How to Groom Your Pet Rabbit

Learn how to groom your pet rabbit in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Mary: So we're talking today about grooming rabbits and for rabbits who shed profusely this is super important. Most rabbits shed really heavily about three times a year. Some rabbits seem to never stop shedding. But most rabbits will have defined shed periods where you'll actually see a pattern on their back as the shed moves toward one end of the rabbit or the other. When the rabbit starts shedding copious amounts of hair will be coming out. The rabbit is naturally going to groom himself and ingest hair. There's always hair in a rabbit's stomach so don't feel that you have to avoid getting hair in a rabbit's stomach you won't be able to. But if you can lighten the load a bit by good grooming that really helps. This is the kind of comb that I use. I believe it's called a flea comb. There's a variation of this comb made that actually had a red rubber thread through it to help collect hair that way. Some people use a brush. It doesn't really matter what you use as long as your rabbit will tolerate it enough to allow you to do a good job. So this rabbit, like Bean is shedding and you'll notice, excuse me, with the shed pattern when a rabbit is shedding like this you can actually pluck him, you can take hair out... Amy: Some rabbits don't like it when you pluck though. Mary: Most rabbits don't like it but you may have to do it once in awhile because there is so much hair that you won't even be able to get the comb through it efficiently if you don't remove the tufts that are sticking out. This is one I just took off of this rabbit. And now Amy's going to groom him with the comb, see what comes out and also show you... Amy: Well I actually use, it's a human, it's for your eyebrows but you can see that the comb is really thing like this... Mary: Very fine, yeah. Amy: ...and that's what I do when I get the cheeks. I just go under the eyes and make sure I get all the sand off her... Mary: And this is great if your rabbits have runny eyes at all and there's a little bit of a stain pattern under the eyes this fine comb will kind of open up the hairs and allow the skin to breathe again which is really good. Amy: Yeah, or I do their ears a little bit like that. But this one, yeah I never used this. Show me how you... Mary: Oh I'll show you. Okay, yeah. Excuse me little Bean, may I have you? What a good boy. What a good boy. Amy: And speaking of grooming. I want to talk to you about cleaning. You don't need to give your rabbit a bath ever. Correct? Mary: No. I think we're going to do a separate talk just on baths. But no, that's a good question for grooming. Rabbits bathe themselves, they're like cats. They're prodigious self groomers and they will keep themselves immaculately clean given half the chance. So you do not need to do that for your rabbit. And we're just showing you today... Amy: So you're not going against the hair you're going into it... Mary: I'm not, some people like to go against the hair and if the rabbit tolerates it...you see he's turning around he doesn't like that as much. But if he tolerates it the idea is just to do the best you can you'll get lots of hair out like that in a flea comb. Amy: You can make candles. You can mix that with wax and make a hair candle. Mary: You can stuff cushions with this stuff... Amy: Oh yeah. Mary: ...absolutely and knowing you, you probably do. This is my rabbit cushion! Amy: There you go. Yeah the less hair they have to swallow the better because that can slow down their gut right? Mary: Absolutely, absolutely, yup. Amy: It's a two timer. Two way! Look at that, there. Mary: And grooming on top of the tail is an important area because it's not easy for them to reach back there and you'll get out a good amount of hair. Amy: Yeah especially if they're old or they're obese and they can't...that's why you don't want a fat rabbit is they can't really do the reach around, right? Mary: Exactly. If there's anything impeding their ability to move around they won't be able to groom themselves properly so this is really important. Anther aspect that a lot of people emphasize which I personally don't is cleaning their scent glands. Some people consider that a very important part of grooming. Scent glands...see if he'll let us take a look at his scent glands. Scent glands are very hard to see unless you open them but it's a pair of glands where my thumb and forefinger are on either side of the genital area. They're open slits in the skin and when you open up the little slits you'll find a waxy substance in there it's kind of dark color black or brown and it smells like a cross between skunk and coffee which is really funny but it does. And a lot of people dig around in there with q tips and they try to get the wax out. I'm one of those, if it aint broke don't fix it people. So I tend to check the scent glands and make sure that there's no obstruction there. Amy: And male and female rabbits both have scent glands? Mary: They both have them, they both have them, yeah. And as I said, some people like to clean them. I don't do that unless the rabbit has a problem. I let the rabbit clean his own scent glands. But that is part of grooming for some people. Amy: Okay. Mary: So I'm going to put him down here and call it a day for him. That's grooming 101. And you can spend half an hour doing this and the rabbit will absolutely love you for it. They feel really good. However, half an hour later you know what happens? Amy: What? Mary: You see tufts all over the rabbit again. Amy: Oh yeah, sure it never stops. Mary: You can pull them out and it just never stops and you say, oh I didn't do a good job. You did a good job it's just the rabbit is shedding his body is trying to get rid of the hair and he's going to get rid of it as fast as he can. So now that we have hair on our clothing and our mouths and our ears and our eyes, that's the end of grooming.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.