Rabbits are known for their fastidious grooming habits, and it’s not uncommon for them to spend just as much time grooming themselves as cats. With their soft and beautiful fur, it’s no wonder that rabbit owners love to admire their pet’s coat. However, overgrooming can become a problem, leading to fur pulling and other issues. In this article, we explore the various reasons why rabbits might pull out their fur and provide vet-reviewed information on how to address the problem.
Eight Reasons Why Rabbits Pull Their Fur Out
Female rabbits (does) often pull out their fur as part of nesting behavior when they are getting ready to give birth. They pull fur from their chest, dewlap, and flanks to create a nest for their kits. This behavior is normal and temporary.
2. False Pregnancy
If a female rabbit has not been spayed and hasn’t been housed with a male rabbit, she may experience a false pregnancy. This can lead to hormonal changes that mimic pregnancy, including the urge to pull out fur. It’s recommended to get your female rabbit spayed to prevent this from happening and to lower the risk of specific cancers.
Rabbits that are bored may resort to destructive behaviors, such as overgrooming and fur pulling. Once this behavior becomes a habit, it can be challenging to stop. Providing your rabbit with toys, chews, and interaction can keep them occupied and happy. Consider giving them a companion, as rabbits are social animals.
4. Matted or Dirty Fur
Rabbits that live in dirty conditions or are not well-groomed may become frustrated and pull out their fur. Brushing short-haired rabbits once a week and long-haired breeds every day can help prevent this problem. It’s also essential to clean their enclosure once a week and do spot cleanings daily.
Stress can cause rabbits to pull out their fur, particularly if it’s ongoing. Dirty conditions, overcrowding, and exposure to loud or bright environments are common stressors. Additionally, if noisy young children or predators, such as cats and dogs, have access to your rabbit, they might start pulling out hair due to fear.
6. Improper Diet
A rabbit’s diet must contain at least 80% grass or hay, which is rich in fiber. If they are not fed an appropriate diet, they might start pulling out their fur in an attempt to ingest it. This is their way of making up for the lack of fiber they need. Besides hay and grass, only about 5% of a rabbit’s diet should be rabbit pellets, and 15% should be fibrous vegetables.
7. Parasites/Skin Issues
Fleas and mites can be a problem with rabbits, with some mites burrowing under their skin. Rabbits may pull out their fur to relieve discomfort caused by parasites, allergies, and dermatitis. Their fur will typically appear patchy and their skin irritated. If you suspect that your rabbit has mites or fleas, see your veterinarian for treatment options.
8. Fighting Between Pairs
If you own two rabbits or more, they might fight, which can include plucking out hair. Rabbits may do this out of frustration or boredom. It could also be a form of dominance, in which the dominant rabbit pulls off the fur of the submissive one.
Why Is Fur Pulling a Problem?
Besides the underlying issues that might be causing the behavior, there are problems with the amount of fur that your rabbit ingests. Unlike cats, rabbits cannot vomit, so hairballs can potentially pose a life-threatening problem. The large amount of fur in a rabbit’s digestive tract mixes with undigested food and can cause an obstruction, leading to gastrointestinal stasis and bloating. If the gastrointestinal tract ruptures, it can lead to peritonitis, which is almost always fatal. Pulling out their hair can also lead to painful skin infections.
How Can You Stop Fur Pulling?
The first step is to have your female rabbit spayed to prevent pregnancies or false pregnancies. Consider a spayed female and neutered male companion for your rabbit to minimize fighting and plucking. Check your rabbit weekly for any sign of fleas or mites and see your vet for treatment options. Ensure your rabbit’s enclosure is appropriately sized, clean, and enriched with toys. Finally, high-quality hay and grass should always be available to your rabbit to ensure they get enough fiber.
While fur pulling is part of a rabbit’s grooming habits, it can indicate a broader problem if it continues over time. It can lead to skin infections and potentially dangerous blockages in their digestive tract. Observe your rabbit for any sign of changes in behavior that may be indicative of underlying issues. Consult with your veterinarian if you need further guidance in addressing this behavior and how to better care for your rabbit.