How to Cut Rabbit Nails (Includes Amazing Tip!)


We’ve seen this subject come up a number of times on social media.  It’s clearly a challenging task for a lot of rabbit owners so we thought it was high time we covered how we approach clipping rabbit nails.

If you’ve found this post as part of your own research into this task, that’s great. Alternatively, if you have found this as you are in the midst of a panic (perhaps you trimmed too much and have seen blood – breathe, relax, and don’t worry, we’ll cover that too.

So let’s get right to it ……

Why Clipping Rabbit Nails Can Be Difficult

Rabbits are all different but in general, are nervous animals.  Although a confident rabbit who trusts you might hop around at your feet or leap up on the sofa alongside where your sitting, rabbits aren’t usually keen when it comes to letting you handle them and clip their nails.  It’s nothing personal, just part of a bunnies natural survival instinct.

Contrary to being pets that you can cuddle frequently and carry around when you feel like it rabbits prefer to have all four feet on the ground and when handled incorrectly a rabbit experiences a fear similar to what it would feel if it had been snatched by a fox, coyote or a bird of prey. Even our domesticated pets have this fear ingrained into their DNA.

When it comes to trimming bunny nails a rabbit may also have previously had a bad experience that it now associates with the task.  Perhaps you or a former owner has accidentally caused pain while carrying out the nail trimming procedure.

Picture of an incorrectly clipped rabbit claw bleeding
Picture of an incorrectly clipped rabbit claw bleeding

Whatever the reasons, fear puts you at a disadvantage before you even start.  By the time you have prepared the required equipment, picked up your pet, and sat down, it may already be quite agitated (keen-eyed bunnies may have already run away as soon as you reached for the nail clippers!).

Even if you own a more confident rabbit, comfortable with being handled, you could find that it simply will not sit still long enough for you to be able to attempt nail clipping, rabbits are keen explorers after all!

Do You Have to Clip a Rabbit’s Nails?

Yes, a pet rabbit’s nails should be monitored regularly and cut when it is required.  If left to grow out of control, nails may start to impact a bunny’s mobility by curling underneath the foot (ingrowing) or growing out at unusual angles.  Longer nails may also snag resulting in injury, pain, and discomfort to the rabbit.

How Often Should Rabbits Nails Be Clipped?

We recommend checking and if necessary clipping a rabbit’s nails approximately every 3 to 4 weeks however this is just a guideline. Although a rabbit’s nails grow quickly the requirement to trim a rabbit’s nails is also dependant on its environment.

Wild rabbits don’t have their own human but they have unlimited space to run around, dig and forage which helps to keep their claws trim naturally.

For pet rabbits providing regular access to the outside or a slabbed area in a yard or garden can help to wear the nails down in a way similar to the way that sandpaper on a piece of wood does. In this case, it may be that you can allow 4 or 5 weeks between clipping sessions.

What Happens If a Rabbits Nails Get Too Long?

If you have ever seen a rabbit seemingly cautious in its movements rather than being its usual hoppy active self, it could be that the rabbit’s nails are too long or ingrowing. Along with the visible mobility issues, the rabbit’s manner of walking (or ‘gait’) can be affected.

If left untreated over time the unnatural movement of the rabbit can put a lot of strain on the joints of the rabbit. This can, in turn, lead to health issues such as arthritis, a painful condition that will almost certainly have a devastating impact on your pet’s quality of life and life expectancy.

Can You Use Human Nail Clippers to Cut a Rabbits Nails?

No, human nail clippers are not suitable for a rabbit. What we refer to as rabbit nails are actually claws that are quite different to a human nail.

Human nail clippers are made for flat and thin finger and toenails while clippers suitable for rabbits have a rounded entry point large enough to comfortably fit a claw through it. In order to clip a rabbits nails successfully always choose clippers specifically made for a rounded claw shape.

Recommended Equipment for Cutting a Rabbits Nails

Styptic Powder

A rabbit has a small vein running through the center of its nail sometimes referred to as the ‘quick’. If you have ever clipped this vein accidentally, you’ll know that the resulting blood can be quite alarming.

Styptic powder is a way to stop your rabbit’s nails from bleeding. It is an antihemorrhagic substance and is commonly used in the veterinary industry. When carrying out nail clipping on a rabbit, especially if it is your first time, styptic powder is essential.

Styptic Powder Can Stop Rabbit Nails Bleeding

Nail Clippers

As described, nail clippers specifically designed for a claw shape are the best thing to use for clipping rabbit nails correctly. An example of a suitable pair of nail clippers for a rabbit can be seen here.

Clippers Suitable for Rabbits Nails

Flashlight (or Phone Torch)

The vein or quick that runs through a nail is not always so easy to see especially in darker colored rabbits.

One simple way you can overcome this problem is to shine a bright light through the side of the bunny nail.

A decade ago a pocket torch would have done this job however these days a smartphone camera flashlight is more powerful, convenient and simple. Once you have used the light to identify where the quick is, you will be able to make your cuts more confidently.

Use Phone Flashlight to Identify Vein in Rabbits Claws

Grooming Glove

Rabbits can be rather fidgety creatures which makes nail clipping all the more difficult.  A second pair of hands can help but failing that making sure you have a good grip of your furry companion is a must.

