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A Young Rabbit Licks Up Its Urine

Why would a rabbit lick up its urine, and when can young rabbits eat vegetables?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: April 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: I am 12 years old, and I have noticed some unusual behaviors coming from my new, baby dwarf rabbit. I have not litter box trained him, so he "goes" on a towel in front of his cage or inside his cage. Just recently, I noticed that he is licking up his urine after he "goes." Is that normal? I have tried coaxing him away with treats and nudging him away, but he keeps coming back. What should I do? Also, how old should my bunny be before I give him foods like carrots and apples? My bunny, Coda, is almost 2 months old now. Finally, how do I tell the difference between a male rabbit and a female rabbit?

A: At 2 months of age, your bunny is ready to eat the great foods we recommend for rabbits. Fresh hays and greens are examples of foods we recommend to feed daily to rabbits. Fruits, including apples, should be given in a very limited amount, because they contain sugars that are not necessary for rabbits and could eventually lead to intestinal disturbances. Carrots and carrot tops are fine to give.

It is difficult to say why your rabbit is licking its urine. There could be two possible reasons. First, urine can be salty, so perhaps your rabbit is licking up the urine because his body is telling him to ingest more salt. Many rabbit owners keep a salt lick in their rabbit’s habitat. Or perhaps your rabbit cannot reach his drinking water and is forced to drink urine to ingest some water. Do you use a bottle or a bowl to provide water? Some rabbits need to learn to use a water bottle and some rabbits that are not used to a bowl, won’t drink water out of this unfamiliar source of drinking water.

At 2 months of age, you should be able easily to tell if your rabbit is a male or female. A female will eventually develop an extra fold of skin below the neck called a dewlap. This may not be very prominent in a 2-month-old rabbit but it may develop in the coming months. Male rabbits do not have dewlaps. In male rabbits, even at 2 months of age, you should see a scrotum between his back legs.

If you are not sure about the diet or not sure about your rabbit being a male or female, one of the best things you can do for the long-term health of your rabbit is to visit your veterinarian. There you can get more in-depth information about diet and your veterinarian can make sure your rabbit is as healthy as possible.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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Mike, Columbia, TN
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