When I first started keeping rabbits, I knew that they tended to shed a little. I didn’t realize that they can shed a large amount of fur, and I wasn’t sure why.
I asked the former owner, who has been in the rabbitry business for 15 years.
Why is my rabbit shedding so much? Rabbits can shed throughout the year, but they noticeably molt twice a year. However, at times an underlying health condition can cause excessive shedding. Dental problems, parasites, mites, and infections can cause patched fur loss.
It’s essential to treat the underlying issue so that your rabbit is healthy. In some cases, health problems can cause the death of your bunny.
Healthy Rabbit Shedding
It’s normal and healthy for rabbits to shed somewhat continually. However, every few months, rabbits go through a molt. The springtime molt is the largest and will be noticeable.
You may pet or hold your rabbit and notice a LOT of hair. Your rabbit may look patchy with shorter new hair growth and longer hair that might be clumpy looking ready to shed. That’s ok and healthy.
Your rabbit has to shed its entire winter coat so that it doesn’t overheat in the summer. The fur your rabbit grows for the summer will be lighter and help to regulate its temperature.
The fall molt prepares bunnies for the colder winter weather. Even if your bunny lives indoors with you, your rabbit will get a winter coat. That’s because daylight change patterns bring on the molt.
Some bunnies will change colors when they grow their winter coat in. That’s always fun, especially for kids. My kids are fascinated every year and give me a day-by-day account of what they see and how the white grows in.
Most rabbits also have a smaller “molt” that happens in the summer and winter. I hesitate to call it a molt because it’s really not a molt, and most rabbit owners don’t notice.
A molt usually means that an animal is replacing all of its fur. Rabbits don’t do that four times a year. They do that twice.
But, you’ll find references to it online. It means that your rabbit may lose a small amount of hair all year around.
Off-season molting is not healthy or normal. If your rabbit is molting continually or at the wrong times, there may be something wrong. Check for signs of distress, hair pulling, stress, or scabs.
Normal Molts of Young Rabbits
Baby rabbits, called kits, go through a series of molts as they grow. At about five months, give or take a couple of weeks, your bunnies will molt and lose their baby fur. They’ll grow in their adult fur. After that, your adult rabbits will molt about twice a year in the spring and fall.
You may overlook the young-rabbit molt because the kit’s fur is fine and not as noticeable when it sheds. You’ll definitely notice the first springtime molt, though!
Sometimes when your rabbit is molting, the old fur doesn’t shed as it should. It can stick and look lumpy. Other times, you may see bald patches on your rabbit.
When a rabbit fails to shed its fur during molt, it’s called stuck in the molt. Stuck in the molt can cause clumps of hair or heavy matting in parts of your rabbit’s body. Often this happens around the legs, in the pits, under the belly, or by the tail. It can also occur in other places.
It’s important to brush and help groom your rabbit during its molt. This allows your rabbit to shed fur easier. It also has the added benefit of making the cage and surrounding area less messy. Since it’s important to brush your rabbit daily, you’ll already be in the habit when the molting season comes around.
During the molt, make sure to brush those hard-to-reach areas. Your rabbit can’t always get to the tricky places, and brushing them will help them not to get stuck in the molt.
During the molt, feed your bunny a little extra protein. Fur requires protein to build, and your bunny will benefit from a bit of protein boost.
Suppose you see bald patches on your rabbit; look for signs of irritation. Check to see if the skin is red, inflamed or if your rabbit seems to be scratching at it. Look for tiny black spots, sores, or scabs. All of these are signs of an underlying problem.
If the skin looks pink, healthy, and clear, then don’t worry about bald spots. They are prevalent during a molt.
Caring for Your Rabbit During Molt
Rabbits naturally increase their grooming activities during their molt. You should brush your bunny’s hair daily. This helps to keep your rabbit healthy and clean. It also helps with bonding between you and your rabbit.
But, it’s imperative to groom your rabbit during molting season. That’s because brushing and cleaning your rabbit will help the old fur come off and make way for the new coat. It helps prevent matting of the hair, which can attract bugs and be an incubator of germs. Another benefit is that you can pull off all the excessive fur. This limits the amount of hair your rabbit will ingest. If your rabbit digests too much fur, it can cause digestive issues. The hair can block part of their digestive tract, causing other problems.
Feed your rabbit free-choice hay. Timothy hay, orchard grass, or oat hay are all excellent choices for rabbits. You can very sparingly feed your rabbits alfalfa, which isn’t actual hay. Alfalfa has a high sugar content and isn’t great for rabbits regularly, but during molt is ok.
Change your rabbit’s water more frequently during molting. Clean water will encourage more significant drinking, which helps with molting.
You can also feed your rabbits a little extra protein to help them create new fur. Fur takes a lot of protein to make, and your bunny will benefit from few protein snacks. Give your rabbit protein in the form of little sunflower seeds. Give your rabbit a little time outside for exercise as most protein snacks also have more calories.
