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How to litter box train a rabbit

Rabbit sitting in litter box
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Believe it or not, learning how to litter box train a rabbit is actually pretty easy and once you’ve gotten them used to the process, you’ll find there’s a lot less mess for you to clean up. While we often think of litter training as something that’s reserved for cats, it turns out that our floppy-eared friends are well suited to this too!

Investing in the best rabbit litter box is the first thing you’re going to want to do and once you’ve crossed that off your list, you’ll find the below tips super helpful in walking you through how to train your bunny to use it.   

Why do rabbits need litter boxes?

When considering why rabbits need litter training, it helps to take a quick look at rabbits in the wild. Wild rabbits use specific areas in their warren and territory for toileting and this helps keep their environment clean while ensuring fewer traces for predators. Like their wild cousins, pet rabbits also like to be clean and don’t like sitting in their own urine or faeces, as this can cause health problems. 

Buying the best rabbit litter box you can find for your pet rabbit is a good idea as it will provide a specific area for toileting, ensuring the rest of your rabbit’s environment stays clean and germ-free. Another benefit is that litter trays can be easily cleaned daily, meaning that a deep clean of your rabbit’s environment is only required weekly.

Setting up a rabbit litter box

First, consider the size of your rabbits: the bigger the rabbits, the bigger the trays required. Rabbits may prefer enclosed litter trays, shallow sided ones, high sided, or corner litter trays. 

Whichever one you choose, the trays need to be enticing, so be sure to place absorbent material, such as newspaper, on the bottom to line the tray then follow this with a layer of litter and finish with a large pile of hay on top. 

Rabbits like to eat when using their trays and placing hay in the trays will encourage use. The litter you use must not be clumping or material which will swell if eaten, as this can be fatal. Wood-based litters are best, but if you are concerned your rabbit may eat the litter, simply use newspaper and hay in the whole tray.

The best locations to place the trays are quiet corners of rooms or the rabbits’ enclosure. You will need at least one tray per rabbit, plus an extra one if they live outside, and if the rabbits are house rabbits, they should have one in every room they have access to, again placed in the corner. Sometimes the number may be decreased once their litter training is established.

How to litter box train a rabbit

Domestic rabbit surrounded by hay

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Both sexes of rabbits can be litter trained, with equal ease, but rabbits must be neutered. Neutering is essential, not only for health reasons and to ensure they can have a companion, but it also makes rabbits easier to litter train. Neutered rabbits are less territorial, so leave fewer droppings around their environment to demonstrate territorial ownership. 

Males can be neutered from 12 weeks of age and females from 16 weeks. Until your rabbits are neutered, they are unlikely to accept litter training, but place litter trays in their environment, so they become accustomed to them.

Once your rabbits have been neutered, you can begin litter training:

  1. Place some of your rabbits’ droppings and urine in the trays
  2. Ensure they have hay and some treats in the trays to encourage them to use them
  3. Do not disturb your rabbits when they are using their tray
  4. If your rabbits pass any droppings outside of their tray, sweep them up and put them in the tray
  5. Clean the trays daily and replenish with clean newspaper, litter, and hay, but until they are reliably using their trays, continue to place some droppings and urine in the trays after cleaning

Most rabbits get the idea of litter training within a few days/weeks. All rabbits will leave the odd dropping out of their trays, but once litter trained, rabbits are generally reliable at using their trays. If your rabbits suddenly stop using their trays, it may be there is a health problem or something is scaring them. Take your rabbit to your vet to rule out any medical issues.

Tips for litter box training your rabbit

Whilst most rabbits will readily learn how to use a litter tray, if your rabbits do not, then try different types of trays and litter to see if they have a preference.

If your rabbit decides to use a different area as a toilet, place a litter tray there for several days, slowly moving it to where you want it to be.

Plastic dog beds, which have some of the side cut out, work well as litter trays for large rabbits or those with osteoarthritis, who may struggle to get in and out of higher sided trays 

Conclusion

Litter training is helped by rabbits being naturally clean animals and, once neutered, most rabbits quickly learn how to use a litter tray. Having your rabbits litter trained greatly reduces the amount of daily cleaning required and is a must if you plan on keeping rabbits as house rabbits.

Claire currently works in Kettering as a Head Nurse in a practice with a high rabbit caseload, as well as frequently lecturing and writing on rabbits to both veterinary professionals and owners.