Rabbits shed a lot, which can be quite a surprise if you’re a first-time rabbit owner. You might find that there’s fur everywhere and you don’t know what to do about it. Thankfully, most shedding is normal. Let’s take a closer look.
Rabbit Shedding: The Basics
Why Do Rabbits Shed Their Fur?
Rabbits shed their coats to help them prepare for changes in the weather. They’ll shed fur to create a thinner coat to keep them cool in summer. They’ll also shed old fur and grow in a thicker coat to prepare for colder months to help them stay warm.
It’s a big part of how they regulate their body temperature! You might also see rabbit shedding referred to as molting, which means the same thing. Several factors signal to a rabbit’s brain when it’s time to shed its coat, including sunlight and the temperature in its surroundings.
What Months Will They Shed?
Most rabbits will have two big shedding seasons per year in spring and autumn to prepare them for summer and winter. They shed a lot of fur during this time, which is completely normal.
They usually also have a couple of other periods of shedding each year where they shed less than during the ‘big shedding seasons’. Smaller shedding seasons will be in between big periods of shedding.
Shedding periods are often up to 6 weeks long and can be around 3 months apart. The months they shed depend on when the temperature changes where you live. Often it will be around March or April to shed their coat for summer, and around October to November to shed ready for their winter coat.
Young Rabbit Shedding
Baby rabbits (known as kits or kittens) have soft fluffy coats. As they reach around 5 to 6 months old, the baby coat will be replaced with a transitional coat. You won’t see much shedding around this time.
Over the next year as the rabbit fully reaches adulthood, their transitional coat will be replaced with their adult coat. This is when you’ll start to see the adult shedding seasons.
Rabbit Behavior During Shedding
It’s worth noting that some rabbits can become quite grumpy and change their behavior slightly when they’re molting. They might shy away from you more and seek more time alone in their shelters.
As long as there are no other signs of ill health, this is not anything to worry about. Shedding can make a rabbit feel itchy or uncomfortable, but they should return to their normal selves after the shed is over.
Why Is My Rabbit Shedding All Year Round?
Indoor rabbits don’t get as much natural sunlight as those who live outdoors. Since sunlight helps to tell them when to shed, this lack of natural light combined with artificial light can confuse their mind and body.
Often the temperature changes less dramatically indoors than outdoors (due to central heating and AC), which can add to the confusion. It can result in rabbits seeming to shed all year round rather than in seasons.
Some rabbits have genetic issues which can affect their body’s ability to interpret the light in their surroundings. This can lead to mixed-up shedding seasons or near-constant shedding.
Usually, this isn’t anything to worry about but it’s important to keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t excess shedding. We’ll discuss how to tell the difference later.
Why Does My Rabbit Have a Shaggy Coat During Shedding?
While a rabbit is shedding their fur, it can often look quite shaggy with an uneven coat. Don’t worry, this is normal and to be expected! Tufts of fur will likely stick out at random angles and clumps of fur will often come out when you pet your rabbit.
A rabbit can also get ‘stuck in molt’ which means they haven’t shed all of their old fur before the new fur starts to grow. This usually happens around the rear end and stomach. This isn’t dangerous for your rabbit but it can mean they will continue to shed in those areas or will look shaggy. You will need to help them get rid of the old coat by brushing them to remove the loose fur.
Why Does My Rabbit Have a Different Colored Coat When Shedding?
The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund explains that: “When rabbits moult, they typically start by shedding fur from their head, which spreads down the neck and back and then down the sides of their body, finishing on their rump.”
Sometimes the old coat and new coat underneath can be slightly different colors. You may see darker skin where the new coat is growing. You might even see a line of fur known as a shed line, where you can see both the old and new coats.
Some rabbit breeds will grow a lighter coat during winter. This is something they have evolved to do because they’re prey animals. Having a lighter coat in the wild means they can mesh in with their surroundings and better hide from predators.
Why Is My Bunny Shedding So Much?
It can look like a lot of fur is being shed, especially when it’s flying around your house and getting on everything. With long-haired rabbits, there will be even more fur flying around! However, most rabbit shedding is normal and is nothing to worry about.
Some rabbits will blow their coat rather than shed in the pattern we’ve discussed. This means they’ll shed all of their fur at once which causes a ton of shed fur around the home. They might even have temporary bald patches but the hair will grow back quickly. This is rare but can happen. If it does, as long as it’s not accompanied by any other symptoms of ill health, you don’t need to panic.
Can I Stop My Rabbit From Shedding?
