How do you groom rabbits?

Whether you have a Lionhead or Holland Lop, Flemish Giant or mixed-breed bun, all rabbits need regular grooming. But, if you’re not sure where to start, our Q&A bunny grooming guide explains exactly how to go about it.
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23rd May 2024

Keeping clean and neat is very important to rabbits and, just like cats, buns spend a huge amount of time grooming themselves. They also need a little help from us.

Rabbit Welfare, a UK charity dedicated to improving domestic rabbits’ health and welfare, advises: “We can help our pets by grooming them regularly, and this is especially important when they are moulting. When rabbits groom themselves they swallow a lot of fur and, if they swallow too much, it can cause their gut to slow down, which can be dangerous. Unlike cats, rabbits cannot vomit, so it’s important to remove as much loose fur as possible.”

If you’re unsure about the best way to go about grooming your fluffy nose-twitchers, check out our rabbit grooming Q&A!


Q: How often should I groom my rabbits?

A: Getting into a regular grooming routine with your buns is a really good idea. Rabbit Welfare recommends: “Ideally you should groom your rabbit every day. It’ll help you and your rabbit become better acquainted and at the same time give you the chance to check your rabbit for any problems.”

Veterinary charity PDSA suggests: “Long-haired breeds such as Angora, Lionhead and Jersey Wooly will need brushing daily to keep their coat healthy and prevent them from getting matted. When rabbits groom themselves (which they do a lot!) they swallow a lot of their fur, which can cause problems with their guts, so it’s important to remove as much loose fur as possible during grooming. Medium-haired and short-haired breeds such as Dutch, Chinchilla and Lop, will need brushing once or twice a week to make sure their fur is in good condition, but more frequently when they are moulting.”

Animal welfare charity Blue Cross adds: “To keep your rabbit's coat in a healthy condition, they need to be groomed regularly. Rabbits with a short coat should be brushed once a week, but rabbits with long hair will need brushing once a day to prevent matting. Older rabbits, or rabbits who are suffering with arthritis or dental problems, may also need to be groomed more frequently.”


DID YOU KNOW?

When rabbits are moulting the amount of fur they lose is significant. You can often see lines in their coat where dead fur has come out and the new coat is showing. The lines seem to travel along the rabbit’s body, generally from head to tail.

 


Q: What equipment do I need for grooming rabbits?

A: Having the right kit for the job is essential. Rabbit Welfare advises: “Rabbits’ skin is very delicate and easily damaged, so it’s important that any grooming equipment is comfortable for them and used carefully. There are several tools on the market, made for cats and dogs, that are specifically for removing fur build-up during moulting. These are not suitable for rabbits. Their skin is much more delicate than that of a cat or a dog and is very easily torn.”

The charity recommends the following grooming items:

  • Rubber pimple brush or mitt These are very useful during moulting as they are fairly gentle but will remove the build-up of loose fur quite effectively.
  • Soft brush Great for general grooming, and many rabbits will enjoy sessions where they are used. However, during a moult they need to be backed up with the use of something else, such as a comb.
  • Comb Especially useful for longer-haired rabbits or when short-coated rabbits are moulting. They must be used carefully to avoid injury.
  • Nail clippers These may be a scissor design or guillotine. The scissor type will have a notched section for the nail to fit into. Don’t use ordinary scissors or human nail clippers as these can split the nails and hurt your rabbit. Bunny nails are very tough as they’re designed for digging burrows. And, as our pet rabbits don’t have the opportunity to wear them down like their wild cousins, they need regular nail clips.  Rabbit Welfare has a page devoted to nail clipping.

TOP TIP!

For short-coated rabbits, the RPSCA recommends using a soft-bristled brush for day-to-day care. Slicker brushes are useful for grooming short-haired rabbits. If more grooming is required, start with a wide-toothed comb. When you’ve brushed the whole rabbit, repeat with a fine-toothed comb and use a soft-bristled brush to complete the job. With long-coated rabbits, the entire coat (including armpits, groin, tummy, and feet) must be combed every day.


Q: How do I make my rabbits feel comfortable when I’m grooming them?

A: You can either hold your rabbit by supporting their backside as if they are sitting up – useful when trimming nails or brushing tummies – or by placing them on a towel.

Never, ever put your rabbit on their back. Rabbit Welfare advises: “Some people when grooming will hold their rabbit on its back, so it goes perfectly still as if in a trance. This is in fact extremely cruel as the rabbit is terrified and playing dead as part of its prey animal response to being caught by a predator. Never do this to your rabbits.”


TOP TIP!

Being handled from a young age is essential for buns – otherwise they may find it a very stressful experience. Learning how to handle your rabbits in the right way is super important so that your bunny buddies feel comfortable and safe.


Q: What should I do if my rabbits have matted fur?

A: If you’re unable to gently brush the matt out, try using your fingers to untangle it, being careful not to tug on the fur as it may cause injury to your buns’ delicate skin. If this doesn’t work Rabbit Welfare suggests: “You may need to cut the matt out. Be careful, especially if it’s very close to the skin. If you are worried that it’s so close to the skin that cutting it might cause injury, ask your vet to clip the fur instead, using a clipper head that is appropriate for a rabbit’s fine fur.”


