Monday, December 8, 2008

Question from the Audience: Angora or not?

A follow up question from Tara D. in Chicago, IL:
Q: I am still waiting to adopt, and I literally can't wait. I'm hoping on getting two buns, a mini lop, and maybe an Angora. If I do decide on an Angora, how do I tend to its grooming needs? What it the right way to brush, cut, pull out the hair? I’ve seen YouTube videos of owners pulling out their tummy hair and I am a little confused if that’s safe or not, knowing that their skin is very tender. Another question is how much noise do buns make at night in their cages? Is it tolerable while you’re asleep?

A: Again, it's great to hear you are doing so much research before adopting—being informed and having appropriate expectations is the best start for developing trusting relationships with your new friends. Since you are planning on getting two rabbits, I would look for a pair that is already bonded. Because it is harder to find homes for them, there are usually many pairs available at animal shelters. Contact the Chicago House Rabbit Society or look up bunnies on petfinder to meet available pairs in your area.

Typically, I would discourage first-time rabbit owners from getting an Angora, as their care is notably more complex and involved than short-hair rabbits; Angoras require intensive brushing and grooming that is best reserved for experienced rabbit owners. I recommend sticking with a short-hair variety that requires only minimal biweekly brushing.

If it cannot be helped, and an Angora is who you end up falling for, you will need to talk with the adoption counselor or foster parent to discuss all elements of Angora grooming.

A few pointers:
1) Angoras must be brushed daily.

2) It’s a good idea to trim their fur with electric clippers to keep it short (a few inches) and manageable.

3) When molting, which occurs roughly every three months, the rabbit completely sheds its outer layer of fur. During this time, Angoras should be plucked, that is, the loose chunks of fur removed with your hands. If done properly, this should not be painful since this fur is no longer attached to the skin.

4) While plucking should not be painful, the process can be very stressful. Constantly monitor how your rabbit is handling the ordeal. If she stresses easily, only pluck a few minutes each day. Rabbits are prone to stress and stress-related medical problems, including death, so please take this very seriously.

5) I would not recommend taking your rabbit to a pet groomer, unless they have extensive experience working with rabbits.

6) Angora owners often give their bunnies fresh papaya or papaya supplements, as the enzymes are believed to break down the fur in the gut. There's no proof to these claims, but most rabbits love the taste of papaya! Overall it is most important that Angoras receive plentiful amounts of fiber-rich grass hay. They also have higher caloric needs and should receive more pellets than the non-wooly breeds.

All of this grooming and brushing serves an integral purpose—a neglected Angora coat will become matted, painful, dirty, and susceptible to infection. If minor mats do occur, cut them out carefully with safe scissors. Additionally, grooming is important so that the rabbit is ingesting the least amount of fur possible. Ingested fur can create a blockage in the digestive tract, which can lead to anorexia and consequently death. This sort of complication must be treated surgically. As with most animals, grooming is not purely aesthetic!

Regarding noise level, rabbits are active at dawn and dusk, so they are often awake when you may want to be sleeping. How much this affects you depends on how light of a sleeper you are and the personality of your rabbit. Some rabbits will chew on the cage bars, some will dig around in their litterbox. I’ve used ear plugs for the past four years because my rabbit Graysie snores like a 300 lb old man, though I believe this is relatively rare. If the option is available, I'd recommend keeping the cage in a living room or family room, and giving your rabbits plenty of daily exercise, mental stimulation, and interaction to ensure they are calmer in their cages.

1 comment:

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

Whether its a rabbit hutch or something else, your rabbit needs a place it considers to be its home.