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Rabbit grooming can feel like this big process but it’s not as hard or scary as it sounds.
I remember walking the entire building of show equipment and felt overwhelmed with all of the options out there. How do I know what is right and what is unnecessary? Should I buy this brush or that brush? This supplement looks like they can do amazing things. What about that?
You can ask 5 different people and get 5 different answers. Like anything in life you can be as complicated or simple as you want. You could buy the $20 brush or the $10 one that will do just as good.
See where I am going with this? I like sweet and simple.
Before I tell you what to do, we need to know what we are allowed to do as rabbit showers.
ARBA Rules For Show Rabbit Grooming
I put this first because I don’t want you to get halfway through and think of trying something then get into trouble at a show. SO with that said, The American Rabbit Breeders Association has some hard no-no’s when it comes to rabbit grooming.
A good rule of thumb is if it would not happen naturally to the rabbit don’t do it.
No dies, sprays, snips, nips, or plucks are technically legal in showing rabbits.
Ok, maybe that’s a strong word but if they think you have done anything to fake a better appearance for your rabbit they will disqualify you and depending on the severity, ban you from that show. Not to mention what it would do to your reputation as a rabbit breeder.
Even if you didn’t know it was wrong, trust me, rabbit people are gossips and hard to win back over.
That was not intended to scare you, only to warn you.
Rabbit Grooming Starts At Home
Don’t think you are going to groom all of your rabbits at the show. Your rabbits should be looking their best before you even put them in their carrier. It is better for you and everyone else if you do the bulk of the work at home.
You don’t want to be stressed trying to get all of your rabbits groomed before your breed is called at the show. Then you have to put a few up on the table you had not checked. Only to have the judge flip the rabbit over and find poop in its butt…. not cool.
Your rabbits are already stressed and in a much higher energy room and they know that. Stress will cause their fur to not look as good and even quite possibly send them into a molt if they are already on the way there. I have seen this happen with my own. It’s best to keep them as calm as possible at the show instead of pestering them.
There Is No Stopping A Molting Session
If you don’t know what molting is that is when a rabbit goes into a few weeks of heavy shedding. Some rabbits just shed a little heavier than usual and others look like they will go baled.
I have been able to slow it down but you won’t stop it. The only way to really slow it down if you want to take the rabbit to a show is to keep it as cool as possible (like in 60 degrees type cool) the problem with that is it’s almost impossible to do.
This doe is starting to loose fur across her back and neck
But if you don’t have a reason like a rabbit show just let the molt run its course. Which is honestly the best thing for the rabbit.
It depends on the rabbit but a molt will often put the rabbit in a grouchy mood. It’s not aggressive but most of mine just what left alone. Read more about rabbit molting behavior here.
You will know if your rabbit is molting because the fur on the rabbit’s back and sides are loose. You can pretty easily pull a clump out without even trying.
If you notice your rabbit molting you should try to help get the large amounts of fur off.
Doing so will:
- Keep them from swallowing it and getting a blockage because of the large amount of shedding.
- It will help keep the fur from building up in their cage causing poo to stick to the rabbit’s bum and the cage floor.
- I feel it also helps them move past the molt faster.
This doe is starting to molt just a bit.
To “pluck” a rabbit just sit them on a table on a windy day because you don’t want to be standing in a whirlwind of fur balls. Start where the fur is loose and just start plucking. It should not be hard at all to pull off. Just hold the fur that is sticking out further than the rest between your two fingers. And pull like you are pulling cotton candy apart.
If you are not comfortable trying this then get a comb to help get the fur off but that will take longer and not have as good of results.
Rabbit Coat Types
There are a few different types of coats.
- The rollback coat: meaning if you run your hand from the tail to the head the fur should go right back into place if it is healthy. A good example of this is the Mini Lops you can use a soft brush to remove dead hairs. Assuming the rabbit is not in molt. Or you will need a much stiffer steel comb.
- Flyback-coat: breeds like New Zealands, Californians, need very little grooming and do not ever need to be brushed, except perhaps in extreme molt.
- Rex-coat: breeds like the rex and velveteen lop should never be brushed or you will damage the fur.
- Wooled coat: breeds like Angora Rabbit, Jersey Woolies, and American Fuzzy Lops need more thorough grooming. And sometimes even sheared.
No Baths Needed
It can be deadly to give a rabbit a bath.
Never give a rabbit a bath unless they are covered from head to toe in something messy. If you need to rinse off poo or something then just spray off that section. The stress of the bath can kill them but not only that the wet fur can clump together and cause a skin infection.
Bathing takes off the natural properties and oil in the coat and leaves them looking rough and ragged.
How To Clip Rabbit Toe Nails
This is nothing to be scared of and if you are feeling unsure and jumpy so will your rabbit. Get your nerves to be calm and collected. Put on a brave face and you will be fine. You need your rabbit calm and if you’re not. Either will they.
For Small Rabbits: Put them on their back and lay them between your legs head towards your knees and back feet to your chest.
Pro Tip: I will take a towel and lay that over my legs first before placing the rabbit between my legs to help me keep a better hold on them and they won’t slip. It also protects me from getting scratched.
If you have a rabbit with white colored nails then that is super easy. You will see a pink center to the nail and that is the quick or blood vessel that is running to the nail. Stay just a smidge in front of that. Then make the cut.
If your rabbit has dark-colored nails just look at the usual length of the other rabbits you have to see how short you should cut them.
