Marking objects is one of the natural behaviors of both domestic and wild rabbits since they are territorial. Being a social animal, these pets have various ways to mark their territory and effectively communicate to other rabbits (send messages) that the marked territory belongs to them.
Also, marking makes them feel much at home and relaxed, i.e., feeling their scent works as an assurance that they are in their territory. Some of the main ways these animals mark their territory include the following:
- Urine spraying
- Sniffing – detecting mechanism
Rabbit spraying urine
This is one of the common ways these furry critters mark their territory. It is characterized by a tendency to “spray urine, i.e., they spray on vertical surfaces”  on various objects when housed together with other rabbits even for those that have been adequately litterbox trained.
They can also spray urine to the female during courtship as a sign of love or to males that rank lower than them to warn them to keep off. It may also happen to a new member, i.e., if you introduce a new bunny.
It is worthwhile noting that sprayed urine has a stronger scent than that of inappropriate urination and it is often triggered by the effect of too much reproductive or sex hormones.
Sometimes, to show dominance, some may spray urine on their handlers. We have noted many people complaining about their rabbits urinating on them. This is just one of their territorial tendencies.
Finally, urine spraying is annoying, costly and so inconveniencing to pet owners, especially to owners who keep their bunnies inside their houses. They can spray urine on various household items.
Do female rabbits spray urine or is it just males?
Yes. “Mature, unneutered males spray urine, and both males and females (even those who are reliably litterbox-trained) may leave what many owners tactfully refer to as “calling cards” . However, the tendency is much higher in male than female.
Could it be something else?
Territorial urine spraying should be distinguished by the normal horizontal urination as in the case of those with inappropriate urination behavior including those not litter trained, those that have medical conditions or due to environmental factors.
For instance, having few littering boxes, not well placed or soiled as well as response to environmental changes including new pets, owners, location, etc., or medical condition that needs attention may cause inappropriate urination.
How to stop rabbit urine spraying
One of the best ways to stop urine spraying is neutering your bucks and spaying your does. This tendency is caused by hormones and removing their reproductive organs will also stop production of these hormones.
Besides stopping this habit, there are many other benefits associated with spaying or neutering which include reducing aggression, unwanted pregnancies among others.
If you intend to breed your bunnies, you should look for other options such as restricting them to certain areas and house them separately.
This behavior is characterized by a bunny rubbing objects repeatedly and firmly with their chin to leave their scent on these objects. This scent is produced by the submandibular cutaneous gland located on their chins.
Rabbits do not only chin objects such as new bowls, furniture, chords, or anything new in their enclosures, they will also chin their owners or handlers especially on their legs without owners noticing they have been marked.
Since chinning can be used to detect receptivity of does and because does use scents to advertise their receptivity, it is not usual to see bucks chinning on places where does have urinated.
Both bucks and does chin and this behavior is regulated by sex hormones. However, male tend to chin more and they have larger submandibular cutaneous gland . This behavior is less noticed in underage or immature rabbits.
Since humans are not able to smell the scent they release, it should not be a big issue and you should not try to stop it.
Always allow your bunny to chin as it will make it feel more secure and familiar with their environment. This way, they will be more relaxed.
As in the cause of spraying urine, neutering and spraying will help reduce this tendency.
Also, your pet may leave fecal pellets, often containing secretions from their anal glands to mark the boundaries of their territory. When doing so, they will defecate at designated areas that define their boundary as well as scattering these feces on their living areas.
Avoid punishing them for this natural habit. However, since the behavior is controlled by sex hormones, consider neutering if you do not intend to breed these pets.
Sniffing objects or smelling objects
This is not a means of marking territory but investigating. Therefore, if you notice your rabbit sniffing, it could be detected those they have chinned before and those they have never chinned or if any other bunny has chinned any object.
If a rabbit has marked its territory, aggression including biting, pouncing and fighting is expected if it feels its market territory is being invaded.