Topic: Coat Care 101
Folks who rescue adult angoras are often thrilled with the lushness of the coat and call or write me to ask how to care for it. Sometimes the coat is in great shape, but with rescues, often it is not. They mention it is thick and hard to run their hands through and although bunny's face is matted, they can't WAIT to spin the coat.
It is my job to let them down easily as this is not a coat they will be spinning. Many times it is a struggle to get the coat off the rabbit and will take hours/weeks of careful clipping. They are discouraged and disappointed to hear this, and I suggest some reading about coat care and a revaluation of their expectations.
But, all is not lost, as true angora lovers may be born at this point.
To give yourself and your bunny the BEST coat possible, you need to start at Bare Hare level. The actual clipping job for SPINNABLE fiber will be outlined at the end of this series, but get the entire coat off your rabbit any way you can. I include Emergency Coat Removal info here.
EMERGENCY COAT REMOVAL
This will take a few sessions, so do not obsess with getting it all off at once. While you are removing this coat, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you feed your bunny COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF HAY. I suggest you line the entire cage with fresh hay each morning and expect bunny to eat most of it each night. Any loose fiber that remains after a grooming session will be licked off by the rabbit, and there must be hay in his gut to help move this through his digestive system.
Your rabbit probably does not know you well yet (or you her). You may not be comfortable with handling her. One of the easiest ways to keep your bunny calm is to use a towel and wrap up as much of him/her as you can, exposing just the parts you need to clip down. When you flatten the long ears of an angora rabbit and hold them down, she will hold still. An old rabbit raiser taught me that "When you have the ears, you have the rabbit". So, work on this at every session. Flatten her ears, and wrap her head with ears pinned to her back. This will help keep her still.
I like to sing to my rabbits. Or hum. Or play some classical/new age music. It helps keep both of you calm. One of the nicest things about handling angora rabbits is the peace they offer. Take advantage of this from Day 1. Tell her how pretty she is and how much better she'll feel when the mats come off (and she will).
Get a 5" pair of sharp scissors with as blunt of an end as you can find/make. Put them near you. Sit on the floor with bunny in your lap OR on a low stool so your knees are higher than your lap. You want your legs to be comfortable for 30-45 minutes, so take the time to make sure they remain so. Put bunny in your lap and cuddle for 3 or 4 minutes minimum. Do this EVERY TIME!
Decide which section of the coat to tackle. Start with her head and clip bad looking things off. With your opposite hand, pull up on fur you want to clip, making sure you are an inch above her skin. Don't worry about getting down to her skin level, just take off what you can and make the coat shorter. You will find that if you probe any mat with your thumb and index finger, you can wiggle down around the edges and feel where the skin is underneath the mat. So clip off the surface of the mat, and keep feeling down to where her skin is to remind your scissors where everything is.
Make short snips with your scissors. Maybe an inch long. Maybe two. I have seen people work with 9" shears and accidents happen more. With 5" scissors, it may take longer, but there are fewer mishaps.
Rabbits are territorial about their whiskers and the sides of their faces (along with their chins). You will have some resistance when you go after these spots. Turn bunny away from you and go in from behind while talking/singing the whole time. If you can put a hand on top of their heads while you do this it will help. An assistant will make this easier.
Proceed over her entire body this way, but don't stress bunny OR yourself by doing more than 30-45 minutes at a time. Take a potty break (both of you) if you want to continue past that time.
When you get to the tail/genitals, you will want to abandon everything. I know it's hard. Do this end when you are clear headed and will have no distractions. Wrap up bunny and lay her on her side in your lap, keeping one elbow down along her side so her weight is off her feet. Find her tail, and start clipping carefully to expose it (it is surprisingly long). Trim all around it. Turn bunny so her stomach faces up and trim carefully and slowly between her back legs and up her stomach. Keep feeling for skin so you know where you are. If you have a guy, watch for guy parts and trim around them.
Before you end any session, use a slicker brush to collect as much half-cut fur as you can from any edges/areas. Then try not to look at your funny bunny and just let him munch on hay until you can find time for another session. Keep rabbit food at a minimum and hay at an maximum for the ENTIRE TIME you are working on removing the coat.