You may have seen videos of rabbits that are calm and serene while bathing in a sink full of water. Is it good for rabbits to take a bath? Responsible pet owners know that water is harmful to rabbits, and that submerging your rabbit in water is dangerous and unnecessary.
Giving rabbits full-body baths can cause harm, or even lead to death. Instead of full-body baths, rabbits should be given a dry bath, which uses baby cornstarch to remove dirt. For fecal matter and urine staining, you can give rabbits a spot bath. Spot baths only introduce water to the areas of the fur where it is needed.
Instead of giving your rabbit a bath, plenty of care should be taken to avoid allowing the accumulation of dirt. One of the ways to do this is by brushing your rabbit’s fur on a daily basis. Regular grooming will avoid matted fur, as well as removing much of the build-up of dirt.
Bathing Rabbits Safely
Rabbits should never be bathed in water. In fact, rabbits should not get their fur wet if it can be helped, as rabbit fur takes an extremely long time to dry. Wet fur has been linked to many causes of death in rabbits. Among other things, wet fur can cause hypothermia and skin infections.
Other than the inherent risk that water poses to rabbits, bathing itself can be harmful. For a start, most rabbits are unfamiliar with water. Submerging a rabbit in a bath will upset the rabbit, and its natural instinct is to leave the bath. Forcing it to stay in water cause, at best, will cause stress and anxiety. At worst, it can lead to injury and death.
Rabbits are self-cleaning animals and do not need to be bathed. Much like cats, rabbits do the cleaning all on their own. Their owners need very minimal intervention in terms of hygiene. The few circumstances that owners would need to give their rabbits a bath is when their fur is matted and cannot be easily removed. The most common reason for this is when rabbits have built up excrement on their bottom.
Are Baths Bad for Rabbits?
Rabbits have not evolved in water. Rabbit fur is made specifically to keep in the heat. In fact, a single strip of fur can insulate a rabbit better than a full cotton jacket. According to the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. When fur loses its ability to insulate, it becomes a problem.
While there are some rabbits that are comfortable in the water, wet baths can cause unnecessary danger to your rabbits. Here are some risks that wet baths can pose to rabbits:
- Stress: Stress can cause shock and heart attacks to rabbits, which can lead to death. There have been reports of rabbits dying suddenly during and after a bath.
- Injury: Stress and discomfort can also lead to physical injury. Rabbits have strong hind legs, and any attempts to escape can cause their brittle spine to break.
- Hypothermia: Rabbit fur takes a long time to dry. When wet, rabbit fur is prevented from trapping in heat, keeping rabbits warm. This can lead to hypothermia, even in warm weather.
- Irritated Skin: Rabbits have sensitive skin and are prone to a host of skin disorders. These include bacterial diseases, fungal diseases, and skin tumors, according to the Veterinary Clinics of North America.
- Ear Infection: Water getting into a rabbit’s ear can cause an ear infection, as a rabbit has no way to remove the water in its ear. This often leads to health complications and medical bills.
How To Bathe Rabbits Safely
While rabbits cannot be bathed with water, there are still ways to clean your rabbit. The key to washing your rabbit is to use the least amount of water. Ideally, water would not be used at all. However, when water is necessary, it should only be applied in areas where it is necessary.
When cleaning rabbit fur, remember to put your rabbit’s comfort before anything else. Do not force your rabbit to take a bath if it is uncomfortable. Doing so can injure your rabbit and will cause undue stress.
If your rabbit begins struggling in the middle of the bath, quickly finish off the bath and allow the rabbit to roam. Should you need to continue, give some space between one session and the next so as not to stress your rabbit.
Cleaning rabbit fur is done in parts, but there is no need to do one immediately after the other. In fact, it is better to provide a buffer in between baths. It would be less stressful for you and your rabbit and promote a safer and more comfortable environment.
Dry Baths for Rabbits
A dry bath should be the first choice when it comes to cleaning your rabbit. Ideally, water should not be used when cleaning rabbits. With a dry bath, you are removing the dirt and grime that could be removed without using water, therefore lessening the chances of harm.
