Litter Training A House Rabbit

Can You Really Litter Train A Rabbit?

Litter Training Your House Rabbit

Yes, you can litter train a rabbit! Even if you don't intend on letting your bunny have full run of your house, litter box training is still a good idea and not nearly as difficult as most fear. You can train older rabbits to use a litter pan as well.
Training your rabbit to go in a litter pan can reduce your clean up time, as cleaning a litter pan is certainly easier than cleaning the bottom of a large cage or pen and using the right litter greatly decreases the smell. And maybe most importantly it paves the way to more freedom from the cage/pen.


Bunny Is Never Too Young To Start Using A Litter Pan

Start Small And Increase Area

I start by making sure I've got bunny using the litter box in his cage first. No one got to run free in my home until they developed reliable potty habits! Luckily rabbits are creatures of habit and normally pick a corner of the cage to use as the designated potty spot. If I can tell what corner of the cage they are favoring I normally place the pan there. If I feel more encouragement is necessary I place a few of their "marbles" in the pan, they usually poke their nose in there anyway to see what the box is. You can also take a paper towel which you've used to wipe up their pee with and place it in the bottom of the pan, covering it with litter, this will help them smell their spot. To encourage a bunny to hang around awhile you may wish to place a hand full of hay in the litter pan on top of the litter.

Once we've got bunny using a pan in the cage/pen he is given more running room and observed to insure he is finding his way back to the litter pan. As we go from cage to room and room to a larger area we may add additional litter pans to avoid having him pick his own spot, something they may do anyway or forgetting where the potty is. If it turns out you don't need so many you can also do away with them, don't use enough and you'll be sorry.

Rabbit Litter Pan With Hay
Covering The Litter With Hay Can Encourage Better Habits
As They Hang Around And Graze

I normally cover the bottom of the pan with an inch or so of litter. You may need to experiment with different brands before finding the one you feel meets all of your needs. It honestly surprised me when both Sadie and Scoobie's litter pan habits improved after changing to a paper based litter and I was surprised at it's odor control

Good Litters will:

  • Be safe for bunny (dangerous litters can cause health problems)
  • Greatly reduce odor (your home does not need to smell bad)
  • Be absorbent and keep bunnies feet dry (no wet, yellow feet)
  • Be bio-degradable and good for your garden (bunny poop is great fertilizer)

Protecting Your Carpet

Since our home is pretty much wall to wall carpeting we must do our best to protect our carpet and keep things neat and tidy. I really don't want my home to look like a barn even though it houses rabbits.
In our living room I use a Rubbermaid Chair Mat for Standard Pile Carpet chair mat beneath the litter pans and food bowls. Not only is it waterproof, it is dig proof and it doesn't look too bad. Both bunnies love it because it's a cool place to lay down. Bunnies will overshoot or miss the litter pan on occasion.

mat for rabbits litter pan
A Clear Chair Mat Sits Beneath The Litter Pans To Protect My Carpet

While it's a little too late for me to try to uproot and relocate their litter pans to a less visible part of our home, I would suggest you consider that and try to choose the best location when first training your rabbit. Sometimes however, they do the choosing and there's little you can do about it. But, if this is your first go at it, do give it a little thought. You may also find that many bunnies will also use a hooded cat litter pan if you'd like to hide the mess.

The Scoop on Poop

Normal rabbit poop will be round, lightweight and dry (something you will see ALLOT of). A nice bonus is that if you should accidentally step on a marble you are unlikely to soil your carpet. It's important that you know what's normal so you can detect any potential health issues, more on that here.

Choosing The Right Litter Pan

High Back litter pans can help keep pee inside the pan when your bunny is prone to overshooting (hanging over the side) and also deflects some of the litter that is kicked up when hopping in and out of the box.
Low entry litter pans can help elderly and handicapped rabbits enter and exit with greater ease.
Large litter pans are often favored by larger bunnies, those who can't resist laying in the litter pan and when multiple rabbits insist on using the same pan at the same time.
Pans with grates keep bunnies feet off of soiled litter and prevent it from sticking to their paws when exiting.

 

High BackLow EntryLarge & Roomy


Pan With Grate (Available thru Bass Equipment)

 

Choosing Safe Litter For Your Rabbit

Not all litters are safe for rabbits. Avoid dust and clumping litters made for cats. Do not use cedar or pine shavings as a litter (or bedding) as it can cause liver damage in rabbits.
We personally use Feline Pine .

 

Using More Than One Litter Pan

Once my bunnies were using the litter pan in their cage/pen consistently I started to expand the play room/living space. When I let bunny out of the cage I would place an additional litter pan in the room he was allowed to play in. Some rabbits might be good about returning to their cage to use the pan but most have a limit to how far they will travel to the latrine. This means multiple litter pans may become necessary if your rabbit has free roam of several rooms or even the entire house.

When Bunny Misses The Litter Pan

In my house most misses can be attributed to marking. The territorial practice of making one's presence or dominance known. When a rabbit pees on the carpet you are going to want to clean it up quick as you don't want to smell it (duh!) and you don't want them to return to the same spot again. I use Nature's Miracle and/or vinegar. I also have a carpet shampooer which gets a little workout from time to time.

  Reasons for Bad Litter Habits 

Hormones - Spraying is not uncommon for a hormonal youngster or un-neutered bucks. Excited rabbits sometimes leave a trail of marbles when hopping merrily along. (see neutering)

Territory - This is my spot, see? I left my marbles here...just so you know. You can pick 'em up, I'll make more.

Litter Pan - I don't like the litter you are using. I don't like the pan you are using. I would like you to clean my litter pan more often please. I'm not prepared to walk so far to get to the litter pan, add another. I like this spot better, move the litter pan.

Health Reasons - If this is a new development from an otherwise litter trained rabbit it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or other illness, contact your vet.

Bunnies will often scatter marbles around their living area to mark territory, or leave a small pile behind when they are grazing on hay or pellets.

What you do expect from a litter trained rabbit is that all peeing is done in the pan.
The practice of "peppering" certain areas of their living quarters with marbles is quite common, sorry, in bunnyland that still qualifies as litter trained.

Bad Bunny Behavior

Before you tell that bunny it's him or you...

Did someone give you the impression that bunnies did not require patience? I'm sorry, that wasn't very nice of them.

One thing some new bunny owners may not be aware of is the personality/behavior change that results when a rabbit becomes sexually mature. That event alone can take some first time bunny owners by complete surprise and have them doubting their choice of pet. Sexually maturing rabbits can become aggressive, territorial and...forget where the litter pan is. Spaying/Neutering will make a positive improvement in nearly all maturing rabbits. More on that next.


What am I supposed to feed my bunny?

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