Your Rabbit's Care
Rabbits need to be brushed, just like your dog or cat. Pick a small slicker brush that has tines on it that are soft and suited for a kitten. Always brush from the head to the tail, and do not brush against the grain of the fur.
A rabbit will molt two to three times a year. The molt starts just above the nose and continues down the body until it reaches the tail. A molt will usually occur right after your rabbit is spayed or neutered, so don’t be surprised when it seems like it is “blowing” its coat! A rabbit will also release its fur from the follicles during a visit to the vet or in times/moments of stress. Spring and fall are our other two big times for molt, so be prepared with the right tools to assist your rabbit in removing the old, dead fur. A small curry brush, known as a Shed ‘n Blade (for cats/kittens) is useful to remove the undercoat of the rabbit during its seasonal molt. Use gently, however! Those blades are sharp. Please have your groomer, vet or me show you how to use this tool. Another really useful tool is a “Furminator” – which you can purchase at Petsmart, Petco or on-line.
Rabbits do not need baths. Their fur is quite thick, and it takes a long time for it to dry during which they could easily become ill. The only time you would need to bathe your rabbit is under extreme circumstances where injury and/or trauma demand that you do so. Rabbits groom themselves more times a day than a cat does, which is why you will never need to give your rabbit a bubble bath. Contact us for further instruction if you find that you need to bathe your rabbit. If you do find that your rabbit needs a bath, please be careful! Their backs are extremely delicate, and they do not like to be immersed in water. Go carefully, use warm (not hot) water, and use a shampoo that is suitable for you and is “cruelty free”. Rinse thoroughly (until the water runs clear) and then towel dry as much as possible. Using your hairdryer set on low, get down on the floor, put your bun in between your legs, and blow dry taking great care not to get the rabbit’s skin too warm, as it can and will burn.
Your rabbit will ingest quite a lot of fur during the grooming process, and particularly after you bathe him (another reason not to!). Make sure that your rabbit receives extra hay and lots of exercise to help prevent fur blockage in its stomach. Rabbits will also groom themselves dry, as I have witnessed when my colonized rabbits go and sit out in the rain (which they actually seem to enjoy at times).
Your rabbit should have its nails checked to see if they need trimming every month or so. Again, use a pair of cat nail scissors. Lay your rabbit in your arms like a baby, talk softly to it, and gently clip the back nails first, then the front. Until your rabbit gets used to this procedure, it is possible that it will want to jump out of your arms. Please sit on the floor until you are comfortable clipping nails! Your veterinarian would be happy to clip those nails for you, so don’t hesitate to call him/her!
And now, a word about the dreaded litter box. It is easier than you think! First and foremost, get your rabbit spayed (if it is a girl) or neutered (if it is a boy). I cannot emphasize this enough.
Currently accepted litters:
- Care Fresh – recycled cardboards and papers, available from feed stores and animal supply stores
- Yesterday’s News – recycled newspaper
- Oxbow Eco-Straw Litter
- Hay (non-pesticide only)
- Any cat litter that is clay based and/or has chemicals. Clay litter often contains chemicals that can cause damage to the rabbits’ neurological system if ingested. Plus, just think about it. If your rabbit munches on the clay and swallows it, then it can and will cause major GI problems in the future.
- Any soft wood bedding, including pine shavings. Stay away from any litter box fillers that contain cedar oil or are comprised of wood. Do NOT use wood shavings of any kind — including cedar, sawdust, pine, and so forth. Wood shavings react with the rabbit’s urine to create a toxin which can build up in their liver. If your rabbit needed to undergo surgery, their chances of recovering from anesthesia are very much compromised. Why take the chance? Do Not Use!
Now – on to litter box training! Since your rabbit has been spayed or neutered, almost all of the battle has already been won. Here are some litter box options:
- Simply put a good quantity of hay in a large, high-sided cat litter pan and change it every few days. Place their food and water bowl in the front of the litter pan. The bunny will jump in, use the latrine and knosh on dinner all at the same time. And, when it is time to change out the pan, you can compost the whole thing and have instant fertilzer! Rinse out the pan and WOW – you are off to the races. And you should SEE my garden!
- You can retrofit your litter pan with a grid of cut-to-spec lighting grid/grate purchased at almost any hardware store (a grate idea!). Voila! your rabbit can use its box and have its feet planted firmly on a clean surface. The grate/grid can be soaked in a solution of vinegar and water once a week to remove any urine mineral build-up.
Cleaning the Litter box Vinegar is the only cleaner that you will need for your rabbit. Simply mix in a spray bottle one-half cup of white vinegar and fill the rest of the bottle with water (this equals 1 part vinegar to 9 parts water). Spray this mixture on the urine stain, scrub with a cloth and voila! All gone. The vinegar neutralizes the ammonia in the rabbit urine. Pretty nifty! You can also pour a little vinegar in the rabbit’s litter box when your rinse it out. Place the litter box out in the sun for a day to sterilize and further deodorize. Do not use any harsh chemicals such as Lysol or chlorine bleach as these and other cleaners can damage the lungs of you, your rabbit, and are not cruelty free products. If your vet requires that you “sterilize” your rabbit’s litter box, he/she can recommend a safe germicide/viruscide. You might want to remind your vet that vinegar actually kills pseudomonas, and that a day in hot sunshine will kill everything else!
The litter box is a place of refuge and contentment for your rabbit. They love to lie in them, roll over and snooze. It is vital to their health that this container be kept clean and changed as frequently as is needed. And remember – the contents of the litter box can be composted and utilized in your garden. Rabbit poop is considered to be a “hot” fertilizer and is one that needs to be aired, turned and rained-on before use. It is also almost entirely made up of nitrogen and is about a natural fertilizer as you can get. Think green! Think bunny poop!