Grooming your pet rabbit isn’t primarily to keep it looking good. Good grooming promotes good health. Rabbits groom themselves frequently and can accumulate hairballs that may cause intestinal problems. It also helps keep down the hair around the house, which surely helps your health by reducing your stress.
Rabbits almost never need a bath. In fact, because they are easily stressed and overheated, it’s not usually a good idea. If they get something on their fur that needs to be removed – pine sap, dog feces, a household product – it’s best to spot-remove the material with water only. A little pet shampoo is acceptable, but should be diluted and used sparingly.
Most rabbits will benefit from regular brushing. Depending on the breed ‘regular’ may mean weekly or it can be as often as daily. It doesn’t take long, but it should be done carefully.
A wire slicker is usually too risky. Rabbit skin is fragile and sores can become serious since the rabbit may chew them. Instead, get a brush designed for rabbits, usually made of plastic bristles. A rubber groomer is another good addition to your rabbit care toolkit. Rabbits shed periodically about every 3 months for many breeds. A fine tooth comb run through the fur can be a good supplement to a daily brushing during these times.
For really long-haired breeds, such as an Angora, you’ll need to brush them daily for several minutes. You may find your efforts eased a little if you trim the hair once in a while, but the work may be more than the reward. If you do, be very careful not to nick the skin. Trimming around a rabbit’s hocks, for example, can produce sores that are painful and can lead to worse problems.
If your rabbit’s fur becomes matted, there are several ways to resolve the problem, depending on its cause.
Rabbits allowed to roam around the yard may get pine sap and other sticky substances on their fur. A simple commercial orange-and-oil based spray can come in handy. It clears out the sap and even gets it off your skin easily. Wipe the area well with a damp cloth afterward.
For ordinary everyday matting, try to avoid cutting the mat out of the fur unless you’re very adept with scissors. If you need to use them, have an assistant hold the rabbit to prevent any sudden moves. Always use scissors with dull, rounded tips. In general, it’s best to try to work the mat out with a wide toothed comb or brush and save clipping for a last resort.
Most rabbits will do a very good job of keeping their fur clean and well groomed without much assistance. A little supplemental brushing is usually all that’s needed.