All too often rabbits get unjustly stereotyped as dirty animals. In reality, they’re immaculately clean. Not only do they keep their fur tidy, they also prefer to use the restroom in a specific area of their enclosures. This makes the wonderful candidates for litter box training!
Here are some tips to litter train your rabbit:
A rabbit's attention span and knack for learning increases as they grow older. This means that older rabbits are easier to litter train. Babies can be a challenge but if you stick with it they will eventually get it.
Spay/Neuter Your Rabbit
When rabbits reach the age of 4-6 months, their hormones become active and they usually begin marking their territory. By spaying or neutering your rabbit, he will be more likely to use his litterbox. This is the most crucial step in litterbox training.
Types of Litter
We recommend using compressed wood stove or equine pellet bedding in litterboxes. It’s cheap, absorbent and works great to minimize odor. You can buy this bedding at Lowe’s, Tractor Supply or any other farm and home stores. Carefresh and other compressed paper beddings work well too. Avoid pine and cedar wood shavings, as the gases they emit, can cause liver damage.
Cleaning and Disposal
To encourage your rabbit to use their litter box, clean it often. Use white vinegar to rinse boxes out—for tough stains, let pans soak. Accidents outside of the cage can be cleaned up with white vinegar or club soda. If the urine has already dried, you can try products like "Nature's Miracle" to remove the stain and odor. To dispose of organic litters, they can be used as mulch or can be composted. Rabbit pills (feces) can be directly applied to plants as fertilizer.
Housing Your Rabbit
Use a cage/pen large enough to contain small litterbox (along with bunny's food and water bowls, toys, etc.) and still allow enough room for the rabbit to stretch out. Place the box in the corner of the cage that he goes in. With a litterbox in the cage, when the rabbit is confined to his cage when you're not home, cage time is learning time.
Pills vs. Urine
All rabbits will drop pills around their cages to mark it as their own. This is not a failure to be litter-trained. It is very important for your rabbit to identify the cage as her property so that when she leaves the cage for the bigger world of your house, she will distinguish the family's area from her own and avoid marking it. To encourage this, make the rabbit the king of his cage. Try not to force him in or out of it—coax him.
Running The House
Even if your goal is to let your rabbit have full run of the house, you must start small. Start with a cage and a small running space, and when your rabbit is sufficiently well-trained in that space, gradually give her more space. Doing this gradually allows your rabbit to adjust and not lose good litter habits.
The Training Method
Start with a box in the cage and one or more boxes in the rabbit's running space. If she urinates in a corner of the cage not containing the box, move the box to that corner until she gets it right. Don't be concerned if your bunny curls up in his litterbox. Once she's using the box in the cage, open her door and allow her into her running space. Watch her go in and out on her own. If she heads to a corner where there's no box, or lifts up her tail in the characteristic fashion, cry "no" in a single, sharp burst of sound. Gently herd her back to her cage and her litter box, or into one of the boxes in her room.
You don't want to make the cage or the litterbox seem like punishment. A handful of hay in the box makes it a more welcoming place. After she first uses the box, praise her and give her a treat. Once she uses the box in her room a couple of times, you're well on your way, as her habits will be on their way to forming. As she gets better trained in her first room, you can increase her space. Don't hurry this process. And if the area becomes very big, or includes a second floor, be sure to include more litterboxes, so as not to confuse her. Remember, as she becomes more confident and uses fewer boxes, you can start to remove some of her early, "training" boxes.
Keep Things Consistent
Get your rabbit into a daily routine and try not to vary it. Rabbits are very habitual and once a routine is established, they usually prefer to stick with it.
If your rabbit continually urinates in a spot where there is no litterbox, put his box where he will use it, even if it means rearranging his cage or moving a table in the living room. It is much easier to oblige him than to try to work against a determined bunny!