Moulting

TIP – Regular grooming is the only way to help your bunny when moulting. It will help keep health problems at bay such as matting & ingesting a lot of fur, this will also reduce risks if they become ill whilst moulting.

Moulting often referred to as shedding is when a rabbit sheds it’s fur to remove an old coat & regrow a new coat.  You’ve probably heard people say they’re getting their summer coat or winter coat. This usually happens twice a year in spring & autumn. An exception is house rabbits, they often have a variable moult pattern usually due to living in a house with central heating.

A rabbits moult pattern usually goes as follows:

  • Head first.
  • Neck.
  • Back.
  • Sides.
  • Ends on the rump.

Sometimes you can see what is called a tide line on the rabbit’s coat.  This is a line where the coat has moulted to.

Arrows show the tide line. The coat has currently shed halfway down the back.
Head – The arrow points to the light summer coat which is starting to shed.
Neck – Neck has finished it’s shed, see the arrow nearest the ear, & the arrow down Thumper’s back shows he is now starting to shed on his back.
Neck & Back – The arrow nearest Annie’s head shows the neck has finished & where the back is starting. The arrow nearest Annie’s rear shows the back moult is well underway.
Back – Arrows show the tide line. The coat has currently shed to the sides.
Back – This picture shows that the fur doesn’t shed uniformly. The arrows point to the black tide lines & as you can see they are not in a straight line.
Sides – The arrows point to the tide line. This is how far down Annie’s sides the fur has  shed.
Sides & Rump – The arrow pointing down shows the side tide line. The arrow pointing up shows the rump is now starting it’s shed.
Rump – The arrows point to the rump which is now shedding.

 

It is important you help them to groom. Regular brushing to help remove the loose hair will help prevent matts & the rabbit ingesting a lot of fur.  Large amounts of fur ingestion can be a huge problem if the rabbit experiences GI stasis.  As the digestive system slows down the fur will compact & the only way to rectify that is an operation to remove the hair, not something you want when your rabbit is unwell. If  you notice what is sometimes called a pearl string necklace, which is poo strung together by hair, has passed through your rabbit this is normal.  It just means the hair your rabbit is ingesting is passing through their digestive system normally. The only time it is not fine is if your rabbit is subdued or looking unwell.  This could be an indication that GI stasis is developing.
Not every rabbit will require regular grooming, I find it depends on the type of coat.  My short, fine haired rabbits generally need none or very little grooming where my rabbits with longer or thicker coats often require weekly or sometimes daily grooming when moulting.

Below is a photo of Annie’s white fur which is a longer & thicker coat than Thumper’s fur on the right.  His fur is shorter & much finer.  The photos were taken in the early stages of their moult & as you can see Thumper had very little loose hairs compared to Annie.  Annie went on to have regular grooms whereas Thumper only needed one every now & again.

White fur is from a longer thicker coat. The brown fur is from a short fine coat.

The moulting process can become ‘stuck’. I find it usually happens when the moult hits the sides.  The moult then seems to go on forever.  All you can do is to keep regularly grooming your bunny & help get rid of as much loose fur as possible.

Moulting Tools

There are lots of brushes & combs out there & it can be quite difficult to know which is best.  A lot of the time it will depend on your bunnies coat & what you find easiest to use. Your vets should be able to provide you with advice. You can also take a look at My Moulting Tools & see what brushes & combs I find best to use on my bunnies.
There is one brush you definitely want to avoid & that is the Slicker brush.  It is too harsh on the rabbits skin & often causes scratches.  Rabbit skin is very thin & delicate & can be easily broken.

Slicker Brush. Teeth are too harsh on the rabbits skin.
Slicker Brush.

Dealing with matts  yourself that will not comb out is only recommended if you know how & are confident in doing so.  Otherwise do not attempt.  Matts can often have the skin buried deep inside & even though it may feel or look like there is no skin there you can never be sure. Seek advice from your vet & either ask them to deal with the matt or teach you how.

A matt from Toffee’s woolly coat.
The scissors I use to carefully cut away matts. Notice the blunt ends, this prevents stabbing the rabbit when sudden movements occur.

