As a rabbit owner, you may be worried if you see your bunny pulling out her own fur. However, fur pulling or plucking is usually a normal behaviour, predominantly seen in female rabbits. Behaviourist Inga MacKellar takes us through three of the most common reasons for this puzzling habit.
1. Nesting time
Fur pulling by females is hormonally driven and happens when a pregnant female is lining the nest for her kittens, using her own soft fur. She will pluck fur from her chest, belly and flanks. This is nothing to worry about as it is normal maternal behaviour and usually occurs towards the end of your rabbit’s pregnancy, so is a sign that the kittens will be born soon. If your rabbit suffers from false pregnancies (when she thinks she is pregnant, but is not), she may also fur pull. If your rabbit suffers from false pregnancies, seek your vet’s advice about getting her neutered.
2. Itchy skin
Both male and female rabbits can suffer from fleas and mites, which may cause discomfort. Ear mites will make your rabbit shake her head and rub her ears. One particular mite burrows under the rabbit’s skin and your rabbit’s fur may look patchy and the skin underneath scruffy. If your rabbit has mites, she may spend lots of time rubbing herself along hard surfaces and pulling at her fur. If you suspect your rabbit has mites, don’t try to treat the problem yourself, but instead get expert help from your vet.
3. Grooming problems
Tangled fur mats can lead to fur pulling and tend to occur more in the long-haired breeds. It is important to feel your rabbit all over weekly to check everything is ok: grooming your rabbit weekly (short-haired) or daily (long-haired) is a good way to prevent mats forming and avoid fur pulling. Grooming also helps to strengthen your relationship with your rabbit. Rabbits have sensitive skin, so don’t use hard metal brushes or combs. A rubber brush such as the Zoom Groom (designed for cats) is ideal.
There can be other reasons besides these for fur pulling. If you have any worries or concerns, take your rabbit for a check-up with your vet as soon as possible.