If you cut the toenail too short. It may bleed but you may not even know you did it because the rabbit didn’t even flinch. So don’t stress too much.
You can dab some on a cotton ball or just dip the rabbit’s toe into the powder container. The gel blood stop has a squarter nose so that works just as well.
How to Remove Stains from a Rabbit Coat
To be totally honest with you it is better to prevent stains over remove them. Depending on the severity you may have to wait until the rabbit sheds the fur altogether.
Try peroxide or white alcohol first. It is especially effective on food stains. Some dry or rinse-free shampoos can work as well.
Stop the stain before it starts.
This is the number one reason why I do not recommend cages with solid floors. It happens so fast and is hard to reverse. Even if there is half solid and half with a space to drop through the rabbit will quickly turn that area into a toilet. You can read this post to see my cage tips and which I recommend for outdoor use on amazon.
Rabbit Grooming Basics
While I tend to focus on grooming a rabbit for show you might be wanting to know the basics of rabbit grooming so I didn’t want to leave you hanging.
Like with any animal you start with the head and work your way back to the rump.
Pro Tip: If your rabbit is living in a clean environment and isn’t let to run loose on the ground as I am seeing happen a lot these days you are going to have a much cleaner rabbit to start with.
What Rabbit Grooming Sessions Look Like Step By Step
- Start by checking the nose and eyes for discharge. They should be clear and dry.
- Then go over the rabbit removing any debris like poo or straw. (If you are showing your rabbit try not to cut the fur if at all possible)
- Then start with a wide-tooth comb and run it through the fur until it runs smoothly through the fur.
- If the rabbit is shedding heavily or molting then use a slicker brush or grooming rake to remove as much of the loose fur as possible. (or until your rabbit gets sick of you and starts getting grouchy. If this happens then just come back and get more fur off the next day)
- Next, it is time to trim the rabbit’s nails (which typically needs done every 6 weeks or so)
- Then finally you should go over the rabbit with a fine-tooth comb to look for any regularities or injuries. Things like checking the teeth length, looking for abscesses, or scratches to make sure they heal well. (some rabbits scratch themselves behind the neck while grooming themselves.
Bucks are especially susceptible to abscesses under their chin (which is where their scent glands are) because they rub their chins on things to “mark their area”.
If you find your rabbit has a hard lump under its skin make sure to read this post.
Final Grooming Touches before a Show
After you have done your prep work and gotten your rabbit to the show there are a few things you can do to help with the fur. You can spray your hand down with water or a dryer sheet to help with static. I do recommend this to help with the overall appearance. The fur does have an effect on the appearance of the overall type of the rabbit.
How Often To Groom A Rabbit
It depends on the breed and the season, how often you should give your rabbit a good brushing session. Daily brushing isn’t necessary. Rabbit skin is very sensitive and you will damage the hairs with unnessisary friction so I would not recommend daily brushing for a show rabbit.
But normal rabbits should be checked over for issues once a week. During this, you should look for health issues like loose stool or even diarrhea.
If a rabbit is molting you should be grooming it once a day to help it remove all of the loose fur so the rabbit does not ingest too much fur and get a blockage in its intestine which would be fatal.
Good Fur Starts With Genetics
While you can do a lot to make your rabbit look good you can’t beat bad genetics.
If you have a rabbit that just can’t seem to get a nice full coat at any point in the year then there is likely nothing you can do about it.
You can do all the supplements and feed hacks you want but its not going to fix the underlying problem. So if you are a rabbit breeder make sure to start with rabbits that have good fur to start with.
The Environment Affects The Coat
While I am going to assume you are doing the best you can to care for your rabbit there are some things you may not realize that will affect the rabbit’s coat.
That is the environment and the air quality the rabbit lives in.
This is another huge reason I am a proponent of a rabbit living in a cage where the waste falls far away from the rabbit. Even the cages with trays keep the rabbit mear inches away from the waste.
Leaving them with poor air quality to breathe. Affects their immune system and causes a trickle-down effect to a poor coat quality.
If your rabbit is in direct sunlight even for an hour a day even if it’s not hot the sun can bleach the coat causing a brassy red look to the fur.
While this doesn’t matter necessarily to the average backyard pet owner this is a problem for rabbit showers because this can mean a lower placing.
Now this will likely happen unintentionally. But this is a huge reason why I will not let my rabbits free roam the yard outside.
You don’t know what brought a mite, flea, or any other type of parasite into the yard and left it for your rabbit to pick up.
The best treatment I have found for any kind of pest is Diatomaceous Earth.
I spread it once a year as a preventative around the rabbit hutches each spring and if a rabbit has flaky skin I will dust the rabbit with DE and often see results very quickly.
Best Rabbit Grooming Products
- Bristle Brush
- Grooming Rake
- Dog Nail Clippers – Rabbit nail clippers are wimpy and often break easy.
Products that are a waste of money.
- Glove Brush – These do not let you get into the small areas of your rabbit. You are only grooming the large areas. This also does not get to the under goat of the rabbit.
- Rubber brush – Rubber brushes are wimpy and again don’t get to the undercoat.
No matter what breed of rabbit you have, short-haired rabbits, long-haired rabbits, or wooled rabbits it’s important to establish a regular grooming routine so you don’t forget.
It’s easy to do and realize “oh snap” it’s been 3 months since you’ve groomed your rabbit.
You don’t need all types of brushes. Get the tools that work for you and stick with what keeps your rabbit looking good.
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