Are you cleaning up yet another mess in the living room, wishing it was possible to litter-train your rabbit? Well, the good news is rabbit litter box training is completely possible and quite easy.
To litter train your rabbit, you'll need multiple litter boxes, litter, white vinegar, and hay. Set up the litter boxes in corners where your rabbit likes to go and add a few droppings to each box along with a hand of hay to encourage your rabbit to use them. Rabbits like to eat and poop at the same time.
To learn more about how to encourage rabbits to use litter boxes regularly, keep reading.
Before you attempt any training at all, it's important to understand that contrary to popular belief, rabbits are very clean animals. This means that they prefer clean litter boxes over stinky poop-filled litter pans. And believe me if I say they'll let you know, usually by finding another clean corner to urinate in instead of using the designated litter box.
Another thing to understand is that training a rabbit to use a litter box is not the same as training a cat. You will need a lot of patience and proper supervision of your fluffy friends if you want them to develop good litter box habits. For the best chance of success, however, you’ll have to keep the following questions in mind before you start training your rabbit:
It is much easier to litter box train a sterilized rabbit than it is to train an intact rabbit. Spayed or neutered rabbits usually don’t feel the need to mark their territories as intact rabbits do. This is especially true for bucks (male rabbits). Bucks will often spray urine to mark their territory and possessions if left intact. This behavior is perfectly normal but can be quite frustrating for bunny owners.
Pro Tip: If you prefer to keep your bunnies intact, I will recommend investing in a urine guard to keep your home and yourself free from spraying urine.
Rabbits can be fixed from around four to six months old, depending on the size of your breed. Giant breeds often take longer to mature, making it safer to only sterilize them at around six months old. Dwarf breeds mature quickly, making them ideal candidates for being fixed at as young as four months old.
You might feel that major surgery is quite extreme just to keep your home clean, but sterilizing rabbits has a lot of other benefits as well. It can help to prevent your rabbit from acting out and biting you, lessens territorial behavior, prevents some severe health issues, and, of course, improves the smell.
In my opinion, it's definitely worth looking into if you won’t be breeding your pet rabbits.
This question might seem irrelevant, but how we handle our pets directly influences their behavior.
For instance, Rabbits that are handled roughly or grabbed and dragged out of their hutch against their will often mark more aggressively. They do this due to feeling insecure and threatened by you and feel the need to remind you that it’s their space. This can make potty training especially difficult.
On the other hand, respecting your rabbit's space and allowing your pet to come to you instead can have the opposite effect. Rabbits that are handled gently often get trained more easily.
It is very important to clean any area your rabbit urinates in with a product that will remove the ammonia smell. If you don’t clean properly, the smell will attract your rabbit again, and you’ll later find another mess to clean in the same spot. If it smells like a toilet, it must be a toilet, right?
To avoid any nasty habits from forming, clean up any accidents with white vinegar or an enzyme cleaner specifically designed to remove pet urine odors
Unlike cats, many rabbits prefer to have more than one litter box to choose from. Let's face it: pet rabbits are lazy. Instead of using the litter box provided, you might find them going to the nearest corner instead.
Rabbits often choose one corner to wee in and stick to, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a corner in every room or even several corners in a large room. To prevent litter training setbacks, make sure you have enough litter boxes to go around.
Rabbits can be taught to poop in their litter boxes, but some rabbits just won’t comply no matter what you do. Scattering poop around the house is often a way for a bunny to mark its territory. This behavior is more commonly seen in multi-rabbit households, especially where more than one intact male lives together.
In some cases, you’ll have to learn to live with it. Some bunnies will use litter boxes regularly for urinating, but no matter how hard you try to teach them, they'll continue to scatter poops all over the place. Fortunately, rabbit poop isn’t nasty at all. It also has little to no smell unless your rabbit is still intact and is easy to clean up.
Gus napping in his litterbox by Keith Survell
Now for the fun part: litter-training rabbits!
Before you start litter training a rabbit, however, you’ll need to ensure you have everything required. Even better, make sure you have all these supplies before your bunny comes home. This way, you can start to potty train from day one.
Here is a quick list:
More Litter Boxes!
