Pet rabbits can learn to use a litter box just like cats; however, how to litter train a rabbit does differ from training cats. Let’s look at some strategies and tips for getting bunnies to use the litter box.
When should I start litter training my bunny?
Younger rabbits are usually harder to train than older rabbits. That's because youngsters have a shorter attention span and want to explore and quickly hop on to the next adventure. Training can begin early, but don’t expect quick results.
Are rabbits easy to litter train?
Spaying or neutering makes a difference in how quickly a bunny will learn to use the litter box. Unneutered males have other important matters (such as mating) on their minds. And unspayed females going through a false pregnancy, or a real one, will also be preoccupied. Plus, marking territory is important to both sexes when they are not spayed or neutered. This undesirable trait is only one reason to spay or neuter your rabbits.
Another key to success: Take the time to observe your rabbit’s behavior, so you know what indicates that the bunny is about to go potty. Some rabbits back up into a corner to urinate; others want to potty as soon as they are let out of their cage. Look for the tail to go up and the ears to relax. The goal is to catch rabbits before they urinate and steer them into the litter box.
What is the best litter to use for rabbits?
You'll want your rabbit to be excited about spending time in the litter box, so make it a welcoming place. Fill the bottom of the box with rabbit-safe litter, such as wood pellets, aspen shavings, or thick layers of newspaper. Don’t use clay, cedar, or clumping cat litters because these are bad for bunnies’ health. Pile fresh hay on top. And to really entice your bunny, add a few papaya treats, a piece of apple, a favorite herb, or a toy.
Steps for litter training rabbits
What’s the actual process for teaching a bunny to use the litter box? Follow these basic steps:
- First, the bunny will need their own piece of real estate — a space they distinguish as theirs separate from the space they share with you. If the rabbit does not have a cage, section off a space in a room or run.
- Prepare litter boxes and put them in the rabbit’s space. In the beginning of training, it helps to place a few of the rabbit’s droppings and the scent of their urine into the litter boxes to let the bunny know that this is the place to go.
- Place one box inside the rabbit’s cage, one just outside, and another in a corner or wherever you see your rabbit doing their business. Move the boxes as needed, according to where your rabbit chooses to urinate.
- When your bunny is in the box, offer lots of praise. Don’t ever punish your bunny for “accidents”; punishment doesn’t work and will just cause stress for the rabbit.
- As the bunny gets better at using the litter box, you can start eliminating some of the boxes.
- When your rabbit is consistently successful, you can expand their living space in your home. But go slowly, adding a little space at a time.
Don’t expect perfection: Rabbits will occasionally leave some droppings outside the litter box. “Hop and drop” just happens, and a few droppings are easy to clean up.
Cleaning the litter box
Cleanliness is important for keeping your bunny interested in using the litter box, so clean the boxes every two to three days or as needed. A good cleaning solution is half white vinegar and half water. Also, top the boxes daily with fresh hay.
To respect the rabbit’s space, don’t clean the box or cage when the rabbit is inside. Coax the rabbit out first (rather than reaching in and pulling them out). Also, if you are carrying the bunny back to their area after cleaning, let them hop into the door of the cage or sectioned-off area rather than placing them inside.
Changes in house-trained bunnies
Finally, if your rabbit’s litter box habits change, there might be something medically wrong. Have the bunny checked by your veterinarian. A change in litter box habits can also result from the rabbit being frightened, new rabbits in the area, or a change in caregivers or the bunny’s environment.
With a bit of luck, practice, and patience, you should soon be experiencing the joys of a rabbit trained to use the litter box.