Rabbits are experts when it comes to grooming. They’re also clean animals, so don’t be surprised if your bun spends a large chunk of the day grooming himself. If your fur baby lives with other rabbits, he may groom his pals, as well.
Why do rabbits groom each other anyway? Well, it’s not just to keep themselves and their companions clean. In some instances, it can indicate how they feel toward their housemates and their status in the group.
Let’s explore what this activity means to your pet and his kind.
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Normal Rabbit Grooming Behavior
As we mentioned, rabbits use a good portion of their day keeping themselves spotless. You may often see your pet going over his whole body with his tongue and using his front paws to wipe his face and ears (this looks so cute, by the way!). He’ll also often bend over to clean his sides and behind, sticking his legs out to lick his paws.
This constant grooming leads to a sleek, soft, and shiny coat. Because of this habit, even white rabbits can keep their fur pristine.
There are 3 types of grooming rabbits typically indulge in:
- Autogrooming: This is when a rabbit grooms himself
- All grooming: This is when a rabbit grooms other buns
- Social grooming: This is when a bun grooms his human
Why Do Rabbits Groom so Much?
Not all animals groom as obsessively as rabbits, which may make you wonder why your pet takes cleaning himself so seriously. He has his reasons, and these may include the following.
Rabbits don’t have external sweat glands. As such, they can’t sweat to cool off, which, combined with a thick coat, puts them at risk of overheating. Grooming is one of the ways they keep cool during hot weather. Their constant licking also helps shed excess fur, particularly during molting season. Getting rid of extra hair allows the air to circulate freely through their coats.
Due to their status as prey animals, rabbits tend to be nervous and anxious creatures. They get easily stressed even by mundane events, such as a barking dog or sudden movements. When you’re not around to calm your pet, he may resort to self-grooming to ease his anxiety.
Keeping a low profile is one of the ways rabbits survive in the wild. Predators often track prey through their scent. Somehow, a clean rabbit doesn’t give off as much distinctive odor as a dirty one. As such, grooming makes it harder for predators to detect a bunny.
Being intelligent animals, buns constantly look for things to do. Grooming is one way to pass the time, particularly when they’re alone. However, too much grooming can indicate boredom in rabbits. This is your cue to provide more mental and physical stimulation to your pet. Giving him toys to play with and chew on can help reduce excessive grooming.
Rabbits are social animals. They’re hardwired to live in groups, so they crave the company of their kind. Grooming is one way to show affection to each other. It’s the equivalent of a hug and indicates bonding. Bonded rabbits eat together, go to the litter together, and constantly groom each other.
Sometimes grooming behavior isn’t a sign of friendship but is a means to establish the pecking order. The rabbit who does the grooming is the subservient bun, and the one being groomed is the dominant one. When it comes to mutual grooming, the bun with the lower place in the social hierarchy grooms the top rabbit by licking his eyes, ears, and forehead.
The Difference Between Grooming and Barbering
Barbering is when rabbits start pulling each other’s fur out. It’s typically the dominant bun who barbers his submissive companion. However, the subservient rabbit may also attempt to become dominant by barbering his pal. Other possible causes are stress and boredom.
It can be challenging to figure out if your buns are grooming or barbering each other. What may look like aggression can signify play and affection, or vice versa. If one bun’s body sports large bald patches, it’s likely he’s being barbered.
You shouldn’t ignore this issue as it could lead to severe repercussions. Try to determine the reason behind the behavior and find a solution. You can do the following and see if it will resolve the problem.
- Provide your fur babies with plenty of toys
- Give them more hay
- Allow plenty of opportunities for play and exercise outside the cage or hutch
If nothing works and the barbering continues, you may have to separate your rabbits by placing them in two hutches. Sometimes, they get along just fine if they don’t have to live together.
Should You Worry about Hairballs?
When rabbits groom themselves and each other, they can’t help but ingest some fur. Because they cannot vomit, bun owners worry about hairballs causing blockages. The good news is that hairballs don’t typically lead to such issues.
Still, taking in an excessive amount of fur presents some risks if the rabbit is already experiencing health problems that’s causing their digestion to slow down. In such instances, the ingested hair can contribute to further slowdown, leading to the potentially fatal GI stasis.
To lessen the chances of your bun developing a blockage, help him shed loose fur by giving him a thorough brushing. Check your pet’s poop. If you see fur strands connecting the droppings, then your rabbit might be taking in excessive fur.
Rabbits That Need Help with Grooming
Rabbits do an excellent job of grooming themselves. However, there may be times when they’re unable to do so. So if your pet isn’t keeping himself spotless, check for underlying health issues. These include the following.
- Dental problems (overly long teeth is an example)
- Poor balance
- Mouth pain
How to Groom Your Rabbit
If your bun can’t or won’t groom himself, you’ll need to step in and give him a hand. Because they’re clean animals, being dirty can cause stress to rabbits. But first, have your vet check your pet to determine if your rabbit has health issues causing him to neglect his grooming needs.
Have the following tools on hand:
- Rabbit-friendly hairbrush
- Wide-toothed comb
- Mat splitter or mat rake
- Nail clippers
- Small scissor
- Cotton pads and Q-tips
- Styptic powder
Start with brushing your pet. Do this every 3 days, although daily brushing would be ideal, especially during the peak of the molting season. Remember that rabbits have fragile skin, so be gentle and use a brush made specifically for bunnies.
Long-haired rabbits sometimes develop fur mats. A mat rake or mat splitter will come in handy for this problem, as this tool is great for breaking the mats apart.
Cleaning the Body
Check your pet’s paws and feet. Clip long nails to prevent your pet from injuring himself or his pals through scratching. The paws should be dry and free of mats. If you see signs of injury, take your pet to the vet. Also, provide soft resting pads for comfort.
Being wet stresses rabbits so avoid bathing your bun as much as possible. Instead, use a washcloth to sponge off dirty areas.
Clean the outer ears with a cotton swab, being careful not to push the wax into the ear canal. Do not attempt to reach deep inside the ears.
If you notice an unpleasant smell coming from your bun, check the scent glands by his behind. It may have gotten blocked by a waxy build-up and requires cleaning. To do so, dip a Q-tip in mineral oil and swab the area. This will soften the build-up and allow you to remove it easily. The scent gland membrane is delicate, so be careful to prevent injuring your pet.
Rabbits groom each other to keep themselves clean. But that’s not all there is to it. Grooming can show affection, friendship, dominance, and subservience. It’s also an essential part of your pet’s routine, so let your fur baby indulge in the activity as long as it isn’t causing him or his companions any harm.
More on Rabbit Care
- How Long Do Flemish Rabbits Live: Giant Breed Facts
- Complete Guide to the Best Hay For Rabbits: Reviews & More
- Are Rabbits Rodents? Find Out More About These Small Mammals
- Is Oat Hay Good for Rabbits? Complete Guide to the Best Hay
- Why Do Rabbits Lick You? 11 Reasons for This Common Behavior
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