to Groom Your Rabbit
Taken from the books
'The Essential Rabbit' & 'The Rabbit Handbook'
Rabbit breeds have four different types of hair : -
- Normal fur is a dense undercoat with coarse guard
hairs extending past the undercoat.
- Satin fur is fine and has a hairshaft that reflects
light, giving it a spectacular sheen.
- Rex fur is denser than normal fur and the guard
hairs are about the same length as the undercoat.
Rex fur also stands up perpendicular to the skin,
giving it a unique feel.
- The last type of fur is wool and is found on Angora
rabbits. There are actually four different types of
wool found on different types of Angoras.
Caring for Angoras
The care of an Angora coat is very much different
from that of other breeds because their wool - not fur
is quite long. For pet Angora rabbits, it is quite acceptable
to keep their hair cut short so that it does not get
as dirty and is easier to manage. If you do cut the
fur, do not trim it right to the skin level. Fur offers
natural protection against heat, cold, and anything
that may injure the skin. Angoras will require frequent
brushing, whereas other breeds of rabbits require less
coat maintenance. It is especially important to not
trim the fur from your rabbit's hocks and back feet
as this will definitely predispose him to hock sores.
Most rabbits, like cats, are fastidious groomers and
will groom their coats to a nice, clean finish. Consequently,
rabbits can end up swallowing a lot of hair and developing
hairballs. To help reduce the amount of hair your rabbit
will ingest, brush them at least once a week.
If your rabbit is going through a heavy shed, you should
brush them everyday. Brushing should be done in the
natural direction of the hair coat; if you reverse the
stroke and go from tail to head too frequently, you
will damage the hair.
Rabbits shed every three months. One shed will be light
and may not even be noticeable; the next shed will be
heavy. Rabbits can lose a lot of hair during a heavy
shed and may even develop bald areas. It may be easier
during these periods to gently pull out loose hair with
your fingers and follow up with a brushing. Dampening
your hands with water and stroking your rabbit from
head to tail will also help remove dead hair.
Note : Each rabbit sheds for a different period of
time. For some rabbits, the shed will only last a day
or two; for others, it will last two weeks.
Be careful when selecting a brush for your rabbit.
Although rabbit coats are fairly thick, the skin underneath
is very delicate and you obviously do not want to injure
the skin with a painful brush. Also, you do not want
your rabbit to feel discomfort or pain during your brushings
- you want your bunny to learn to enjoy brushings. For
that reason, slicker brushes and some hard metal brushes
are inappropriate. A bristle brush or pin brush is more
appropriate for rabbit grooming.
To remove loose hair, you may want to follow a brushing
with a combing. Use a fine-toothed comb so that it will
grab the finer dead hairs. Some combs are silicone-coated
to glide easily.
Tip : Long hair is very difficult to manage on rabbits.
You should consider clipping the hair short, to about
1 inch (2.5 cm) in length.
In general, rabbits do not need to be bathed. For
many rabbits, bathing is a stressful experience and
as a source of stress, it has the potential for bringing
our illness. If your rabbit has only a small area of
their body that needs to be cleaned, bathe that area
only. Non-medicated shampoos designed for dogs and cats
are fine for rabbits. If you can find one, use a hypoallergenic
non soap shampoo with moisturisers or conditioners.
Do not use a shampoo made for humans; our shampoos are
very drying to animals. Make sure your rabbit does not
become chilled from its bath. If necessary, rabbits
can be dried with a hair dryer set to a warm setting.
High settings should never be used because of the risk
of heat stress.
If you absolutely must bathe your rabbit's face, be
very sure to keep shampoo out of their eyes. You can
protect them by applying a non-medicated eye ointment
over the cornea before the bath. A drop of mineral oil
can be used as a substitute for eye ointment, but only
use it sparingly.
Your bunny's ears should also be attended to during
the regular grooming session. Examine them for signs
of waxy buildup or debris. Clean your bunny's ears with
a solution that can be purchased from your Vet. Dark
wax or the appearance of dirt in the ears can be a sign
of ear mites. Never stick cotton swabs or any such items
into the ear canal. If you own one of the lop-eared
breeds, you will have to pay special attention to the
ears during grooming time. Because an ear that hangs
down instead of standing straight up is not natural
and fosters moisture buildup, lop-eared rabbits are
more prone to ear infections. Examine your lop's ears
closely for excess wax buildup, debris or foul smell.
Trimming your rabbit's toenails is also a necessary
part of your grooming sessions, although it will not
need to be done every week. Check the length and condition
of your rabbit's nails every time you groom them. Once
they appear to be getting long, it is time to trim them.
Prepare to trim your rabbit's nails by wrapping them
in a towel and placing them gently in your lap, with
the bunny's legs facing upward. Use your clipper to
take off a portion of the nail. Be careful not to cut
the quick in the toenail (the quick is the end of the
live pink tissue in the nail bed and includes blood
and nerves), because doing so can cause pain to the
rabbit and a bloody toenail. A silhouette of the quick
can be seen by holding the nail up to a light.
If your nervous about trimming your bunny's nails,
or if your bunny struggles when you try to hold them
in your lap, you may want to ask your vet to show you
how to perform this necessary function safely and effectively
before you do it yourself.
When you are brushing and combing your pet, keep
an eye out for fleas. Rabbits are just as susceptible
to fleas as dogs are especially if they live or play
outside. If you find fleas on your pet, contact your
veterinarian for information on how to rid your rabbit
of these pests. Your vet can provide you with rabbit
safe chemicals designed to kill fleas and give you details
on how to eliminate fleas from your rabbit's environment.
As you brush or comb your rabbit, keep an eye out for
any lumps or sores on them which may be an indication
of disease or infection. Crusts and scabs suggest the
presence of mites.
While you are handling your rabbit, check its eyes
and ears for any discharge. Examine the bottoms of its
feet for sores and check under its chin to make sure
that their scent gland is not swollen or infected.