(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
Except for fiber breeds such as Angoras, most rabbits don’t need much grooming except when they are molting. About every three months rabbits shed their coats in a process called molting. Every other time they will have a heavy shed, and every other time they will have a light shed that you may not even notice. Some rabbits will take a couple of weeks or more to lose their old coat while some rabbits shed their entire coat in a few days. Some of this fur can be gently pulled by hand, but some may have to be brushed out. Bald spots aren’t unusual in molting rabbits and will usually begin to grow back in a week or two. If your rabbit ends up with a mat, it’s better not to cut them out. Instead, use a mat splitter or a mat rake (found at many pet stores) to take the mass apart.
Rabbits are fastidious groomers and insist on being clean and tidy. They will lick themselves like cats. It’s unwise to bathe rabbits unless you don’t have a choice. Their undercoat takes a long time to dry and it can chill your rabbit and just the shock of being submerged then wet and cold afterward can kill your rabbit. A wet rabbit can quickly become hypothermic. If you simply must bathe your rabbit, use a blow dryer not set higher than warm to ensure that your rabbit gets completely dry and warm all the way to the skin.
It’s a good idea to check your rabbit’s fur condition and nails at least once a month; it gives you a chance to physically put your hands on your rabbit and see how they are doing. Nails are trimmed much like a cat or dogs. Some rabbits have clear nails and the quick is very visible. Some rabbits have dark colored nails which can make it hard to see the quick, so trim carefully and try to keep bloodstop or styptic on hand. Most breeders prefer the scissor-type nail trimmers. Every breeder will have a different way they trim nails. Some like to set the rabbit on a good surface and pick up each foot and trim like a dog. Some like to flip the rabbit over to trim nails. It’s up to you to decide which method you like best.
Rabbits have scent glands under their chin (which is what they use to mark items and even people) and around their anus. When the anus scent glands build up, the rabbit often has an unpleasant odor. It’s easy to clean the scent glands with a Q-tip dipped in warm water. Hold your rabbit in a safe hold that gives you access to the genitals. Locate the two slits on either side of the rabbit’s genitals. Take the Q-tip and carefully swap away the creamy brown buildup. It should take just a moment, and you’re done.
Check your rabbits’ teeth when you do your monthly check. Rabbit teeth grow continuously and must be checked to ensure that they are wearing down properly. Rabbits with straight teeth will keep them worn down with everyday gnawing and chewing. Rabbits with malocclusions or crooked teeth will need to have their teeth trimmed. Unless you know for a fact that the malocclusion was caused by an injury, these rabbits should not be bred, as the condition is hereditary. It tends to skip a generation, but you don’t want to be responsible for passing that on to future generations. It doesn’t matter how nice the rabbit is, it’s not worth risking all your future rabbits.
Rabbits are fragile with delicate bones. They have strong muscles in their powerful back legs, and if not properly restrained they can kick and break their own spines. When you pick up your rabbit, support his forequarters with one hand and his hindquarters with the other. To carry the rabbit, press it against your chest. Never pick up your rabbit by the ears.
Pick up your rabbit by supporting his forequarters with one hand and his hindquarters with the other, lifting him carefully with both hands and bringing him against your body. Never let a rabbit’s body hang free, never lift by the stomach, and never pick a rabbit up by his ears. Failure to pick up a rabbit properly can result in spinal injuries to the rabbit. Don’t forget that rabbits are prey animals and many will not enjoy being picked up. Be sure to go slowly with your rabbit and practice. Let your rabbit get accustomed to being handled.