Not quite as socially needy as dogs, but rabbits can make great pets. They are adorable, affectionate, quiet, and social animals. Those are just some of the reasons they’re among the most popular pets, with over three million pet rabbits in the U.S.
As a new or potential owner, you might be worried about bringing a pet that makes your house smell. Because no one wants pet odors in the house or to come home to a smelly abode.
So, then, do rabbits have an odor? Do they make your house smell?
The short answer is you can keep house rabbits without your home smelling bad.
Let’s talk about that!
Do rabbits make your house smell?
One myth that makes potential owners a bit apprehensive about buying or adopting a pet rabbit is that rabbits smell bad or will cause a foul smell in your house. But that is just a myth.
Rabbits are not really scentless, but they have a natural scent that shouldn’t stink. In fact, they are naturally very, very clean animals.
Rabbits clean themselves and their friends every day by licking. They groom themselves to avoid attracting predators with their smell. In addition, they don’t like living in a messy or dirty environment.
Normally, the smell that most people associate rabbits with is most likely urine odor, not the bunny itself. Any odor is probably a result of pee, poop, unsanitary conditions, or illness.
So, rabbits will not make your house smell unless they are kept in a dirty environment.
Let’s look at some of the smells you’re likely to encounter when you own a pet rabbit.
Urine is the most common reason why rabbits smell. Also, it can make your house stink if you don’t clean the cage and litter box regularly.
Rabbit urine has a strong odor. It has a concentration of ammonia, urea, and other chemical compounds.
Some rabbits can have a much more pungent odor in their urine than others. In most cases, the urine from male rabbits tends to smell more than that of female rabbits. Furthermore, male rabbits with an instinct for territory marking can urinate everywhere and more frequently.
Sometimes, how bad the urine smell can be determined by environmental factors, such as diet, dehydration, health conditions, etc.
As a rabbit owner, learning facts about rabbit poop is essential to keeping your pet healthy.
Healthy rabbits produce two different types of poop: fecal pellets and cecotropes.
Fecal pellets contain undigested hay or food. You’ll mostly observe this type around your rabbit’s litter box. The pellets are hard in texture, odorless, and can range in size and color, ranging from light to dark brown.
On the other hand, cecotropes are partially digested foods. They are smelly and have a squishy texture. You can barely notice cecotropes because rabbits usually eat them directly from the anus. Is this a good thing? Well, cecotropes are healthy. They are packed with essential nutrients to keep your rabbit healthy.
As you can see, rabbit poop can barely make your house smell. In the case of smelly poop, it could be a sign of stress, illness, or poor diet, and you should see a vet soon.
Unneutered/unspayed rabbits can make your rabbit smell
Unneutered or unspayed rabbits can display spraying behavior and even spray urine up your walls. The urine smell is much stronger than that of their neutered or spayed counterparts.
Unneutered males can sometimes produce a skunk-like odor to attract female mates.
Having your rabbit altered can reduce odor in two ways: the urine’s smell is milder, and it reduces territorial spraying behavior.
Health issues can cause your rabbit to stink
Healthy rabbits can barely smell or make your house stink. However, those with the following health problems can have an odor.
- Diarrhea or loose stool: Diarrhea is usually quite smelly. It can signify gastrointestinal problems, which can often be fatal. Therefore, if you notice loose stool, contact your vet.
- Elderly rabbits: Arthritis is often common among older rabbits. Some signs of arthritis include the inability to move and urine/fecal staining due to the inability to groom themselves.
- Obese rabbits: Obese rabbits have mobility/flexibility problems and that affects how they clean themselves. As a result, they can develop a bad smell. So, providing your rabbit with a healthy diet and encouraging exercise is essential.
- Scent glands: Rabbits have scent glands around their anus, which produce a waxy substance with a pungent smell. If the rabbit can’t clean themselves well, these scent glands can get clogged and smell bad. In these cases, you might need to unplug them manually.
- Poopy butt: This is a condition where a rabbit has poop stuck to his behind. If the poop builds up, it can develop an unpleasant smell and even attract flies and other parasites. In this situation, you need to spot-clean the area with a wet paper towel or offer butt baths.
How to clean your rabbit
By now, you probably know that rabbits can groom themselves. However, in some situations, you might need to offer a helping hand to prevent your rabbit from developing a foul smell. For example, if rabbits have health problems, that can prevent them from cleaning themselves.
So, is it safe to submerge a rabbit in water and give it a traditional bath?
It is never a good idea to give rabbits wet baths.
You might have seen some cute YouTube videos of rabbits swimming in a pool or bathing in a sink full of water.
But the truth is, rabbits are sensitive to water, and submerging your rabbit in water can cause some serious health issues. So, you should avoid bathing them in water. They shouldn’t even get their fur wet if it can be avoided, because wet fur can take a long time to dry.
Submerging them in water can cause or pose the following risks: stress, injuries, hypothermia, irritated skin, and ear infections.
What, then, is the least invasive way to clean rabbits?
This option should be the first to be considered, especially when cleaning urine or poop stains or if your rabbit was playing in the mud.
Here’s how this process works.
- Sprinkle a powder (baby cornstarch) on the soiled areas.
- Massage gently until it starts to form clumps.
- Use a fur comb to gently brush through the clumps of dirt and debris until they come off.
- Pat through the areas to get rid of the loose powder.
If dry baths don’t get the job done, you can spot-clean your rabbit with less water. This process is for stubborn stains, such as fecal matter, that you can’t remove through dry baths.
Here’s how this works:
Dampen a towel with lukewarm water and spot-clean the dirty areas. When the area is clean, dry the rabbit with a soft towel or a hair dryer set to the lowest heat.
Ways to reduce rabbit smell in your house
Rabbits rarely smell bad unless they’re kept in unsanitary conditions or if they’re ill. But we have some tips to control rabbit odor in your house.
- Litter train your rabbit: This will help keep urine odor in one place and allow easy cleaning.
- Choose the correct type of cage: Choose a cage that’s easy to clean. For example, playpens are much easier to clean.
- Clean the litter box daily: Remove any soiled material and uneaten food.
- Use litter or bedding that can absorb urine: such as paper-based pellets
- Clean the cage regularly: Use non-toxic cleaning products. Alternatively, you can just use vinegar and water.
- Consider spaying or neutering your rabbit: This can reduce spraying behavior and make the urine smell milder.
- Change the diet: Some foods can cause diarrhea or smelly bowel movements. Therefore, it’s essential to stick to a healthy and fibrous diet.
- Visit a vet: If you notice sudden changes in your rabbit’s health or loss of appetite, it might indicate an underlying health condition.
- Use air purifiers such as air fresheners and sprays.
Generally, rabbits are clean animals and don’t have body odor. When you can smell your rabbit, it’s probably the smell of urine, which you can control or minimize by keeping the litter box and cage clean.
On top of that, rabbit poop shouldn’t smell. If your rabbit produces smelly poop, you should contact your vet immediately because that might mean your pet is unwell.
If your rabbit can’t groom themselves for some reason, you might be tempted to offer a wet bath. But you shouldn’t. Bathing them can lead to hypothermia or shock, both of which can be fatal. Instead, provide dry baths and spot-clean the dirty areas.