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Home > Rabbits > How To Cut Rabbit Nails: 15 Tips and Tricks

How To Cut Rabbit Nails: 15 Tips and Tricks

Long overgrown rabbit nails

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Dr. Luqman Javed

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You might think that rabbits don’t need their nails clipped. After all, wild rabbits don’t have their nails trimmed. The fact is, pet rabbits need their nails trimmed, and it’s an essential part of their care. Rabbits inside the house especially need their nails done, as they are not naturally ground down by digging and running on harder surfaces.

If they are not trimmed, they will overgrow and can impede your rabbit’s movement and cause injuries. Read on to discover 15 tips and tricks to help trim your rabbit’s nails.

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Before You Begin

Before clipping your rabbit’s nails, check their length to decide whether they need clipping. As a rule of thumb, rabbits should have their nails clipped once every month or so. Check all four paws; the front two will have four claws, and the back will have five (four claws and the dew claw). If your rabbit’s nails are curved over or clicking on the floor, they’ll need cutting!

The 15 Tips and Tricks for Cutting Rabbit Nails

1. Set Up Your Space

The first step is to ensure a quiet, calm, and warm space for you and your rabbit. Rabbits get stressed very easily; even the most socialized rabbit can be overwhelmed by having their nails trimmed. By picking a space away from the rest of the house (and away from any other pets), you can keep them as calm as possible while you work.

Ensure any area you use is secure, so your rabbit can’t escape or hurt themselves if they get out of your arms, and place a towel on the surface so they have secure footing.

Desert Cottontail Rabbit touching human hand
Image By: Charles T. Peden, Shutterstock

2. Use the Correct Equipment

Using the right tools can make all the difference to your rabbit when clipping their nails. Different nail clippers are available, some of which will be specifically for rabbits, but cat or dog nail clippers are also okay to use. Don’t use human nail clippers on rabbits since their claws are shaped differently from our nails.

Cat nail scissors are a good choice as they’re small and have safety guards. Dog nail guillotines can also be used (particularly for large rabbits).


3. Cut Slowly and Carefully

Taking it slowly gives you greater control over the nails and helps prevent any accidents, and helps your rabbit stay calm. Also, cutting the claws a little at a time can prevent you from accidentally catching the quick, which can make future nail clips much more difficult. It’s also easy to harm a rabbit if you’re rushing, as they have fragile bodies that can be damaged if they are pulled around.

girl trimming rabbit nails
Image By: SOLOVEVA ANASTASIIA, Shutterstock

4. Have a Styptic Pen Ready

Styptic pens or powders are good to have to hand when clipping your rabbit’s nails in case you catch the quick. The quick is the small, pinky-red area at the base of your rabbit’s claws that supplies blood to the nail. If this is accidentally clipped, it can bleed a lot and be painful! A styptic pen or powder can be used on a cut quick or broken nail to stop bleeding and relieve pain. They’re usually found at drug or pet stores.


5. Use the Correct Restraint

You will need to hold your rabbit still to cut their nails. Rabbits are delicate animals, and it’s vital to keep them secure when handling them so they don’t hurt themselves. You need to support their legs and spine if lifting them, making sure not to let them kick.

Rabbits can break their own spines if they kick out hard enough, so gentle but firm handling is critical. Don’t apply too much pressure on them, particularly over their spine. Holding them against your body is best, cupping one hand under their chest with their bottoms to your front (but still on the floor). Don’t put them on their back.

trimming rabbit nails
Image By: Bobex-73, Shutterstock

6. Calm Them Down Before Starting

Make sure your rabbit is calm before clipping. It’s much harder to cut the nails of a wiggling rabbit, so taking a few moments to reassure them and keep them calm is worth it. Stroke your rabbit gently and calmly, speaking to them in a reassuring, soft voice. Your rabbit is relaxed when their eyes are closed or half closed, and they’re still but not tense and take deep, slow breaths.


7. Wrap Them in a Towel

Making a “bunny burrito” is a good way of comfortably and securely restraining your rabbit while keeping them calm. Place your rabbit on a towel, then fold the back over their bottom. Then, wrap each side up and over their body, but leave their head and ears free.

