A Brief Introduction to
Angora Rabbit Care
Please remember that rabbits can live for 10+ years and are a large commitment. Angora rabbits in particular require more care than other rabbit breeds. Please don't think of them as just a cute and fluffy bunny. A rabbit relies on you as its caretaker to provide it with a happy and healthy life. If you don't feel that you are ready for that responsibility, then I suggest you wait and further your knowledge by doing some research and speaking with other angora enthusiasts before bringing a bunny home.
Below, I've done my best to provide the basics of angora rabbit ownership including: housing, diet, grooming, shearing, and potential health issues. If you have any questions, or concerns feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Providing a safe place for your rabbit with access to food and water is key to their well-being. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recommends at least 30in by 30in of space for the english angora. I, however, disagree as I feel that a bigger space allows more room for the rabbit to play and explore thus giving them a better environment. My rabbits have plenty of room to roam as well as specially designed areas with different toys and obstacles where they can safely explore and get plenty of exercise. Your bunny should always have time outside of its housing in order to interact and bond with you.
Your rabbit's space must be free of any hazards and secure from other pets and predators. If your rabbit will be housed outdoors, then it will also need an environment that protects them from the sun, wind, rain, and snow. ARBA recommends that angoras be kept in a wire bottomed enclosure as this keeps them cleaner. If you choose to go this route, please provide a place for the bunny to rest off of the wire by using a resting mat or board. This keeps the bunny from wearing the padded fur down on its feet which can eventually lead to a painful condition called sore hocks.
In short, your rabbit needs a safe, secure environment out of the elements with access to food and water. Time outside of their housing is also key to their health and should be a routine part of their care.
Your rabbit's diet plays an important role in its well-being. Due to all their wool, angoras require a high protein diet when compared to other breeds. Please check the nutritional facts of your rabbit feed before feeding it to your bunny. Since they are always producing wool, angoras need a feed with 18% protein and a complete source of vitamins. I recommend heading to your local farm store to purchase feed instead of a pet store since they tend to sell better quality feeds. If you can't find an 18% protein feed, you can also supplement to make up the difference. We feed an 18% feed from Rural King called country roads. We also like to supplement with flaxseed and whole oats which also help with wool quality. NEVER feed a rabbit food with seeds or dyes as this is poor quality and dangerous for your rabbit's health. I always like to see a roughage such as Alfalfa as the first ingredient when feed shopping and at least a 17% protein, knowing I can supplement the difference. We feed roughly 3/4 cup of pellets a day and 1/2 a teaspoon of flaxseed and oats.
Hay is crucial to an angora's diet as it promotes gut health and keeps them from developing a health condition called wool block. We free feed high quality timothy hay so that they have access to roughage at all times. a good rule of thumb is that your bunny should have access to a ball of hay the size of the rabbit daily. Timothy hay cubes are also a great way to provide roughage and they give your bunny something to nibble on as well.
Fresh water at all times is key. We provide water bottles for our bunnies since it keeps them from spilling a water dish or getting their wool wet which can cause tangling.
Treats such as fruits, veggies, and other bunny safe foods are great ways to make your bunny feel loved. However, please note that rabbits (especially young rabbits) have delicate digestive systems and large changes in their diet or large amounts of treats can upset their stomachs. This causes issues such as diarrhea and bloat which can be fatal. Introduce new foods gradually and feed treats only in small amounts. Avoid feeding treats to young bunnies as their little tummies have difficulty processing new foods.
Grooming your rabbit keeps their coats mat free and helps keep wool mites at bay. A general rule of thumb is that angora rabbits should be groomed twice weekly, however, this differs by the individual rabbit's coat. I use a high powered blower designed for pets to groom my rabbits. I prefer this to brushing as it doesn't thin out their coats like a brush would. Blowing air into the coat removes loose fibers and opens up the wool to prevent mites and matting which keeps their skin healthy. Using a brush is fine too, however, it may cause the coat to thin out which is undesirable for showing. The brush will pull out more hair than a blower will but still helps keep the bunny healthy. Other grooming tools aside from a brush and blower are scissors (I prefer the kid's safety kind) and nail trimmers. Careful attention should be given to the bunny's underside to prevent matting on their bellies and legs. It's also important to groom around their private areas as sometimes feces or urine can get trapped in the wool causing painful sores and infections if left unattended. I just use scissors to trim out any tangled areas and nail clippers designed for cats to trim nails as needed. Never bathe your rabbit. Bathing can cause temperature shock, stress, and matting.