A cat litter box works much better for bunnies than commercial rabbit litter boxes. People forget that rabbits can be as big or even bigger than a cat which means litter boxes specifically designed for rabbits are often too small for giant breeds. Instead of trying to use the litter tray, you'll find your rabbit starts to wee on the floor instead.
If you find that your rabbit kicks a lot of litter out of the box, a covered litter box might be the answer. Rabbits like to dig, and a litter box is the perfect candidate for this behavior. You can also try to counter this by providing dedicated dig boxes instead.
Another thing you might find is that just one or two litter trays just won't cut it. You'll most likely end up with a litter box in almost every corner of the room. Better get ready to see them as part of the furniture.
You will need a rabbit-safe absorbent material like recycled paper-based litter, wood stove pellets for small animals, or other organic litters. Just ensure no scent additives or harmful chemicals are added to the litter. Shredded newspaper is also often used as litter but doesn't trap the strong smell of rabbit urine as well as organic litter for cats.
Make sure to avoid any clumping litter like clay litter. If your rabbit ingests any clay litter, the clumping effect can cause serious obstructions that could harm your bunny.
You might also need to test different litter until you find one your rabbits like. Bunnies can be very picky and might refuse to use any other litter box, which means you can't trust them around the house anymore.
Some safe litter include:
Paper litter: Yesterday’s News, Okocat paper litter, Kaytee Clean & Cozy, Carefresh, Oxbow Pure Comfort, Small Pet Select Soft Paper Bedding, newspaper
Wooden Pellets: Feline Pine, wood stove fuel pellets
Wheatgrass Litter: Critter Country, Cat Country, Oxbow Eco-Straw
Aspen bark litter: Gentle Touch Pet Products
Oat- or alfalfa-based pellets
If you can't find safe litter, you can use puppy pads if you hide them deep underneath some delicious timothy hay. Puppy pads are great at absorbing the smell of rabbit urine, but it's not entirely safe for them to chew on.
Placing hay in the litter box will make it more attractive to rabbits. Rabbits often poop while eating. You can use this and force your bunny to eat hay inside their litter box to keep the poop contained. To keep the hay clean, bunny owners often hang a hay box above the litter box. This way, you can get them litter box trained without lifting a finger.
Vinegar and baking soda or enzyme cleaner
You must clean the area properly if your bunny makes potty training mistakes. Any residual urine smell will attract your bunny back to the same spot. Most rabbits prefer to go in the same spot over and over, so placing a litter box where the accident happened can help your rabbit associate the litter box with a toilet.
You can remove the smell by soaking up the urine, covering the area with baking soda, and spraying vinegar on top. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping up the solution. Alternatively, you can buy a premixed enzyme cleaner from your nearest pet store.
Paper towels are handy for cleaning up any accidents. Simply soak up the urine and discard the paper towel in a nearby litter box. The smell of urine will attract your rabbits and will encourage them to use the litter box.
Install a playpen, hutch, or baby gate
To ensure your rabbit's litter box training is successful, you’ll have to temporarily restrict your cotton-tailed friend's freedom. Baby gates and playpens are very handy for doing just that, and a hutch is great if you cannot watch your rabbit.
Training your rabbit takes time, and restricting your rabbit's area can speed up the process.
Once you have everything you need, you can finally start the litter training process. Here’s what you need to know:
You must choose an area for indoor toilet training, preferably with a tile or cement floor that is easy to clean. Set up your playpen or install the baby gates to restrict access to other rooms.
The less space your bunny has initially, the better. More space means more areas to mess in. Something you don't want or need while trying to teach your bunny a new habit. To force them to use the litter box, smaller areas are easier to control.
Prepare the litter box by adding an absorbent material such as organic litter, wood stove pellets, or shredded paper at the bottom with at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) of hay on top. Rabbits love to eat and poop at the same time, and the hay will also stop them from eating the litter.
Once you’re done, pick a corner to place the box in and set your pet rabbit free to start potty training.
Eco-Bun Henrietta knows a grand way to reuse packing material by Ketzirah Lesser & Art Drauglis
The most important step in litter training rabbits is ensuring they're using the litter box provided, not the floor. This means that you'll need to keep a close eye on your bunnies while they’re free-roaming.
