Rabbit Litter Box Training Guide
Litter box training is easier than you think!
Teaching your rabbit to use a litter box is not as difficult as you may think. Because rabbits are naturally tidy, they make great candidates for litter box training. It is natural for a rabbit to choose one spot, usually corners, to urinate and leave their droppings.
Here are some suggestions to train your rabbit to use a litter box. Keep in mind that persistence and patience are essential elements for success. Mature rabbits will learn faster than younger rabbits, as a rule. It's best to start litter training your rabbit when she is at least three months old.
What will you need to start training your rabbit?
Litter box training works best if you have a play space set up for your rabbit along with her cage. Your rabbit's cage should be well designed and roomy. It is recommended that you use an exercise pen, between 18 and 30 inches high, to create a play space around the cage. Attach the exercise pen to the cage, or place the exercise pen around the cage, allowing your rabbit to enter and exit the cage on her own. Using an exercise pen with the cage keeps your rabbit in a safe and confined area.
Always keep in mind that "if a rabbit can reach it, a rabbit will chew it." Take special care to make your rabbit's play space safe and free of items such as electrical cords, telephone cords, and house plants. The exercise pen can also be used to block a doorway or secure your rabbit in a bathroom, kitchen or other safe area.
First, choose a litter box that will fit inside you rabbit's cage. The litter box should not take up more than one third of the cage space.
You will need one or two additional litter boxes in the future when you begin training your rabbit in a larger area. Simple, inexpensive boxes will work just fine for this.
Second, your must choose a litter material. It is recommended that you use organic litters, made from alfalfa, oat, citrus or paper. Keep in mind that your rabbit will sometimes sleep and play in her litter box. Your rabbit may also nibble on some of the litter so it needs to be safe and non-toxic. Grass hay, oat hay or alfalfa pellets may also be used. These litter materials are available at your local pet retailer.
Third, it is recommended that you have a non-toxic stain and odor remover on hand to sanitize the litter box and to clean up mistakes in your home should they occur.
Let's get started inside the cage!
To get started, place a litter box in your rabbit's cage in the corner that she most frequently uses as her bathroom, and confine her to her cage. You may try putting a few of her droppings in the litter box as a hint. If she urinates in a corner of the cage not containing the box, move the box to that corner. You may have to move it a few times before she gets the idea. Be patient. once she first uses the box, praise her and give her a special treat. Your local pet retailer will have many healthy treats to choose from. Soon your rabbit will begin using the litter box regularly.
Open the cage door and let your rabbit into her play space!
Once your rabbit is using the litter box in her cage regularly, you can open her door and allow her to roam around in her play space. You should now leave your rabbit's cage door open at all times. The Ultimate Goal is to have your rabbit return to her cage when she needs to "GO."
Place one or two more litter boxes in your rabbit's play space in the beginning, along with the litter box inside her cage. Eventually, when you have reached the Ultimate Goal, the extra litter boxes can be removed from the play space.
Allow your rabbit to go in and out of her cage and into the play space on her own, but keep a watchful eye. If you see her backing up, pushing her back end against a wall, or raising her tail, your rabbit may be getting ready to urinate. Guide her back into her cage or litter box as soon as you notice this behavior. This will help your rabbit realize that she should urinate in the cage or litter box. You don't want to make this seem
like a punishment, so be gentle and kind. A handful of hay or a few special treats in the litter box may encourage her to hop on in.
As your rabbit gets better trained in her play space, you can increase her play area if you choose. Don't rush this process. If you increase the size of her play space too quickly, your rabbit may forget her way back to the cage or litter box.
Your rabbit continues to use another spot as her bathroom
Try to compromise. If your rabbit continually urinates in a spot where there is no litter box, put her litter box where she will use it even if it means rearranging her cage or moving some items in her play space. It is much easier to make her happy than to try to work against a determined rabbit. Some rabbits, especially males, might mark their territory with urine or droppings. There really isn't much you can do about this. Spaying or neutering will curb this behavior if it's done at an early age. Most male rabbits can be neutered at the age of 10-14 weeks old. Females can be spayed at 6 months old. See your veterinarian for more information.
Your rabbit sleeps in the litter box
Never discourage your rabbit from being in the litter box, even if it's not for bathroom purposes. Don't be concerned if your rabbit curls up to sleep in her litter box. This is natural. If she prefers to sleep in her litter box, as well as use if for a bathroom, changing the litter and sanitizing the box should be done every few days. Otherwise, change and clean the litter box at least once a week.
Your rabbit leaves wet droppings outside the cage and outside her litter box
If your rabbit leaves wet droppings outside her cage or litter box, it's most likely due to one of two reasons:
- If the droppings are very small and stuck together like a little cluster of grapes, these are night droppings or ccacotropes. Night droppings look different than regular droppings and contain nutrients that your rabbit did not fully digest. Rabbits may cat night droppings, but occasionally you might find a few that your rabbit leaves behind. Generally, you don't need to worry about finding night droppings unless you find a lot of them. In that event, take your pet to the veterinarian.
- If the droppings are larger than normal, runny looking, or mashed together, this could be diarrhea, You should take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Diarrhea can be symptomatic of a number of health problems and over a short amount of time, can be detrimental. Rabbits can become dehydrated very quickly. Always be sure your rabbit has a clean, fresh supply of water.