When we first met our baby Groot at the pet store, we asked what we needed to make sure we had everything to look after her. We were sold on rodent shampoo so we could clean and bathe our new baby bunny.
However, we noticed she always smelled fresh and cleaned herself regularly. We asked ourselves, why would we need to shampoo her if she is always clean?! Since we’ve had Groot, we haven’t bathed or cleaned her or found the need to. Is this something that will always be the case?
Bathing your bunny is not necessary. Bunnies are self-cleaning animals and are meticulous about it. Occasional brushing to remove loose fur and prevent matting is all that will be needed for most bunnies. In some special circumstances, bathing may be necessary such as a messy bottom (AKA poopy butt).
Dangers of Bathing for Bunnies
Bathing a bunny can cause them to go into shock as bunnies tend to panic when in water. This could be potentially deadly. They are a prey species so bunnies do not like to feel vulnerable. You don’t want to have your bunny panic in the water, make a mess and potentially hurt themselves.
Never force your bunny to do something as a bunny can thrash around and if you aren’t holding them correctly, it can lead to serious injury. A bunnies legs are much stronger than their small spines and a surprise hard kick can break their back when holding your bunny.
Bunny fur takes a long time to get wet and an even longer time to get dry. If left wet, a bunny can easily get hypothermia, even on hot days as bunnies can’t regulate their body temperature.
Make sure to use a hairdryer on low to medium heat about 12 inches away from his/her body and don’t use it on your bunny’s head, ears or private area. Be careful not to accidentally burn the bunny’s skin.
How to Bathe Your Bunny
Only bathe your bunny if it is a necessity either from your vet or if your bunny has poopy butt.
Before doing so, handle your bunny firmly but gently, ready to release your bunny safely if they start to struggle.
Spot bathing extremely dirty areas is the best way to start as it will cause the least amount of stress to your bun. Simply wipe the area with unscented baby wipes or a warm, damp cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, then you have two other options for cleaning poopy butt or other soiled areas.
Bunnies generally don’t mind a dry bath. This should be your first resort for cleaning poopy butt or urine stains which can cause a stinging pain for your bunny. It is very easy and all you need is baby cornstarch. You can buy this in the baby section of your supermarket either scented or unscented (maybe you want your bun to smell like lavender when he/she poops?).
IMPORTANT: Baby powder that contains talc = a BIG NO NO. Talc is a respiratory irritant to bunnies and potentially carcinogenic.
Commercial flea powder and other pesticides = DO NOT USE. Your bunny has sensitive skin so stick with the baby cornstarch powder.
Step 1: It has been recommended to place your bunny in a comfortable, belly-up position so that the dirty parts are easy to get to. This will not be easy and bunnies really don’t like being put on their back.
It is often seen as abusive to bunnies so we wouldn’t recommend this technique. Instead, in our experience, it’s easier to leave our bun on all four paws and clean Groot in that position. The only time she goes on her back is when she flops!
Step 2: Apply a generous amount of cornstarch to the dirty areas and softly work the powder around into the fur and onto the skin.
Pro Tip: if you have someone to assist you (husband/wife, boy/girlfriend), have that person use a hand-held vacuum to suck up floating powder so the bunny doesn’t inhale a bunch.
Step 3: Work the powder through any stubborn clumps of dirt or poop gently. It should come free from the fur easily once it has been coated with the powder.
Step 4: If necessary, use a fine-toothed flea comb to gently comb away dried poop or other dirt. Don’t pull too hard as a bunny’s skin is sensitive and easy to tear.
Step 5: Pat the powdered areas down to remove any loose powder.
Your bunny should be clean and dry within a few minutes and will likely lie quietly as the powder takes away the burning sensation from the urine stains.
This is your last resort if the dry bath didn’t get rid of very stubborn stains and mess. Things you will need:
- Basin or bowl
- Slightly warm water (approx. 32°C or 90°F)
- A large, soft towel
- Blow dryer
- Suitable shampoo
- Suitable ointment or cream
IMPORTANT: DO NOT EVER immerse your whole bunny in water. The water level should be no higher than belly level. Let your bunny stand on their legs while you support the upper body from the front. Slowly let all four paws into the water.
Pro Tip: Put a towel or some kind of rubber, grippy mat on the bottom of the basin or bowl to give your bunny some grip which will make them less likely to panic run.
Before starting, make sure you have the right shampoo. It shouldn’t be human shampoos as they can irritate the bunny’s skin. Pet shampoos that have pyrethrins and other “herbal” or “natural” insect-killing ingredients should not be used either. Rather, go for the shampoos with emollients to soothe your bunny’s skin. We would recommend this Pro Pet Works All Natural Organic Oatmeal Pet Shampoo (link to Amazon for current price).
Step 1: Fill basin or bowl with about 2.5-3 inches of the slightly warm water. Have this ready before placing your bunny in the basin or bowl.
Step 2: Mix approximately a tablespoon of shampoo in the water.
Step 3: Lower your bunnies bum slowly and gently into the shampoo/water mixture. Gently wash the poopy butt and other stubborn stains. You may have to change the water a few times if your bunny is very messy. Make sure not to get any water on the bunny’s head or ears.
Step 4: Rinse with slightly warm water to wash out all of the shampoo.
Step 5: Use a towel to dry your bunny softly as to not irritate the skin. Microfiber towels are great for this job.
Step 6: Use the hairdryer on low to medium heat about 12 inches away from their body and don’t use it on your bunny’s head, ears or private area. Having your hand close to your bunny’s skin will let you know if it’s too hot. A flea toothed comb will help speed up the drying process. Make sure your bunny is completely dry and fluffy.
Step 7: Once your bun is dry, take blunt-tipped scissors to trim any leftover matted fur.
Step 8: Apply soothing ointment such as Calendula (a natural food store should have it) or a rabbit-safe triple antibiotic (without topical anesthetic added) where any skin is irritated.
Try to keep the bath as short as possible to minimise the stress on your bunny.
Related: Can My Bunny Go Out In The Rain?
How Do I Clean My Bunny’s Eyes?
Sometimes, bunnies get sleep in their eyes just like we do. You can just wipe this away for them. A bunny’s eyes should always be clear and any eye discharge, gunk, or a lot of tears should be checked by a vet.
Liquid from the eyes can make your buns cheeks matted and sticky. Saline solution for contact lenses can help crystallize tears on bunny cheeks which can be brushed out.
How Can I Clean My Bunny’s Ears?
Make sure you check your bunny’s ears regularly for a build-up of wax and other gunk. They should be clean and smooth with no obvious redness. A cotton swab can be used to remove wax from the OUTER ear but not the inner ear. Take your bunny to the vet if there is a build-up of wax in the inner ear canal.
If your bun has scaly, red or sore ears, it could mean your bun has mites. You can apply a tropical mite solution but your best bet is to take your cute furry to the vet.
How to Clean My Bunny’s Teeth
Unlike us humans, bunnies don’t have to brush their teeth every morning and evening. The only thing you have to do for your bunny is to make sure they have plenty of safe things to chew on to help file their teeth down. This is important as their teeth grow continuously all their lives!
You should only bathe your bunny if it’s absolutely necessary. It is not worth the unnecessary stress your bunny goes through especially when they are such thorough self-cleaners.
Poopy butt and other stains should first be cleaned with baby wipes or a wet cloth. Only after that has failed should you try a dry bath and only after that a wet bath as a last resort. Regularly check your bun’s eyes and ears for gunk and make sure your furball has plenty of toys to chew on!