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Neutering small pets: what you need to know

Many small pet species benefit from being neutered. However, each species has their own individual needs when it comes to neutering.

Like with all procedures, neutering comes with its risks, and these should be discussed with your small pet-savvy vet.

Rabbits:

There are many benefits to neutering your pet rabbits. Some of these include:

  • Females are very prone to uterine cancer from the age of four years – neutering will prevent this.
  • Entire males will often spray over their enclosure, their companion, and you. Neutering will stop this.
  • Entire females will often experience several phantom pregnancies each year which can be stressful for them. Neutering will stop this
  • If planning on introducing a pair or more of rabbits, ensuring that all the rabbits are neutered first will offer a much higher success rate when bonding.
  • Neutering prevents unexpected/unwanted babies.
  • Neutering can reduce early signs of fighting.

When to neuter:

Males can be neutered from 3-4 months of age or as soon as their testicles have appeared.

Females can be neutered from 5-6 months of age.

Care before and after neuter:

Going into a vet practice can be very stressful for pet rabbits. To help reduce this, you can take some of their bedding with them that has their scent, which can then be placed in the hospital cage.

Rabbits must have plenty of hay and some fresh food available pre and post op. Some species need to be starved for a certain amount of time, whereas rabbits must continue to eat to maintain their gut movement. Once your rabbits return to their enclosure, it can be a good idea to offer a soft, warm area for them to rest, using some towels and even a snuggle-safe heat pad placed within their enclosure can be ideal. For the next 48 hours it is very important to monitor their toileting output and food intake, and you should also monitor their neuter site for any signs of infection, etc.

Guinea pigs

In most cases, only male guinea pigs are neutered. Neutering female guinea pigs can be very risky and should only be taken on by a guinea pig savvy vet if it needs doing for emergency reasons.

Unlike rabbits, neutering male guinea pigs doesn’t affect their behaviour and will not reduce fighting between a pair. Therefore, the general advice is to only neuter male guinea pigs is if they cannot be paired with a male due to fighting, and need to be paired with a female.

When to neuter

Male guinea pigs can be castrated from 3-4 months or as soon as their testicles are visible.

Care before and after

Guinea pigs should not be starved before the op, and must have a constant access to fresh hay and water. Once the guinea pigs have returned from the vets, it is very important to monitor their castrate wound for swelling or signs of infection. You should also monitor their toileting output which should be of normal amounts – if this has reduced or the poo appears smaller, then it is important to take advice from your vets straight away. It is very important that a male is neutered and rested for up to three weeks before you pair with a female to prevent unwanted babies.

Ferrets

Both male and females should be neutered, there are several benefits to neutering them which include:

  • Unwanted babies.
  • Reduce in odour.
  • Aids mixing as entire ferrets are more likely to be tricky to mix.
  • Prevents the risk of females developing Pyometra.

When to neuter

Male ferrets can be neutered from 5-6 months of age, while females are best to be neutered at around 7-8 months, but your vet will guide you on each female.

Care before and after neutering

Ferrets need starving prior to going for the procedure, this is generally a time frame of between 1-4 hours, your vet will advise you on their preference.

Once you return your ferrets home, ensure they have plenty of cosy blankets to snuggle in, and monitor the wound for any signs of infection.

Rodents – Rats, Mice, Gerbils, Degus and Chinchillas

Neutering rodents is a fairly new practice, but it can have many benefits. Previously, it was not considered possible due to their size, but now many rodent-savvy vets are willing to neuter rodents.

Only males of the above species are generally neutered, however in some rare cases females may be neutered due to medical or behavioural emergencies.

The benefits to neutering these species include:

  • Single males who have a history of fighting with other males can be neutered and paired with females.
  • Reduction in odour for male mice.
  • Prevents unwanted babies.

When to neuter

Most of the species can be neutered from 4-6 months. However, it is advised that Degus are neutered closer to 1 year of age as it can take longer for them to be fully developed physically and mentally.

Care before and after neutering

Rodents do not need to be starved prior to neutering, and the procedure is relatively quick. Once your rodent has returned home, it is advisable to house them on soft towels or vet bed material for the first week to avoid loose bedding irritating the castrate wound. Sand baths for chinchillas and degus should also be removed for the first week.  It is advisable to monitor your rodents closely for the first 1-2 weeks to ensure they do not chew the wound area and that their toileting output and food intake is normal.

Hamsters

In most cases, hamsters do not require neutering as they either prefer a solitary life or are most content in same sex groups. However, female Syrian hamsters can be prone to Pyometra. With the support of a rodent savvy-vet, neutering can cure this.

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