Since rabbits are naturally clean and will choose one or more toilet areas, they are generally fairly easy to litter train. Older rabbits are usually easier to train than younger rabbits, especially babies. As a rabbit ages, his attention span and ability to learn increases. If your pet rabbit is a baby, you will need to be patient and allow him to mature. If you are considering adopting an older rabbit or you wish to litter train an older pet rabbit you already own, you can be confident of successful results.
Having your pet rabbit spayed or neutered will make litter training much easier. When rabbits reach 4-6 months of age, their hormones become active and they will begin marking their territory with urine and feces. If your pet has been spayed or neutered, he/she will be more likely to use their litter box.
The first step in litter training your pet rabbit is to choose a suitable litter. Because your rabbit will most likely lay in the litter or even nibble on it, something absorbent and safe is essential. A litter that also absorbs odor is ideal since rabbit urine has a strong odor. Organic or paper-based pellets and litters such as Yesterday’s News, are an excellent choice. Using rabbit pellets as litter is also a safe and economical choice if your pet does not continually eat extra pellets from the litter box and/or is not overweight.
Do not use cedar or pine wood shavings as they can emit toxic fumes that can be harmful or even fatal to your pet. Clay or clumping litters are not recommended as they will clump inside the rabbit’s digestive and respiratory tracts. Another safe option is to use hay as litter. Placing several layers of newspaper under the hay will help absorb the urine. Be sure to check with your local newspaper office to make sure they are using soy-based ink which is safe for your rabbit. It will be necessary to change the hay and newspapers daily.
It is important that the litter box be the appropriate size for your pet bunny. Cat litter boxes work very well. Smaller pans such as cake pans or pyrex baking dishes are good choices for smaller rabbits. If your rabbit tends to kick litter out of the litter box, you may want to try a covered litter box or experiment with different litters.
The litter box should be placed in an area the rabbit has already chosen for toilet use. You may need to use several litter boxes in the early stages of training. As your pet becomes more confident,you can begin removing them until only one remains. Rabbits are very habitual and once a routine is established, they will usually stick with it. If your rabbit continually uses a spot where there is no litter box, move his box there. You may have to rearrange his cage to do so but this is much easier than trying to work against a determined bunny!
Be sure to clean the litter box often to encourage your pet to use it. White vinegar is an excellent cleaning agent that is safe as well as effective. Tough stains can be soaked for easier removal.
Take time to observe your bunny. If you pay close attention, your pet will tell you when and where he plans to eliminate. Many rabbits use body language to announce their plans. He may back into a corner, begin to raise his tail and relax his ears slightly. He may simply return to the toilet area he used earlier. If you catch him in the act and gently herd him to the litter box, he will eventually connect the dots! Always lavish your pet with praise each time he successfully uses the litter box.
Punishment and reprimands have NO place in litter training your bunny! You do not want to associate the litter box with punishment or reprimand. If your rabbit is making too many mistakes, try giving him less space to roam in. Keep him confined to his cage when you are unable to supervise him. Be patient and persistent and in time you will be rewarded for your efforts.
In the meantime, spend time each day with your adorable little bunny and enjoy being entertained by watching his unique bunny behaviors!