Grooming time also serves as a good bonding opportunity between rabbits and owners and a time to check for potential problems such as teeth problems, lumps, fur mites, urine burn and sore hocks. It’s a good habit to groom your rabbit at least once a month or more often, depending on your rabbit’s fur length and type.
Rabbits shed four times a year, alternating between heavy and light sheds. When your rabbit is going through a heavy shedding, you will need to brush them on a daily basis. Avoid using metal slicker brushes for grooming, especially for long-furred rabbits as the fur can easily get caught between the metal gaps, and yanking the fur by force can cause the rabbit’s delicate skin to tear and bleed.
Trancing a Rabbit
A safe and effective grooming session requires a calm rabbit. One way to keep your rabbit still is to cradle it on its back or in your lap. Gently pet its face and nose to help it relax. This is sometimes referred to by bunny owners as ‘trancing’, because most rabbits tend to remain unusually still in this position, almost as if they are in a trance.
If your rabbit remains calm, you can proceed to cut the nails yourself from this position. If not, have a friend cut the nails while you keep the rabbit ‘tranced’. Always be sure to sit on the floor or s short stool when cutting a ‘tranced’ bunny’s nails. Some rabbits will come out of the trance with little or no warning. If you are sitting on the floor or stool, the rabbit is less likely to fall from your lap from a great height and hurt itself. Bring the rabbit out of the trance by slowly returning it to an upright position.
Brushing the Bunny
Brushing your rabbit’s fur regularly helps to get rid of any loose fur and prevents tangling and matting. Rabbits groom themselves frequently and any loose fur is easily swallowed. Ingesting too much loose fur can lead to the formation of fur balls in their digestive system. Rabbits with longer fur are prone to developing matted and clumped fur, which can become painful and difficult to remove.
Use a flea comb to untangle any mildly matted fur. Use a pair of scissors to gently and carefully break out mats. This may take time and rushing it could cause pain and injuries for the rabbit. Use a soft-bristle brush to brush off any loose fur. To avoid mats, groom your rabbit often. Rabbits that do not have much space for movement and keep lying on one side or position may also develop mats in specific areas on which they rest often.
Like dogs and cats (and us!), rabbits need to have their claws trimmed regularly. Overgrown claws can break easily and cause serious pain for the rabbits. It also makes it hard for rabbits to hop around.
Examine the claw to locate the quick, or the vein. Some rabbits’ nails are quite dark, so you will need a small flashlight to locate the quick. Cutting into the quick will cause your rabbit to experience pain and bleeding, so cut just below the quick. If you do accidentally trim the nails too short, use cornstarch or antiseptic powder to stop the bleeding.
– By Betty Tan, House Rabbit Society Singapore.