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.