Litter box training rabbits is not a difficult thing to do and can make caring for your bunnies a lot easier!
Rabbits are naturally clean animals and are also creatures of habit – both qualities that will really help in your quest to train your rabbit.
Why litter box train your rabbit?
Most people that litter train their rabbits want their bunnies to be able to “free range” in the house without worrying about constantly following them with a dustpan and broom.
But outdoor rabbit keepers also can benefit from having litter-trained rabbits. My bunnies live outside and I definitely appreciate having my rabbits litter trained. It makes cleaning their enclosure fast & easy and when I do bring them inside my house, the mess is contained to one area. I hardly ever have to clean their exercise run even though they spend almost their entire day out there. They go back to their box when they are out playing.
Selecting the right equipment
Get the biggest box that will comfortably fit in their cage or enclosure. Be sure your rabbit will still have space inside their cage to stretch out. Bunnies will spend a lot of time hanging out in their box and might even sleep in it occasionally so you want to go big (like this box). If your rabbit has a tendency to spray urine (common in rabbits that are not spayed/neutered) you might want to consider a box that is covered or has a urine guard around the edges (like this box).
Getting the right litter is the most important part. Your rabbit is likely to nibble on the litter so it is very important the litter is non-toxic.
Avoid clumping cat litters because the clumps can end up forming in the rabbit’s digestive tract if they eat it. Also, avoid any litter with fragrances or deodorizing crystals as they can be toxic. Dusty clay litter and strong-smelling pine & cedar shavings can be irritating to bunny lungs.
The best kind of litter to use is one made from paper. It is good at absorbing odors, is non-toxic if ingested, and is fully compostable. I like litter made into paper pellets because they don’t get stuck in my rabbit’s long, thick, fur. (this is the one I use)
Just like training any animal, this will not happen overnight. But if you keep at it and manage your expectations, it can be pretty painless. Young rabbits will take longer to catch on. Also, accept that rabbits like to drop fecal pellets in their territory to mark it as their own. It is totally normal to still find pellets around their cage and it does not mean litter training has failed.
The goal of litter training is to get them to return to their cage & litter box when they are out in their exercise pen (or out roaming the house) and to keep all the urine in the box. If your rabbit is not spayed or neutered, you may have to accept that spraying happens. With unaltered animals, sometimes the best you can hope for is to keep the spraying contained to their cage.
How to litter box train your rabbit
Put the box with a thin layer of litter in your bunny’s cage. They prefer cozy, quiet corners if possible. A great way to get your bunny to spend a lot of time in her box is to hang her hay manger next to the box.
She will sit in the box munching on hay, doing her business. You can even tuck a few treats in the manger as further incentive for staying for a while. If you notice she is peeing in a different corner, move the box there. It’s way easier to work with your bunny than against her! Depending on your setup, you may also want a second box in her play area.
The first few days watch her very closely any time she is out of her cage. If you notice her peeing or pooping outside of the cage and outside of the box, say no and clap to get her attention. Gently shoo her back towards the box.
Anytime you see her using the box, give her praise and maybe a favorite treat or two. If she is pooping in his cage but not in the box, don’t startle her. A rabbit’s cage is her castle. She needs to mark it and make it his own. I take a little dustpan and sweep up any loose poop in the enclosure daily, but your rabbit should be using the box for his urine.
For the first week, I would suggest making her play area as small as possible. This will give her the greatest chance for success. As she gets better about returning to the box you can expand the areas she is allowed into. Keep in mind if your goal is to allow your rabbit access to your entire house you will likely need at least a few boxes. At bare minimum one on each floor that your rabbit is allowed on.
My rabbits live outside so I am not as concerned about perfect usage as I would be if they lived in my house. But they do get all of their urine in the box and nearly all of the poop in the box. I’ve noticed the females are much better about using the box than the males.
Keeping the box clean
Cleaning out the box regularly is important. Rabbit urine has a very strong smell that won’t be pleasant for you to be around, and it isn’t pleasant for your rabbits either! Depending on how many rabbits you have and how many boxes you have for them, change out the litter 1-4 times per week.
You can dump the entire litter box contents – fecal pellets, urine, & litter pellets – into your compost bin. A thin layer of litter pellets in the bottom of the pan is all that is necessary for absorbing smells. Once a week or so, wipe the whole box out with some diluted white vinegar to disinfect.