Rabbits have fastidious grooming habits and are very clean animals. They will self-groom to keep their coats clean and free of parasites, dirt, and dead hair. However, sometimes rabbits can overgroom (called barbering) and make themselves sore or their coats patchy.
Some hair pulling will only be minor, but over-grooming can lead to large patches of missing fur. It can be alarming to see your rabbit in this state, but it’s important to determine the reason for the barbering so you can help them. Read on to discover eight reasons why your rabbit might be pulling their fur out and how you can help them.
The 8 Reasons Why Your Rabbit Is Pulling Their Fur Out
1. Skin irritation
Rabbits can get allergies like dogs, cats, and people can.1 While allergic reactions that present on the skin are rare in rabbits, it’s been well documented that rabbits can be allergic to certain foods, bedding, medications, etc.
All of these can make your rabbit itch and scratch. If your rabbit gets too itchy, they nibble the area and pull the fur out to soothe their itch. If you think your rabbit may have an allergy, take them to the vet to be checked.
2. Matted coat
If rabbits aren’t groomed sufficiently, their fur can knot and tangle. The knots can eventually form mats that tighten very close to the skin. They are incredibly uncomfortable and sometimes painful for rabbits, who will pull on the fur to try and untangle them. If your rabbit’s hair is matted, try to untangle the mat with your fingers gently.
If that cannot be done, take them to a groomer experienced in clipping rabbits. Matts should never be left since they can become incredibly painful for your rabbit, cause skin infections, and in extreme cases, may block the anus so feces can’t escape.
3. Pregnancy or False Pregnancy
When pregnant, rabbits will attempt to build and line a cozy, comfortable nest before their litter is born. As part of the process, a female rabbit will instinctively pull clumps of her fur from her belly, flanks, and dewlap to line the nest and make it extra comfortable for her kits.
The fur becomes looser for her to do this, so if your rabbit is making a nest and lining it, she could be pregnant! However, false pregnancies also cause this behavior, which is sometimes caused by a female being mounted (but not mated) by a neutered male.
A distressed rabbit may show different signs of distress, including “barbering.” Barbering is the term for a rabbit pulling out their fur or the fur of another rabbit (often obsessively) and is seen when rabbits are stressed or have dominance disputes.
Rabbits that barber themselves when stressed will often show other signs of stress, including:
It’s important always to take your rabbit to the vet if you think they’re stressed, as other problems can cause many of the signs listed above. For example, rabbits get stressed quickly, and the reasons for stress can range from a lack of companionship and being unable to display natural behavior to constantly being in an environment with loud noise and bright light.2
Rabbits are intelligent creatures that need stimulation, toys, and company to keep them from being bored. Rabbits with nothing to do in their environment can quickly become bored, which can lead to overgrooming and fur pulling.
You should give your rabbit appropriate toys, like balls, tunnels, and chew toys to play with, which can alleviate boredom. Rabbits also get lonely, which can lead to barbering, so they should always live with at least one other rabbit and have daily interactions with you!
6. Unbalanced Diet
Rabbits without enough fiber in their diets can pull out their hair and swallow it. Rabbits need fiber in their diets to move food through their digestive systems and maintain the correct balance of bacteria in the gut.
If you notice your rabbit pulling hair, check that they are eating enough timothy hay and not having any problems with their teeth.
Rabbits are prey animals and are scared of things that might not seem scary to us. A rabbit in an environment that makes them fearful will start to display behaviors such as barbering, shaking, and changes in eating. If your rabbit is excessively grooming, they might be trying to soothe their anxiety and fear.
Rabbits also stamp their feet to warn off predators, so if your rabbit is plucking their hair and stamping their feet, consider checking what’s around the cage or home that might be frightening them. For example, loud noises, bright or flashing lights, heavy foot traffic, and the presence of “predator” animals like dogs and cats can all make a rabbit fearful.
Irritation, itching, and fur pulling are all signs that your rabbit might have unwanted visitors living in their coat. Rabbits, like dogs and cats, are susceptible to parasites that live in their fur. Fleas, mites, and maggots are all capable and willing to infect your rabbit, which can cause considerable distress and itching, hair loss, lesions, and infections.
The best way to prevent parasites from infecting your rabbit is to give them a preventative treatment regularly; products such as Advantage can keep them safe.
What Should I Do if My Rabbit Is Pulling Their Fur Out?
If your rabbit is pulling their fur out, the best thing for you to do is take them in to see the vet. As we’ve discussed, there are many reasons why a rabbit might do this. Your vet will likely ask questions about your rabbit’s environment, diet, and behavior, so try to be as honest as possible. It may only take a small tweak to get your rabbit back in tip-top condition!
Finding the cause of your rabbit’s fur-pulling is the start of treating the problem. It can be as simple as too little hay in their diet or needing more grooming, but it can also have more serious causes, such as pregnancy or fear. Your rabbit’s fur will likely grow back once treatment is started, but ask your vet if you have any concerns about their skin or coat.
Featured Image Credit: berdiyandriy, Shutterstock