Why does rabbit fur change colour? -Explained

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Why does rabbit fur change colour

We recently got a bunny and named Him buff.  I observed that the fur colour changed as he is growing up. 

I did a lot of research and here is what I found out.

Colour changes are an evolutionary survival mechanism resulting from a rabbit’s prey status. Rabbits shed their skin several times a year. 

Their fur grows in one colour and then changes to a different colour, camouflaging them from potential predators. 

The only time you should be concerned is if your rabbit’s fur is turning yellow, which could be caused by urine staining.

Rabbits are just like humans and other animals -Young buns might start out as a specific colour, then their fur may darken as they age (think of it like a fair-haired baby getting darker hair as they become a child, and then an adult). 

They may also get grey ticks in their fur, just like people and other animals do as they become elderly.

Factors affecting Bunny Fur colour change!

Age:

Just as human hair grows and changes colours as we age, so does the fur of many animals.

Baby bunny’s fur is extremely soft and when they have their first shed, (It is called it a blowout) it looks like all of the furs you get off of them can’t possibly have anything left. 

They are getting rid of their top or bottom coat and then the new fur that grows in can change colours. Usually not too drastically.

Diet:

My Friend had a Ruby-eyed white bunny we rescued. His previous life was spent outside in the lower Floridian heat on an uncovered porch and fed only carrots.

It took him a month for his poops to stop being orange. AND within two months of him having a normal diet, his ears, tail and paws turned grey and white.

Rabbits with poor diets may be very dull and listless, the fur may be sparse, and they might not groom properly.

Healthy rabbit fur can look significantly different from that of a poorly rabbit.

Parasites and pests can take a toll on a rabbit’s coat and health as well, altering how the coat appears. While this might not be a significant difference in colour, a healthy rabbit with a shiny black coat may appear to be a dark charcoal grey when in poor health, for instance.

 Seasonal weather; when the weather heats up, the bunny is more likely to shed the winter coat. The new “warm weather fur” may seem lighter in weight and consistency than the previous coat.

So, when the weather gets colder, bunnies will grow a thicker coat of fur. Many breeds’ winter coats can be more heavily ticked with white and lighter colours since their wild ancestors needed to blend in with snowy climates during winter.

Some bunnies might even experience fur loss, akin to “male pattern baldness” on people, with age; this thinning fur may make the bunny appear to be a different colour than it might have been before.

More About rabbits

Is it normal for an adult rabbit experience change to its fur colour?

It may not be about full body colour changes but if the rabbit’s coat has a spotty pattern, that often changes over time.Dark spots are an indicator of regions from which the rabbit loses the most heat

That’s why ears and the back of the neck are usually darker than the rest of the body.

Also, rabbits Molt several times a year( precisely every three months) which may change the appearance of their fur.

 If you are really concerned, get in touch with a vet, especially if you see any other symptoms like lack of appetite and drowsiness.

Select your vet

If it is something that has you concerned about your rabbit’s health, the best person to ask would be your veterinarian.

When selecting a your veterinarian, make sure they know about rabbits. In my experience there are three types of vets:

  • Normal pet breeds (dogs and cats)
  • Agricultural (herds of cattle, swine, sheep, or goat)
  • Exotics (pets that are out of the norm/exotic pets including rabbits, macaws and snakes)

Tips to select your Rabbit VET:

Make sure that the vet has Experienced with Rabbit CareYou will need to confirm that the veterinarian you are considering has experience treating rabbits. As rabbits are considered exotic pets, not all veterinarians will know how to treat them appropriately.You can ask them specifically whether they have expertise treating rabbits, or you can be more general and ask if they have experience treating unusual pets. You may already be aware of this, but your rabbit has special veterinary care requirements that can only be satisfied by a veterinarian with expertise in rabbit care.

Plan a Meet and Greet with your VET

Once you’ve chosen a veterinarian you like, bring your rabbit in for an appointment. Consider it an opportunity for both you and the veterinarian to get to know one another.It is prudent to bring your rabbit in for a checkup so your veterinarian can record their usual vitals. Therefore, your veterinarian will have something to compare your pet’s symptoms against in an emergency. If your veterinarian requests that initial tests be performed on your rabbit, it is because they want to collect as much information about your pet as possible for their records.

Can Rabbits Suddenly Change Color?

Rabbits frequently undergo colour changes throughout the year

Additionally, a baby rabbit’s colour may change several times before it reaches adulthood. It is caused by your rabbit moulting and adjusting to the changing seasons.

A rabbit is born hairless. It will moult for the first time between 4-5 months of age. Rabbits shed their newborn fur and develop a ‘immediate coat.’ 

This will not always be the same colour as the infant’s coat. After approximately three months, the rabbit will moult again and develop its adult coat.

Once a rabbit develops its adult coat, it does not always retain its original colour. Every three months, rabbits moult. 

This corresponds to the change of seasons and helps maintain an optimal body temperature. In the winter, a rabbit’s coat will need to be thicker than in the summer.

Additionally, a rabbit’s fur may change colour to protect itself. 

This occurs more frequently in wild animals than in domestic animals, but it occurs in all rabbits. It is a natural reaction to exposure to sunlight. 

A rabbit will benefit from increased sunlight and longer days during the summer. 

This initiates a response in the rabbit’s body, promoting melanin production.

During the summer, a rabbit’s fur will darken. As the days grow shorter in the winter, less melanin is produced. 

This results in a rabbit’s new coat being devoid of pigmentation. It is quite common for a rabbit’s fur to turn completely white in snowy climates.

What Causes Rabbits to Molt?

As previously stated, rabbits moult every three months or as the seasons change

The procedure can take between two and six weeks.Molting frequently begins at the head and progresses downward. 

