Contrary to popular belief, rabbits aren’t dirty animals at all. Our much-maligned, cotton-tailed friends are fantastic pets partially because they can be trained to use a litter box. As rabbits tend to use the same area of their enclosure as a potty, mostly sticking to corners, potty training your bunny is a relatively simple process.
Older rabbits are easier to potty-train than a younger rabbit, as their ability to learn — and their attention span — increases with age. Babies are hardest to train, but with persistence and patience, you’ll be able to make the training stick. Curious about how to litter train a rabbit? We’ll walk you through what you’ll need, and we’ll share four useful training tips.
Figuring out how to potty-train your rabbit doesn’t have to be difficult. Before you begin, make sure you have the right supplies:
- A cage: First, you’ll need a cage of some kind to limit your rabbit’s ability to roam during litter training. You can let your bunny roam freely once she’s properly trained, but keeping your rabbit confined during the early stages of training helps her learn faster, and it drastically cuts down on messes you’ll have to clean up if you leave your furry friend unchecked.
- A litter box: While you can buy litter boxes specially made for rabbits, they’re often too small for your furry friend to use comfortably, especially if you’re training an older rabbit. Your bunny should have plenty of room to move around, but the sides of the container shouldn’t be too tall for her to hop over. (You can always cut out a doorway if needed.)
- Litter: Wood shavings, clay-based litter, and clumping litter should be avoided. They can harm your rabbit’s respiratory tract. Recycled-newspaper litter is a wonderful option for bunnies, and it helps cut down on odor. Unlike cats, bunnies don’t bury their poop under the litter, so you’ll need to fill the box with only a thin layer of shredded newspaper to absorb urine. (You’ll have to empty the litter box fully each time you clean it, so using a thin layer stops you from going through it so quickly, saving you money in the long run.)
Rabbits are funny little creatures in that they prefer to eat while they poop. If you’d like your rabbit to stop using the bathroom in the corner of her cage, place a bundle of hay inside the litter box on top of the litter. The scent of one of their favorite noshes will be irresistible, and your bunny will be much more likely to use the litter box. You can also put hay in a separate box near the litter box as long as your bunny can reach the hay from her box.
If your bunny insists on going potty outside her litter box, try absorbing the urine with a paper napkin or paper towel, picking up the poop, and placing both items in the litter box. This helps your bunny accept the idea that the box is where she should potty from now on. Even the best-trained rabbit can have accidents, so we recommend lining the floor beneath the box. This will make cleanup easier, not to mention protect your flooring from stains.
Does your rabbit insist on going potty in the same corner? Try setting the litter box there. Sometimes it’s better to let your rabbit tell you where she wants to go rather than try to force the issue. If your rabbit urinates and leaves droppings throughout your home, spaying or neutering is the best way to stop it. Spraying is territorial behavior, and spaying or neutering rabbits curbs the instinctive desire to mark their territory.
Learn your rabbit’s “I’m about to use the bathroom” body language. If she lifts her tail or shifts into a seated position before going potty, scoop her up and put her in the litter box. Accidents may happen, but it’s one of the fastest ways to train any animal to use their designated potty space.
- Prepare for trial and error. Bunnies can be more finicky than cats when it comes to their litter, so you may have to try out a few combinations before getting the litter box just right. Start with around one inch of your chosen litter and cover it with rabbit-safe hay.
- Protect the area. Rabbits aren’t as precise as cats, so investing in a tough rubber or plastic mat for underneath the box is a good idea. Ensure that it’s tough enough so your rabbit can’t chew through it. You’ll have an easier time mopping up small accidents, and you’ll also keep excess hay or litter out of your carpet.
Why do I need to use hay?
Rabbits love to nibble on hay and poop at the same time. Placing hay on the litter or in a hay feeder directly beside the litter box will encourage pooping in the right place.
How much litter should I use?
Since you dump the box each time, you don’t need much litter. Cover the bottom of the box up to an inch to absorb wetness as your bunny urinates.
My bunny was litter trained but is forgetting good habits. What do I do?
Needing to retrain your domestic rabbit throughout its lifespan isn’t uncommon. Simply limit your bunny’s space until good habits return. Go through the steps again if you need to.
My bunny is going to the bathroom on my furniture. What do I do?
It’s best to place your litter box where your bunny likes to go to the bathroom, but if that place is on your furniture, it’s a different story. Your rabbit is showing you who’s boss. That’s an entirely different training question than litter box training. Keep up with your litter box training even while you address this second issue.
Litter training rabbits can take time, especially if you’ve adopted an older rabbit who was never trained to use a designated space to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, rabbits are clever creatures, and with time, patience, and effort, they can be taught to use a litter box.
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