Why do we need to groom our rabbits?
Grooming is an essential part of rabbit care and should form part of your regular routine as a rabbit owner.
Rabbits that are not regularly groomed have an increased risk of developing the following;
- Matting which can lead to skin tears and sores.
- Long haired rabbits have an increased risk of developing blockages in the intestinal tract as a result of excessive fur consumption. In short haired rabbit’s blockages can occur when Gastrointestinal motility slows down and the tract is dehydrated. This causes the fur to become solid. A diet high in grass and hay should prevent such blockages from occurring.
- Fly strike from any developed skin sores or matting around their rear end that becomes saturated with urine or faeces.
Grooming allows you to bond with your rabbit as well giving you the opportunity to combine it with an overall health check.
How often should you groom your rabbit?
For short haired rabbits grooming should be carried out once a week. You should check your rabbits rear end every day to check for signs of a messy bottom and matting around the vent. During moulting season, the level of frequency will need to be increased to daily grooming.
Long haired rabbits require grooming on a daily basis. Their undercoat is much thicker than short haired rabbits and some breeds, like Angora’s have wool like fur that requires a lot of maintenance. The risk of matting in long haired rabbits is exponential so daily grooming is a must.
The fur of the rex rabbit is unlike other rabbit fur, as a result of a gene mutation the undercoat and outercoat are the same length, the fur also grows outward rather than flat to the body. These attributes give the rex rabbit their plush velveteen fur and makes them low maintenance in terms of grooming. Grooming is only usually required during moulting season, this can be done by running your hands over their body to remove loose hairs as well as brushing with a wide tooth comb.
What tools do you need?
The following tools are advisable for a thorough and effective groom:
- Wide tooth comb
- Narrow tooth comb
- Flea comb
Other tools that can be used include the Zoom Groom and the Furminator. The Zoom Groom is useful for removing fur from the outer and under coat and has the added benefit of being made from rubber rather than metal. The Furminator is designed to safely remove the undercoat as well as any loose hairs.
Avoid using slicker brushes as the sharp bristles can be painful and scratch the rabbit’s delicate skin.
How to groom your rabbit?
Grooming can be a stressful experience for some rabbits so it is important to make sure that you remain calm and gentle. The more you groom your rabbit the more they will get used to the process.
Keep grooming on ground level where possible, your rabbit will feel safer on the floor making the whole process less stressful. Never put your rabbit in a trance position, you can groom all areas of your rabbit without resorting to this cruel and stressful practise.
- Use the wide toothed comb to brush the whole of the rabbit’s coat, this includes under the chin, armpits, neck, base of the spine and their vent. Part the fur so you can effectively groom the undercoat.
- Use the narrow toothed comb to go over all the areas you have just brushed.
- Use the flea comb to brush the ears, chin, armpit and vent area.
- Once you have completed the grooming process a healthy treat is always well received such as some fresh or dried herbs.
The Zoom Groom or Furminator can be used over the body, however, the toothed comb is best for grooming the chin, armpits, neck and vent area.
How should I get rid of any matting?
If you do come across any matting it may be possible to gently tease it out with your fingers. Remember that rabbits have very delicate skin, so it’s important to be very gentle as pulling at matts could tear their skin.
If you are unable to tease it out with your fingers, using the wide toothed comb start at the edges and gently start brushing at the matt. Make sure you hold the base so you are not pulling at your rabbit’s skin.
As you start to release some of the outer hairs you can start working your way into the matt. You may find it easier to use the narrow toothed comb, or alternating between the two. It will take patience but eventually the matt should brush out.
More persistent matts may not brush out as easily, for large matts or matts that won’t succumb to the comb take your rabbit to your vet so that they can safely remove it. The damage that can be caused by cutting away at matts can be catastrophic and is best left to the professionals.