- Daily grooming
- Free choice hay
- Clean water
- Occasional protein treats.
Unhealthy Reasons Rabbits Molt (Signs to Watch For)
Sometimes, you may wonder if your rabbit is having a healthy molt, especially if it’s not the right time of the year for a molt. There are two main reasons rabbits molt off-season.
First, inbred rabbits can molt off-season. For some reason, inner breeding causes an issue with a rabbit’s natural molting cycle.
It’s essential not ever to breed rabbits that are related to each other. And, it can happen accidentally if you aren’t careful. Rabbits are highly prolific and breed very quickly. They also reproduce very young. Sometimes owners aren’t aware that bucks can breed at three months old. That can mean that a baby gets his mama or sister pregnant.
Rabbits may also molt if their light cycle is messed up. If your rabbit has an unusual situation where they are exposed to light at unusual times of the day or night for a prolonged period, it can mess with their natural light rhythms. For example, if you work late night shifts and spend time caring for or bonding with your rabbit during the night, it may impact your rabbit’s natural light cycle and affect the molt.
- Inbreeding can cause issues with molt cycles.
- External issues that cause light cycle interruptions
In addition to reasons your rabbit may molt off-season, you may notice a loss of fur. Several issues can cause fur loss.
Fur Loss or Baldness Can Be a Sign of An Issue
Sometimes fur loss, or baldness, is a sign of a more serious underlying problem. A frequent sign of a problem is rabbit hair loss. Many diseases have hair loss as a symptom.
So, how can you know if your rabbit is healthy if it’s losing hair?
Hair loss is a sign of distress and often accompanied by other signs of stress in your rabbit. You may have noticed a behavioral change. Check the bald, patchy spots on your rabbit. Look for redness, swelling, or inflammation. Check the skin for signs of scratching or rubbing. Does it look like your rabbit is bothered by the area and biting or scratching at it?
Rabbits pull out their fur when they are stressed or in pain. One common reason a rabbit may start pulling out its fur is that it’s pregnant and is building a nest. Rabbits that are stressed will pull their hair out. This can happen from a predator threat (even your family dog) or loneliness. Be observant to see if your rabbit exhibits signs of fear. Rabbits like to be with other rabbits and can stress out if they are alone.
Boredom can cause hair pulling as well. Provide your rabbit with other toys and spend more time with it.
Additionally, there may be a deeper underlying issue. Mites, fleas, and parasites can cause your rabbit pain and discomfort. This, in turn, leads to hair pulling. Check for fleas or eggs on your rabbit’s skin. Check out this article on 10 reasons your rabbit has bald spots.
Stop the Molt
You may be wondering how or if you can stop your rabbit from molting. Molting is important and natural for rabbits. Do not try to stop a molt.
If your rabbit’s molt is taking a long time, you may need to help it finish the molt. Molts that take longer than 4-6 weeks is excessive. 2-4 weeks is standard.
Make sure your rabbit is getting enough protein. Usually, if your rabbit has free-choice access to hay, it will have enough protein. If you are worried, you can give your bunny more protein. Small nuts such as sunflower seeds are a great treat. Keep the treats small. Even a tablespoon of chopped nuts daily can be excessive in calories to your bunny.
Do an environment check of your rabbit. Make sure that there aren’t external stressors. Check that your rabbit has dark nights. If the cage is by an outside light or you are up after dark, put a cover on the cage. This will help with the light cycles in your bunny.
Check if your rabbit is bored or lonely. Add some toys to keep it entertained. You can also add a buddy’s cage near your rabbit cage or spend more time with it.
Lastly, have regular checkups with your rabbit so that your vet can identify any issues that can affect your rabbit’s health.
- Give your rabbit a dark night’s sleep
- Provide toys for boredom
- Watch for signs of stress
- Provide a protein treat during molting
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do Rabbits Molt? Rabbits molt for 2-4 weeks. They will molt at least 1-2 times a year for their entire lives. If a rabbit’s molt takes longer than 2-3 weeks, they are stuck in the molt and should be groomed regularly and given a diet high in fiber. A little added protein can also help them get through their molt.
Is It Ok For My Rabbit to Eat Its Fur? Rabbits groom themselves daily. Their grooming activities instinctually increase during the molt. It’s normal for them to digest some of their fur. But, it is not normal for rabbits to actively eat their fur. Fur can become lodged in their digestive tract and cause digestion issues.
Why is my bunny grooming another rabbit? Rabbits groom each other as a sign of dominance. Most of the time, doe’s will pull hair from other doe’s or bucks. Before two rabbits bond, they will often fight, and that will include hair pulling.
While fur loss is normal and healthy for rabbits, it can be disconcerting the first time you notice it. But caring correctly for your rabbit can ensure that unhealthy fur loss doesn’t occur and that you are prepared to recognize it if something goes wrong. For more information, check out 10 Scary Reasons Your Rabbit Has Bald Spots.