A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ANGORA RABBIT CARE
Angora is a luxury fiber with many special qualities. Lustrous, soft, and seven times warmer than sheep’s wool, these fibers have an inner structure of air an cell that give Angora yarn and garments a thermal quality. In addition, the fibers “bloom” or fluff up as garments are worn and cared for which increases their warmth and elegant appearance.
An Angora Rabbit is a fiber producing animal. The wool is plucked, combed, or clipped and spun into a luxurious yam. This does not harm the rabbit; the wool is ready to shed and removing it will help keep the rabbit in good condition.
The following are some common questions asked by beginning rabbit owners.
What type of housing do I need?
An all-wire cage is best for an Angora rabbit because this keeps him off the wet and soiled bedding. The sides of the cages should be made of2" x I" wire, and the floor should be made of 1/2" x 1 " wire. A 30"x30" cage is an ideal size. He also needs a cover to protect him from the rain, snow, and drafts, and to keep him shaded in the summer.
Does the rabbit get cold outside?
Angoras are very hardy and do well in cold weather. His coat needs to be kept well groomed and free of matts (tangled wool) because matted wool does not insulate him from the cold. A piece of plastic or plywood on three sides of his cage will protect him from wind and drafts in the winter. On the coldest nights, you can throw a blanket over the cage for added protection.
What about hot summer weather?
Rabbits do suffer from the heat. A well ventilated, shaded rabbitry will help. On those really unbearable days, place a plastic 2-liter soda bottle which has been filled with water and frozen in the rabbit's cage for him to lie against.
What does the rabbit eat?
Angoras eat from 4-8 ounces of pellets daily, depending on their mature weight. A handful of hay is important for fiber production. About 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds is a good daily supplement and the seed's oil helps the rabbit's digestion. Rabbits must have fresh water at all times.
How much fiber will an Angora produce?
English & French Angoras yield 10-16 ounces of wool per year; however Giants & Germans produce up to 28 - 40 ounces per year. Since Angora is lighter and warmer than sheep's wool, this will go a long way.
Whether you choose to use the fiber
your Angora produces or not, the rabbit's wool must be removed when it is
shedding. This will help keep your rabbit healthy.
Do I need special tools?
Dog grooming equipment is commonly used to groom Angora rabbits. A steel toothed comb, a bulb-tipped brush, a slicker brush, and a pair of scissors are handy tools.
How often do I groom the rabbit?
Grooming your animal once a week should keep him in good condition until he is ready to molt, but more frequent attention and handling will help you both become accustomed to one another.
How do I groom the rabbit?
To maintain an Angora that is not molting, either put the rabbit on your lap or on a table. The purpose of this grooming session is to comb through the wool over the entire animal. Pay particular attention to areas that rub against one another such as the base of the tail or behind the ears. Be sure to brush his legs and belly.
How do I remove the matts?
If the matt can be pulled apart with your fingers, the wool is "webbed" and may be gently combed out. If the matt seems like a solid mass of wool, then the kindest way to remove it is simply cut it off. Feel for the rabbit's skin first, and watch out for it's tail; it's longer than you may think.
How often does the rabbit shed?
Generally, a rabbit will need to be plucked every two to three months.
How do I know when to pluck the rabbit?
Your rabbit is ready to pluck when you see loose wool on the cage or trailing off his back.
How do I pluck the rabbit?
Go over the rabbit with a comb or bulb-tipped brush. This helps loosen the wool. Gently pull out the loose wool, keeping your fingers toward the tip of the wool to catch only the longest coat. You may want to hold the skin with your other hand to reduce stress. If your rabbit seems stressed during or after plucking, next time try to give him a half of a baby aspirin 30 minutes before plucking.
How do I store the wool?
A plastic box, shoe box, or cookie tin will keep the fiber from getting tangled or packed down. Put a moth ball in the box to discourage insects.
What about the toenails?
Your rabbit's toenails should be clipped monthly. A pair of dog clippers may be used. Like a dog, the living part of the rabbit's nail extends into the nail, so be careful not to cut into this or your rabbit may bleed. You may wish to examine the rabbit's nail with a light behind it so you can see where the dark vein extends into the nail.
Wool block is a mass of wool caught in the rabbit's digestive system, similar to a fur ball in a cat. The rabbit ingests the wool when grooming himself. He cannot regurgitate the wool like a cat does, and the blockage gives the rabbit a full feeling, so he does not eat. Wool block can be fatal.
What are the symptoms of wool block?
Your rabbit may begin to excrete smaller or misshapen dropping and may not finish his food or water. Ha may pass no droppings at all.
How do I treat a case of wool block?
Immediately pluck or shear the rabbit. Withdraw your rabbit's pellets and feed only rolled oats or hay. Pellets only add to the blockage at this point. Always provide water. You may administer anyone of the following: 5 papaya enzyme pills (the enzyme in the pill breaks down the wool and helps the wool pass through the digestive tract).These pills are found in the vitamin section of the pharmacy or a health food store. You can also administer a tablespoon of fur ball remedy (such as Femalt), or a fresh pineapple (pineapples also contain the necessary enzyme). If the blockage is large, you may have to continue treatment over several days. After the rabbit passes the blockage, resume his pelleted food slowly.
How can I prevent wool block?
Keeping you rabbit in good condition with no loose, over ripe wool will help him ingest as little wool as possible when he is grooming himself. Many Angora rabbit owners give papaya/pineapple enzyme to their rabbits once a week. Other preventatives include a weekly dose of Femalt. You may also want to treat your rabbit to fresh pineapple.
Breeds of Angora Rabbits
There are four recognized breeds of Angora rabbits: English, French, Satin & Giant plus the more recently imported German Angora. The breeder from whom you purchased your rabbit should provide you with information about the Angora you own.
-To remove wool build up on your rabbit's cage, use a propane torch. Be sure to remove your rabbit first and keep water handy. You can also use a long-handled bathroom brush to scrub the wool off the wire.
-Calcium present in the urine may build up on the wire where your rabbit urinate. A vinegar solution and a wire brush help dissolve and remove this buildup.
-If your rabbit develops static while being groomed, rub your hands or your rabbit with a fabric softener sheet.
-Your rabbit needs to gnaw to prevent his teeth from growing too long. You can give him a block of hard wood to chew (not plywood which contains formaldehyde).
-Be consistent with your rabbit; he'll know what to expect.
-Don't allow young children to play with your rabbit without supervision.
-Use your rabbit's dropping in your garden; your tomatoes will thank you.
This guide was originally written by Martha Driscoll & Janet Koza for the New England Angora Rabbit Club in 1985. Most of the information is still applicable.
Reprinted in 2007 by the Maine Angora Rabbit Club.