Why do rabbits bite their fur off? This behavior is also known as barbering. It can be self-inflicted, or directed to another rabbit.
Rabbits may bite their fur off because they are stressed, as a nesting behavior, or due to a lack of fiber.
But, it could also be a sign that you aren’t grooming them enough, or that they have parasites.
Identifying the cause of your bunny barbering will help you take steps to stop the behavior.
Why Do Rabbits Bite Their Fur Off?
There are a number of common reasons why rabbits might bite their fur off. This behavior is known as barbering.
In some cases, this problem will be caused by a physical issue. For instance, your rabbit may be suffering from an infestation of parasites.
Or, if you have a female rabbit, she may be pregnant, or experiencing a false pregnancy, prompting nesting behaviors.
Sometimes, barbering can be the result of mental health issues, such as stress or boredom.
And, in some cases, you may not be giving your rabbit something they need. Bunnies might bite their fur off because of dietary imbalances, or insufficient grooming.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these potential causes so you can learn how to stop this behavior.
Female rabbits that bite out their fur may do so as a nesting behavior. If you know that your rabbit is pregnant, this is likely the reason for fur chewing.
You may notice that she takes her fur and creates a lovely warm nest from it.
But what if there’s no way that your rabbit is pregnant, even though she seems to be making a nest?
There’s a chance your rabbit is experiencing a false pregnancy. Speak to your vet if you believe this is what’s happening.
Your rabbit may show other signs of pregnancy, including lactating, but it does not guarantee that she is definitely pregnant.
Your vet will be able to help you through this time, and recommend the best way to care for your bunny until she is back to normal.
Does your rabbit have enough to entertain themselves? Are they living with another rabbit so their social needs are fulfilled?
Rabbits are intelligent little animals, but they are also energetic and playful.
If they don’t have enough mental stimulation and space for physical exercise, they can easily become bored.
This can lead to behavioral problems like depression and barbering.
Rabbits that bite out their fur may be experiencing stress.
Is there something that is making your rabbit feel unsafe? Do they have enough space in their hutch?
If your rabbit is unusually aggressive and jumpy, they may be feeling stressed out by something. Watch out for these behaviors alongside barbering.
Rabbits are quite low-maintenance pets compared to some other animals. But, you will need to groom your bunny, especially during high shedding periods.
If your rabbit has too much excess fur, or their shed fur is not falling properly, they may bite it out.
This behavior wouldn’t be harmful if they were only pulling out the shedding fur.
But, many rabbits end up pulling out excess fur in their attempts to rid themselves of the irritating loose bits.
Keep on top of bunny grooming to minimise the risk of barbering.
Parasites or Skin Problems
Bunny barbering can also happen if your rabbit is suffering from an infestation of parasites, such as mites, or they have a skin issue.
Irritation from these causes may prompt your rabbit to bite at and pull out their own fur.
You can minimise the risk of this by keeping your rabbits home and play areas clean, and check them for any parasites or skin problems during grooming sessions.
Lack of Fiber
Another common cause of rabbit barbering is a lack of fiber in their diet.
Rabbits need plenty of fresh hay or grass every day to fulfil their fiber requirements. If you aren’t giving your rabbit enough, they may start chewing at their own fur.
Try giving your rabbit more fresh hay to eat to see if this solves your problem.
Ripping Another Rabbit’s Fur Out
Barbering is often self inflicted, but sometimes rabbits will rip another bunny’s fur out when they live together.
This is most often a show of dominance, and not a serious act of aggression. But, watch out for other signs of aggression, including biting and scratching.
Your rabbits may be fighting because of stress, frustration, pain, or as a show of dominance.
Dangers of Pulling Out Their Fur
Watching your rabbit pull out their fur is quite a stressful experience for all involved. But, there are some added dangers to be aware of.
Some rabbits will just pull out their fur and leave it. This is still bad, as it can cause sore skin, and patches where regrowth may struggle.
However, added dangers occur if your rabbit then tries to eat their fur.
This can cause intestinal blockages, leading to emergency veterinary trips.
If your rabbit is biting their fur, try to identify the cause of this behavior quickly so you can help to stop it.
How to Stop a Rabbit Biting its Fur
The most common reasons for rabbit barbering are listed above. You can take steps to easily prevent and rule out these causes.
Make sure your rabbit gets plenty of fiber in their diet, and groom them regularly to remove shedding fur and check for parasites.
Rabbits are social animals, so are happiest when kept together. But, introduce new bunnies slowly to ensure there’s no extreme aggression and territorial fights.
Give your rabbit plenty of stimulating toys. But, also make sure they have plenty of space in which to move around and exercise.
Bunnies can really benefit from some time in your yard to run around and nibble on the grass. Just make sure they’re secure and safe from any potential predators.
And finally, try to ensure your rabbit is unable to get pregnant unless you’re actively trying to breed them. You can speak to your veterinarian about spaying to learn the pros and cons.
Why Do Rabbits Bite Their Fur Off? A Summary
As you can see, there are quite a few reasons that can lead to rabbits self-barbering, or biting other bunny’s fur off.
But, there are steps you can take to stop it from becoming a long term problem.
Have you ever had a bunny that bit at his own fur? Share your stories in the comments!
References and Resources
- Jenkins, J. ‘Skin Disorders of the Rabbit’, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice (2001)
- Hoppmann, E. & Wilson Baron, H. ‘Ferret and Rabbit Dermatology’, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (2007)
- Meredith, A. ‘Rabbit Nutrition – An Overview’, Vet Times (2011)
- Fallahi, R. (et al), ‘Short Communication: Determination of Hair Loss (Alopecia) Cause and Effective Treatment in Laboratory Rabbits’, Archives of Razi Institutes (2013)
- Crowell-Davis, S. ‘Behavior Problems in Pet Rabbits’, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (2007)
- ‘Pseudopregnancy’, Clinical Veterinary Advisor (2013)