Every 3-4 months angora rabbits need their wooly coats off. This is crucial to their health, otherwise dead wool can build up in their coat which can lead to mites, matting, or a potentially fatal condition called wool block. While we all love their adorable soft fluff, it truly is best for the bunny to have that coat come off several times a year. There are two methods of harvesting loose wool off the bunny. Plucking or shearing.
Don't let the word plucking scare you, as when done correctly, it should NEVER harm the rabbit. Plucking is simply waiting for the bunny to go through a natural shed during which you carefully pull the loose shedding fibers away from the healthy new wool growth. It's essentially the same concept as using a deshedding brush on a dog. Instead of a brush you just use the gentle grip of your fingers to pull away the loose wool. Please note that this only works if the rabbit is going through a large shed which will be evident by fiber shedding out much more than usual. It must also be noted that some angora breeds or even certain lines within one breed may not go through such a shedding process. These bunnies will have to be shorn.
Shearing is another great way to harvest angora fiber and to relieve your bunny of that thick coat. I shear my bunnies with simply a pair of kids safety scissors. I usually like to start at the spine and carefully work my way down the bunny's back and sides. I'll then gently cradle the bunny in my lap to trim the wool on the rabbit's underside. I prefer kid's scissors as they are blunt tipped and small in size. Bunny skin is like paper so be very careful that you don't accidently nick them during shearing. I like to have a small table that sits low to the ground for shearing bunnies as it keeps them safe in case they were to try and jump off. Ill place an old scrap of carpet on it so the rabbit has traction and is free to move about. The small size also helps keep the rabbit from moving around too much which could cause an injury.
I never restrain my rabbits during either method of harvesting their wool. In fact, I've had bunnies fall asleep on me during this process! They do truly enjoy getting a shorter coat and I truly enjoy getting to use their lovely fiber.
Two major health issues are more prone in the angora breeds but can affect other breeds also. These are wool-mites and wool block.
If you find little white dandruff-like flakes in your bunny's wool then your rabbit likely has mites. Mites can be caused by your bunny spending time outdoors or around other animals. These little bugs feed off of dead skin in your rabbit's wool and can cause itching and irritation. Properly maintaining your rabbits wool is a key part of keeping mites at bay, but this doesn't always stop them from making an appearance. These mites are also easily transmitted to other rabbits so please be careful to wash hands in between bunny handling if you have other rabbits.
Luckily, mites are fairly easy to treat. If we find a case of mites, we treat our rabbits orally with 1% ivermectin for cattle. Since I am not a veterinarian, I suggest speaking with your local vet on dosing information.
Wool block is something that angora rabbits are more prone to than other breeds. It's caused by the rabbit grooming itself and accidentally ingesting its own fiber. Overtime, this fiber builds up in the rabbit's digestive system which can lead to partial or complete blockages. When this happens the rabbit will have a decreased or total loss of appetite. If left untreated, or if symptoms don't improve, this condition can be fatal. This is why feeding hay for roughage and proper grooming and shearing is so key to their health. Hay helps to push any fiber in the digestive system through and proper grooming makes ingesting wool less likely. Usually there are warning signs that a bunny may be developing wool block. One way to check is by keeping an eye on your rabbit's feed intake and droppings. when the droppings appear to be connected together like a string of pearls this is one sign that there is wool in the rabbit's system. Normal bunny droppings should always be separate not strung together. See the photo for reference of normal bunny droppings and ones that are strung together. If you are seeing this in your rabbits droppings, try feeding more hay, greens, and fresh pineapple as these help to break down and push through any blockages. If there is no improvement or if your rabbit stops eating or drinking, contact your veterinarian right away. Rabbits have very delicate digestive systems and it doesn't take long for them to go downhill fast. Keeping a close eye on your rabbit is key in order to spot any potential issues.
Heat stroke and stress can be fatal to angora bunnies. All that wool makes it hard for them to regulate their body temperature in warm weather. I try my best to keep bunnies that I don't plan on showing in a shorter coat for the summer as I feel this is best for them. Keeping angoras in a climate controlled setting is also a great idea, but there are other ways to help them stay cool. You can try filling plastic water or soda bottles with water and freezing them to place in your rabbits environment in hot weather. These frozen bottles are great for them to lay against to stay cool. Having fans that can blow indirectly on your rabbit also helps to keep cooler air in constant circulation. The biggest factor is making sure plenty of fresh water is always available and that bunnies are monitored closely during such times. if you suspect your bunny has heat stroke bring them into a cooler setting and call your veterinarian immediately.