The question of how to litter train rabbits is one of the most common amongst owners: above all, the key to success is patience. House-training your bunny won’t happen overnight, but our step-by-step guide should help simplify the process to promote a good routine and a clean house.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits can be litter trained just like cats and dogs. The training process itself, however, is very different to the one you would use for these animals.
The first thing to mention is that it won’t happen overnight. Rabbit owners should also prepare for accidents throughout the training. The good news? Rabbits are habitual creatures. With the right approach and equipment, you can enjoy the company of a furry friend – without the mess.
It may take a bit of time in the short-term, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort.
The benefits of litter training your rabbit to mean that cleaning the hutch is easier and faster and if you bring your bunny inside the house the mess is contained to one area! It can also mean fewer accidents and everyone is in favour of this. After following this tutorial, you will have a house-trained bunny with a good routine. On top of that, you will also have a clean house that is free from bad odours.
The question of how to litter train a rabbit is one we get asked very often at Home & Roost – and with good reason. Training your pet is a specific process that requires patience.
Still, many rabbit owners aren’t aware that their furry friends can be house trained at any age. Others have the right idea, but the wrong equipment and, in some cases, the wrong attitude.
That’s why we decided to put together a step by step tutorial on litter training a rabbit. This guide will help to shed light on the process and get your rabbit into a good routine.
What you will need to litter train your rabbit
Other pets may respond better to house-training when they are babies. Rabbits, on the other hand, can be litter trained at any age.
According to Vets4Pets, older rabbits respond better to training than babies as they are more developed and willing to learn.
That said, it is almost impossible to litter train an unspayed/unneutered rabbit. As stated in the House Rabbit Society journal, it is natural for rabbits to mark their territory. If they aren’t neutered, training will be a bigger challenge.
Whatever the age or breed of your bunny, here are the essential items you will need for this tutorial:
Corner Litter Pan / Litter Box
When shopping for litter boxes, you will typically find two options available. These are a corner litter pan and a full-sized litter box.
While a litter box allows your rabbit more space to do their business, most litter boxes are made with cats in mind.
Unlike cats, rabbits are prey animals – as such, they prefer to have a good view of their surroundings at all times. Litter boxes with high side walls or covered top can make them feel trapped.
Although they will need cleaning more frequently, we recommend a corner-litter pan. These come in a variety of sizes and can fit snug in their hutch or cage without blocking their view.
Litter / Bedding
To prevent your bunny from soiling their coat, it’s important to use bedding as a base layer in the litter pan. This will also keep odours from travelling by absorbing the smell.
While wood shavings can be effective, we recommend the Eco Nest bedding. As well as super absorbency, this bedding is soft in texture to provide comfort for your rabbit.
Plenty of hay
Cleaning tools & products
A clean cage makes for a happy bunny and an odour-free home for you. Regular cleaning of the litter pan and cage with a disinfectant is essential.
Remember to wash with water to prevent your bunny from ingesting harmful chemicals. A handy scraping tool should halve the time involved in cleaning the cage and litter pan.
Items to avoid:
- Cat litters – this can be deadly to rabbits.
- Clay litter – if ingested, this can be fatal for rabbits
Litter training your rabbit: a step by step guide
Got all the necessary equipment to house-train your rabbit? You’re all set to start establishing a good toilet routine for your bunny. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Choose the best location for the litter pan
Ideally, the litter pan should sit in a corner of the cage that faces out to the rest of the room. That way, your rabbit has a clear view of its surroundings. In the first instance, it’s a good idea to keep them in their cage for a few days.
During this time, keep an eye on where they naturally gravitate to for toilet use. This will be the best place to set up the litter pan.
Add the bedding
RabbitHaven suggests starting with around one inch of litter/bedding to the pan. Once and covering that with Timothy Hay for comfort and absorbency. This useful video guide provides a good visual example of how your litter pan should be set up.
Introduce your rabbit to the litter pan
Once your rabbit has made clear their preference of placement, it’s time to install the litter pan. Upon purchase, the pan will smell fresh and unfamiliar. By adding a small amount of soiled bedding to the litter pan, you can help introduce your rabbit to the right area.
Give gentle reminders
Encouraging your bunny to use its litter tray can be aided with frequent reminders. When your rabbit is playing, place them in their litter pan every 10 minutes or so. They may not need to use it but have a treat ready in case they do.
The more accustomed they become with their litter pan, the more time you can leave in between. As your bunny starts to form good habits, the need for reminders lessens.
