Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Bathing A Disabled Rabbit - How-to & What You Need

Rabbits are very good at keeping themselves clean. Grooming is an everyday habit, and it must certainly be noted that they do so in various cute ways.

But you’re probably here because you know your rabbit needs some human assistance when it comes to cleaning themselves. This is especially the case if you have a disabled rabbit and you need to give him/her what would be called a butt bath. For instance, he/she has splayed leg – this was the case with my rabbit, Jippie. His hindquarters would often unavoidably be soaked with urine and the fur in that area becomes dirty, messy and matted.

So, how to help bathe your disabled rabbit? Let’s start with what you need:


Notes
A small to medium-sized water bucket
Bucket to be filled with water beforehand. I do not recommend you to use the showerhead to bathe your rabbit. The jets of water hitting your rabbit directly could easily frighten him/her.
A small plastic bowl OR water scoop
To scoop water from the bucket and pour it over your rabbit’s body in small, gentle amounts.
A mild shampoo OR body wash
Make sure it’s something mild on the skin. I used Himalayan Neem Facial Wash for nearly 5 years to bathe my rabbit.
4~5 small dry towels
You can cut an old large towel into 4~5 pieces.
A baby bath tub OR shallow plastic wash basin OR shallow basket
You need to place your rabbit in something when you’re bathing him/her so that they won’t hop away too easily. Whatever household item you use, ensure that water wouldn’t rise above 2~3 cm of your rabbit’s body when he/she is in it.

These are some extra suggestions:

Notes
A basket
After the bath, you can place your rabbit in the basket while you dry him/her off. Again, this is to contain your rabbit so they won’t hop away as easily.
A hair dryer
Compared to towels, you can blow your rabbit’s fur dry faster with a hair dryer, but do consider if your rabbit might be frightened of the noise. This varies from rabbit to rabbit.
An after-bath treat (eg: a piece of vegetable)
A yummy reward after bathing. Give your rabbit something to look forward to after the bath.


Preparations

Before bringing your rabbit into the bathroom, get the items listed above ready. Busily getting everything ready while having a confused or particularly adventurous rabbit hopping around in the bathroom is a recipe for chaos. 
  1. Fill the bucket with water. Ensure that the water is not too hot or cold. Think as though you’re going to bathe a human baby – they have fragile skin. Test the water’s temperature using the back of your hand, where the skin is thinner and more sensitive.
  2. Prepare shampoo/soap. I would squeeze some neem facial wash into a spare water scoop and add some water to create a lather.
  3. Place dry towels, baby baby tub, etc within your arm’s reach. Plug in the hairdryer in advance if you’re using one.
Bathroom setup 
(Drawing made by yours truly. I know I'm not the best artist! But I hope that an illustration helps convey my ideas to you better.)

Bathing your rabbit

  1. Place your rabbit in the baby bath tub. Use one hand to contain your rabbit.
  2. Use your free hand to coat the matted/dirty area on your rabbit with some water. Allow your rabbit to get used to the feeling of water on his/her body. There is absolutely no need to get your rabbit’s whole body wet. Focus on the matted/dirty area, which would usually be the bum area. You may start using the small bowl to slowly pour small amounts of water on the fur. 
  3. Using the shampoo/foam prepared, start to clean the dirty area. Do very light scratching movements as though you’re washing hair. You can use a small hand towel to help wash the area more thoroughly.
  4. It is normal for your rabbit to want to hop away in the process. When you bathe your rabbit for the first time, your rabbit will likely be scared (eg: bulging eyes, racing heartbeat), so observe his/her behavior carefully. Don’t push it if your feel that your rabbit is indeed very uncomfortable. Simply try your best to clean the area as much as possible, wash away all shampoo, and shorten the bath time. 

Notes:

  • Choose to bathe your rabbit on sunny days. Avoid rainy and cold, windy days.
  • When bathing, be careful not to let water get into your rabbit’s ears. 

Drying Your Rabbit After the Bath

  • When I finish bathing my rabbit, I have a basket ready, lined with a relatively thick, dry towel to help absorb the water from the fur on Jippie’s feet and bum.
  • Use multiple dry towels to dry your rabbit’s fur.
  • A hairdryer would be much more efficient, but consider whether your rabbit might be frightened of the noise. For my rabbit, it took some getting-used-to. When using a hairdryer, use the low heat setting and maintain it at a distance of at least 25 to 30 cm from your rabbit. 
Rabbit in basket. Dry towels ready at a side. 

When using a hairdryer, maintain a distance of around 25 to 30 cm from your rabbit.

After drying, offer a piece of vegetable as a treat as you return your rabbit to his/her play area. Your rabbit might not like to be bathed, but let him/her learn to associate the end of the process with something positive. 

It’s natural to need some time to set up a routine. Caring for a disabled rabbit requires greater investment of our time, effort and patience, but remember to try your best and be gentle at all times in the process. The purpose of bathing is to help our disabled rabbits feel clean and fresh, as well as to ease them into understanding that baths are a part of what we do to help them lead better, happier lives. :)

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