© Cioli and Hunnicutt/BowTie Studio
Rabbits do a lot of self-grooming, but they still need a bit of help from owners.
Rabbit Care Question: Do I need to groom my rabbit?
Rabbits are similar to cats in that they do a lot of self-grooming. A rabbit spends considerable time licking its coat, as well as its paws to wash its face. It even goes so far as to grab an ear and slide it through its licked paws to clean there, too.
Brushing Rabbit Fur
Self-grooming aside, owners still need to help out. Longhaired breeds, such as angora rabbits, need daily brushing to keep shedding under control. Shorter-haired breeds need weekly brushing, with daily brushing during particularly heavy shedding periods. In addition to keeping stray hairs off your clothing and furniture, frequent brushing prevents a rabbit from ingesting large amounts of hair during self-grooming, which could possibly lead to gastrointestinal blockage.
Trimming Rabbit Nails
Grooming includes trimming nails about every six to eight weeks. Overgrown nails are uncomfortable and can catch on cage flooring, rugs or carpet, which may tear the nail.
When it comes to nail trimming, location is important, especially when working with a new bunny or one that does not particularly tolerate having its nails trimmed. Make the task stress-free and safe. Use a small room, like a bathroom, and sit on the floor with the rabbit on your lap. If your rabbit panics and jumps off your lap, it will be close enough to the ground to avoid injuring itself. Give your bunny a moment to relax — a few minutes of gentle petting will help — before reaching for the nail clippers.
Use clippers designed for cats or dogs, and trim the tip of the nail. A blood vessel, called the quick, is visible in rabbits with light-colored nails but not visible in rabbits with dark-colored nails. The trick is to avoid cutting the quick. Cutting into the quick causes bleeding, so keep some styptic powder on hand in case you cut into it (flour or cornstarch can be used as an alternative in an emergency). If the nail bleeds, dab the styptic powder on the area, and apply moderate pressure until the bleeding stops. Many vets offer grooming services if you wish to leave this task to someone else.
Baths are usually unnecessary for bunnies and can cause stress for a rabbit. If your rabbit is soiled, dab the area with a wet cloth. If your rabbit is infested with fleas, consult a veterinarian for specific treatment options. Flea treatments designed for cats and dogs may not be safe for rabbits.
Rabbit Care Question: Why should I spay or neuter my rabbit?
Rabbits are notorious breeders. If your plans don’t include a warren of rabbits, spaying or neutering prevents unwanted pregnancy if two or more rabbits of the opposite sex are kept together.
Spaying is generally thought to reduce a doe’s (female rabbit’s) risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, as well as occurrences of mammary tumors. Neutering a buck (male rabbit) is often done to reduce hormonal behavior like spraying, urinating, dropping fecal pellets, aggressiveness and mounting behavior. Spaying also decreases similar hormonal behavior in female rabbits. Spaying and neutering have the added bonus of significantly increasing the chance of litter training success.
Rabbit Care Question: How long will my rabbit live?
With proper care, a rabbit can live an average of six to 10 years. Like most prey animals, they spend very little of this time as babies (called kits). Don’t adopt a rabbit until it has been weaned, which is after around 8 weeks of age.
Rabbit adolescence peaks around 4 to 8 months old, depending on the breed. Adolescents are even more curious and energetic. Rabbits are considered seniors after the age of 5 or older, depending on the breed. Once your rabbit becomes a “senior,” annual vet checkups become even more essential to keeping your rabbit healthy in its golden years.