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Understanding the

Basics of Grooming

Pet Rabbits

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No matter what size and breed your pet rabbit is, you will
need to set up a regular grooming schedule for it.
Domestic rabbit breeds vary in the length of their fur. And,
even somewhat in how often they molt. Don't worry though, even
the long haired and wooly haired rabbit breeds are not all
that hard to groom, and grooming provides an excellent
bonding time for you and your pet, as well as an opportunity
for you to check its weight and overall health.

Rabbits molt their old fur and grow new up to four times a
year, and during the molt it is especially important that
you groom your rabbit to remove as much of the loose hair as
possible so that it doesn't swallow the hair while self-
grooming. Swallowed hair can form hairballs in your rabbit's
digestive system just as it does in cats, but since rabbits
can't vomit it can cause serious digestive upset if the
rabbit's diet isn't good or too much hair is ingested at

If your rabbit is of one of the shorthaired breeds and is
not molting, you can probably brush it only once a week or
every few days. If the rabbit is from a longhaired breed,
you will need to brush it every day.

If you have only one or two gentle pet rabbits, you probably
can groom them on your lap or couch, but if you have a
number of rabbits or your rabbits are nervous, you will want
to set up a rabbit grooming table. That way you can keep
your grooming supplies in boxes nearby and control the
grooming process better. A treat or two during the grooming
process may help keep your rabbit interested and calm.

Soft-bristle or pin brushes such as are sold for cats will
work fine for grooming most rabbits. Or you might want to
get a grooming glove from your local pet shop, that lets you
brush the rabbit by petting it.

Start at the head and gently brush the hair in the same
direction it is growing. As you brush, part the fur and
check for any fleas, mites or injuries. If you find fleas,
don't use any chemicals other than a flea powered marked
safe for kittens, and just put a little on the rabbit one
time. That should fix it.

If you find mats or tangles, carefully check that there is
not a wound underneath. Be gentle.

If the rabbit has mats that you can't brush out with your
fingers or a slicker brush, you will need to cut them out.
But don't simply cut off the entire mat at the skin and
leave a bald patch, often you can save some of the hair in
that spot by breaking up the mat.

To break up a mat, take your scissors and carefully cut the
mat in slices toward the rabbit's skin, being sure not to
cut right down to the skin and injure the rabbit, of course.
Once you have cut the mat in one or more slices (more slices
the larger the mat) try again to brush it out. Usually most
of the loose, matted hair will now come out, leaving at
least some rooted hair behind.

Check the rabbit's rear end to make sure that there isn't
soiling from diarrhea or matting that is blocking the rear end.
If the rear is dirty, gently clean it with wet wipes or a
soft, damp cloth. Feces or urine soaked fur can attract
flies, which may lay their eggs on the rabbit resulting in
maggots hatching in the cage.

If you need to turn the rabbit during the grooming, pick it
up to do so to avoid it's catching and possibly tearing its
nails. Be sure not to stress the rabbit, especially if the
temperature is warm, or the rabbit may become sick.

As for the nails, you may need to clip your house rabbit's
nails occasionally. The easiest way to do that is to lay the
rabbit on its back in your lap with its head at your knees
and clip just the ends of the nails with human nail
clippers. Be sure not to cut too much or you may hurt the
rabbit by cutting the nail quick, which will also result in
bleeding. If you have trouble with this, ask your
veterinarian to show you how to do it.

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