When many people think of pet rabbits, they tend to think of bunnies living in hutches in the backyard. The truth is, however, that rabbits are much happier living indoors as part of your family. The good news is that rabbits, much like cats, can be trained to use a litter box. House training your bunny rabbit can be fairly simple if you follow a few easy steps. Let's start house training your pet bunny:
- Rabbits who have been spayed or neutered are usually easier to house train than those who haven't been altered. Adult bunnies who have not been spayed or neutered have a tendency to mark their territory. Altering your pet rabbit is one of the best ways to speed up the litter training process. Spaying and neutering also has the added benefit of preventing several types of cancer, increasing your bunny's life expectancy.
- The age of your bunny is important. Adult rabbits are usually easier to house train than their younger counterparts. If you have a baby or adolescent bunny, it's vital that you are patient and understanding of mistakes during the training period. It may take them a little longer than older rabbits to get the hang of using the litter box, but they'll get there before you know it.
- Make sure that you choose a cage that is large enough for your bunny and all of his accessories. Rabbits need to have room to play, eat, stretch out and use their litter box. If you are having trouble fitting a litter pan, chances are that the cage is too small.
- A small, plastic litter pan like the ones used by cats work perfectly for bunnies. Check your local pet supply store for ideas for litter pans that are appropriate for your rabbit and his living quarters. Litter pans come in a variety of sizes, and there are even several pans designed to fit into the corner of a rabbit cage. Any of these are appropriate. Keep in mind that bunnies spend a lot of time in their litter boxes so the box should be large enough for them to lie down in. You may have to experiment with one or two different litter boxes of varying sizes and heights to find the one that works best for your bunny.
- The litter you use should be safe for your rabbit to ingest. Bunnies like to munch while they use their litter boxes, so it's of the utmost importance that the litter you choose be safe for them to eat. The best way to fill your bunny's litter box is to line it with a bit of newspaper and then fill it with a handful of timothy hay. Hay fulfills many of your bunny's nutritional needs, so you won't need to worry if he grazes while using his litter box. The newspaper will absorb any urine, and fresh hay is fragrant enough to mask the odor of urine as long as you clean the box regularly. A pellet-based litter such as Yesterday's News is also a safe option for your rabbit's litter box. You should never use cedar or pine wood shavings, as they have been known to cause serious liver problems in rabbits. Clumping cat litter is another no-no as it can cause problems that can prove fatal to your bunny.
- Allow your rabbit to choose his bathroom area in his cage. If you notice that your bunny prefers to eliminate in one corner rather than another, then that is the spot where you should place the litter box. This simple guideline can make a big difference in how fast your bunny starts using his litter box.
- Confinement and supervision are the keys to house training success. Keep your rabbit confined to his cage when you can't supervise him, and in a small exercise area when you are available to keep an eye on him. Keep a litter box nearby at all times. Having a box close at hand can make all the difference in house training. If you see your bunny lift his tail or head into a corner, gently but firmly tell him "no" and herd him toward his litter box. Once your rabbit seems to be consistently using his litter box, you can slowly increase the area in which he is allowed to run freely.
- Keeping the litter box clean will aid in your house training efforts. Your bunny is more likely to go to the bathroom outside of the litter box if his box is dirty. Remember, bunnies like to spend some time grazing and hanging out in their litter boxes. The fresher it is, the more inclined they'll be to spend time in there. Also, regular cleaning will help to keep odors down to a minimum.
- For bunnies having a little trouble understanding the concept of house training, multiple litter boxes may be the answer. If you're following all of the above steps, and your bunny is still having trouble getting with the program, he made need a little more help. Add another litter box or two to his environment. Sometimes rabbits just need this extra hint to help them make the connection between the box of hay and the bathroom area.
- Changes in routine can cause your rabbit to have a setback in his house training. Just like people, rabbits can get stressed out by major life changes. If you move to a new home, bring home another pet, or if a cage mate dies, your bunny will be affected. Sometimes your bunny's actions are the only way he can express his distress. If your rabbit has undergone any changes in his normal routine, and suddenly starts going to the bathroom outside of his box, be patient. Go back to the beginning and keep him confined to his cage or under close supervision in a small exercise area. Once his routine seems consistent again, most likely he will go back to using his litter box.
- If your rabbit hasn't experienced any major changes, and he is having accidents outside of the litter box, it's time for a trip to his veterinarian. There are several health-related problems that can cause your bunny to stop using his litter box, including kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and bladder stones. These things may cause your bunny to have a loss of control over his bladder or bowels. Only your veterinarian can help if this is the case for your bunny.
With some patience and understanding, most rabbits can learn to use a litter box. Keep in mind that you may have a few accidents or setbacks, but this is all part of the learning process. The time you invest in house training your bunny will be well worth the effort. Soon you'll be able to give your rabbit more freedom around the house, and he'll be entertaining you with his silly antics.