Shedding is a natural process and one that helps to keep your rabbit healthy, so you can’t stop them from shedding. You can reduce the impact of the shedding around your home by grooming your rabbit and vacuuming more regularly during shedding season.
You can help your bunny to have a healthy, normal shedding pattern by ensuring they’re in a suitable environment and have everything they need. Stressed rabbits shed more!
If you’re considering getting a bunny and don’t like the sound of the shedding, a shorter-haired rabbit might be better suited to you. Although they’ll still shed, there’ll be less fur around the home and it’s generally easier to manage.
Why Is My Female Rabbit Plucking Their Fur?
Female rabbits are known as does. They have dewlaps, which are extra folds of skin filled with fatty tissue found under their chin. When they’re pregnant and nesting, they’ll often pluck fur from their dewlap and their chest to line the nest ready for their babies.
If your doe isn’t pregnant but also isn’t spayed, they can have a false pregnancy (known as a pseudo pregnancy). During this time, they may also exhibit typical pregnancy behaviors such as nesting and plucking their fur.
Sometimes a large amount of shedding isn’t normal for your rabbit and can be a sign of a health issue. This is referred to as excess shedding.
Signs Your Rabbit Is Shedding for the Wrong Reasons
Since rabbits shed a lot of hair and it can come out in clumps, it can seem hard to tell what the line is between normal and excess shedding.
Don’t worry, there is a range of other symptoms to look out for that indicate unhealthy shedding.
|Signs of Unhealthy Shedding |
|Bald Patches ||In most cases, bald patches are worth investigating further.|
|Dry Skin||You may notice dry or even cracked skin under your rabbit’s fur. |
|Dandruff||Flakes of skin may be seen amongst or on top of the fur. |
|Inflammation||Some rabbits may have sore, inflamed skin that might look red, swollen, or raised. |
|Sores||Open sores are a clear sign that something is wrong. |
|Excessive Itching||If you notice your rabbit itching a lot more than usual, it’s a sign that something is bothering them. |
|Changes in Behavior ||You may notice changes in your rabbit’s behavior, such as them eating or drinking less than usual, appearing lethargic, or becoming more withdrawn than usual. |
If you notice any of these signs, especially combined with fur loss, it’s important to get to the vet’s office straight away.
Causes Of Excess Shedding
There is a range of potential causes of excessive shedding. If you notice any signs of the following conditions it’s important to get your bunny to the vet so they can get the appropriate treatment.
Some of these causes can include Fleas, Mites, Ringworm, Urine scald, Saliva burn, Skin infection & Overgrooming
Just like dogs and cats, rabbits can get fleas. Vets Laurie Hess and Rick Axelson explain that fleas are small insect parasites. A severe infestation of fleas will be very itchy and irritating for your bunny. This will cause them to scratch excessively which causes hair loss and irritated skin.
Mites are tiny creatures that can cause a lot of problems for your bunny. There are a few different types of mites that can affect your rabbit.
Fur mites, also known as cheyletiella parasitovorax, can cause bald patches and itching in your bunny. You will likely also see what appears to be flakes of skin or dandruff on your rabbit’s skin.
Ear mites cause fur loss around a rabbit’s face, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. You’ll also see crusting of the skin, inflamed skin, and potential signs of infection.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects a rabbit’s skin. It’s caused by a fungi known as a dermatophyte. Unfortunately, humans can get it too! Ringworm causes round, bald patches of irritated skin.
Urine scald is caused by urine making your rabbit’s fur around their back end wet, which irritates the skin. This causes rashes, sores, fur loss, and even infection.
Urine scald can be caused by a rabbit living in an unclean environment. It can also be due to a rabbit being unable to clean itself or a health issue causing incontinence.
If a rabbit drools a lot, the constantly wet fur can cause skin irritation under the chin. This can lead to fur loss, rashes, sores, and skin infections. It’s important to note that drooling is not normal for rabbits and is usually caused by a dental issue.
Rabbits can get skin infections from a variety of causes. Infections lead to skin irritation, hair loss, and other symptoms.
When rabbits become stressed, they can sometimes overgroom themselves or other rabbits they live with. This is often caused by an unsuitable living environment or boredom.
Can Rabbits Get Hairballs?
Yes, rabbits can get hairballs! Rabbits lick themselves to keep themselves clean. When they’re shedding a lot, they can end up ingesting a lot of fur. In some rabbits, this can cause a blockage known as a hairball. Often the hair meshes with food and becomes a mass that is impossible for a rabbit to pass.
