Litter Box Training

Yes, your rabbit can be litter box trained! Rabbits are clean and prefer to have one or more special toilet areas. The ease of training can vary between rabbits. Many rabbits take to a litter box very easily; some require a bit more persistence and patience on your part. Training can be influenced by several factors including the presence of other (non-bonded) rabbits, the size of your rabbit's initial area, age of your rabbit (adult rabbits catch on quicker) and especially whether your rabbit is neutered or spayed.

How to begin

Bunny in a box

Begin litter training by initially confining your rabbit to a small area. This area can be expanded as his litter box habits improve. If your rabbit lives in a cage or pen, set the litter box in the corner that your rabbit has already selected as the bathroom area. If you don't see a pattern, then just choose a corner. When your rabbit begins coming out of his cage for exercise time, or if your rabbit is not caged, start with a small exercise space and gradually expand his roaming area. If his cage is on the floor, leave the door open so that he can return to use his litter box as needed. Set several litter boxes around his area and gradually decrease the number as you learn which box or boxes he prefers to use.

There are several ways to encourage the use of the litter box. Accommodate your rabbit's preference of location if possible. Put timothy hay in one end of the litter box because rabbits like to eat and eliminate at the same time. If the litter box is in a cage, you can position a hayrack over one end of the box. Pick up the fecal pellets that don't make it into the box and put them into the litter box to help your rabbit get the idea.

I love you but I need my space

To lessen territorial marking, respect your rabbit's personal space. Don't clean his cage while he's in it and keep food and water bowls close to the door to minimize intrusions into his space. If his cage is on the floor, allow him to go in and out himself rather than reaching into the cage. He will learn to recognize his territory and will be more likely to leave any territorial droppings in that area rather than in other areas of the house.

If a previously litter trained rabbit loses his good habits, look for a reason. This could indicate a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection. Stress caused by events or changes in the household or in your rabbit's routine can result in a loss of good litter box habits. You may need to confine your rabbit to a smaller area temporarily. The addition of a new rabbit to your home can spur territorial markings that will lessen as your rabbit becomes used to the new addition.

Choosing a Litter

Of prime importance to your rabbit's health is your choice of litter box fillers. The best litters are organic and are plant fiber, recycled paper, hardwood, or citrus based. Some brands to look for are Carefresh, Nature's Harmony, Good Mews, Crown, Citrafresh, Critter Country, Aspen Fresh, and Feline Pine. Alternatively, you can use wood stove pellets or simply line the litter box with newspaper and top with hay or straw.

Stay away from softwood, corncob, clay, and clumping litters. Aromatic softwood litters made from pine or cedar emit gasses that cause liver and respiratory tract damage. This can lead to chronic asthma and respiratory disease and lessen your rabbit's ability to handle standard rabbit medications. Inhaled dust from clay litter can irritate a rabbit's nose and eyes and can form clumps in the rabbit's lungs and make the rabbit more vulnerable to respiratory problems. If a rabbit ingests clumping or corncob litter it can form a solid mass in the rabbit's digestive system that causes shutdown and is often fatal. Even if you don't see your rabbit eating the litter, don't assume it is safe. Rabbits are meticulous groomers and your rabbit will ingest litter particles that are clinging to his fur.

Choosing a litter box

Choose litter boxes that are a good size for your rabbit. A large or medium sized rabbit will do better with a larger box. A small rabbit may be fine with a small box and an elderly or disabled rabbit will appreciate a box with lower sides. Any box that is waterproof and holds hay can be used as a litter box. Some options are a cat litter box, concrete mixing tub, plastic storage box, restaurant bus tray, guinea pig cage tray, tray used for repotting plants, cookie sheet, or a newspaper lined cardboard box top. If your rabbit has the habit of throwing his box, you can punch holes in the rim of the box and secure to his cage with twist ties, wire, or leash clips. If your rabbit throws litter from his box you may want to buy a litter box with a grid or make your own grid with PVC pipe and hardware cloth or a cake cooling rack. Keep in mind that the grid must not have sharp edges and must allow the fecal pellets to fall through to the bottom of the box.

Regularly empty and clean the litter boxes. If the box is allowed to become too dirty, it will be unpleasant for you and your rabbit. If your rabbit refuses to use his box, he might be telling you it's time for a change! Clean your boxes with white vinegar and hot water to disinfect and remove urine deposits that can build over time. Baking soda can be used under the litter to control odors, but that is usually not necessary when the box is kept clean. For accidents outside the litter box, clean up with vinegar or club soda. You can also use a safe commercial product such as Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution. Most rabbit-safe litters are biodegradable and rabbit fecal pellets make wonderful fertilizer. The contents of the litter box can be thrown into a compost pile, used as mulch, or put directly into the garden.

Sharing a box