No, you shouldn’t (normally) give your rabbit a bath as they shouldn’t be completely submerged in water. Rabbits are actually super clean animals, the only time you should clean them is if they’re unable to themselves (such as in old age or if they’re obese). Only then is it appropriate and necessary for you to step in.
There are several ways you can clean your rabbit (without giving them a bath) if it’s required. Depending on where they need cleaning will determine how best you can do it.
One way that you can help your rabbit out is to groom them regularly. A rabbit will spend a lot of time grooming themselves, and if you have more than one they’ll often groom each other, but they’ll still need extra help to stay on top of their molting.
Read on to find out tips, what will happen if rabbits aren’t cleaned, and more!
If you do need to clean your rabbit, there are a few ways you can do so. First of all, check where they need cleaning and how bad it is. In other words, if it’s a little dried dirt on their feet, it’ll be different than matted fur and dried cecotropes around their rear end.
You can try:
- Cotton buds: This is the easiest way to clean them up. Dip a clean cotton bud into warm water (not hot) and dab the area that needs cleaning. After some soaking, you should be able to gently brush or pull the dirt out. Then towel dry (or hair dry on the lowest heat but this may frighten your rabbit).
- Shallow bath: Also known as a butt bath. For this, it’s important to make sure the water stays consistently warm, and the bath can’t fill up anymore – keep it shallow. You’ll also need some sort of non-slip at the bottom and a second person to help you wish your rabbit (one person holding, one washing). Use a jug to rinse your rabbit, massaging the dirty area. Afterward towel dry (see below for more details).
- Dry bath: You can use corn-starch powder (free of scents, talc, and extra additives) in this waterless bath. Massage the powder into the dirty area, and gently comb over it. Keep doing this until the area is clear and pat the powder until it’s all gone. At this point, you can use a handheld vacuum to get rid of any traces of powder.
- Grooming: Though rabbits instinctively clean themselves and will groom their bonded mates and people or animals that they love, they do need extra help. Brushing them regularly will get rid of loose fur and help prevent rabbits from getting blockages from too much fur. It’s also a sign of affection when rabbits groom someone else.
- Clipping: In the worst cases where the dirty part has dried solid and can’t be dabbed clean, you might need to try and break or cut out the matted fur using clippers. Or you might want to go to a vet as rabbits have super delicate skin and a small mistake could hurt them badly.
- Drying: Once your rabbit has been bathed in water, they’ll need drying. You can gently pat them dry with a towel or use a hairdryer on low heat and low power. Let your rabbit hear, see, and feel the hairdryer before you start so they aren’t startled. In the winter, keep your rabbit inside for a full day to ensure that they aren’t damp and catch a chill.
Why a Rabbit Might Get Dirty
There are plenty of ways a domesticated rabbit could get dirty and require cleaning.
Most of the time you’ll see them licking their paws and then rubbing their face or ears to clean them (which is one of the most adorable actions of all time!)
Rabbits can get dirty from:
- Living conditions: Rabbits produce a lot of urine and poop per day. This builds up and in a cage without enough space, rabbits often end up sitting in their own waste.
- Diet: Certain foods will leave residue, juice, or remains on your rabbit’s paws and around their face. Eating something like strawberry might leave your rabbit with a scary red juice dripping down their chin. This can dry and mat if not cleaned, and it’ll become significantly harder to clean if it does.
- Urine scalding: This is when urine sinks into your rabbit’s fur and skin. It can also be called wet tail. It’ll look like red irritated skin and fur loss along their belly and rear end.
- Outside: If a rabbit has been outside in the mud when it wasn’t completely dry, they might come back leaving footprints. This should be dried sooner rather than later before it dries in and becomes harder to brush out.
What if Your Rabbit Isn’t Cleaned?
As well as it being entirely unfair to leave a rabbit dirty, it can cause health issues too.
Leaving urine or fecal matter uncleaned on your rabbit can develop into a condition called flystrike. This is when the odor attracts flies that use your rabbit as a breeding ground. They’ll need immediate vet attention if this happens.
Their skin can also be damaged if they aren’t groomed properly or if their cage or hutch is dirty and they’re sitting in urine or feces. It’s important to clean their home every day so they aren’t sitting in their own filth and developing skin conditions.
Not cleaning them can also attract rodents, flies, and predators who follow the strong odor. The best thing to do is to stay on top of the cleaning so it doesn’t become overwhelming. This is a reason why you shouldn’t leave rabbits alone for longer than a day – they need daily cleaning, feeding, and attention at a minimum.
Do Rabbits Need Regular Bathing?
No, rabbits don’t need regular bathing. Bathing them too often will be detrimental to their health, and you should only bathe them in circumstances where they’re not able to clean themselves – like if they’re old or have limited mobility.
What if I Can’t Clean My Rabbit?
If you’re unable to clean your rabbit at home, you’ll need to find another way to get them clean. The most straightforward answer would be to take them to a vet who is trained in exotic animals (a lot of vets consider rabbits as exotic because of their unique health requirements so make sure your vet is rabbit savvy when booking the appointment).
Can Rabbits Swim?
Though there are exceptions, most rabbits would struggle to swim. They’re at a high risk of drowning and will not enjoy being soaked. In swimming pools, they’d be exposed to harsh chemicals. In water like lakes and oceans, they’d be exposed to bacteria and parasites, and even in a bathtub, they could be exposed to residue from cleaning products. Altogether, it’s not a great idea for your rabbit to swim.
Do You Need Rabbit Shampoo?
Most of the time, rabbits can be cleaned with just warm water. You can pick up shampoo for rabbits and other small animals, but while it’s designed for small furry creatures, it’s not ideal for an all-over clean. You must never use human, dog, or cat shampoo on rabbits.
Can You Use Baby Wipes on Rabbits?
The mildest, fragrant-free baby wipes can be used on rabbits, but probably aren’t worth the effort. They aren’t damp enough to soak the dirty area and probably can’t remove tough stains. The best they could do is wipe over mild stains or at the end after a cotton bud clean.