Cutting Your Rabbit’s Nails

Unless your rabbit spends most of its time hopping around outside in a backyard, you will probably have to trim the nails every now and then, because a carpet floor will not provide sufficient friction to wear them down naturally. If you notice that the nails extend way beyond the fur or start curling, then it’s time to get out the scissors or clippers. We bought safety scissors especially made for small pets and they work well, but there are many others out there. Get whatever is most comfortable for you, because if you are comfortable it’ll be faster, easier, and less stressful for everyone involved. Are you ready for your rabbit’s 18 toes? Grab a towel, the scissors, and a couple of paper towels as well as some styptic powder or corn starch (from the baby isle at the store; avoid scented ones) just in case.

There are several ways to trim your rabbit’s nails and it really depends on the bunny which one will work best. You can try placing a bowl of food in front of your bun and trim the nails while he or she is eating. If you are lucky, this may work! Using an elevated surface such as a table or counter top is another option. The rabbit can’t just hop away and will be more likely to hold still. Try wrapping the bunny in a towel, so the head and feet are visible. The position the bunny butt in front of your stomach, so the rabbit can’t back away. You could also try holding your rabbit in your arms (make sure you support the spine while doing that). Just be careful not to flip the bun over completely, causing a shock-induced trance.

Either way, make sure you hold your bun securely. You don’t want to hurt him, but you also don’t want him to be able to jerk himself free while you are cutting his nails. It’ll help a great deal if your bun feels secure, so keeping him close to your body and on a stable surface is best. It’ll also help to have someone there to assist you. One person holds and soothes the rabbit, the other one cuts the nails. Easy.

Rabbits have veins (called “quick”) that reach all the way into their claws. If a rabbit has white nails you can see the vein clearly; if it has darker nails you may need to shine a flashlight from below. You want to make the cut a little bit above the vein at an angle. If you miss your rabbit may experience pain and bleed. Don’t panic, that’s what the paper towel and corn starch is for. Apply a bit of the corn starch or styptic powder to stop the bleeding and keep going. Try to do better next time and keep an eye on that nail for the rest of the day. If it doesn’t stop bleeding, call the vet.

When you cut the nails, don’t hesitate. You are not trying to slowly crush them (that could potentially hurt your rabbit), you want to actually cut them, so be confident and quick. Also, try and cut them all the same length.

One of the reasons why I hate trimming nails is that Bunny hates it so much. I know we will have to restrain him and he can’t stand that. I know he may not want to interact for a while once we are done. Someone (Thank you, Danielle!) recommended waiting until the rabbit has done something naughty and then using the nail trimming as a “punishment”. We usually wait until the evening and feed him dinner immediately after. Then he has a distraction and the whole night to get over it.

If you are scared of this process or lack confidence in your abilities, there is no shame in asking a vet for help. In fact, if you have never trimmed a small animal’s nails before, it may be a good idea to let a vet show you the first time. Our vet charges around $30 for routine check-ups and nail trimming costs an additional $15.

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Author: Bunny Approved

2 Comments

  1. Tracy Hodges
    Tracy Hodges On March 22, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I have two rabbits, one (Thumper) I rescued last July after he was dumped by a dumpster, and before then was terrorized my small kids pulling his ears etc.. The other (Bunny) I adopted when he was a baby. He has no problem with me cutting his nails. He flops on his back in my lap and just lays there until I’m done. But thumper, he does not like to be picked up, or anything like that. And I just can’t seem to get him use to it to let me cut them. I noticed one nail is totally gone, so I figured something happen at his old house and it traumatized him. But they need to be cut! I took him somewhere so they could try, he absolutely flipped out because he HATES going outside or leaving my house at all, so that made it worse. And they couldn’t do all of them! I just don’t know what to do so I can get them. When I do,I get 2 at a time but that’s it and can’t try again for a few days or it’s not happening at all. What do you think I could try? Do you have any recommendations to help him get through it and let me cut them?

    • Bunny Approved
      Bunny Approved On April 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Hello Tracy! Did you try taking him to the vet to get his nails trimmed? They should definitely be able to do it if all else fails. Many rabbits don’t like to be picked up, but sometimes we humans just have to. The best way is to take a large towel, place the rabbit in the middle, and wrap it around him (like a burrito). That way he could only go forward, not left, right, or back. It’s also a good idea to trim the nails on an elevated surface like the kitchen counter or a table, so the rabbit doesn’t have as much opportunity to flee. Bunny hates being picked up, but he will try to climb into my arms when he’s scared and elevated surfaces scare him for sure! Thumper might do the same. Anyway, now you can put one hand under the towel and reach the front paws. Having a helper makes things easier, too! Hope this helps.

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