Finding out if your animal is male or female

We all like to know whether our animals are male or female, if only to give them an appropriate name! Caring for either sex is normally the same – check our Pet Advice pages for the type of animal you’d like. This guide explains and illustrates the physical differences between male and female animals. Our store team members will happily show you how to handle your new animals and advise you about their sex. This will be done as part of a basic health check before you take your new animal home.

Breeding

We recommend that you do not allow your animals to breed.

It can be dangerous for females to breed at too young an age or if they are too old. Provided they have some peace and quiet and a good diet, if they do have babies, they’ll just get on with the job of raising their young. It’s important to note that many mothers will mate again soon after giving birth so males need to be separated very quickly.

Which sex make better animals?

With most of the animals in our stores there’s little difference between males and females and both are equally suitable as animals. However, both male and female rabbits may start to show territorial behaviour as they reach maturity, this can result in them showing aggressive behaviour towards other rabbits or their owner. Rabbits generally make better animals after they have been neutered as this removes their urge to mate and they become less territorial.

Rabbits

Bucks (male rabbits) often make better animals than does (female rabbits). Bucks tend to be more even tempered than does. A doe’s temperament changes as it gets older and at different times of the year.

Although rabbits are very sociable and domesticated, they retain some of their wild ancestors’ behaviour such as the need to establish their territory. During tussles with each other they can inflict serious wounds. Although two does may live quite happily together whilst they’re young, they often fall out without warning. Bucks are naturally very territorial and it’s unusual for two males to tolerate each other. This is a good reason why neutering is highly recommended and even considered essential by some. Neutering reduces rabbits’territorial behaviour and they become happier animals. Other benefits of neutering include:

  • It reduces conflicts and prevents unwanted pregnancies.
  • It allows two rabbits to be kept together, satisfying their need for company. Without being neutered they cannot be kept together.
  • It can make your animals easier to handle.
  • Does that have not been neutered are very likely to suffer from uterine cancer which is a painful and terminal problem. In fact this is the biggest cause of early fatality in non-breeding, whole does.
  • It reduces a buck’s desire to mark its territory which it does by spraying urine on objects around its home.
  • Both bucks and does are easier to litter train after they’ve been neutered which opens up the possibility of keeping them as house animals. This is increasingly popular and very rewarding for both you and your rabbits.

You should discuss neutering with a vet before you decide to commit to keeping rabbits. The operation is fairly straight forward but is easier for bucks than does which means that it’s often much cheaper. Rabbits are usually neutered when they’re about 4-6 months old. Whilst your rabbits are being neutered, you could have them microchipped at the same time – this will help you to be reunited with them if they get lost.

Once neutered, rabbits of different sexes can be kept in any combination. Even two bucks will normally live happily together if you get them at the same time. It is thought that the best combination is a neutered buck with a neutered doe. If you do want to keep two rabbits together, you should ideally have both rabbits neutered to prevent any dominance or fighting.

Even with lots of practice, baby rabbits are very difficult to sex accurately but the differences become much more obvious as the animals grow up.

Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are similar to rabbits in that they’re very sociable. Males make great animals. They’re not usually neutered although some vets will do this. Provided that male guinea pigs are housed together from an early age in a large hutch and there are no females within sight or scent, they can live very happily together.

We recommend that adult rabbits and guinea pigs are NOT housed together.

Syrian Hamsters

Syrian hamsters are not sociable at all when they grow up and prefer to live solitary lives. Because the hamsters at Pets at Home are babies, they’re not old enough to have developed antisocial behaviour. However this happens very quickly and neutering is not an option. There is little difference in temperament between males and females.

Dwarf hamsters, gerbils, degus & rats

As dwarf hamsters are very small it can be difficult to tell which sex they are.

All of these animals, apart from female Chinese hamsters, are very sociable. We recommend that they’re kept in single sex groups or pairs. It doesn’t make any difference whether you keep males or females but it’s vital that they’re all the same sex so there’s no chance of breeding.

Dwarf hamsters are sociable animals and like to be kept in pairs or groups. However, Chinese female hamsters may be better off alone as they may fight. If you choose to keep a pair or group of hamsters, you should buy them at the same time – they’ll already know each other or will be young enough to make friends. New individuals will not be accepted into a group later on. As with all animals it’s possible that your hamsters will fall out from time to time so provide lots of hideaway holes in their cage to allow them space to sleep separately if they want to. If your hamsters start to fall out with each other it will be necessary to house them separately to prevent them injuring each other.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas can usually be kept with a companion of the same sex provided that they have grown up together. Either males or females make great animals.