Rabbits can’t vomit, so there’s no way for them to get rid of this blockage, meaning it can cause serious issues. This is more likely to happen if your rabbit is in ill health, has digestive issues, if they aren’t groomed properly during shedding, or if they don’t have a healthy, balanced diet.
There are some ways you can prevent hairballs and keep your rabbit’s digestive system running smoothly. You can:
- Groom your rabbit as often as possible
Brushing your rabbit as often as you can will reduce the amount of fur they’re ingesting when they’re licking themselves. You can also use your hands while petting them to remove as much excess fur as possible.
- Provide lots of fresh hay
Hay helps to keep your rabbit’s digestive system healthy and functioning properly, so it’s crucial they always have access to plenty of hay.
Your rabbit should always have access to fresh water to keep them healthy. Water helps to move ingested fur through the digestive system and keeps it working properly, preventing fur from getting stuck.
Your rabbit’s poop can tell you a lot about their health. If you notice a lot of fur in their poop, it’s a good indicator that you need to brush them more frequently. If your rabbit’s poop looks very dry, hard, or small, or they start to poop less than they usually do, it’s time to get them checked by a vet.
How to Groom Your Rabbit
When rabbits are heavily shedding, you should ideally brush them daily. If they’re going through a lighter shedding season, brushing them once or twice a week is plenty. You should brush your rabbit gently, as they have sensitive skin. Use a good quality brush or grooming glove and ensure you get down to the skin to remove the shed undercoat.
Remember that you should regularly brush your bunny even when they aren’t shedding. Aside from brushing, you should also keep your rabbit’s nails trimmed, as well as keep their eyes, ears, and rear end clean.
Brushing Your Rabbit If They Hate It
A lot of rabbits dislike being brushed and find it quite distressing. If you find your rabbit isn’t happy being brushed, there are some tips below to guide you:
- Start brushing them as soon as possible when you get them to get them used to it.
- Sit with them on the ground when you’re brushing them to keep them calm as this is where they feel safest.
- Offer treats and talk to them in a calming voice to reassure them.
- Break grooming up into smaller sessions with breaks in between so it’s less stressful for them.
- Try different grooming tools, such as a grooming mitt rather than a brush as this can feel more like they’re getting petted rather than being brushed.
- If you find you’re really struggling to brush them, you can use your hand to try to take off some of the loose hair and remove clumps.
Dealing With Rabbit Shedding and Cope With Allergies
When rabbits are going through their heavy shedding seasons, you’re going to find fur all over the house. It gets on everything, including your clothes! This can be frustrating, especially if you have allergies.
While you can’t stop your rabbit from shedding, the tips below can help you to reduce the impact of shedding in your home:
How To Reduce The Impact of Shedding
- Vacuum often
- Brush your rabbit often
- Wear a mask during grooming
- Don’t allow rabbit access to bedroom or kitchen
- Clean fan blades
- Use air purifier
- Clean AC and heater filters
- Use lint brushes/rollers
- Vacuum as often as possible
Vacuum around your home regularly to help get rid of loose fur and stop it from flying around. Once or twice a day if possible! Even better if you have a vacuum that specifically states it’s good for picking up pet hair.
- Wear a mask while brushing your rabbit
If you have allergies, wearing a mask or face covering while you’re brushing your rabbit to stop you from inhaling so much of the particles moving around in the air can be helpful.
- Don’t allow your rabbit into your bedroom or kitchen
If your rabbit is usually free-roaming or is out for floor time it can be helpful to stop them from going into areas like the bedroom or kitchen when they’re shedding. This is particularly helpful if you have allergies. You can put up pet gates or simply keep the doors closed.
Fan blades can often attract fur and then just spread it around in the air when the fan is turned on. During your rabbit’s shedding seasons, frequently clean your fan to stop this from happening.
Air purifiers can help to remove fur and pet dander from the air, which is particularly helpful if you have allergies.
AC filters or even heater filters will get full with rabbit fur quite quickly when they’re heavily shedding, so check them more frequently than you might usually and clean them when needed.
- Use lint brushes and rollers:
Lint brushes and rollers can help you to get fur off your clothes and other fabrics around the home.
Shedding Is a Natural Process
When a rabbit sheds it’s a natural process that is necessary for them to maintain their body temperature and stay healthy. Although it can be frustrating, there are lots of ways you can manage shedding and reduce its impact.
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, (2022), Moulting.
- Laurie Hess, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM, (2022), Fleas in Rabbits. VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Vetstream, (2021), Ringworm – a fungal infection. Vetlexicon Lapis.