Pet rabbits, much like cats and dogs, can be house trained. Teaching your rabbit to use a litter box can make life much easier for you and your pet.
Why Litter Train Your Rabbit?
Rabbits, by nature, are very clean animals and like to go to the bathroom in a few areas, typically in the corners of a space. However, they produce a lot of urine and feces, so having a designated area for your rabbit makes for simple cleanup.
Additionally, litter boxes provide an easier way to monitor any changes in fecal output or urination indicating that your bunny might be unwell. Rabbits are often easier to potty-train than puppies and kittens. Most rabbits, even free-roaming rabbits, will return to their designated litter box to go to the bathroom once they are trained.
Rabbit Litter Training Supplies
It is ideal to have a large enough enclosure to fit the litter box, food, water bowls, and toys while still having enough room for your rabbit to sprawl out. If your rabbit does not have an enclosure but roams freely in a room, you can place the litter box in a corner. It is also helpful to put some hay in the corner of the litter box, as it is common for rabbits to go to the bathroom and have a snack at the same time. Hay can also make going into the litter box more exciting if they have a snack readily available.
Litter Boxes for Rabbits
Choose a box size based on the size of your rabbit. They should be able to move around in the litter box comfortably and even lay down. Ensure the sides of the litter box are low enough so your rabbit can easily jump in and out.
A 9”x12” litter box is generally required for a single rabbit, and a 15”x18” litter box for two rabbits inside the cage. Recommended litter box products include:
Use paper-based, organic litter, or hay in the box. Some organic litter options are compressed sawdust pellets, oat, wheat, and alfalfa based. It is best to avoid the following litter:
Pine/cedar due to toxicity
Clay can cause respiratory issues
Clumping litters can cause foreign bodies if your rabbit eats them
Corn cob litter is not absorbent and can also cause a blockage
Your rabbit will nibble on some of the litter, but do not let your rabbit ingest large amounts of litter; this can be very hazardous to your rabbit. If your rabbit finds the litter too tasty, try using a different litter, or put newspapers on the bottom and timothy hay on top of those. Recommended litters for rabbits include:
Carefresh Small Animal Bedding, White
Carefresh Small Animal Bedding, Natural
Litter Box Cleaning
Spot-clean your rabbit’s box with a litter scoop 1-2 times a day and deep clean the box once a week. You can use white vinegar and dawn to clean out the box. Thoroughly rinse to remove any residual odors. If your rabbit urinates outside the box on the carpet, you can use an enzyme cleaner.
It is important not to clean the cage or litter box when your rabbit is inside; this is your rabbit's space and territory. Invading their space or taking them out of their area can cause them not to feel safe and make litter box training difficult. When your rabbit is out of their enclosure, feel free to clean during that time, so you aren’t forcing them out inconveniently. Your rabbit will likely supervise.
How to Litter Train Your Rabbit
As soon as you get your rabbit, have a litter box available for them to use. Keep in mind your rabbit might not be great at using their litter boxes regularly until after they are spayed or neutered at 4-6 months of age. Spaying and neutering will significantly reduce your rabbit’s natural inclination to mark their territory with urine.
Follow the below guidelines to successfully litter train your rabbit:
Begin training by keeping your rabbit in a small area or their enclosure. Start with at least two litter boxes—smaller one in the corner of the enclosure and a larger one in their free-roaming space. Your rabbit should still be able to move around the cage, lie down, and stand up inside the cage outside of the litter box. If they cannot, you most likely need a bigger enclosure.
Place a handful of hay in each box.
If your rabbit goes in a different corner of the enclosure, move the litter box to that section.
Litter box training should continue mainly in the cage for the first few weeks. After that, rabbits will start using the litter box and form a habit. Keep your rabbit in the enclosure when unsupervised.
If they continue to use the litter boxes regularly after a few days, you can start to increase their space in other rooms.
If you notice that they head to a corner of the room where there is no box or lift their tail as if they are about to go to the bathroom, gently herd them back to their enclosure or nearby litter box. You can even take a hands-off approach and move a different box to that area instead of trying to catch and herd them.
You can remove other training boxes if they regularly use one box.
Scoop the litter box daily and deep clean once a month.
It is important to understand that rabbits mark their territory with urine or feces. The litter box can meet those needs of marking. Keeping your rabbit away from upholstered furniture and beds is a good idea until after neutering, and a litter box habit is well established. Post-teen spayed or neutered rabbits are less territorial and are much easier to keep potty trained.
Do not reach in and grab a rabbit from inside a litter box or place them directly inside one; rabbits can start to feel like their area isn’t theirs or that it is a punishment to be in there. This may lead to rabbits going to the bathroom outside the litter box and their enclosure. When you open their enclosure, let your rabbit decide when they want to come out on their own. Walking behind them is okay to herd them back to their space gently.
Litter Training Problems and Solutions
Rabbits will lay in their litter box and eat hay out of the box if it is provided, which is perfectly normal.
If your rabbit urinates in an area/corner without a litter box, place a litter box in that same area. Rabbits like to pick a few spots and always go to the bathroom there. If you make changes and your rabbit is still urinating a lot outside the box, have them evaluated by a veterinarian to address any potential medical needs.
A few stray fecal balls outside the litter box can and typically will happen and not something to stress about. Rabbit feces are very dry and easy to pick up with a paper towel and minimal cleanup.
If your rabbit kicks a lot of litter out of the box, you can try a high-sided litter box, a covered litter box, or a urine guard for the cage. Ensure the entrance hole is still low enough for them to jump in and out easily.
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5. Marinell Harriman. House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit. Drollery Press. 2013.
Featured Image: iStock.com/bunnylovinggrl