits are cleaner and smell less than male rabbits. Not only is it less likely a female rabbit will spray (though they do occasionally), but they also tend to have better overall litter box habits and keep themselves cleaner with their self-grooming behaviors. This makes female rabbits overall smell less than males.
|Spaying is more expensive
|Destructive digging habits
|Feels ownership over smaller areas
|Strong territorial tendencies