How To Trim Your Rabbit's Nails AND Survive The Experience
Rabbits need their nails/claws trimmed regularly, unless you happen to live with them on rocky outcroppings, in which case they probably have other things to worry about. Rabbits have constantly growing nails, and if they are left to grow unchecked, they can lead to health problems and pain for your rabbit. Think of it like your own toenails, would you leave them to grow long and curl over on themselves, and become horny and thick and yellow? You probably would not, (unless you were going for some sort of Guinness World Record.) If you're new to rabbit keeping, you may find that clipping the nails/claws is a scary proposition. You don't want to hit the nerve and make your darling rabbit bleed of course, and you will probably find that the rabbit isn't all that keen on having his or her nails clipped either, which means you will be entering into a battle with a tiny creature that isn't afraid to hurt you or itself. It can be a difficult and dangerous task, but here is a basic guide that should leave you both unscathed:
Get the nail clippers.
Get the bunny. If the bunny is not used to being handled, then you should spend some time familiarizing him or her with being petted and handled. You should be doing this over a period of weeks, and by the time it comes to clip the nails, you should at least be on nose butting terms, if not, you haven't been spending enough time with your bunny, and may be a bad bunny owner. Spending time with your bunny should not only be enjoyable time for you, but it makes necessary tasks like nail/claw clipping much easier and safer.
Even if the bunny is used to handling, the bunny may not be overly pleased about having his or her nails clipped. The bunny views him or herself as an autonomous creature who doesn't need you for anything. They are the Masters and Mistresses of their domain. They will not willingly submit to your clumsy manhandling, any more than a pretty princess would go willingly to live under a bridge with a troll. This means that you are going to have to get a firm grip on the bunny. I find it is easiest to place the rabbit on your lap whilst you sit cross legged, and use the forearm to keep the bunny pressed snugly to your body whilst the hand of the same arm takes hold of the foot gently but firmly and isolate the claw to be trimmed. This position allows the bunny to be pinned and lifted a little, rendering struggles useless in a safe fashion that won't get the bunny hurt. At all costs, make sure the bunny is safe and don't pin it by its neck or head. Bunnies are well known for being unable to asses the consequences of their struggles before they ensue, and you want a bunny with nicely clipped nails, not a dead bunny.
Carefully clip the tip of the nail, do NOT go too far along the length of the nail, even if it has grown a little long. Unless the nerve is very clearly visible, which is often not the case with rabbits who have darker claws, you must be careful. Trim back slowly, taking a little at a time. You may have to repeat this process over several days.
If you do go too deep you will hurt the bunny, the bunny will bleed, and probably kick or bite the living hell out of you. This will be your fault, as you were told to be careful, weren't you.
Let the rabbit go gently, and be prepared to dissuade it from biting you in revenge. Give a treat instead to help ease the mortification that the rabbit no doubt feels. You may be in his or her bad books for a while, the subject of haughty looks and disdainful foot flicking. Don't let it get to you, being a bunny owner isn't just about the good times, sometimes you have to be firm too.
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