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 cost though. 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 & regular handling should start as young as possible for wool breeds, so they will not fight grooming in the future. 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.
Angoras who are not groomed regularly will develop mats, not only making their wool unusable, but it is very uncomfortable for them. They can also develop a deadly condition known as wool block or GI Stasis. Click here to read more about this condition. Wool block happens when the rabbit is grooming themselves and they ingest 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 their digestive system and they 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 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 it’s 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 (which isn’t as horrible as it sounds, it is just using your hands to remove the loose tendrils). You can also shear your rabbit. Click here to read more about combing, plucking and sharing.
Shearing involves using clippers or scissors to trim the coat off. Shearing is definitely the fastest method. Although it is fastest, I don’t use it unless the fur is matted because an Angora rabbit’s coat is constantly growing, so 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
*small, blunt end scissors (mine are dog grooming scissors with blunt ends)
*small nail clippers
*baggie or box for storing harvested wool
*an old towel
*small bowl of greens for bunny treats!
You can place your bunny on a study tabletop, or groom them on your lap. It’s nice to do it outside because there is less mess afterwards, 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 afterwards.
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 and 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 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!
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 hard 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.
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 this fur on the underside of the rabbit is where mats are likely to develop.
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 course – 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.
To turn the bunny over, gently grasp her ears 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 one arm so her head is near my armpit, sort of like you would hold an infant. You have more control over the rabbit this way but you won’t have full use of both your hand 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.
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.
About once a month, you should trim the rabbit’s nails. You can do this while she is upside down. Carefully push aside her 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.
Also about once a month, you should check out your rabbit’s teeth – click here for more information on rabbit dental health!
Time for some treats! Flip the bun over and pet her and offer her some greens & papaya tablet to reward her for being a good bunny!