When done right, dry baths do not cause stress to rabbits. In fact, dry baths can be a soothing experience. Additionally, it can also be a good way to bond with your pet rabbit.
The most harm that can be caused by dry baths is in improper handling, which shouldn’t be a problem if rabbits are used to being handled, and if owners are used to handling their rabbits.
Instead of water, dry baths use baby cornstarch to remove dirt and debris. This ensures a comfortable experience, all while keeping your rabbit clean.
Why Use Baby Cornstarch for Cleaning Rabbits?
Baby cornstarch is the ideal solution for cleaning out dirt and debris without introducing moisture. In fact, cornstarch absorbs moisture. With the lack of moisture, it is easier to remove the solid dirt and grime that may have accumulated on your rabbit’s fur. As it is formulated specifically for a baby’s skin, cornstarch is sure to be comfortable and non-irritating.
To further ensure that it will not cause irritation, choose a formula that is pure and unscented. Baby cornstarch can be found on the baby aisle, alongside other baby powders.
How To Give Your Rabbit a Dry Bath
To give your rabbit a dry bath, you will need the following:
- Rubber gloves
- Soft bath towels
- Pure, unscented cornstarch
- Fine-toothed flea comb
Prepare The Bath
Choose a clean flat surface where you can place your rabbit. A clean floor would be good. Cover the area with something soft, preferably a bath towel, to keep your rabbit comfortable. Make sure you have your bottle of cornstarch on hand
Put On Gloves
Other than preparing the area, make sure to put on some rubber gloves. A clean pair of the common, yellow household gloves will do the trick. Gloves will give you a better hold of your rabbit.
Secure Your Rabbit
Secure your rabbit gently but securely. If possible, have someone else hold down the rabbit for you to lessen the chances of strain.
Add The Powder
With your other hand, liberally apply the powder on soiled areas of your rabbit’s fur. Then, gently work the powder into the fur, down to the skin. Do not press too hard, and do not rush. It’s better to take your time and repeat the process, than be too gruff that it hurts your rabbit.
Remove The Debris
As you work the powder into the fur, work it into the clumps of debris as well. Debris surrounded by enough cornstarch should come away easily, either sliding off the fur or breaking apart.
If the debris seems stuck, use a fine-toothed flea comb. This comb will allow you to tease away the debris on your rabbit’s fur. If the debris doesn’t budge, do not force it. This can damage your rabbit’s fur. Try adding more cornstarch to see if it budges. If not, leave it alone and move on.
Remove Loose Powder
Pat the areas you put powder on to shake off the loose powder. Make sure to pat gently but thoroughly.
Reward Your rabbit
Give your rabbit a treat for its behavior. Vacuum any loose powder on the floor and throw the towels you used in the wash.
Spot Baths for Rabbits
If a dry bath doesn’t do the trick, a spot bath is recommended. A spot bath refers to a bath that only introduces water to the spot that needs to be cleaned. With less water, the chances of harm for your rabbit also lessened.
The spot bath is there for extremely stubborn dirt, and for rabbits who may be suffering from an illness. Because it uses water, care should be taken to make sure that your rabbit is comfortable when taking a spot bath. If your rabbit begins to struggle, stop the bath immediately.
The spot bath should only be for areas that really need a wash. When bathing your rabbit, stick to the area with dirt. Make sure to only wet the least amount of fur as possible.
Use a hypo-allergenic, non-medicated shampoo. Shampoo commonly used by humans, even those that are made for sensitive skin, are often not suitable for rabbits. Pet shampoo is also not recommended, as it often contains harsh substances meant to kill fleas and the like. Both formulations are too harsh on a rabbit’s skin.
Instead, use a shampoo with the least amount of additives, with formulas that use organic products. To find shampoos like these, check natural food vendors and vendors of organic products.
