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If it ever looks like your pet rabbit is "clapping" at something by hitting both of his paws together, he's probably not applauding a musical performance he just enjoyed on your television screen. What he might actually be doing, however, is beginning his normal grooming regimen. Rabbits are, on the whole, extremely hygienic critters.
Rabbits, not too unlike felines, tend to be extremely serious about grooming themselves. They appreciate feeling clean, and their faces are a big part of that. If your rabbit is hitting his front paws together, he might be doing so as an attempt to clean them. If any debris or bits of food happen to be lingering on your rabbit's paws, hitting them together might be just how he rids himself of them -- easy-peasy. Rabbits don't want to groom their faces using icky paws, after all. Note that rabbits also often prepare to clean their ears by hitting their paws together.
Rabbits don't only prepare to clean their faces by hitting their front paws together. They frequently do so by diligently licking them, too. While clapping their paws can help eliminate any dirt that might be collecting in their paws, licking can often help get rid of tougher stuff. If a sticky piece of banana just got stuck on a rabbit's paws, he might lick to get it off, for example. Always glance at your rabbit's body after he eats, especially when fresh fruit or vegetables are involved, because you don't want your furry cutie ever eating anything spoiled.
Extensive Grooming Practices
Grooming isn't a slapdash process in the rabbit world. The little lagomorphs often do it for hours on end, and it's not limited to cleaning their faces. They also carefully and painstakingly lick their entire coats. Because they groom themselves so much, they also are susceptible to occasional hairballs, a la felines.
Your Role in Rabbit Grooming
If your rabbit is regularly hitting his paws together and grooming himself, you're probably in good shape as far as his cleanliness goes. Rabbits typically don't require baths, and the actual process often is extremely stressful on them. Although baths aren't rabbit must-haves, frequent brushing sessions are, as are routine nail trimmings. If your bunny ever gets into a major sticky mess and needs your help cleaning it off, use a soft, lightly moistened towel along with a mild cleanser that is intended specifically for rabbit use. If you're unsure what to use, get recommendations from your veterinarian for cleansers that are safe and suitable for bunnies.
- Rabbits; Ruth Bjorklund
- The Importance of Pet Grooming; Tina E. Padilla
- Exotic Pet Behavior; Teresa Bradley Bays et al.
- Allergic to Pets?; Shirlee Kalstone
- The Pet Owners Guide to Rabbits; Matthew Debanks
- SPCA Auckland: Rabbit Care and Information Sheet
- Farm Animal Behavior; Ingvar Ekesbo
- ASPCA: General Rabbit Care
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images