Is your bun treating your home and garden like a scratch patch? Digging, scratching, and binkying come naturally to a rabbit, but these behaviors can cause damage to your living space.
So, can you get a rabbit declawed (and maybe more importantly, should you)?
You can get a rabbit declawed; however, declawing a rabbit is unnecessary, inhumane, and cruel (and illegal in many states). Not to mention the fact that rabbit declawing is unsafe, even if a well-trained vet was to carry out the amputation.
Yes, declawing is a form of amputation.
Declawing cats is a different situation. Cats have retractable claws and soft paw pads; a rabbit does not. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the dangers of declawing a rabbit and why this isn’t something you should consider.
Why Rabbits Should Not Be Declawed
Before we begin, let’s have a look at how a rabbit is declawed.
When a rabbit undergoes a declawing procedure, the bone to the claw or the nail it’s attached to is amputated. Basically, if a rabbit was a human, the fingers would be removed down to the first knuckle. Ouch!
This is an incredibly painful procedure and leaves behind a hole that needs to be sealed. This can lead to serious long-term complications for your bun.
So rabbits shouldn’t be declawed because of the complications that could arise post-surgery, but also because it’s illegal in some states and about 20 other countries, and it isn’t humane.
Complications of Declawing Rabbits
Let’s look at some of the complications of declawing a rabbit:
Splay Leg Conditions
Rabbits do not have retractable claws or soft footpads. Your bun needs its claws for traction as it moves about on various surfaces. Once a rabbit is declawed, it’s unable to grip smooth surfaces properly.
This means your bun will be unable to bring one or all of its legs under its body when on a smooth surface. Their legs then splay outward.
In severe cases, your bun would need to find ways to propel itself forward by wiggling or flopping.
An overweight or ‘lazy’ bunny is very susceptible to this condition.
Braces can be used to help correct the condition, but in some cases, further amputation is necessary.
Hypothermia During Anesthesia
Putting a rabbit under a general anesthetic is slightly riskier than with other animals.
Rabbits experience a drop in body temperature during anesthesia, which is worsened since they lose a lot of heat through the large surface area of their ears.
This can result in their body temperature dropping so low that they develop hypothermia and may require medical intervention to return to a normal thermal range for their bodies.
Unlike a cat, a rabbit doesn’t have paw pads and therefore, less skin to work with when sealing the wound after surgery.
Post-surgery, rabbits would need to walk on the wound site directly instead of soft pads. This delays healing and increases the chances of wound infection, which can lead to other serious complications.
Declawing is a painful and frustrating procedure for a bunny.
A rabbit will often chew on its feet in an attempt to stop the pain and irritation. This can result in the mutilation of its sensitive toes. In comparison, declawed cats, however, do not seem to gnaw at their operation site.
One of the most common consequences of declawing a rabbit is that they can no longer scratch their ears (or any other itchy place) with their hind feet.
There may be an increase in mites because the bunny isn’t able to self-clean its ears. If the ear mites aren’t treated early on, it causes ear infections.
Self-Defense and Behavioral Issues
Without claws, your bun is more vulnerable to attacks from predators because they cannot gain enough traction to make a speedy getaway or to scratch and latch on to the predator.
A declawed bun makes for a grumpy and uncomfortable rabbit. Your bun may start biting as a form of self-defense. So declawing a rabbit will not make them safer around children, as some people believe.
Wobbly on Their Feet
Just like us, a rabbit relies on its toes for balance.
Once a rabbit has been declawed, they need to learn how to walk all over again. This can cause trauma and stress for your bun.
Overgrooming or Fur Pulling
When a bun has been through a stressful situation, they often turn to overgrooming as a way to calm their nerves.
As their stress levels rise, they become more aggressive and start pulling out their fur. A thinning coat is a cause for concern, and your bun may need antibiotic treatment.
Is It Illegal to Declaw a Rabbit?
It is not illegal to declaw a rabbit, but there are US states and countries where it’s illegal and seen as cruel.
A lot of states are trying to make the declawing of rabbits illegal unless it is absolutely necessary for a bun’s health.
Most veterinarians refuse to carry out the procedure.
Germany, Australia, and New Zealand (to name a few countries) have outlawed the practice of declawing rabbits.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
When you look at the reasons why people have their rabbits declawed, nothing could justify the risks of the procedure.
Digging, scratching, and jumping are normal behaviors for a rabbit, but some humans see these as behavioral issues that need to be corrected (because they don’t know how to provide rabbit-safe means for their bun to be a bunny).
Luckily, there are a number of bunny-friendly alternatives to declawing that are more humane for your buns:
- Nail trimming – this must be done by a veterinarian as cutting the nails too short can cause bleeding and pain (or check out our guide on cutting a rabbit’s nails).
- Wrap your bun in a towel when picking them up to avoid scratching.
- Neuter your doe to lessen the natural need to nest, which leads to digging.
- Build a playpen for your bun to exercise in, and make a digging box for your rabbit to play in.
- Adolescent rabbits can be destructive; be patient with them as this phase does pass.
A very successful alternative to declawing your bun is to use Soft Paws or nail caps. They are soft plastic caps that are glued over your bunny’s nails to decrease the level of damage caused by your bun when digging and scratching.
These caps do not cause any pain or trauma (unlike declawing) and are replaced every one to three months (they fall off on their own).
Alternate methods like these are always better options when it comes to the well-being of your bun.