How To Spot Bath a Rabbit
To give your rabbit a spot bath, you will need the following:
- Hypoallergenic, non-medicated shampoo
- A small sink or basin
- Lukewarm water
- Fine-toothed flea comb or soft comb
Prepare The Area
Fill a sink or basin with about 2.5 inches of lukewarm water. Make sure the bottom of your container is not slippery. If it is, place a towel at the bottom of the container.
Add a tablespoon of the hypoallergenic, non-medicated shampoo into the water, and mix.
Lower Your Rabbit
With a firm but gentle hold, lower the affected area of your rabbit into the water. If it is your rabbit’s rear that you are washing, hold your rabbit under its middle to keep its front legs out of the water. Then, lower its rear.
If it is your rabbit’s feet, hold your rabbit in its middle and lower its feet into the water. Try to keep your rabbit’s belly dry. Make sure to keep your rabbit secure enough that its ears and face does not get wet.
Work in The Shampoo
Keeping as close to the affected area as possible, work the shampoo into your rabbit’s fur. If it won’t come off all at once, do not force it. Instead, change the water, and repeat steps 3 and 4. If it still doesn’t work, move on to the next steps.
Rinse your rabbit thoroughly with warm water, making sure to remove all shampoo.
Dry Your Rabbit
Dry your rabbit with a soft towel. Dab, instead of rub, as rubbing can be irritating, as well as stressing, for your rabbit.
Use a fan or a hair dryer set to low or medium heat to facilitate drying. If using a hair dryer, make sure that you do not direct the airflow at your rabbit’s head, ears, or rear.
When your rabbit is dry enough, you can brush its fur to hasten drying time. You can use the same fine-toothed flea comb, or a soft brush. Keep drying your rabbit until your rabbit’s fur is completely dry, including the underside.
Removing Matted Fur
At this point, any of the matted fur you didn’t get to a while ago will be easier to spot. After dry baths and spot baths, matted fur should be easier to untangle as dirt and grime has already been removed. To do this, use a matt rake to separate matted fur.
Clipping fur should be your last resort. Clipping can be dangerous for rabbits, as rabbit skin is very thin and easily cut. For this reason, consider asking a professional, like your vet, to clip off matted fur. To clip matted fur, you will need the following:
- Matt rake or comb
- Fine-toothed flea comb
Prepare your area the same way that you did when creating a dust bath. Make sure that your rabbit is
Shield The Fur
Place your index and middle finger between the matted bit of fur, to shield your rabbit’s skin with your hand. In this way, you can prevent injuring your rabbit’s skin with the scissors.
Snip Off The Fur
Using a pair of blunt-tipped scissors, snip off the matted fur. Be sure to snip as far away from the skin as possible.
If you cannot see the rabbit’s skin, are unsure about where fur ends, or if the matted fur is too close to the skin, do not force it. At this point, it’s best to leave the clipping for the professionals. If, however, your rabbit only has a few spots of matted fur that is easy to reach, follow this procedure.
Grooming Your Rabbit
Rabbits do not need regular baths, but they do need regular brushing. Brushing will also help avoid matted fur, as well as any of the dangers that clipping fur introduces.
When Do Rabbits Need Brushing?
Rabbits need regular brushing, but the regularity depends on the breed. On average, rabbits need brushing at least twice a week.
Breeds with long fur, as well as those that are more prone to shedding, should be brushed daily. For example, Angora rabbits need daily brushings.
What Brush Should You Use?
The brush that your rabbit needs will depend on its breed. For example, thicker coats may need a slicker brush to properly remove loose fur.
As a rule of thumb, avoid brushes that are rough on skin, like metal-toothed brushes. Instead, stick to soft brushes, or rubber grooming tools.
Trimming Rabbit Fur
Some rabbit breeds may benefit from trimmed fur. This is especially true for rabbits with long fur, like Angora rabbits. Trimming can prevent matted fur on the rabbit, and also reduce the chances of fur being swallowed. However, trims are rarely necessary. If you believe that your rabbit needs one, it’s best to leave it to an experienced groomer.