When it comes to routine hygiene, rabbits behave a lot like other small mammals, such as hamsters. These animals neither like nor need to be bathed. Routine cleaning is mostly done by the rabbit himself, and since rabbits are known to be particularly clean creatures, you can rest assured that your pet is already getting a lot of the hygienic care he needs. You might notice your fluffy friend licking himself much like a cat — or even spitting up hairballs if you catch him at the right moment!
Even though your rabbit may clean himself, you may need to help him out from time to time. There are a few instances when a vet might instruct you to wash your bunny, and others when a partial bath will do just fine. We’ll explain what to do (and when!) so you won’t feel like a deer in the headlights if you ever need to know how to clean a rabbit.
When to wash a rabbit
In general, the risks that come with bathing a bunny far outweigh the possible benefits. For instance, rabbits may feel unsafe and end up panicking in the water, which can result in myriad stressful injuries for you and your pet (via Rabbit Welfare UK). Bathing-related stress has even been linked to the death of a few pets. Additionally, their fur is notoriously hard to dry, so your pet may be vulnerable to hypothermia or respiratory illnesses if left wet, or even damp.
Still, there are a few instances when your vet may recommend that you wash your rabbit — typically if your bunny has an especially dirty behind! Most likely, a spot wash is all you’ll need, though your vet can provide a prescription shampoo for particularly sensitive areas. Always ask your vet for a shampoo recommendation for your rabbit, as even other pet shampoos are not necessarily bunny-safe (via Rabbit.org).
Spot cleaning your bunny: A safer option
Spot cleaning lets you clean your rabbit without exposing him to the dangers of a bath. When you do this, you’re cleaning only part of his body, eliminating the risk for both hypothermia and shock-related symptoms. To spot-clean your rabbit’s leg, for example, you could dunk just his leg into room-temperature water, rub in vet-approved shampoo, then rinse the leg with the aid of a small dish (via Omlet). No running water, please! It could be too loud and powerful for a lot of rabbits.
For a messy bottom, a damp towel should do the trick. You can sit your bunny in a small tub for washing, but remember to empty the water regularly, as rabbits may panic if sitting in too much water. This may also make his bum even harder to dry later on, so think ahead before “bath” time. Perhaps you can use the bathtub to avoid this, or even improvise! Drilling a few holes into the bottom of that small plastic tub should allow enough drainage for your bunny to stay comfy.
How to wash a rabbit (when absolutely necessary)
If your vet gives the OK, you will need to be ultragentle when washing your rabbit. Make sure the water is a comfortable temperature and don’t ever get his entire body wet. Rabbit Welfare UK recommends starting with his rear and moving forward, washing and gently rinsing him in sections. This will ensure as safe and stress-free a wash as possible.
Another helpful idea is to make this a two-person job. Have one person comfortably hold the rabbit while the other person cleans him. This should all be done as quickly (yet gently) as possible so your furry friend doesn’t get cold. Make sure to have a warm towel ready!
Other routine hygienic care
Since your buddy takes care of his grooming for you, keeping his enclosure clean is the least you can do in return. In fact, a rabbit’s environment has a direct and significant effect on his health, so it’s not only kind, it’s also essential to keep your pet’s space tidy. Anywhere your rabbit relieves himself should be cleaned especially frequently, as a dirty rear is easily the most common reason pet parents need to wash their bunny. You should also brush your rabbit weekly, at least. During shedding, he may need brushing up to a few times a day, so it’s crucial he gets used to that part of his routine (via Rabbit.org).
Now that you know how to (and how not to) wash your rabbit, you can hop on it! Your bunny will love that fresh, just-washed feeling, while you’ll enjoy the clean space and lack of smell! Once you and your fuzzy friend are into the routine of brushing and spot cleans, you’ll wonder why you ever thought about bathing your bunny in the first place!
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