If you see an accident in a specific corner, wipe it up, place the urine-stained towel in the litter box, and move a litter box to that corner. Rabbits are creatures of habit, so they will most likely return to that corner.
The urine-stained towel will also help them recognize the litter box as a toilet. If you see any poop lying around, add them to the litter box. If your bunnies consistently wee in two separate corners despite your best cleaning efforts, ensure you have a litter box in each corner. After a week or so, you should start to notice fewer accidents, and the rabbits will start to seek out the litter box as a toilet.
Just make sure to clean up any accidents with a solution that also removes the residual smell.
If your house rabbit potty training is going well and your pets reliably use their litter trays for at least one month, you can slightly expand their roaming space. After starting with one room, you can expand to a second room. If you started with a playpen, you can let them out into the rest of the room. Just make sure they know where the litter box is.
When you expand their roaming space, you might find your rabbits slightly regressing. This is normal and does not mean that you need to start over to train your rabbit again. Instead, gently herd your rabbit to the nearest litter box and make sure to add a hay box or hay rack above to encourage them to use it.
Your rabbits might slightly regress and use a different corner of the room as a toilet. If this happens, move the litter box there or add a second box. If you’re adding a second room you’ll also need to add another litter box for that room.
Bunnies aren’t very good at seeking out a litter box, so ensure one is always in sight. You can keep expanding your rabbit area as soon as they reliably use the litter box.
Just because your bunnies are now litter-trained doesn't mean your work ends. As mentioned before, rabbits are very clean animals. This means you'll need to clean the most used litter box daily by scooping out any soiled litter and replacing the soiled hay.
If you scoop soiled litter out every day or at least every other day, your litter trays will stay fresh for longer. Remember that they'll need complete cleaning and disinfecting at least once a month.
Pro Tip: Don't remove all the soiled litter while you potty train. Rabbits are attracted to scent, and leaving some soiled litter will help to train a rabbit to find their dedicated toilet faster.
As you can see, litter box training a rabbit doesn't need to be difficult. All that remains now is putting in the effort. House rabbit toilet training can be beneficial for both you and your rabbits. They’ll get more freedom and attention from you while you won’t need to constantly clean up their mess, giving you more time to bond with your fluffy pets.
I know potty training can be frustrating, but if you keep at it and remember to have fun and appreciate your pets, you will eventually get through the tough times.
Are you currently litter training a rabbit? Let me know how it's going in the comments below.
If you don't have a rabbit yet, check out our article on how to choose your first pet bunnies. Happy training!
The time it takes will vary from rabbit to rabbit. It can be as fast as one week or as long as three months or more if you have a stubborn rabbit. Be patient; all bunnies learn at their own pace. Remember, the more consistent you are with training, the sooner you'll have a fully trained rabbit.
Place some hay in your litter box to lure your rabbit into it. Before long, you'll find your rabbit eats, sleeps, and poops in its litter box. That's why it's so important to keep it clean. You can also encourage litter box usage by placing soiled paper towels from accidents in the litter box to encourage your bunny with scent.
You can start to litter box train your bunny as soon as you get him or her. If you have all the supplies ready when your bunny comes home at eight weeks old, start immediately. The sooner you start, the sooner you can have a completely free-roaming bunny.
Definitely! Older bunnies might take longer to break old habits, but they are just as trainable as young rabbits. Just be patient and clean any messes properly to help them learn a new bathroom habit.
Rabbits use their poop as a way to mark their territory. This is a behavior that is more prominent in multi-rabbit households. To stop this behavior, make sure your bunny is fixed, pick up any poop, and place them inside the litter box. In time most bunnies will learn that this is where their poop should go, but there's always the odd one out that refuses to learn, so be prepared to find a golden nugget here and there.
'Litter Training'. House Rabbit Society. https://rabbit.org/care/litter-training/
'How can I house train my rabbit?'. BC SPCA. https://spca.bc.ca/faqs/can-house-train-rabbit/
Melissa Witherell, DVM. 'How to Litter Train Your Rabbit'. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/rabbit/how-litter-train-your-rabbit