That way, you can take one paw out at a time and clip the nails while keeping the rest of the rabbit safe! The gentle pressure from the towel can also help your rabbit relax.

different colors of towels
Image By: congerdesign, Pixabay

8. Work on the Floor

It’s always best to clip your rabbit’s nails on the floor if you’re doing it yourself. Some owners say to use a table, but this is not recommended. If your rabbit gets free of your grip and falls from the table, they may fracture their legs, neck, or spine.

High falls can kill rabbits, so it’s best to clip their nails on your lap on the floor. Rabbits also naturally don’t like being up high, so being low to the ground will reassure them.


9. You Can Get Help if Needed

If you’re having trouble clipping your rabbit’s nails by yourself, you can get someone to give you a hand. They can hold your rabbit securely for you while you support their paw and clip the nail, plus they can offer reassurance and keep them calm. They can also help support your rabbit in a bunny burrito; just be sure to keep your rabbit calm and properly restrained.

young woman holding adorable rabbit
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

10. Make Sure to Avoid the Quick

It can be tricky to see the quick on some rabbit’s nails; some are black! If your rabbit’s nails are clear, the quick looks like a red or pink spot at the base of the nail. On black nails, a light can be shone at the bottom of the nail to see the dark shape (the quick).

This is easier if you have someone to help. If you can’t see the quick, take the very end of the nail off, where it curves around. If you do catch the quick, use a styptic pen or powder to stem any bleeding.


11. Wet Their Fur Back

Rabbit feet are usually very fluffy. Some rabbits have more fur than others, but it can be hard to see the nails under all that fur. You can use a cotton ball moistened with water to gently wet the hair down on the rabbit’s foot so you can see the nails better. Don’t use hot or cold water (lukewarm is best), and don’t soak the feet. Just use enough so you can flatten that fluff!

rabbit bath
Image By: Roselynne, Shutterstock

12. Go One Foot at a Time

Being methodical and going one foot at a time can help you keep track of which nails you’ve clipped and can keep your rabbit calm. This is particularly useful if you’ve wrapped your bunny in a towel, and you can get one foot out at a time and unwrap them so they can cool off. Only cutting one at a time can give your rabbit time to acclimatize to the clipping, lowering their stress levels.


13. Don’t Put Them on Their Back

You might have heard that putting rabbits on their back puts them in a “trance.” This is not true and is the complete opposite! Rabbits go into a state of terror when forced on their backs, known as tonic immobility.

This is caused by rabbits being prey animals, and their natural reaction is to play dead when seriously threatened. When you put a bunny on their back, you force them to feel vulnerable and frightened.

young woman with adorable rabbit indoors
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

14. If You’re Not Confident, Get Someone Else to Do It

You can always visit your veterinarian, and they should be more than happy to help. You may have to pay a small fee, but you can hand your rabbit to a professional who can clip your rabbit’s nails safely for you.


15. Reward!

Rabbits are intelligent animals that can be trained. Once you’re done with the clipping, give your rabbit a healthy treat to reward their good behavior and help them associate the process with something positive. Most rabbits love berries like raspberries, but only give them one or two. Hay-based treats are also great to snack on; whatever your rabbit loves is best!

Silky Angora rabbits eating rabbit food
Image By: Zanna Pesnina, Shutterstock

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What Happens if I Don’t Cut My Rabbit’s Nails?

Rabbits’ nails will continuously grow like ours. They can overgrow and begin to curl over if they are not kept in shape. This can affect the animal’s mobility and balance. It can damage their musculoskeletal system and impede their movement, and it’s uncomfortable! There is also the risk of the nails breaking or even getting caught and causing the toes to break or dislocate. So it’s better to keep on top of cutting your rabbit’s nails for their welfare, and it saves a costly trip to the vet.

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Conclusion

Cutting your rabbit’s nails can seem like a daunting task. However, knowing how to do it safely and effectively without causing stress is vital to keeping your rabbit healthy and happy, and should be part of their monthly routine. You can enlist help from friends or family if needed, and a trusty towel to make a bunny burrito can come in very handy!


Featured Image Credit: Marina.Martinez, Shutterstock

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