Interested in letting your rabbit wander the house but dreading the little pellets all over your floor? Great news! Your rabbit can be taught to use a litter box, just like a cat. Wondering how to litter train your rabbit? Check out these tips…
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Rabbits are naturally clean animals, meaning that they don’t want to live in their filth anymore than you do.
In fact, most rabbits choose to do their business all in one spot – meaning that you need introduce them to the ‘perfect’ location and the rest will come naturally.
It’s easier than you think!
All you need is the right box (and contents), the ideal location and a little patience.
Before we get started, there is one important point to discuss…
Many experts advise that spaying or neutering your rabbit has many benefits for your rabbit’s overall health and well-being. Among these, the fact that it will be easier to litter train your furry friend.
When an unfixed rabbit reaches sexual maturity, they often exhibit changes in behaviour.
Among those, in many cases, is the natural inclination to mark their territory. Marking, of course, will mean doing their business in various areas around the home rather than sticking to their designated spot.
If you have not yet considered the benefits of spaying or neutering your rabbit, I recommend speaking to your veterinarian!
Creating the Perfect Litter Box
The first step necessary to effectively litter train your rabbit is to create a little box that he/she will want to use.
This includes a box that is comfortable for them to use as well as identifying the right location.
The litter box itself can simply be a basic tray style cat litter box, readily available at any pet store and most big box stores.
Avoid covered boxes as they will likely make your rabbit uneasy. This will only complicate the litter training process and discourage him/her from even wanting to be in the box, let alone use it.
Consider thinking ‘outside the box’ if necessary.
For example, if you have a larger rabbit and need a little more room, cement mixing tubs from your local hardware store provide the space necessary while still offering easy access.
Next, it’s time to purchase the right litter…
Do NOT purchase commercial cat litter for your rabbit!
Commercial cat litters can be incredibly dangerous for your rabbit, leading to serious (and possibly life-threatening) health conditions.
This is partially due to the fact that rabbits are more likely to ingest their litter than their feline counterparts.
Potential health concerns from commercial cat litters include:
- Dust from clay litters can cause respiratory problems and/or eye irritation
- Some cat litters include zinc oxide, which can cause zinc toxicity if ingested
- Pine or cedar litters contain phenols which can lead to liver complications
- Clumping litters can cause digestive blockages if ingested
Rabbit-safe litter options include paper-based litters, untreated wood chips and pellets or ground corncob litter.
Line the bottom of your rabbit’s litterbox with newspaper for easy cleaning.
Fill the box approximately one inch. Unlike cats, your rabbit will not be digging and covering their business. This means that filling it any further is nothing more than a waste of litter.
Top your litter of choice with fresh hay.
The hay will help to attract your rabbit to the litter box and encourage him/her to use that space instead of another corner of your house.
Find the Ideal Location
There is no secret formula to identify the perfect location for your rabbit’s box. Just like us, every rabbit is different with their own personal preferences.
That being said, there are a few considerations to help you along the way.
Choose a lower traffic corner of the home to avoid disturbing your rabbit.
Pay attention to noises and smells that may discourage your rabbit from wanting to be in that area or even scare your rabbit away from the location of the box.
Place several litter boxes in the areas of your home that your rabbit spends most of their time.
Finally, observe your rabbit’s behaviour. If you notice that he/she is always having ‘accidents’ in one specific corner of the room, move the litter box to that location.
Litter Train Your Rabbit
The litter training process is all about repetition and patience.
Start by restricting your rabbit to a single room or a smaller contained area of your home. If necessary, use a baby gate or metal pet enclosure to block off one part of a larger room.
When you first introduce your rabbit to the space, show him/her the location of the box.
You want to stay close by for the initial phase of the training process. This will allow you to address any accidents accordingly!
If your rabbit goes into the box to do his/her business, give plenty of praise!
You want to make the process of using the litter box a positive thing by using positive encouragement.
If, however, your rabbit goes to the bathroom outside of the box, avoid using punishment as a deterrent. Rabbits do not respond well to punishment!
Instead, immediately place both the rabbit and his/her droppings into the box and then give praise.
The key is consistency!
Early in the process, set a timer for 10-minute intervals. Each time that the timer goes off, place your rabbit in the litter box and praise him/her.
If your rabbit does go to the bathroom, continue with the praise!
As time progresses you can slowly increase the space available to your rabbit. Remember, if you are adding another room, you may also want to add another litter box!
Space out the time between reminder visits as you notice that your rabbit is going to the box regularly on his/her own.
Be Prepared for Accidents
Your rabbit is learning, which means that he/she is NOT perfect. There will be accidents, it’s all part of the process.
If you are cleaning up urine, you can use white vinegar to neutralize smells.
Alternatively, there are commercial enzyme cleaners like Nature’s Miracle that will effectively clean up any accidents around your home.
If you do notice that your rabbit is regularly going to the bathroom outside of the provided litter box, go back to the beginning.
Take a look at the box itself, the location that it’s in, etc.
Is there a reason your rabbit does not like that space?
Finally, don’t overlook the fact that there may be health-related reasons at work.
Rabbits living with conditions like arthritis may have a harder time getting in and out of a litter box. Selecting a box with lower sides can make this easier.
Meanwhile, conditions like kidney or bladder stones and urinary tract infections may cause an otherwise well-trained rabbit to urinate outside of the box.
If you suspect that there may be health-related reasons for your rabbit’s behaviour, contact your veterinarian!
Did you litter train your rabbit? If so, what tips and tricks would you like to share with other rabbit owners?