A Bun for All Seasons

Time to take care of those fur coats!

Seasons change, and the days no longer swelter and bake. Instead, the amber light of afternoon gently warms, and the smell of wood smoke lingers in the cooling evening. The leaves have begun trading their green for gold, red and brown, and pet owners everywhere will soon be seeing something else softly floating through the air and falling gently to the ground: their pets’ fur.

Not quite so pretty a sight, eh? Dust mask, anyone?

Cat-owners, what comes with cats and cat hair? You got it: hair balls. Dog-owners, your pooches generally don’t lick themselves that much, but the result is a dog-bed full of dog hair, isn’t it? Not to mention the rest of the house? And you bird lovers understand that every so often your feathered friends are going to be, shall we say, a bit moody - less brightly colored, less friendly, and with more than the usual number of their feathers on the floor of their cages.

Unfortunately, rabbits are no exception to the rule. Their thick, luxurious fur generally means they’re at less risk (not NO risk) from insect problems, and bunnies do generally try to keep themselves clean and well-groomed the way cats do. But while house rabbit keepers don’t have to deal with a lot of moodiness, we do need to do something with that extra fur come shedding time.

I wrote a while back about how rabbit digestive systems are a little different from some of our other pets. On the one hand, this means that rabbit-owners don’t need to deal with the unpleasantness of hair ball clean-up, since rabbits don’t do any regurgitating. On the other hand, this means that an excess of hair in their gut can lead to a dangerous blockage, and one of the practical impacts that has on our routine is that every so often we have to help them with that extra fur, especially at shedding time.

So, once or twice a month, we break out our pet-hair brush and help the buns get that extra fur out of their coats. (long-haired breeds like angoras or lion-heads need it once a week, really.) Once upon a time, it was a Big Deal: we’d pick them up out of their cage, hold them in place on our laps, and then brush and brush and brush until the rabbits just wouldn’t be held anymore.

Kind of stressful on everyone. Not to mention a big furry mess.

Since those early days our family has learned that the best way to deal with bunnies on nearly every issue (brushing sessions included) is to do things on their schedule, at their pace, and in their way. Mostly this just means not forcing the issue, and letting them believe that the whole thing, whatever it is, was their idea in the first place.

For example, our buns love hopping around their room and around the house, but we can’t watch them 24-7. Rather than scooping them up (not something most bunnies enjoy, usually), we usually just grab a little bit of their food, let them know we have it, then lead them back to their cage where they happily settle in as though it was their idea all along.

In the case of brushing out their fur, all we have to do is let them out to run around, grab the fur-brush, and then sit down and wait. Eventually, their explorations will lead them to us (especially if we just happened to bring bunny treats along!), and with a petting here, and a brushing there, eventually they get the idea that this “brushing thing” isn’t such a bad idea after all. It might take a little extra time, but letting them get comfortable with us and the activity first lets them ease into it at their own pace. Eventually, they’ll sit and let us brush them as much as they need.

Grooming makes for a great bonding experience for us and our rabbits. Sometimes during shedding season we end up with enough extra fur to make a whole new rabbit, it seems like. But all that extra fur ends up in a pile destined for the trash can instead of drifting through the air, piling up in their cage or around the room, or in their bellies causing other problems.

As a bonus, we get tons of bunny-kisses as the rabbits take their turns grooming our hands, feet, clothes… whatever they can reach, really.

As I mentioned last post, understanding the rules of proper rabbit behavior is one of the important aspects of living with a house rabbit. In this situation, the bunny that’s being groomed is the “superior,” while the one doing the grooming is “inferior.” But good bunny manners dictate that the groomer gets their fair grooming too, so that everyone knows they are welcome.

So unless you want to be considered “rude,” every so often you should take breaks from the pettings and brushings to accept those bunny-kisses. After all, taking turns is always good manners.

-          PT


Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with shedding pets? What about pets that always seem interested in doing something ELSE besides what you have planned? Share your tips, stories, or comments below!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marne M October 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
I have an English Angora. She only sheds several times a year, but requires grooming in between time to keep her hair from matting (and even with careful attention, I still end up having to do some clipping)! I'm very fortunate in that she is so good tempered that after a good romp around the house, she enjoys just sitting on my lap while I watch tv. So I can sit and pluck her fur while my husband and I catch up on some sort of mindless entertainment. We've had outdoor rabbits for a couple of years, but this is my first ever pet rabbit, and our first indoor rabbit. I never realized what charming pets rabbits can be. I've had cats and dogs in my life, and I love them, but this bunny is rapidly raising my esteem for the rabbit as a pet. Now, if I can just get her to stop chewing on the cords...
Rebecca McCarthy October 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM
We have an indoor bunny as well, and he is lovely. Our cat is very curious about him, but I think he scares her.
Pat Thomas October 15, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Hey, Marne! Angoras have <i>amazing</i> fur, but yeah, it does take the extra effort to keep it groomed. I admit to being slightly intimidated, but your girl sounds like a perfect angel. If you do end up having to clip, be super-careful of that super-sensitive skin. As for the electrical cords, we've fought this battle too, and here are a couple of ideas you might try, since hiding them, or keeping them out of reach is of course the best bet, but not always easy or possible. * Covering the wires with snap-on plastic insulation will prevent instant cord-clipping, and though it won't last forever against those amazing teeth, it at least gives an extra layer to get through before things go BZZZZT!! * Spraying cords w/apple bitter spray is non-toxic and often can help discourage that behavior. * Finally, giving her other things to chew/play with can help cut down the urge to kill your cords. Try giving her used up paper towel or toilet paper tubes, or even a plastic cat toy and see what happens. Remember that trimming back roots inside burrows is a natural inclination for a bunny, as is chewing things to keep those teeth worn properly, so try giving her other things to chew to take her mind off your poor electrical cords. =D
Pat Thomas October 15, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Rebecca, bunnies and kitties can be so funny when they interact. Sometimes they can be best friends, sometimes they can't stand each other. Ours have done all of this and more... more to follow in future posts!


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