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Thread: Rabbit very stressed brushing

  1. #1

    Default Rabbit very stressed brushing

    Hi! I've just made an account to post this.

    I've got a rabbit that I've had since May (2 years old) and have had him fully vaccinated and (as of last week) neutered too as he is a buck. I bought a soft brush a while back with a wooden handle and have used it to lightly brush him. However, this wasn't getting the hair out so I bought a small slicker to use gently after watching some rabbit advice videos on youtube (some say they are great for rabbits, some say they are too harsh - I figured to use gently and see what happens). It seemed okay for a while, brushed him a little every couple of days or longer depending on what was going on.

    Well, a few days after neutering, he chomped my hand and refused to let go, which was an experience in itself, shall we say... He did bite me in the early days but that was my fault as I moved my hand around him in the cage, his territory (he then chilled out about that as he grew more confident and me a little more savvy about reading his body language, knowing what's his space, protective behaviour). I've since realised that he's actually chasing and attacking the brush as it moves around him. I brush him on the floor with me kneeling, now keeping hands carefully out of the way, so he is free to move. This happens with both the super soft brush and the slicker after about 3-4 strokes. I don't honestly feel comfortable at this time putting him on my lap to brush, although I have been picking him up occasionally (considering I was transferring him in/out of his pen daily before, he was okay if concerned by being picked up, no biting or more than temporary stress), putting him on my lap, feeding a few treats then returning to pen to build up some positive associations with being handled. He runs up to the edge of the pen whenever he's awake (as he's in my office) for treats and I feed him by hand - this has produced no nipping. He's happy to climb all over me if I'm sitting on the floor and flops quite often throughout the day, likes to be on his "perch" and will stretch out across it close to me. He doesn't seem to be running away to hide but if he does pop into his hiding box I give him space and peace.

    I'm assuming this is a combination in brushing of "don't touch me, I don't like this" and possibly a little of the hormones after neutering - but I could very well be wrong and would appreciate other thoughts. Are there any books on rabbit behaviour in domestic rabbits that you could recommend so I can read up a little, please? I did a good bit on rabbit care beforehand but a lot of books seem geared towards young children and too simplistic. I do need to brush him as there is fur coming out and I would like to do my best to make sure he does not ingest it. He was sent with nail clippers (clipped them once, due another) and I was told that he hated that but they did not mention brushing. I would say that he internalises his stress/fear and reacts by fighting rather than fleeing to hide in the places he can go to.

    My idea currently is:
    - Buy a new, soft and gentle brush, less negative associations with smell etc
    - Leave brush with him for a couple of days, see what happens
    - If all good, no destroyed brush, start brushing lightly and feed treats (meadow mix) every few strokes
    - Keep sessions short with plenty of positive reinforcement

    Does anyone have any insight on the brushing stress/fear? How can I alleviate this stress/fear for him? Does anyone have any ideas or experiences that I could learn from, please? Links to any good brushes that I can get in the UK would be amazing too if at all possible or available!

    Apologies if I've given too much information surrounding the issue, just trying to show what's happening so people can get a better idea of his environment prior. Plus, rabbit bites blooming hurt, that Monty Python scene was dead spot on!

  2. #2
    Forum Buddy Glingle's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum! Iím rubbish at making suggestions about how to persuade him to cooperate with the brushing as all mine have tolerated it so far. I use a comb similar to this one https://www.animeddirect.co.uk/ancol...BoC8R4QAvD_BwE to groom mine, although I only use the wider spaced side of it. Tamsin who owns this forum wrote a great book about rabbit behaviour https://www.amazon.co.uk/Understandi.../dp/0954350022
    Hopefully someone who has more knowledge then me will be able to answer your questions soon.
    Last edited by Glingle; 13-07-2019 at 01:43 PM.
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  3. #3
    Wise Old Thumper
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    A lot of rabbits do not like being brushed but if you persevere he might come round. The Cat Zoom Groom is very popular if you want to Google it, also you can remove lots of loose fur with damp hands. Sorry you got bitten

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glingle View Post
    Welcome to the forum! Iím rubbish at making suggestions about how to persuade him to cooperate with the brushing as all mine have tolerated it so far. I use a comb similar to this one https://www.animeddirect.co.uk/ancol...BoC8R4QAvD_BwE to groom mine, although I only use the wider spaced side of it. Tamsin who owns this forum wrote a great book about rabbit behaviour https://www.amazon.co.uk/Understandi.../dp/0954350022
    Hopefully someone who has more knowledge then me will be able to answer your questions soon.
    Thanks - I've just grabbed the book! I was wondering about the damp hand technique but I'm not quite keen to put my hands in the line of fire as he did take quite an impressive chunk out of me that time. I'll have a look at the comb too as I wondering if that may be a different feel for them.

    Have managed to do a "three strokes, treat" and repeat for a few rounds just now so fingers crossed it's an okay track to start!

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonibun View Post
    A lot of rabbits do not like being brushed but if you persevere he might come round. The Cat Zoom Groom is very popular if you want to Google it, also you can remove lots of loose fur with damp hands. Sorry you got bitten
    Thank you - I'll look it up!

    Just realised I responded about the damp hands technique to the wrong person - I am considering that but a little wary to put my hands in the line of fire if that is stressful too.

  6. #6
    Mama Doe Scrappy's Little Helper's Avatar
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    I've given up with brushes and combs as my two hate them and switched to the damp hands technique. I find they tolerate it quite well and one of mine is a biter!

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  7. #7
    Moderator Graciee's Avatar
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    Hey and welcome

    Does he actually need brushing? I don't tend to brush mine unless they need it honestly, they're good at keeping themselves groomed

    He may also mellow out a bit more now he's been neutered, can take some time though.

    Unless it was completely necessary I doubt I'd do something he didn't like to the point he'd bite me like that.. That's a warning from him and unnecessary stress on your bond with him

    Oh also I wouldn't leave the brush with him, he'll probably just destroy it, and it could hurt him if he ingests bits of it.

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    Last edited by Graciee; 13-07-2019 at 02:16 PM.

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks for replying!

    I think he does need some brushing as I bought the brush when he was starting to look slightly scruffy - looked much better very quickly, although that was just the soft one. In what I've read and watched, it says that they must be brushed to remove shedding hair and help ensure they don't ingest it (assuming lionheads are another ball park entirely on that count) and assumed that differed depending on the coat length. He's a 2.5kg lop. I am assuming there'll be some change in a few weeks time but, to be frank, he was pretty good beforehand too - even only peed in the litterbox.

  9. #9
    Mama Doe
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    I groom all mine once a week using a double sided metal dog comb (very similar to the Ancol one listed by Glingle). It is good practice as it does remove the loose fur which would otherwise be ingested (maybe also by a partner bun that grooms them), and it gets them used to being handled. For nippy buns, I put them on my lap, head facing my knees, and do as much as I can as quickly as I can - starting with the head area and then any areas which need it most (usually back legs / bum area). Anything else is a bonus. If you can put one hand firmly on their back between the shoulder blades, it helps to stop them twisting round and keeps the bitey bits away from you.

  10. #10
    Mama Doe Beau Belle's Avatar
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    I put my buns on a soft towel on the ironing board, and stroke their head and ears with one hand and brush with the other. Iíve regularly brushed 7 different buns successfully with this technique (3 lionheads).

    Good luck x

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