Disclaimer: If the words “poop,” “pee,” “urinate,” or “defecate” offend you, then this is not the article for you. Consider yourself warned.
If you have ever been around rabbits you know that they poop – ALOT! So, it only makes sense, if you choose to have an indoor rabbit, you want to litter train it!
Litter training your rabbit is a simple, easy process. It is no where near as difficult as potty training a two year old child. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, but I am making a general statement.
Rabbits are notorious creatures of habbit. They like to sleep in the same place, eat in the same place, and in general, evacuate their bowels in the same place. In the wild, rabbits have a “latrine” area where they will expel the majority of their bodily waste. Your pet simply needs to learn where his “latrine” is located.
Repetition is the key, just as it is with any kind of training. The more you do something, the more likely it is that you will know how and when to do it. Find the place where your rabbit usually does his business and put the litter box there. As rabbits like to do their own decorating, you will probably want to clip or bungee the litter pan in place. Trust me, you don’t want to be picking up litter and “bunny apples” out of your carpet. Place your rabbit in the litter pan. He will most likely use it. Praise him significantly when he does. If you see him lifting his tail outside of the litter box, quickly pick him up and place him in it. It will not take him long to catch on to the idea. It may also help to add a few droppings to the box when you first introduce it.
What you can expect:
A) Your rabbit will likely leave droppings here and there. He can be trained to leave the majority in his litter box, but rabbits will leave some droppings as a territorial marking. Rabbit feces is generally dry and has no smell, so do not worry too much over three or four droppings. They will not ruin your carpet and the behavior cannot be overcome.
B) A rabbit who is not spayed or neutered will spray all over your home, your furnishings and, very likely, you. This is not an “aggressive” or “bad” behavoir. You should not punish your rabbit for commiting this suposed felony. Rabbits spray for territorial reasons as well as for mating purposes. Unless you are breeding or showing your rabbit, you should absolutely have him neutered or consider moving him outside. That is, unless you like the look of plastic convering everything in your home.
C) If you have a home with multiple rabbits, expect the litter training to take a bit more effort. Unless rabbits are binded they will spray and leave many more droppings. This activity should cease once the rabbits are bonded, but you should not be unprepared.
D) Your rabbit will sleep in his litter box. Your rabbit will eat in his litter box. Your rabbit will play in his litter box. It must be cleaned daily for his health and for your sanity.
Remember- repetition and praise are they key to your success!
Notes on types of litter: Scoopable cat litter should never be used. It can be fatal if ingested by your rabbit as it can block the esophagus. Clay cat litter can be used, but can cause respiratory illness in rabbits who are active diggers. Hay or straw can also be used but they will not keep the smell down and your rabbit will probably eat the hay. Pine or cedar chips should never be used as they emit a harmful chemical that will poison your rabbit over time. Aspen chips are suitable and safe. Newspaper shouldn’t be used because your rabbit wil think it is a toy and shred it, besides, it doesn’t absorb the urine smell. There are rabbit specific litters on the market that can be used. Be prepared to spend a little bit extra on these and to look a little further to find them as they are not yet popular alternatives.
Important Reminder: If you notice your rabbit eating soft droppings, sometimes called “night droppings,” do NOT try to stop him. This is normal rabbit behavior and is necessary for him to maintain good health. Despite the “yuck” factor, these tiny droppings are filled with proteins and nutrients that are essential to your rabbit’s well being.