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"Grooming your rabbit... I have to do that?" by Penny Jackson

This is one of the questions I get asked a lot when new people acquire a rabbit. What do I do for grooming my rabbit? Do they need a bath? What about shots? Do I need to take them to the vet’s?

All of those are valid questions. They all are great questions when you get your first rabbit. Or maybe even your second. Different breeds have different requirements for grooming. I, myself, have raised many different breeds. I raised Mini Lops as a youth. Then when my kids got into rabbits we started out with Mini Rex, but eventually got into Mini Lops and now our barn consist of Tans, New Zealand, and Havanas. So obviously to this day I am still working with different grooming requirements. I love the slick look of the Tans and Havanas when they are in a finished coat. There is hardly any grooming to them except getting any stray hairs from them.

I am just going to start with the basic grooming. What do I have to do? To start out with grooming get the rabbit out of the cage. Set rabbit on a sturdy and safe place. If you have a grooming table great use this. (Hence why it is called a grooming table LOL). Evaluate the rabbit. Feel the rabbit. How does the rabbit feel? Can you feel bones? Is the condition of the animal good? Now evaluate the rabbit’s fur. How does the coat feel? Does it need to be worked? Does the rabbit have Urine stains on it? (Gotta love those Bucks who roll in their own pee… (big eye roll). We all have one or two. They are like the teenagers who just don’t mind. So now we have evaluated body and decided what needs to be done.

Let’s take a look at the eyes to make sure they are clear and no crusty stuff around them. If there is wipe them out with a wet paper towel or towel. Don’t get the towel in the eyes though. But keep this in the back of your mind. You will need to check on this daily to find out why this is happening. Sometimes doing a good evaluation, grooming of your rabbit is needed to catch any disease that may just be minor at this time, but could turn into something big later.

Gently turn the rabbit over, but make sure you have control of the animal. A firm grip, but not too hard. Try not to scruff the animal. Now I will admit there will be some rabbits that you just have to give a very firm grip to get control of them. I don’t want the animal to hurt itself or me for that matter. I want to make sure it’s not kicking all over the place. I want to control it, so it doesn’t break it’s back. Once you have control of the animal then move on to the next step.

Check the teeth. Make sure we don’t have any issues that we need to address. No broken teeth, malocclusion, missing teeth, etc. I don’t know how many times I have flipped a rabbit over while judging and found missing teeth and the owner had no idea that the rabbit had pulled a tooth or broke one off.

Toenails will be next. I can emphasis enough to check ALL the nails. Check for missing nails, broken nails, broken toes, etc. Then CLIP ALL the nails. Don’t forget the dewclaws. Clip the nails back to where the blood line is. Give some space between the blood line and where you clip it. Not only are you helping the rabbit out, but yourself and saving the judge a lot of extra scratches they don’t want. The reason I say helping the rabbit out is because if the rabbit has not had its nails clipped in like 6 months those are likely some good claws at that time. When you try to pose that rabbit, it won’t pose like you want. Why is that? Because its claws are way too long to sit the paw down correctly on the table. If the nails are trimmed correctly then the rabbit will be comfortable posing like it should for it’s breed.

Then work your way down the belly to the vent area. Make sure the vent is clean and no icky poops down by the anus. Nothing worse then trying to sex a rabbit and find a mess in that area. First thing I would question is to why we are messy in that area? How long has this been going on? Are they eating like they should? Are they drinking? Is something wrong with the water? Clean the rabbit up, but make sure you do follow up to find out what is going on.

Last, but most importantly groom the fur. Depending on your breed will depend on what tools you need. Mini Rex you may use a pumice stone, Angora’s may be a special comb or brush or possible even other tools to get those mats out. Most breeds the best thing you can use is just plain water and your hands. Get your hands damp. I tend to use a small spray bottle. Not too wet, and not dripping. I usually start at the rump of the rabbit and work my hands thru the fur to the ears. This will loosen up any dead fur and hopefully will remove it from the coat. Keep doing this until less fur comes off the coat. You may have to do this a few different days to keep that fur coming out and help that coat finish a little faster.

Now to address some of the questions in the beginning of the article. Do rabbits need to go to the vets? Mostly no. In the 25 years of raising rabbits, I have never taken a rabbit to the vets. Do rabbit’s need shots? For the most part No. There may be some exceptions depending on where you live. Should I give my rabbit a bath? My first thought is no. But I have had a few rabbits in the past where they get a nasty, icky butt and we need to soak a little bit to get this off. When this happens, I usually only fill a plastic pan a little way. Just to cover their feet and sit with them while the rabbit soaks so we can remove this quicker and less painful for the rabbit.

So, as you can see Grooming a rabbit doesn’t take a lot of time. Just make sure you are performing this task at least once a month. Keeping the rabbit groomed also helps keep them healthy!

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