January 21, 2020
How to Litter Train Your Rabbit
Many of the commonly asked questions we receive regarding rabbit care pertain to bathroom behavior. “What do I need to successfully litter train?” “How do I litter train in a rabbit in a cage?” “How long does it take?” “Is my bunny too old (or too young) to litter train?”
As many bunny pet parents know, rabbits are naturally very clean animals. Other than habitat maintenance, brushing, nail clipping, and the occasional spot cleaning, bunnies rarely need human intervention when it comes to hygiene. Like many other small animal species, they are also creatures of habit when it comes to elimination, making them perfect candidates for litter training. Litter training your bunny can seem like a daunting task, but Oxbow is here to help you find the best way to move forward with your furry family member.
What Do I Need in Order to Litter Train?
We recommend avoiding clay litters that contain crystals, such as litters found in the cat aisle of your local pet store. These crystals are not formulated for the rabbit species and may be toxic to your pet. We also recommend not using cedar shavings/chips or pine, as these softwoods are not safe for rabbits to ingest.
We’re often asked about using newspaper in litter pans. Newspaper can be highly absorbent, but, as many pet parents know, rabbit urine tends to have a strong odor. Finding a way to combat odor while tackling absorbency can be tricky. Rabbits are known for chewing on their litter, so ensure that whatever product you decide to use is fit for small animal species and will not cause digestive or respiratory issues for your pet.
We recommend using a small species formulated wheat-straw based litter such as Oxbow’s Eco-Straw. Eco-Straw is clumpable, scoopable, environmentally friendly, and is safe if consumed in small amounts. Use at least one inch of Eco Straw in the bottom of your pet’s pan.
Litter Pan & Scoop
Cat litter boxes are a great place to start when it comes to litter pan selection. When introducing the pan to your bunny’s enclosure, make sure that there is still plenty of room for their water source, food, and toys. It is imperative that your rabbit is able to stretch out in their litter box as well, as they tend to spend a lot of time in their box and need to be as comfortable as possible.
Tips and Tricks for Litter Training
- After you add the litter pan to your rabbit’s favorite area of their habitat, make sure to spend time daily watching and interacting with them. If they happen to lift their leg or “get into position” when they are not in their litter box, simply say “No,” and gently herd or place them in the litter box. As with any behavioral training, never shake, scream at, or become physically aggressive with your rabbit. Rabbits take their time but are creatures of habit. Once they begin to understand what it is that they’re meant to do and they develop a routine, they will most likely stick with it. When it comes to adjusting bunny behavior, patience is the key. While your pet is never too young or too old to try their hand at litter training, it may take time for them to adjust to your expectations of where it is and isn’t appropriate to eliminate waste. Much like other animals when it comes to house training, if rabbits aren’t caught in the act of eliminating, they shouldn’t be reprimanded for it later.
- Once they’ve established where the litter box is located, we don’t recommend moving it unless absolutely necessary. However, if you find that they’re using one specific area where the litter box isn’t located, simply move the litter box to the preferred area.
- Rabbits will oftentimes kick their litter out of the box. If this becomes an issue, we recommend purchasing a hooded litter box if it will fit in your rabbit’s habitat.
- When litter training, we recommend leaving your bunny be when they are in the litter box. Much like their human counterparts, invading their space and territory in the midst of “using the facilities” is frowned upon and may result in behavioral issues. This includes waiting to scoop and/or clean their litter pan when they are not using it.
- One of the most difficult parts of litter training is being able to identify a training fail vs. marking territory. Rabbits will oftentimes leave pills outside of their litter boxes to send out the alert (especially to their fellow bunny friends) that this territory is theirs. This also helps them to identify what territory isn’t theirs (think of your favorite rug or the sofa).
- Accidents do indeed happen, and there are many pet-friendly products on the market to clean stains and odor from carpet and other surface materials.
- Adding hay is a great way to encourage your pet to spend time in the litter box.
How Can You Clean Out the Litter Pan When It’s Time and How Often Should You Clean?
We recommend cleaning regularly. Many pet parents spot clean litter pans daily and find that completely emptying out all of the litter and replacing it once per week works well. If you want to help keep your habitat even cleaner, we recommend washing your litter pan once per month. Our friends at the House Rabbit Society have mentioned that white vinegar works well for rinsing litter boxes. Soap and hot water are also appropriate cleaning detergents. Just ensure that the pan is completely dry before refilling it with litter.
Did you know that some litters, especially the organic varieties, can be composted? Learn more about composting your pet’s litter here.
To learn more about litter training or how to troubleshoot common issues, check out the House Rabbit Society’s Litter Training Guide
How to Prevent and Treat Bladder Sludge in Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
Oxbow’s Guide to Rabbit Housing