The video we shared earlier today was mostly cute and fun, but had one picture of a soaking wet rabbit with the comment that the rabbit was going to seek revenge. I don’t blame the bunny at all. Rabbits do not need baths. Yes, I know that pet shops in stores and online have pet shampoos and some of them show bunnies in the pictures. Some might even call themselves a rabbit shampoo. If you are new to having a bunny pal, you do not need to buy anything like that.
Rabbits are incredibly self-cleaning. They clean themselves quite regularly absolutely head to toe. It is amazing to see how very flexible they are. They are able to clean every inch of themselves by themselves. There is only one time you might have to consider using water to clean a rabbit. Sometimes if a rabbit has digestive problems, they might develop a poopy butt. If this happens and it is the first time with your rabbit, you want to check with or visit your vet to make sure that you know the proper diet / medications necessary to get your rabbit’s digestion back on track.
My first experience dealing with poopy butt was with Thumper, the very first pet rabbit my dad brought home in 1980. Thumper came to us at a time there wasn’t a lot of information about rabbits as house pets. He was just six weeks old and his first family was finding homes for one group of baby bunnies because a second group had now arrived. Long after Thumper was gone, we learned that the on and off lifelong digestive issues he had might have been because he left mom before eight weeks of age. Those first eight weeks with momma rabbit are important for a rabbit developing what is needed for lifelong digestive health. So leaving mom too early may have been the cause of Thumper’s issues.
At the time, we just knew we had to help him get healthy and get the poopy butt clean. Mom and I learned how to do a bunny butt bath. There wasn’t any house rabbit info to consult, so we just thought the situation out. We didn’t think a whole bunny bath was needed, just his butt was a mess. So we would fill a bucket with warm water and one of us would lower him in so that he was in the water from below his waist. While one of us was holding him, the other would run hands through his fur as the water helped to loosen what was stuck in his fur. Thumper was a really good bunny about the butt baths. It was almost like he enjoyed it as if it was a bunny hot tub. He would lay back against the edge of the bucket in the hands of whoever was holding him and just let the other set of hands go to work massaging the mess out of his fur. When he was clean, we would lift him out and towel dry him.
When we got Tigger, Shadow and Portia, the first one to have poopy butt issues was Portia. She was a bit too heavy and having trouble cleaning herself and she was beginning to experience health problems. When her first butt bath was necessary, I knew Portia would be a great deal more feisty than Thumper. She was not going to just relax for a bucket hot tub bath. This video did not exist at the time, but what we did with Portia is exactly as shown in this HRS video, Do Rabbits Need to Be Bathed. We used a litter box lined with a towel and with a small amount of warm water in it. Then we would towel dry her afterwards.
Tigger late in life started to develop her first poopy butt when she started to have some digestive problems on and off. As she aged further, she developed hip mobility issues. She wasn’t moving around as much, got a bit heavier than her normal and due to the weight and hip issues had more trouble cleaning herself. She also had trouble hopping in and out of the litter box, even though we continuously got lower and lower sided ones. Near the very end of her life, she was having not only poopy butt, but some urine that would remain on her fur. So Tigger as she aged started to need some very regular butt baths.
We knew Tigger even though aging would be even more of a handful than Portia. Like a cat, Tigger hated being wet. So I thought about how we might get the absolute least of her wet that was necessary. I thought about how baby baths were angled so the baby would be sitting up. I wished we had something like that so that Tigger’s behind could be in the water while the rest of her was out of the water. I thought even if we had a baby bath to convert to bunny use, it would be too big since Tigger was only five pounds. So I started thinking about anything that might work instead. The picture below shows a stuffed bunny as standing in to show my solution. We bought a new plastic paint pan. We could fill the paint well with warm water and line the angled part with a towel. In that way everything of Tigger except her butt could stay dry.
With Tigger after her late in life butt baths, we would pat her as dry as would could with a towel and paper towels. Then we would use a blow dryer on a low setting for heat and air so that it was less noisy and not too warm. With age her skin was more sensitive and delicate. We wanted to make sure she was dry and not irritated by any lingering wetness. Also with age, she was more prone to illness, so we wanted to make absolutely sure she was dry and kept completely warm to prevent illness from being too cold.
Now you might be reading this and thinking this sounds really messy and perhaps you have some skin issues of your own that using a bare hand would not be a good choice. Have no fear, lightweight gloves are readily available now. We pick up boxes of powder free nitrile gloves from our local home improvement store that we use for many household tasks. We use the nitrile powder free gloves because powder is a lung and skin irritant for us, so we avoid any gloves that aren’t powder free. We are avoiding latex gloves, because they can cause allergies in humans. I wear a glove on just the hand that needs to be in the water doing the poopy butt clean up. Due to eczema, my hands are sometimes prone to issues of it flaring up if my skin comes in contact with water too often. Our choices in how we care for the bunnies are based on our own experience of blending the needs of both bunny and human. I am sharing about the gloves for anyone else like myself where a poopy butt bath could present a challenge to best maintaining your own sensitive skin without harm.
I’ve only ever had two bunnies as pets, excluding some that were temporary “houseguests”, and by that I mean Pikachu’s siblings, and their Mama. I consider myself inexperienced in bunny care, and really appreciate the help I get from people like you, who are willing to share tips on caring for a houserabbit.
There are so many things to learn. Houserabbits really have particular needs, and I guess their owners do too. I understand the need for gloves, Becca, because I am allergic to Pikachu, and I break out in eczema when I hold him. I still pet him, and smother him with kisses, but I immediately regret it, because i have to break out the asthma pumps, the benadryl, and the cortisone cream!
When it’s time for nail cutting, my son and I team up. He holds Pikachu against his body, facing me, and I get access to his nails. This way, I don’t get fur all over me. But Pikachu is such a good bunny! I can pretty much do what I want, and he lets me be.
I don’t know if he’d let me hairdry his butt, though! LOL! I think it would remind him of the big bad vacuum. He does not like the vacuum. I guess whatever methods we use, though, our bunnies know that our intentions are good.
With Tigger when she was elderly and needing the clean ups more often, the vet did recommend that we try the hairdryer to be sure she was dry and not having a lingering wetness that would continue to irritate her skin. We kept the dryer on the low settings to have the least noise and power. If we saw Tigger becoming uncomfortable with that, we knew it was time to stop. Sometimes I would just switch her to another completely dry towel and hold her for a bit wrapped up in the towel. I would run my hand through her fur checking to be more sure she was dry enough and warm enough again to be put down. Although Tigger was not a rabbit that ever liked to be picked up and held, at those times she was quite calm and restful for Tigger. She had always been an incredibly fastidious rabbit in her own care. I think she liked getting clean again and was helping us to help her with that by being more accepting of the process than I might ever have expected from her until I actually experienced it with her.
I forgot to say, I like the paint tray idea =)