It’s easy to get the impression that all the people listed as breeders, exhibitors and owners have a shed full of show-groomed rabbits, with illness, mites and flies never daring to cross the threshold, but owners know that rapid problem-solving has to be the key to success.
There are articles to tell you how to prevent tangles, (groom everyday), keep flies away (clean out every day) and prevent illness (give adequate ventilation, high quality food, clean water, exclude draughts and use quarantine etc). You probably know as well as I do that, that is what to aim for, but cleaning out and grooming twice a week is more often the norm. A draught can sneak in through the smallest gap and a fly will wait politely until the flyscreen is open (so you can get in) and he whistles to his mates who are waiting round the corner.
Then the hay you so carefully inspected for mould dust and thistles is secretly providing refuge for a family of mites recently on holiday from a passing sparrow “only until we find something permanent you know” Perhaps you are suddenly not very well, is there someone to help you with the rabbits you have only just got used to yourself? Can you trust your pal who thinks “they are so cute” and they just want to be cuddled, or do you hope they will be alright until you can get to do them yourself?
If things go wrong, do something. Don’t hope (whatever “it’ is will go away, or get better on its own. If a rabbit is off its food, look, is it moulting? Maybe a wool ball in its stomach, catch it while small, offer the rabbit ryvita, crushed oats, raspberry or blackberry leaves, grass, whatever will get it eating again. Always give Angoras fibre with their food, hay, soft straw.
- Eye trouble may be as simple as a strand of wool or piece of hay to start with, leave it until it is infected and it gets harder to clear permanently (germs can hide in a pocket at the back of the eye resisting treatment).
- Tangles, matts – even a straight jacket and messy tail – do something, don’t hope it will all just fall off when the rabbit moults, it won’t. So get back to the breeder or a club member near you, or your vet. Anyone who has had rabbits for some time should be able to guide you in the right direction, if not actually help you and the rabbit. Yes, I do know it might be embarrassing to ask or to show someone your rabbit when it looks awful, but it is better than leaving it longer and those flies won’t ignore a nice opportunity either.
- Mites are so easily passed around, you get a rabbit with dandruff “because it’s moulting” – by the time it has got serious, the careful grooming with a Hoover that you have done has blown it about the rest of the rabbitry. Again, do something – get them treated, spray, powder or jab, show those mites the door and give your rabbit an itch-free life.
- Poor condition, severe stress and illness can affect the coat of your rabbit, causing a weak point in their hair as it is growing and reducing its strength. Mites make the wool tangly, tangles are just a waste – the more you have to cut out, the less wool you have to sell or spin.
Whatever comes between you and a pleasure giving healthy happy wool producing rabbit, don’t just stand there – do something about it.
Hoping to encourage you all.
Written for the 1990 year book.
NB: Images added for this post not part of original article.