Is there anything cuter than a fluffy Angora bunny??? Just look at this cute little fluffy face!
All that cute fluff definitely comes at a price. There is a lot of grooming involved to keep Angoras healthy, happy, and producing top-quality wool. Don’t let that deter you from adding one of these sweet fluff balls to your family. If you can set aside about a half hour a week for grooming (and a bit more time during shedding periods) you should be fine!
Grooming and regular handling should start as young as possible for wool breeds. They have a lifetime of handling ahead of them so best to get them used to it early. They won’t be shedding much fur until they are full grown. Grooming when they are young is mostly about bonding with your bunny, and getting them used to regular handling.
Why grooming Angoras is important
Angoras who are not groomed regularly will develop mats. This not only makes their wool unusable, but it is very uncomfortable for them. In extreme cases, matting could prevent them from moving freely, eating, or excreting waste.
Ungroomed Angoras can also develop the deadly conditions of Wool Block or GI Stasis. Click here to read more about this condition. Wool block happens when the rabbit is grooming itself and ingests too much fur. Rabbits can not vomit the fur out (unlike cats with hairballs), so it has to pass through them. Too much fur can accumulate in the bunny gumming up its digestive system and it can very quickly die from this.
A high-fiber diet (lots of hay!) is important for Angoras to keep their digestive system healthy. We like to give our rabbits a papaya vitamin tablet every time we groom them. Papaya has natural enzymes that will help break up the wool, you can find the tablets (good for human digestive systems too!) at health food stores or online.
Most Angoras naturally shed their coat every couple of months. How do you know if your rabbit is shedding its coat? It’s pretty hard to miss! When you pet the rabbit, the loose fur will literally fall right out. Looking at the rabbit, you will see loose tendrils of fur falling out like this:
That is when you know it is time to step up the grooming schedule. In non-shedding weeks I usually groom each of my rabbits once a week, taking about 30 minutes per rabbit. During shedding times the grooming takes a bit longer because I am trying to make sure I get all the loose fur, taking about 45-60 minutes per rabbit.
I use combing to remove the excess fur from my rabbits (just like it sounds, combing is just brushing the bunny to get out the loose wool). I usually follow that up with plucking. It isn’t as horrible as it sounds, it is just running your hands through the fur to remove the loose tendrils. You can also shear your rabbit. Click here to read more about combing, plucking, and shearing.
Shearing involves using clippers or scissors to trim the coat off. Shearing is definitely the fastest method. Although it is the fastest, I don’t use it unless the fur is matted because an Angora rabbit’s coat is constantly growing. When you shear the coat you end up taking off not only the old loose fur that is 3-5 inches in length, but you also get the shorter, new fur (about 1-2 inches in length). The longer hairs are preferable if you will be spinning the wool into yarn, the short hairs are considered “second cuts” and often will shed out of the yarn.
Tools for grooming
Before I begin grooming I assemble my tools (scroll to the bottom of the post for handy shopping links!):
- a small slicker brush
- grooming comb
- small, blunt end scissors (mine are dog grooming scissors with blunt ends)
- small nail clippers
- papaya tablets
- baggie, bucket, or box for storing harvested wool
- an old towel
- small bowl of greens for bunny treats!
Holding your rabbit for grooming
You can place your bunny on a study tabletop, or groom them on your lap. Either way, it is very important that you are securely holding your rabbit so it doesn’t fall from the table or twist its body and injure itself. It’s nice to do it outside because there is less mess afterward, but I find it frustrating to have the wind blowing all the hair around. I usually do it inside, and I always end up having to do a good vacuuming afterward!
Place the towel on your table, or on your lap. This will protect your clothes/surface (somewhat!) from the excess fur and will help cushion and cradle the bunny.
I like to groom my bunnies on my lap. It can be a relaxing experience for both me and the bunny. This is Luna, our black English Angora. She is a very chill bun who loves grooming time and cuddles. Luna was just outside hopping around in the play yard so she has lots of “vegetable matter” in her coat – leaves, dirt, shavings – that needs to come out first.
