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Understanding Rabbits' Territorial Markings

Rabbits Sitting In The GrassOnce rabbits hit puberty, the desire to mark territory becomes very strong, and eventually they start urine marking and spraying, as well as defecating to mark their territory. There are not many pet supplies to prevent this desire. Marking behavior will often result from natural instinct to stake out a territory.

Rabbits have two scent glands that they use to mark objects. One, under the tongue, releases their scent (pheromones)—not detectable to humans—through several pores located beneath the chin. The other gland is near the anus. Rabbits also spray urine to mark objects and areas. Here’s how rabbits mark their territories:

  • Rubbing objects with the chin – This is the rabbit’s way of designating its territory, such as a rabbit hutch, and announcing to all other members of its species, “I live here. This belongs to me!” Dominant bucks and does do the most marking.

  • Marking with the anus – With their anal gland, rabbits can voluntarily add a secretion to their droppings, thus leaving chemical nameplates and calling cards.

  • Urine spraying – Bucks spray with urine to express ownership and to mark territory. Both males and females also spray urine when frightened or as a defensive gesture.

To help reduce territory marking, have your rabbit spayed or neutered by 4 to 6 months of age. Also, make sure the rabbit feels secure in its home.

Sometimes territorial marking is a temporary situation, and may occur in response to some sort of stress, such as the addition of another pet (particularly another rabbit). Often, once the rabbit no longer feels stressed it will stop marking. Please know that not all small pets have the desire to mark their territories.

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