 

My Experience

Over the last thirty years, I have cared for many rabbits of all different shapes, sizes, temperaments & different coats of fur.  Out of all the rabbits I would say without hesitation the woolly Angora coats were the hardest & most time consuming to manage. I have had three Angora rabbits & it was a real learning curve.

Cassidy.
Butch.

My first two Angora’s were two males called Butch & Cassidy.  They were advertised as needing a good home.  Being a sucker for taking in unwanted bunnies I adopted them from their family not really knowing what I had let myself in for.
On collection both rabbits had very badly matted coats.  Naively, I thought I could sort them out myself with a brush, comb & scissors.  How wrong was I.  The fur was so badly matted the skin had well & truly been pulled into the matt.  Both rabbits had sores & were very uncomfortable.  I had no option but to take them to the vets for them to sort the matted fur.  Due to the fur being so badly matted all they could do was to shave them both, this involved an anaesthetic. This was a huge worry as back in the 90s the anaesthetics were very risky.
Both survived & came home looking rather like a couple of sheep where the shaving had gone wrong. They also had a few a stitches where the shaver had nicked some of their skin.  Apparently, the fur was so tight against the skin it was virtually impossible to avoid. Once home I made sure they always had plenty of bedding to keep warm while their coat grew.

Butch after his shave. I have no photo but Cassidy looked the same.
Butch after his shave spending time with his friend, Meg.

The only advice I was given was to brush them daily, this sounded great in principal. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as Angora’s have a lot of fur & these two were not used to be handled let alone brushed. I also struggled to find any useful sources of information as to which brush to use & how to manage their fur.  After many attempts I eventually came up with a maintenance plan that worked for all three of us. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. The daily plan involved grooming with a brush & then a comb.  Once groomed I clipped the fur & kept it short so I could manage it better.  I had no use for the fur so out it went for bird nesting material.
This plan worked & I was able to maintain them both, it did not however stop any matts forming.  I used to find the feet, chin area, tummy & tail area were the worst to keep matt free. When the matts formed, especially on the feet, the matt used to look & feel like a piece of felt. These matts would also collect anything & everything from pieces of food to hay which consequently caused abrasions to the skin. This is how I received my training on how to cut out matts, not one I would recommend as it was very much trial & error.

Butch with his shortened coat.
Cassidy with his shortened coat who also liked to spend time with his friend, Meg.
Blue with his short woolly coat.

When I got my third Angora, Blue, I had got pretty good at clipping fur coats & cutting out matts safely.  Fortunately, Blue’s coat was only slightly matted when I adopted him & I was able to sort it out myself. I applied the same maintenance plan, keeping his fur short & daily brushing & combing.

Toffee

Toffee is the only other rabbit that has a coat similar to an Angoras. His feet, face & tail are normal fur whereas the rest of his coat is woolly but is crossed with normal fur.  This makes it far less woolly than an Angoras but still requires a high level of maintenance.

Kitty moulting. Note the loose fur near her tail.

The only other two coats that stick in my mind are Kitty a German Lop & Teddy a Flemish Giant.  Kitty’s coat was very thick & incredibly dense near her skin.  However, her coat was no problem to maintain, a good comb now & again, & combing out the odd matt near her tail was all that was needed.  The issue came with her coat when she became ill.  Kitty had a very complicated illness & was a bunny who wasn’t afraid to bite.  So when she struggled to groom herself I had to take over.  The area around her tail was always the worst & frequent matts occurred.  To help maintain her coat I used to try & keep it shorter around her rear. I brushed & combed her coat daily & that was all I could do to help maintain it.

Teddy moulting. If you pulled the fur that is sticking out you would find a matt at the end of it.

Teddy’s coat is also very thick & when it moults the fur clumps together so he literally moults matts. There is nothing wrong, it’s just the way his coat moults.  As a young fit bunny he is relatively easy to maintain but I fear when he ages things will change.  So I will apply my same routine regular combing & dealing with matts if needed.

Once again all pieces of fur sticking out will have a matt at the end.


My Moulting Tools

Hairbrush. I find this is good for collecting all the loose hairs on top of the coat.
Double sided comb. I find this is good for removing the deeper loose hair.
Cat flea comb. I find this is a good all rounder & removes loose hair from top of the coat & deeper.