VET’S VIEW: Micky should have been named ‘Michelle’

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“IN THE spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” so wrote Tennyson in his poem Locksley Hall – and Micky seemed to be no exception.

He’d certainly been throwing his weight around with his owner, and when you’ve got a English Lop rabbit, that’s quite a lot – around five kilograms, in fact.

She had, wisely, decided that the time had come to cool his ardour. Except there was a problem. When I came to examine Micky... Well, let’s just say that he lacked the necessary attributes. “It looks,” I advised his owner, “as though Micky should actually be called Michelle.” We both had a chuckle about it.

It’s an easy mistake to make in rabbits, where the anatomical distinction between the sexes is not very clear, especially in younger animals, and Micky had a dense fur coat which obscured the usual landmarks.

We decided to go ahead with neutering anyway.

There are a number of advantages both for owner and rabbit.

Entire females can become territorial and aggressive once they’ve matured, making them less easy to handle.

They’re also prone to false pregnancies, which makes them more liable to attack other rabbits.

Furthermore, up to 80 per cent go on to develop cancer of the womb by the time they’re five years of age, something that neutering will prevent.

Of course there is always a risk with any anaesthetic, and in the past rabbits have had a reputation as difficult patients, but modern drugs and techniques, such as the use of special equipment to maintain the rabbit’s airway during surgery, mean that the risk is now very small, and greatly outweighed by the benefits.

In the end, ‘Micky’ recovered uneventfully and seemed totally unfazed by the accompanying sex change, but I think his owner is still struggling to come up with a new name!