Restrict room to roam during training
Rabbits are at their happiest when they have plenty of space to run, play and relax. However, during house-training, it’s best to limit the space they have in your house to one room if possible.
It’s best to take them out for play at regular intervals rather than letting them run free. This will help to ensure they get accustomed to their litter pan.
The idea here is to gradually introduce your rabbit to the rest of the house once good habits have been formed.
Reward good behaviour
Scolding a rabbit when they have an accident is a sure-fire way to lose their trust. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits don’t respond to punishment and aggression. If you tell them off, they will only become afraid and nervous. This in itself can prompt irregular behaviour.
Instead, try to reward your rabbit every time you notice her using her litter pan. A small treat, verbal praise and affectionate head rubs will help your bunny to understand the use of the litter pan to be good behaviour. When accidents happen, place your rabbit in the pan and reward them for ending up in the right place.
When training, remember to check the litter pan before rewarding your rabbit. In this video, it’s clear the bunny has cottoned on to the trick as he pretends to urinate just to get a treat!
Keep corners of the room unavailable
When your rabbit comes out to play, the excitement can be overwhelming. If a dark corner behind a door is alluring and closer to their cage, your rabbit may opt for this as a quick solution. During training, try to block these corners off to prevent temptation.
Use additional litter boxes
If you find your bunny is opting for another area in the room rather than their cage, advice from UK Pets suggests adding an additional litter box. Once training is grasped, you can lessen the number of litter trays required.
Cleaning the litter pan
Regular cleaning is critical in keeping your bunny’s cage feeling and smelling fresh. However, over-cleaning the litter pan during training can actually be counter-intuitive. If a rabbit can no longer smell urine, it might choose another area in its cage (or outside) to go to the toilet.
Once every two days during the training period should suffice. Only when you are confident that your rabbit has fully taken to the litter pan can this be done daily.
What if my rabbit stops using its litter tray?
Accidents during training are to be expected. Consistency is the key to keeping your bunny from forming bad habits.
If you spot your rabbit urinating outside of its litter pan, pick them bunny up and place it in the pan straight away. This will condition them to associate urination with the pan.
Next, clean up the accident with water and biological washing powders. Always avoid using bleach when cleaning, as the ammonia in bleach can confuse your rabbit. Since this chemical is also in urine, your rabbit might see it as the designated toilet area.
It’s important that you don’t get frustrated when accidents happen. Your rabbit won’t understand what they have done wrong and will start to fear you.
If your rabbit is consistently avoiding using their litter pan, it might be due to:
Change in bedding or cleaning products
Sometimes, a change in routine can trigger a change in toilet habits for rabbits. For example, if you use a different kind of cleaning product on their pan. Once you’ve settled on a product, stick to it.
Size or placement of litter pan
The corner litter pan should provide enough space for rabbits to sit comfortably. If they find the litter pan to be restrictive, they will simply find somewhere they prefer.
Illness or health conditions
Bladder problems will naturally derail your bunny’s bathroom habits. As per the Vets4Pets site, painful arthritis can cause them to urinate where it is easiest.
If you find your rabbit is urinating more frequently or habits change, we recommend a check-up at the vets.
How can I stop my rabbit from marking its territory?
Spraying and urinating are very different things. While they can be taught not to urinate in the house or hutch spraying is a separate issue.
Rabbits who are not neutered or spayed will spray when they find a space that isn’t marked by their scent. Training them not to is near impossible. If you are considering having your rabbit neutered, consult with your vet as a priority.
Insider tips from a rabbit owner
- House-training can take time, particularly for rescue bunnies who already have established preferences. Patience is essential from rabbit owners as accidents can and ultimately will happen. House rabbits prefer carpet but placing the cage in a room with hard flooring for an easier clean-up.
- Don’t give your rabbit immediate access to your entire house during training. This will prevent them from finding new areas they prefer and stick with the routine.
Litter-training your bunny: the key takeaways
Litter or House-training can be easy to put off, especially if you’re new to rabbits and aren’t sure on the best approach. However, the benefits of litter-training your rabbit are worth the time. With an established routine in place, you can ensure your rabbit always goes back to the hutch or litter pan to dump their droppings or urinate and not scatter them around your house.
We hope you found this guide to be useful. Our aim is always to provide clear information to and debunk the common misconceptions around rabbit care. That way, we can help to keep matters simple and ensure the best quality of life for your furry companion.
Should you have any questions on litter training or need advice on specific products, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. If you know any rabbit owners who you feel would benefit from this guide, please share it with them!