Grooming supplies to have on hand:
medium or soft bristled brush, flea comb, toenail clippers & styptic
pencil, cotton swaps, mat splitter or mat rake for long haired
rabbits or those that tend to get mats, and antibiotic ointment
(‘just in case').
Rabbits are meticulous
self-groomers, but this doesn't mean that their people don't need
to groom them as well. Grooming time is a good time to get to
know your rabbit's body. Check/feel bunny from head to toe (including
the private area, feet, nails and teeth) checking for lumps, bumps,
cuts, fleas, overgrown nails or teeth, and any other changes or
possible trouble spots. Your lap or a table with a big towel on
it are good places to groom your friend. NEVER leave her unattended
on anything h high.
Bunnies should be
brushed at least twice a week, long haired rabbits daily. Both
long haired and short haired rabbits shed; some tend to get mats.
Some rabbits, especially during spring and summer, get fleas (see
Dangers of Summer). Fleas on a rabbit can cause her to become
anemic, so keep an eye out and nip it in the bud. Advantage for
kittens (from your vet) can be used ton most ADULT rabbits (for
rabbits under one year old consult your vet). Flea combs take
more time but work well—without chemicals.
We do not advise
flea baths or baths of any sort for rabbits. Bathing a bunny can
often cause her to become quite upset, sometimes causing her to
go into shock; plus it is the nature of bunny fur to take a long
time to get wet, and an even longer time to get dry. Spot bathing
extremely dirty areas (feet, scut, etc.) is the way to go. If
you use a hair dryer, us it on low to medium heat so you don't
overheat the bunny, and keep it at least 12 inches from her body.
Don't use it on her head, ears or privates. Sometimes bathing
is necessary. In these cases, do it in a small sink in warm water.
DO NOT EVER immerse entire bunny (water level should never be
higher than belly level); instead, let bunny stand on hind feet
while you support her upper body from the front. Slowly let her
put all four paws into water. Use a cup to soak and rinse body.
Brushing your bunny's
coat can be a very pleasant experience for the both of you, plus
it reduces the amount of loose hair which will help prevent hairball
impactions (see Zooh Pamphlet). Do not brush too aggressively.
Bunny skin is delicate and can tear, and unless your bunny likes
it (some of ours do) do not brush fur in the wrong direction.
Like dogs and cats,
bunnies sometimes need to get their toenails trimmed. While it
is easy to see the ‘quick' inside of light toenails, darker ones
sometimes obscure it. Using a flashlight underneath dark nails
can help prevent cutting them too short. Have a styptic pencil
and antiseptic ointment on hand in case of bleeding. Use the styptic
pencil to stop the bleeding, then use the ointment to prevent
infection. Make sure that the padding (fur) on feet is not worn
down or matted. Make sure bunny has soft mats to rest on (in her
house) and clean litter.
Eyes should be clear.
Eye discharge needs to be checked out by a vet. Runny eyes can
make cheeks sticky and matted. Use a tissue to absorb the liquid.
A bit of saline solution (for contact lenses) can be used on bunny
cheeks to crystallize tears, which can then be brushed out with
a clean flea comb.
Bunny teeth grow
continuously throughout their lives. For this reason they MUST
have safe woods * available for them to chew on to help file teeth
down. For most bunnies this is all that is needed, but some bunnies'
teeth grow crooked or "maloccluded" and they will have to be clipped
or removed by a GOOD bunny vet. Maloccluded, overgrown teeth keep
bunny from eating properly or at all— and bunny can become anemic
or starve to death.
Check ears at each grooming. They
should be clean and smooth, with no obvious odor or redness. A cotton
swab can be used to remove wax from the outer canal and ear tip
(the long part). Take care not the put swap in too deep, as it could
push wax in deeper, or cause other problems. If ears are scaly,
red or sore, your bunny may have mites. A topical mite solution
can be used, or in severe cases your vet may prescribe Ivermectin.
Pussy ears and/or ears with a rank odor are a signal of infection:
take bunny to vet. Most bunnies learn to love grooming time. For
those that don't, a quiet, gentle, non-forceful, secure approach
is the way to go. Eventually your friend will learn to like this
time, or at the very least to trust you and allow you to care for