Nevertheless, no two rabbits are alike. Some rabbits shed their fur completely at once, while others shed in clumps. 

This means that during shedding, you may notice bald patches on your rabbit’s coat. 

This is not a cause for concern as long as the fur regrows quickly.If the bald patches persist for more than a day or two, this indicates that your rabbit is tearing its fur out, possibly as a result of stress.

Although rabbits are easily stressed, you can assist your pet with grooming. 

Comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb with blunt ends. Combs and brushes with sharp edges are too abrasive for the sensitive skin of a rabbit.

Rabbits groom themselves on a regular basis, particularly during moulting. This means they are capable of ingesting hairballs. This is especially likely to occur during the summer, when rabbits shed a great deal of fur. Assure that your rabbit has access to plenty of hay, as this will aid in digestion.

If you want to hasten your rabbit’s moulting process, supplement its diet with additional protein

The right amount of protein will aid your rabbit in completing the shedding process more quickly. 

However, an excessive amount of protein will cause digestion to be slowed.

This is dangerous because rabbits are unable to vomit, particularly during moulting. 

If a rabbit’s food is not properly digested, any fur it swallows may become trapped in his tummy.

Rabbit’s Fur Is Getting Lighter

During the winter months a rabbit’s fur will lighten up. The less a rabbit is exposed to the sun, the lighter the fur.

This is often very obvious as the winter coat of a rabbit can be very thick. This is also a defence mechanism that makes it easier for your rabbit to merge into his environment.

According to studies snowshoe hairs have brown fur during the summer. When the winter arrives, they shed this coat and become completely white.

This makes it hard for predators to spot the hare in the snow. 

The hare melts again and returns to the brown when the spring comes and the snow melts. The colouring is a reaction to the surroundings. In dense forests, the snowshoe hare is found.

Rabbit’s Fur Is Getting darker

Just as the fur of a rabbit lightens up in winter, so in summer it darkens. 

It is because the melanin reacts to sunshine in their body.

During the summer molt, a rabbit will shed a large amount of fur. 

This may make it cold vulnerable. Dark fur absorbs the sun more than light fur, ensuring the comfort of your rabbit.

The rabbits are like the nocturnal, so they are most active during dawn and darkness. 

Many domesticated rabbits are diurnal (active during the day). This is a response to being born in prison.

Baby rabbits may darken as they age, the owners will notice. All of this is due to sunlight. 

A fair-haired human child may develop brown hair as a young child, and in this sense the rabbits are no different.

Rabbit’s Fur Is Getting yellow

There are two reasons why the fur of a rabbit becomes yellow:

Too much sunshine:

When exposed to direct sunlight, a darker pile will begin to ‘rust.’ It is essential that your rabbit retreats to a shady area. 

Rabbits are aware of the optimal temperature. You will instinctively use your rabbit if you provide a shady area.

Urinary Stains

The yellowing you see stains from the urine of your rabbit. Rabbits kind of enjoy spending time in their litter box. It’s not uncommon to find a rabbit eating hay while eliminating.

This may help your rabbit form a connection between elimination and eating. You might find it eating in its litter box. 

Numerous rabbits also enjoy playing in and sleeping in their litter boxes. Regrettably, this exposes rabbits to their own faeces.

There are two reasons why the fur of a rabbit becomes yellow:

Too much sunshine:

When exposed to direct sunlight, a darker pile will begin to ‘rust.’ It is essential that your rabbit retreats to a shady area. 

Rabbits are aware of the optimal temperature. You will instinctively use your rabbit if you provide a shady area.

Urinary Stains

The yellowing you see stains from the urine of your rabbit. 

Rabbits kind of enjoy spending time in their litter box. It’s not uncommon to find a rabbit eating hay while eliminating.

This may help your rabbit form a connection between elimination and eating. 

You might find it eating in its litter box. Numerous rabbits also enjoy playing in and sleeping in their litter boxes. Regrettably, this exposes rabbits to their own faeces.

Greying of the Rabbit’s Fur:

Certain rabbits’ fur is grey in colour. Rabbits, on the other hand, grey with age. Once a rabbit reaches the age of five, it is considered elderly. 

A healthy domesticated rabbit has a lifespan of up to 12-14 years.

Among the signs that your rabbit is growing older are the following:

Reduced mobility and increased napping time
Weight fluctuations. Certain rabbits become obese as a result of eating the same amount of food but exercising less. Other senior rabbits develop a taste for food.
Inability to groom or falling over while grooming
Experimenting with euthanasia outside the litter box. This is because an arthritic rabbit will have difficulty climbing into a litter box.
Skin abscesses Reduced responsiveness as a result of failing vision and hearing

A rabbit’s colour change is completely natural. If the colour of your rabbit remains constant throughout its life, this is a genetic anomaly. 

As long as your rabbit’s fur does not turn yellow, it is rarely at risk of developing any underlying health problems.

When your rabbit begins to change colour, you should assist with grooming. 

While it may appear as though your rabbit is constantly moulting, this is a necessary part of care, particularly for longhaired breeds such as lionheads.

The colour of your rabbit’s fur changes for a reason. It’s all biological, and a natural part of the body’s annual hormone cycle. 

There is no reason to be concerned if your white rabbit develops brown patches in the Spring or changes colour in the Winter.

References

The Rabbits by John Marsden

Manual of Exotic pet Practice

About Author:  Dr. Maya Zamir , Malvern Vet Clinic. Dr. Maya is passionate about pets and loves sharing her knowledge and research with you. At Pet Paws Hub, we strive to be the ultimate resource for learning everything about Owning & caring for your pet!