TOP TIP!

Long-haired rabbits, like long-haired dogs and cats, require a lot of effort to maintain their glamorous coats. The RSPCA, which often sees rabbits with neglected, matted coats, advises: “If you don’t think you will have the time to groom your rabbit every day, you might need to consider one of the short-haired breeds.”


Q: What health issues should I check for when grooming my rabbits?

A: As well as getting out loose fur, regular grooming enables you to keep a close eye on your beloved buns overall health. If you spot anything unusual or worrying, book a visit with a rabbit-savvy vet.

  • Head to toe Look out for anything out of the ordinary, such as unusual lumps and bumps, scratches or redness, scaly patches inside the ears, or a discharge from the nose or eyes, which should be clean and bright. Examine feet to ensure there are no injuries, and check your rabbit’s body condition – they should not be too fat or too thin.
  • Look round the back The bottom area needs careful attention to avoid fly strike – a potentially fatal condition caused by flies laying their eggs on a rabbit’s skin, particularly around a dirty bottom, which quickly hatch into maggots that chew their way into the rabbit’s skin.
  • Tooth check-up Your rabbit’s back and front teeth must be checked regularly especially if they are beginning to lose weight for no apparent reason. Dental problems are common in rabbits, but feeding them the correct diet and providing a bunny-sized bundle of high quality feeding hay every day will help keep their continually growing teeth in good shape.
  • Uninvited guests? While brushing, you may notice evidence of fleas. This could be either the fleas themselves, or dark flecks that turn red when brushed out with a damp tissue. If you spot these signs, speak to your vet about the best flea treatment for your rabbits. It’s important to tackle fleas because as well as being uncomfortable, left untreated they can also cause anaemia. 

TOP TIP!

When it comes to protecting rabbits from mites, fleas, flies, ticks and mosquitoes – a four-pronged attack is the best approach: Good housekeeping and hygiene, regular health checks, parasite prevention and feeding the right nutrition >>


Q: Can I give my rabbits a bath?

A: Rabbits and water are not a good mix. Rabbit Welfare says: “As a prey species, rabbits do not like to feel vulnerable, and a rabbit in water isn’t a natural position for them to be in. Even just getting them wet is problematic. When wet rabbit hair clumps together, getting them completely dry is a very difficult task, and rabbits who are left damp are potentially prone to respiratory infections and hypothermia.”

Veterinary charity PDSA advises: “You won’t need to wash your rabbits unless they are particularly dirty. Rabbits should never be put in a bath of water – if required, wash them using a damp cloth and dry them thoroughly after getting wet, watch our video on how to do this safely.”


Happy bunnies? Follow these good grooming tips from PDSA

  • Do your research. It’s important to know the grooming needs of the specific breed of rabbits that you have, as they vary depending on coat length and texture.
  • Start when your pet is young. Grooming should ideally be introduced when your pet is young, so they are used to it and feel comfortable. Older pets can learn to enjoy grooming, but make sure it’s a positive experience for them.
  • Get the right tools for your pet. All pets will need brushes and/or combs suitable for their coat type, plus some pet nail clippers – don’t use human nail clippers.
  • Take it slow and make it positive. Your pet might not be used to being groomed or being touched in certain areas. Take things slowly, and stop if your pet is worried or stressed. Make the grooming a positive experience, using treats and praise during and afterwards.
  • Always check your pet’s skin for parasites. Fleas can be tricky to spot as they mostly live in your home, and can affect dogs, cats, and rabbits – speak to your vet about preventing them.  
  • Be aware of seasonal moulting. Remember that pets are likely to shed more in the spring and autumn as their coat changes in preparation for the different seasons, so they may need extra grooming around these times.

KNOW YOUR BUNS! Find out all you need to know about caring for your bunny chums with this COMPREHENSIVE RABBIT CARE GUIDE >>


NUTRITIOUS FOOD FOR HEALTHY, HAPPY RABBITS – 92% OF UK VETS RECOMMEND OUR BURGESS EXCEL SMALL PETS RANGE!

Rabbits are herbivores and need a plant-based diet with lots of fibre to keep their digestive system healthy. Along with their rabbit nuggets and a few healthy treats make sure your rabbits have unlimited access to good quality, dust extracted feeding hay and fresh grass to graze on.

Check out our tasty nugget varieties specially created for junior and dwarf rabbitsindoor bunniesgolden oldiesadult rabbits – there’s even a light recipe for buns who are watching their weight!

WHY DOES MY RABBIT...? If you’re a bunny lover, you’ll probably have many rabbit-related questions you’d like some answers to. For example, why does my rabbit bite me? Why does my rabbit thump? Why does my rabbit nose-nudge me? Why does my rabbit chuck stuff about? Read on to discover a whole warren full of fascinating answers...


CARE MORE Find lots of useful advice on caring for your rabbits from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care, it's all here >>  

Are your bunnies Burgess bunnies? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

LET’S GET SOCIAL Sign up to the Excel Bunny Base – a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos! Also join us on Instagram.


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