Sociable, curious and sometimes mischievous, rabbits often surprise even the savviest of pet parents with their intelligence. It's that intelligence that typically makes litter training rabbits a fairly straightforward process. In fact, some rabbits simply learn to litter train themselves, going straight to their box when they need to eliminate. Others may need coaxing and patience but litter box training can be accomplished without much stress to you or to your rabbit.
Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit
Rabbits can learn to use a litter box, even if they are unaltered. However, an unaltered rabbit will often display signs of aggression due to hormones and may become territorial, spraying and urinating around the home. Spaying a female and neutering a male calms a rabbit's hormones, making it easier for the rabbit to maintain good litter box habits. In addition, unaltered female rabbits, as they age, face an increased risk of developing uterine cancer.
Find a Sturdy Litter Box
A litter box should provide ample space for your rabbit to eliminate and to stretch out for a nap. Pet stores and big box retail stores typically sell a variety of sizes of litter boxes for cats. Choose one that will allow your rabbit to easily jump in and to flop over. If your rabbit lives in a pen or has free run of your home, you can use the bottom of a rabbit cage as a litter box.
Choose a Safe, Rabbit-Friendly Litter
A litter box is more than a toilet for most rabbits. It's also a place to munch on hay and even to nap. That makes it essential to choose a safe, rabbit-friendly litter. Some safe litters you may want to try include:
Newspaper: Line the litter box with newspaper and top with hay, which makes it safe for your rabbit and easy for you to clean. Paper-based litters are also a safe choice.
Wood pellets: Wood pellets, used for wood stoves, are often sold in the colder months at home improvement stores and fireplace stores. Horse bedding, which are also wood pellets, can be found at farm and pet supply stores.
Hay: A generous helping of hay is effective when placed alone in a litter box. However, you may want to add newspaper or paper to the bottom of the box so your rabbit doesn't stand in his urine.
Never use cedar or pine chips or shavings, which have been linked to liver disease in rabbits. Clay cat litter may cause breathing issues and clumping cat litter could result in digestive and respiratory issues if your rabbit ingests it.
Choose a Location for the Litter Box
Where you put a litter box depends on your rabbit's living situation. House rabbits live in cages, pens and condos. Some also run free range, which means they may have free run of a room, a few rooms or even an entire house. Most rabbits choose a spot in their area where they like to eliminate. It may be in a corner of a room or a certain spot in a pen. Place your rabbit's litter box in that area. If your rabbit has free run and goes in several spots, place a litter box in each of those spots.
Encourage Your Rabbit To Use the Litter Box
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Place some of your rabbit's droppings into the litter box. Your rabbit likely will explore the litter box, especially if it is new. Always use a positive, happy tone with your rabbit, praising him when he uses the litter box. Be prepared for accidents. Negative reinforcement will only scare and intimidate your rabbit, which could set the litter training process back.
Offer a treat, such as a few pellets, each time your rabbit uses the litter box, while praising him.
Regularly Clean the Litter Box
Make sure you clean your rabbit's litter box on a regular basis. If you use hay or newspaper as litter, you may have to change the litter once or several times each day whereas you might only need to tidy up the wood pellet litter each day and do a full litter box change every other day. Clean the actual litter box regularly with vinegar or a pet-safe cleaner. Rabbits are clean animals, which makes it more likely your rabbit is going to use his litter box if it's clean.
Focus on Litter Training
Spend time with your rabbit each day to help him get used to using the litter box. Choose a command such as "go in the litter box" when you notice the behaviors he typically exhibits before eliminating or urinating. If you catch him as he's going, tell him "no" in a stern voice before placing him in the litter box or positively instruct him to go to the litter box. Your rabbit eventually will learn that's where he's supposed to eliminate.