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Fuzzy breeds of bunnies are adorable, but did you know they also can be a lot of work?
In the wild there aren’t any long hair breeds of rabbits quite like the cute overly fluffy domestic ones we typically see at Magic Happens. All long haired rabbits simply can’t keep up with their long haredo’s on their own and need help being groomed regularly.
When any breed of rabbit sheds and they’re not groomed properly, they’re at risk of developing serious health issues. Because rabbits groom frequently, they can get hairballs if they ingest too much fur or don't have enough fiber in their diet (especially if they aren't big hay-eaters). Unlike cats, rabbits aren't designed to vomit. This means that the more fur your rabbit ingests, the more likely it will be that they can develop a large mass of tangled hair and food that can block their stomach exit, causing a painful and potentially lethal condition called G.I Stasis or bloat — And long haired breeds are particularly prone since their fur is much longer and can get tangled more easily.
Besides the internal health issues, they will develop mats in their fur if it is not maintained — and this goes for ALL long haired breeds. Most bunnies do best with regular grooming every day, or every few days.
Long haired fur can mat easily once it starts, and it must be removed carefully if it does happen as rabbit skin is very thin and easily stretches and tears.
Regular trimming or shaving is an option but if the fur was matted at the root to begin with, the new fur that grows in will just grow into the mat if it wasn’t properly removed.
While it isn’t usually difficult to brush a bunny's back, there are other trouble spots that all too often aren’t checked. Areas that are most commonly matted when long haired breeds arrive at the rescue are: backend (near tail), back legs (inside and out), back feet, under the chin, and chest/armpit areas.
This means that you must be comfortable picking up your fuzzy bunny on a daily basis to at least check these areas to catch any potential mats early before they become a painful matted mess.
Not all bunnies are fond of being held, but most will get used to it with training and patience. You may want to put a folded towel over your lap to protect your legs and clothing from biting and scratching, or place the bunny on another surface such as a table (make sure they have traction there too so they still feel safe). Tip: Do NOT let your bunny hop off after they’ve “fussed” by either biting/squirming to get down. If you do let them hop off to their safe space and don’t attempt to pick them up again right after, this accidentally trains them that if they repeat the bad behavior they will get out of being held/brushed etc. Start with short sessions of just being held and gradually extend to longer ones that work up to including being brushed. If your rabbit becomes overly stressed, just sit for a moment and then give them a break.
The most popular small and fuzzy breeds we see at the rescue are double-mane Lionheads and American Fuzzy Lops. We occasionally also see Jersey Wooley and Angora rabbits. All of these breeds need regular all-over maintenance, and none are particularly “better” or “easier” than others.
Traditional lionheads (that have just a bit of fur around their head, and some odd tufts here and there) need brushing like every other short haired breed, with a little bit of extra attention to their “mane.” They do not need quite the grooming routine that their Doublemane cousins need.
Long haired breeds of bunnies also take at least a year or more to grow out their full coat once they’ve shed their soft baby fur. Adults between 1-2 years old are usually still finishing growing out their fuzz. So while fuzzy babies may look adorable and not that hard to maintain, keep in mind that their adult coat will be MUCH longer.
Have questions or need help grooming your long haired bunny? Ask about visiting one of our Care Days and we’d be happy to help show you grooming tips and tricks or help remove any troublesome mats.
We highly recommend coming to one or two of our Care Days and grooming the adoptable you are interested in if you have no prior experience with grooming long haired bunnies to get an idea of whether or not this is something you will be able to maintain on your own. We also recommend filling out a Foster to Adopt form so you can do a trial run to make sure before adopting. Some of our long haired adoptables are easier to handle than others, but a large majority of them came from a background where they may not have been cared for properly and therefore are still adjusting to being groomed and may still be fussy.