You shouldn’t! At least not in the way you’d wash yourself.
It can be tricky to put yourself in a rabbit’s shoes. We as their owners are inclined to imagine them as little fuzzy people, complete with human personalities, but this way of thinking can sometimes be detrimental to their health.
Take food as an example; I would get bored of eating seed-mix and hay rather quickly if they were to form the bulk of my diet and it's easy to imagine our rabbits feeling the same way if, one day, they don’t always seem particularly interested in eating.
But constantly swapping out their feeds and offering all manner of exotic treats in an attempt to stimulate their appetites will usually just result in wasted food and can sometimes create serious issues like toxicity. Rabbits are not omnivores like we are, and they don’t need nearly as much variety in their diets to thrive. A quality seed mix, the occasional carrot, and a plentiful supply of nutritious organic hay are the cornerstones of a happy rabbit’s diet.
As omnivores, it's hard for us to imagine that our bunnies can be content with such a limited diet, but it is precisely this reluctance to accept our differences that we need to discourage.
We must not allow ourselves to picture them as little people (shame on you, Enid Blyton!) or we will end up projecting our human concerns onto their bunny lifestyles. It can be very difficult to accept that rabbits don’t need or want many of the things that we do.
A shower might seem like a universal solution to the world’s many ails to you but to your bunny, it’s just plain unnecessary. Rabbits are prodigious self-cleaners, and you will rarely see them with dirt about them or with things stuck to their fur.
Most rabbits do a fantastic job of keeping themselves clean and smelling good. And they clean themselves constantly! So, the best bathing strategy for any rabbit owner is to wash them as little as necessary. Rabbits are easily shocked by unfamiliar settings, so taking them into a wet room and pouring water on them will scare them.
The simple truth is that you only ought to wash your rabbit if stool is collecting around the fur on their bum. This can sometimes happen if they have runny stool from upset tummies and isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.
Other situations when it might be necessary to bathe your rabbit are if they are overweight and struggle to clean themselves. If they have arthritis as this might prevent them from being able to clean their fur. Of if they have a case of fleas.
It is not safe to bathe your rabbit in a tub of water as many risks can come with trying to bathe your bun like this! For example, your rabbit could panic in the water, causing themselves (or you) injury, there have even been a number of bath related stresses linked to death. Also, a rabbit’s fur is very hard to dry so they could become vulnerable to hypothermia or other illnesses if left wet.
How to wash your rabbit
There are a few different ways that you can wash your rabbit. The best way to bathe your rabbit is with a spot clean – this method of cleaning a rabbit is best for small messes that are only on the surface level of the fur.
This is a method in which you clean your bunny with a damp piece of kitchen towel. You then dab at the dirty area with the towel and work out the stains. You can use a small amount of soap if it’s a rough area. You must be drying them throughout this process, however. This technique is the fastest and easiest way to wash a rabbit. It only takes a few minutes. It might take a little longer for a tough stain, but even then, it shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.
Another way to clean your rabbit is with a butt-bath, you can use this if your rabbit has large amounts of poop and urine stuck to their fur. This is a condition called poopy-butt that happens when rabbits are unable to keep themselves clean.
The details for this process are below.
- Pop some kitchen towel or a cloth in a rectangular basin so that your rabbit has something to gain footing on (this will help them to feel comfortable).
- Add enough water for the level to reach a few inches high.
- Ensure the water is roughly room temperature.
- Gently swab the matted fur with your hand being careful not to tug at, what will already be, sensitive skin.
- Change the water and repeat the process until their bottom looks clean and free of clumps.
It’s really that simple. If you can envisage any other instance in which you feel your rabbit would really appreciate a bath, then it’s almost certainly just your human instincts imposing themselves upon your rabbit. Their instincts are to clean themselves in the way that nature intended and at no point does the notion of being slathered in chemical soaps and perfumes occur to them.
If you do find that your rabbit is getting dirty (be it via soil, urine, or anything else) then they will be having trouble cleaning themselves. This can happen for a variety of reasons and usually means that a trip to the vets is in order.
Find out more
There’s a lot more to learn about rabbits so keep an eye out for more advice, how to’s and fact files on rabbit care.