A common misconception is that rabbits are dirty animals. But rabbits make wonderful indoor companions in part because they can be litter box trained, just like cats! Follow these steps to litter train your rabbit.
Provide a small cat litter box (or a few) with low sides and no top. You can also use a shallow storage tub. Cut a doorway in one of the sides if it’s too tall. Don’t bother with the corner litter boxes advertised for bunnies, as they are too small.
For litter, use recycled paper litter such as Fresh News. You can get the larger bags made for cats, but choose the unscented version. This litter will neutralize any unpleasant urine odors. Do not use clay-based or clumping litter as this is harmful to rabbits’ respiratory systems. Avoid wood shavings as well.
Put a thin layer of litter at the bottom of the litter box- just enough to absorb wetness. There’s no need to fill it too high since rabbits don’t bury their droppings like cats. Plus, when you clean the litter box, you dump the entire contents out each time. So you will unnecessarily go through a lot of litter if you deeply fill the box each time.
Rabbits like to eat hay and poop at the same time. So to promote good litter box habits, place hay either directly in the box over the litter or place it in a hay box next to the litter box. If you use a hay box, position it so the rabbit must hop into the litter box in order to reach the hay.
It’s easiest to develop good litter box habits in rabbits by limiting their space at first. Use a puppy pen to confine your rabbit to one area, even if you intend to give him/her free reign of your home eventually. This allows your bunny to get acclimated to the area in the beginning. Once your bunny consistently uses the litter box, you can gradually expand the area. If your rabbit starts “forgetting” to use the litter box, then limit the space again until good habits resume.
Here are a few other tips for those stubborn, “outside-the-box” bunnies:
- If accidents occur, mop up urine with a paper towel and pick up stray poop and place both in the litter box. This helps get the message across that the litter box is the place that they should do their business. Keep in mind that rabbits are generally not 100% perfect with their litter box. Sometimes they leave a few droppings next to the box, or they urinate over the edge of their box. This is normal, so placing a plastic mat under their litter box or putting the litter box on a tile floor makes it easier to clean up these little mistakes.
- Be patient and persistent. Litter training takes time, especially if your rabbit has learned bad habits. It takes a while to retrain them. If you can see they’re about to go outside their litter box (they may lift their tail or sometimes they sort of shimmy down in a seated position right before they go), try to pick them up and put them in the litter box or corral them in. This is oftentimes easier said than done of course.
- If your bunny is insistent on going in one corner of the room, sometimes it’s easier to give in to their stubbornness, and place a litter box in that corner. Sometimes when rabbits consistently choose another place to go, they are trying to tell you that that’s where they want to go.
- If your rabbit is pooping/spraying pee everywhere, this is probably due to your rabbit marking his territory. It’s a good idea to get your rabbit spayed/neutered in order to ease territorial feelings.
- Sometimes rabbits deliberately pee on your couch or bed because they’re showing you who’s Top Bunny in the house. You should correct their misconception immediately. See our article, Rabbit Peeing on the Couch? What to Do and the House Rabbit Society’s article, “FAQ: Training” for more information.
Litter training your pet rabbit takes patience and persistence. But in the end, you’ll have a wonderful companion to share your home with.
Litter Training Supply List
- Litter box
A shallow storage container works well or you may opt for a medium-sized cat litter box (or a few). Buy on Amazon >
- Rabbit-safe litter
Opt for a recycled newspaper pellet litter such as Fresh News. Buy on Amazon >
Purchase hay by the bale from a local farmer (check local Craigslist ads) or order bulk hay online. (You can even order it as a “Subscribe and Save” on Amazon.) Buy on Amazon >
- Hay feeder
Placing a hay feeder next to the litter box so the rabbit has to hop into the box in order to eat is helpful in establishing good litter box habits. Buy on Etsy >
- Puppy pen
Puppy pens help limit your rabbit’s space so that he/she can get acclimated to the area and get used to going in the litter box. Buy on Amazon >
- Chair mat (optional)
You may want to protect your floor in the bunny area. Make sure to get a hard plastic one to resist chewing. Buy on Amazon >
- Snappy trainers
If your rabbit is peeing on the couch or bed, you can use these devices to keep him/her off the furniture. Buy on Amazon >
- Harriman, Marinell, “FAQ: Litter Training,” http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/litter.html
- Espie, Amy, “Litterbox Encore,” http://www.rabbit.org/journal/3-12/litter-training-revisited.html
- BinkyBunny.com, “Litterbox Training,” http://www.binkybunny.com/BUNNYINFO/tabid/53/CategoryID/5/PID/940/Default.aspx