You come into the room and find large clumps of fur on the floor near your rabbit. This behavior is not typical, so you start to get worried. There may be cause for concern. But then again, fur-pulling or plucking might just be due to something as simple as boredom. That said, scientific studies reveal that the etiology of these behaviors in rabbits is not entirely understood.
Unspayed does will sometimes experience false pregnancies, otherwise known as pseudopregnancies. Pseudopregnancies are much like actual pregnancies except they are said to last about 15 to 18 days. In a true pregnancy, the gestation period is 30 or 31 days.
A pseudopregnancy can be triggered by another rabbit displaying dominating behavior, such as mounting. This is true even if the mounting rabbit is another doe. The mounting causes ova to release even though it will not be fertilized. Hormonal changes can occur as a result, including the swelling of mammary glands.
False pregnancies can also occur when there has been absolutely no contact with another rabbit. This curious oddity is further proof that the hormones in an unspayed doe (or a buck that has not been neutered) can be quite bothersome. Neutered bucks have been observed building nests as well, though they do not typically pluck or pull fur.
Within several weeks of the start of a false pregnancy, the doe’s fur may start releasing. She will use it to start building a nest. In fact, she will also gather paper, cardboard and other materials and take it to her chosen nesting place. Though no pregnancy exists, her body is telling her to get ready for the eminent arrival of newborn kits.
If it is a false pregnancy, this building-a-nest behavior should cease within several days. Afterward, it is wise to make an appointment with a qualified veterinarian to schedule an alteration (spay) surgery. Spaying your rabbit will greatly diminish the problems that surging hormones are causing her and safeguard her against ovarian cancer and other health risks.
Fur Loss: Other Causes
If your rabbit is pulling out her own fur or it is coming out in clumps but she does not appear to be building a nest, there could be a different problem. Pulling out or plucking fur can cause tears in a rabbit’s thin, delicate skin. This often results in infections which will require veterinary treatment.
Bonded rabbits sometimes pull out the fur of their partner. This is referred to as barbering. Barbering could be the result of overcrowding, dominance, stress or other problems in the environment.
Some experts say that rabbits might also display this behavior when they are suffering from boredom. Fur pulling or plucking might indicate malnutrition or too little dietary fiber. This is often the case with rabbits that are eating the plucked fur.
Skin parasites are also to blame for losses of fur in rabbits. Fleas, mites or even a disease might be present. These problems will only worsen if they go untreated. Regardless the cause, it is wise to contact a veterinarian for an appointment if you witness this behavior. If no medical reason can be found, consider making environmental changes to see if that will alleviate the problem.
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