Grooming Your Rabbit
Margie Wilson & Betty Chu
Grooming is an important part of the day-to-day care of your bunny. Whether he/she is a show bunny or a pet, you must exercise care in brushing and combing the coat. Like cats, rabbits are fastidious daily groomers. Your help in caring for his coat will ensure a healthier bunny.
Rabbits are constantly shedding. During the year, your bunny will go through periods of light and heavy shedding. If you don't groom him, he will groom himself, ingesting the fur, which often leads to hairballs or even intestinal obstructions and a visit to the veterinarian. Always provide your bunny with plenty of fresh timothy and oat hay, changed daily, to help keep his system clear of hair build-up. Some rabbits tend to shed their old coat rapidly in just a few days instead of gradually. For these rabbits, you'll need to not only comb or brush, but gently remove the huge clumps of loose fur. Be especially attentive during the summer months as the more you brush him and remove the old loose coat, the cooler he will be.
Brushes and Combs
You will need a brush (not too hard), one made for cats, and a plastic comb. You need to be gentle, as it is easy to tear a rabbit's delicate skin with too vigorous brushing or combing. You will find that approximately three times a year they shed tremendously, and it may take you quite a bit longer to groom your pet. In the summer, a damp towel can help keep the hair from flying around your home as you continue to brush and discard the loose fur.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe
Baths are NEVER recommended. Too many bunnies have died in the middle of a bath. It lowers their temperature dramatically, causes undo stress, and is unnecessary. Rabbits in the wild never bathe, and unless your veterinarian directs you to bathe the bottom of your bunny for a medical problem, there is no reason to do so. Often, unscented baby wipes will work if your bunny needs a quick clean.
Should you have a flea problem in your home, do NOT flea dip your bunny as this can be dangerous and has been fatal in some cases. A simple topical flea powder for cats, applied just once very lightly, is all that is needed. If you must spray your home, do so when the rabbits are outside for a few hours. House rabbits that don't go outdoors usually never get fleas. Some of the topical flea products may be safe to use in rabbits. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations.
Special Concerns for the Show Rabbit – Angoras
The Angora rabbit, with his luscious coat, needs special care and attention. The tool of choice for Angora grooming is a "blower," which looks and functions very similarly to a vacuum cleaner except it blows outward. Some shop vacuums have a reverse function of blowing; if the hose is clean, it can double as an Angora blower. Most Angora owners mail order the blower specifically for Angora grooming from pet catalog companies.
Most Angora rabbits are quite tame. Put your rabbit on his back and place him on your lap; blow on his abdomen to look for mats or tangles. If you see any, use your fingers to break them up and use a slicker brush to take out the mat. Then put the rabbit on a grooming stand, point the blower hose about one foot from the rabbit, and use the blower all over the rabbit. There will be loose hair and dander flying into the air, so it is best to do the blowing outdoors. If you find further mats or tangles, again use your fingers to break them up. Continue with the slicker brush to take out the mats. If done on a regular basis, it should take less than 10 minutes a day to groom your Angora rabbit.
Patience is the key for grooming your rabbit. Do not stress your bunny out on a very hot day, but wait until it is cooler and you have the time to spend to make him as comfortable as you can. Always be very gentle.