Aside from being great for removing excess fur from a pet a grooming glove on your ‘holding hand’ as you clip your bunnies will increase your grip. This is a little known secret that we think can definitely make the task a little easier.

Grooming Glove to help keep a grip on rabbit during nail clipping
Use a grooming glove for a good grip on the rabbit

Treats

Having nails trimmed is a stressful event for a bunny so it’s only right to reward your pet for being good after the clipping session is over. Remember though, treats should be given in moderation, always try to keep your rabbit healthy with a good diet.

8 Steps To Cut a Rabbits Nails With Pictures

Preparation

1. As with any task it helps to be prepared. Gather up the essential equipment and make sure it’s at hand before you sit the bunny down for the procedure This will also mean you are not keeping your pet anxiously waiting as you root around in the draws looking for the nail clippers.

2. Sit your pet on a suitable surface where it feels comfortable. Your lap is fine but a table is better. If your pet has a favorite fleecy blanket this can be used as a comfortable table cloth for it to sit on.

Sit your rabbit comfortably before nail clipping

3. Begin with some petting and head strokes, when nail clipping starts, the rabbit should be calm and relaxed. Avoid rushing straight in with the nail clippers. Covering the eyes with one of your hands while cutting may also help calm nerves in some rabbits.

Petting Rabbit to Calm its Nerves before nail clipping

4. Sit at the table with your rabbit placed in front of you, his rump should be as close as possible to your torso with your hands placed at its sides.

Holding the rabbit firmly before nail clipping

Clipping

5. Inspect each foot carefully. Use a torch to identify where the vein (or kwik) in each toe is so you know exactly where to make your cuts without causing the rabbit’s nail to bleed.

inspect a rabbits nail carefully before cutting
Use a Torch to identify a quick in a rabbits claw
use a torch to identify a quick in a rabbits claw

6. Use spring-loaded ‘claw clippers’ as seen in our example they allow a quick clean cut and reduce the risk of the rabbit injuring itself by pulling its foot away as you snip.

Inspecting and clipping rabbits nails

7. Repeat this process for each foot.

Inspecting and clipping rabbits nails

8. If you do accidentally clip into the quick, sprinkle styptic powder on the nail to stop the bleeding and return your pet to a place it feels safe to recover. Do not attempt any further nail clipping for a couple of days.

Other Considerations When Nail Clipping

Assistance to cut Rear feet can help
sit rabbit upright to clip hind feet

Hind feet will be more difficult so an extra pair of hands can help by holding the bunny securely as you make the necessary cuts. If help isn’t available your rabbit can also be held in a seated position with your hand across its chest as shown. From this position, the rabbit’s rear feet are more easily accessible.

Trancing is the term used to describe putting a rabbit on its back so that it goes still as if in a trance.  While a bunny laying on its back so you can see its fluffy tummy may appear super cute, trancing is a cruel practice that should never be used on a rabbit.

When a rabbit trances it is actually so scared that it is playing dead. This is actually the rabbit’s last gasp at survival when it has been caught by a predator. Putting a rabbit on its back should never be seen as an easy way to cut its nails.

Useful Tips for Cutting a Rabbits Nails

Give a treat after clipping nails on each foot

1. Use incremental steps to get a rabbit used to nail clipping. If it’s a young rabbit or baby bunny, introduce it used to the process as soon as possible. Have plenty of healthy treats on hand such as sprigs of parsley or carrot top and reward the rabbit with a piece after successfully completing each foot. Over time the rabbit will associate nail trimming with the pleasant experience of the treats and hopefully be less likely to run at the sight of those clippers.

2. Only clip very small amounts rather than making one very large cut (you can’t put it back if you accidentally trim too much).

Wrapping in a towel can help steady a rabbit for nail clipping

3. For extremely nervous bunnies that won’t sit still for an entire nail clipping session consider cutting the rabbit’s nails over the course of a few days. Smaller cutting sessions can greatly reduce the stress on the rabbit. You can also restrain the rabbit by wrapping it in a towel (the burrito method!) releasing each foot for cutting while maintaining a firm grip on your pet.

4. Pro Tip- Using Ladies Tights as a nail clipping tool

Yes really!………

Some rabbit nails are very difficult to see as some feet are just so damn furry! One tip for getting around this problem is to use a pair of ladies’ tights.

Tights can help pull the fur back on a rabbit nail for easier cutting

The method is simple, use a small piece of fabric as pictured below and put the nails of the rabbit’s foot you intend to cut through the fabric.  As the sharp nail pierces the fabric the fur around it is pulled back, making it easier to see the rabbit’s claws.

5. If you have any fears about cutting your rabbit’s nails, make an appointment with a vet. Most will be more than happy to show you the correct process for a small fee.

Reward your rabbit after nail clipping

Wrap Up

Clipping your rabbit’s nails can be a daunting task, in fact, it’s a task that a lot of rabbit owners are scared to even attempt. However, with a little practice, you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s a task that any bunny owner can do and your fluffy will definitely appreciate the veterinary fees saved being spent on more important things like fun toys and treats!

Further Reading

How To Trim Rabbit Nails thesprucepets.com

Clipping Your Rabbit’s Nails myhouserabbit.com

How to Trim Your Rabbit’s Nails smallpetselect.com

Darren

Darren is the founder and editor at Bunny Advice and has been caring for rabbits for over a decade. He has a passion for helping animals and sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

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