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Grooming & Coat Care - Rabbit Welfare Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund

Long-haired rabbits have been prized for hundreds of years. But few people appreciate the effort that will be required to maintain this special type of coat. Rescue centres are taking in increasing numbers of long-haired rabbits in a terrible state because of neglected coats.

Why grooming is so important

  • To remove loose hair and matts.
  • To allow close examination of the whole rabbit - even short haired bunnies can get matted underneath.
  • To help you health check and bond with your bunny

Short (normal) coat care

  • Use a soft-bristled brush for day to day care. A weekly groom is usually enough, except when moulting.
  • Slicker brushes and cat moulting combs are useful for thick or moulting coats.

Long Coat Care The entire coat (including armpits, groin, tummy and feet) must be combed or clipped. Grooming takes 20 to 40 minutes a day whereas clipping is a lot of work every 4-6 weeks with less work in between. Here's how:

Grooming

  • Start with a wide-toothed comb. When you've done the whole rabbit, repeat with a fine toothed comb. Finish with a flea comb between the ears, round the vent, under the chin, and in the armpits.
  • Soft brushes are hopeless on long-haired bunnies - the top may look lovely, but there may be a matted mess underneath.
  • Matts should be teased out with fingers or carefully cut off - be careful, as it's easy to cut the skin.
  • Even if you're keeping the coat long, consider a "sanitary clip" around the vent area.
  • Metal-toothed slicker brushes are effective, but can scratch - take care!
  • Cat moulting combs are great at removing dead undercoat.

Clipping

  • Get someone to teach you how to do it safely!
  • Use scissors 2 inches long from pivot to tip. Round bladed scissors are safer, but won't penetrate mats as well as scissors with sharp ends. Rest a comb against the skin as protection whilst you are scissoring. Don't "tent" the skin.
  • Normal dog clippers clog with rabbit fur. Adapted blades are available, but costly.
  • If your rabbit is clipped in coldweather, bring him indoors or provide a bunny-proofed heat lamp or heated mat.

Tricky bits

  • Step up the grooming when bunny starts to moult. If droppings become small, seek veterinary help.
  • Young long haired rabbits can be impossible to keep tangle free. Clip off the baby coat and keep the coarser adult coat groomed as it appears.
  • Neutered rabbits are happier, healthier pets, butneutering may make the coat more woolly and difficult to care for.
  • Don't keep long haired bunnies on woodshavings: use a thick layer of hay or straw instead.
  • Don't allow long-haired rabbits outside in wet weather.
  • Unhandled rabbits may find the whole process so distressing they have to be de-matted under sedation or general anaesthetic. If you don't know how to train an animal using modern behavoural techniques such as clicker training, seek help from a behaviourist who can advise you on how to train your rabbits to accept routine grooming.
  • Introduce grooming into your bunny's routine as soon as possible - short sessions at first!
  • Get help if you are struggling to cope with your rabbit's coat. Rabbit rescue centres and breeders of long haired rabbits will probably be able to help. Some accept rabbits for clipping for a small fee.

The ethical conundrum of long-haired rabbits
Matted fur However much we may admire magnificent longhaired rabbits, we must ask ourselves whether it is right to create animals with fundamental welfare problems. Even properly groomed long coated rabbits are at increased risk of serious health problems such as fur balls and flystrike. They are also uncomfortable in hot weather.

"We have seen many horrific sights. Rabbits with huge matted balls of fur under the chin which have prevented them from lowering their heads to eat; coats that have become so tangled that the matted fur has pulled the legs together and the animal has barely been able to move. Underneath the matts lies bleeding raw skin...."

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