I use my fingers and then the slicker brush to softly brush the tips of the fur to just get out the veggie matter. You can also use a grooming blower to get out the veggie matter & fluff up the coat. This is just a real quick brushing – maybe just a minute or two. Just to get out the debris & fluff the coat.
For the majority of the brushing, I use a grooming comb. The teeth are close together to help grab the loose fur and help work out any mats. I use short strokes working from the end of the fur down to the skin. Don’t forget to brush their ear furnishings (the fur on their ears), behind their ears, and the fur on their face. Be very careful around their eyes!
Working out mats
If you come upon a mat, try to work it out with the comb. Hold the fur close to the skin, so that as you are brushing the mat it won’t pull at her skin. If the mat is too large or tight to get out with the comb, you will need the blunt-tipped grooming scissors.
Rabbit skin is very thin, you need to be very careful when cutting mats. Before I start cutting the mat out, I will break it down by cutting through the mat perpendicular to the skin. Once it is two or more smaller mats, I can often brush it out. Try not to pull the skin away from the body when you are cutting a mat, that is an easy way to accidentally cut the skin. If possible, try to keep your fingers between the scissors and your rabbit’s skin.
If the large mat is cut into smaller mats and you still can’t comb it out you will need to cut the mat off. To protect the rabbit’s skin, lay the scissors flat against the skin. Don’t pull the skin up, you could accidentally cut her.
Brushing the underside
Now, we have to turn the bunny over and brush her belly, legs, and backside. As the rabbit is lying around and climbing on things the fur on the underside of the rabbit is where mats are most likely to develop. The quality of wool you remove from this area will not be as high quality as the back and sides.
Besides matting, the other issue that can occur with the fur on the underside is felting. This is when the fur is not quite matted but is compressed and coarse – almost the texture of sheep’s wool. Frequent grooming can prevent both matting and felting, but once it’s matted or felted there is not much to be done but to carefully cut the fur off. Felted fur is not great for spinning, but can still be used for various craft projects.
Turning the bunny on her back
To turn the bunny over, gently grasp her ears & back of her head with one hand and cradle her with the other hand to tip her upside down. Place her on your lap. You can secure her ears between your knees, gently, being sure the ears aren’t bent. Most rabbits in this position are quite calm, but be careful as you lean over her as she could use her powerful back legs to kick if she gets spooked, scratching you.
A second position I will use is to cradle the rabbit in my left arm so her head is near my armpit, sort of like you would hold an infant. Then I gently hold one of her back legs with my left hand. You have the rabbit held more securely this way but you won’t have full use of both your hands for grooming. Once you are more comfortable with grooming, I find this to be an easier way to hold them. If a rabbit squirms out of your grip, she could hurt her spine twisting to get out of your grip so it is important to hold her securely.
Gently remove the veggie matter from the fur from her underside and then use the comb to brush her belly & leg fur. Try to do as much grooming as possible while the rabbit is right-side up.
Brushing her back & sides
The best, longest, choice wool comes from the bunny’s back and sides so this is where you will concentrate during wool removal combing. Work in sections until you get the whole body. Use one hand to hold the skin so it doesn’t pull and hurt the bunny as you brush. Use the comb to thoroughly brush out each section. You will have to clear your brush often, so keep your wool collecting bag handy. When you can brush through her fur with hardly any wool coming out you are done.
Other grooming jobs
About once a month, you should trim the rabbit’s nails. You can do this while she is on her back. Carefully push aside the feet fluff and use small nail clippers to trim just the tip of the nail. If the nails are white you can easily see the nail’s blood supply – be sure not to cut that far! If the nails are dark, it can be harder to see, so proceed carefully. A nicked “quick” (the blood supply in the nail) can bleed profusely.
If you do nick the quick, don’t panic. Apply direct pressure with a clean paper towel for a minute or two then dip the nail in styptic powder, such as Kwik-Stop to help the blood clot. In a pinch, cornstarch can be used in place of styptic powder.
While she is still on her back is a great time to check out her teeth. click here for more information on rabbit dental health!
Time for some treats!
Flip the bun back on her feet, pet her, and offer her some greens & a papaya vitamin tablet to reward her for being a good bunny! When you are all done it’s time for the best part! CUDDLE TIME!