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The majority of rabbits acclimate quickly to using a rabbit litterbox, but there are some who are a little more lenient with their litterbox use. All rabbits can be litterbox trained, but some are a little harder to train than others.
If your rabbits litterbox habits are lacking, here are some questions we’ll typically ask along with solutions to try.
Some rabbits do not use the litterbox well simply because it isn’t big enough for them to comfortably sit in, especially corner litterboxes. Rabbits typically like to sit in their litterbox and eat hay while they do their business. Your rabbits size will also affect just how large the box needs to be. Large or extra large cat litterboxes usually work just fine for rabbits. If you have a bigger bunny that has issues peeing outside the box (i.e when they lift their butt up it goes off the side even though they're sitting in the box) you can also try a high sided litterbox.
For extra large bunnies or rabbits who may not have great habits you may want to try using large, low plastic bins that can be found at your local Walmart or Target
Most of the time you want the litterbox in a corner, opposite food and water. If your rabbit seems to be choosing a different corner though, it’s often easiest to comply and begin putting the box there.
Sometimes they may prefer having a little privacy, so having it in a quiet place that isn’t necessarily “out in the open” may help. Seeing where your rabbit is going to the bathroom instead of the litterbox may help you figure out if your rabbit is looking for privacy.
Rabbits like to nibble while they do their business, so either placing a large chunk of hay and/or their hay feeder in or right by the litterbox can sometimes make a big difference.
Rabbits are territorial animals, and even though spaying or neutering helps curb territorial behavior, the instinct often remains but to a lesser degree. When their area is cleaned or even their litterbox is changed, they may feel the need to “remark” their territory with poop or sometimes pee. We usually do not recommend completely changing the litterbox every day since it may cause them to constantly be remarking their area, and that means more poops outside the box. This is especially important when they are first coming into your home and don’t feel established yet.
The recommended amount for changing their litter is once or twice a week, depending on how much they use it. How fast the litter gets used will vary based on the rabbit’s size, how much they drink, and size of the litterbox. If you just brought your bunny home you will probably want to wait at least a week, this way in their new environment they’ll know where they’re supposed to go and won’t potentially look elsewhere to use the bathroom.
Whether your rabbit is just learning how to use the litterbox or you’re just helping them realize where their litterbox is, the most important thing is to pick up their poops and put them in the litterbox. If they pee outside the litterbox, wipe it up with paper towels and place inside their litterbox. This helps reinforce where they are supposed to go to the bathroom.
Again, since they are territorial, you may want to only pick up poops once or twice a day if you notice that they strongly feel the need to remark their space after you clean up.
More often than not if you have more than one rabbit, you should have more than one litterbox. This way if the box is occupied by one, the other can still easily access the second one. At the least, have a generously sized litterbox so that they both can share if they are very bonded.
If your rabbit is starting to learn how to use a litterbox, having multiple litterboxes is another technique you can try. If your rabbit determined to pee/poop along one specific side of their area, you may want to place 2-3 litterboxes along that side to comply and hopefully help them start using the box more. This is especially helpful if another pet often walks in front of their habitat and they feel the need to mark alongside the fencing.
Some extreme examples include using a litterbox or multiple boxes that are large enough to cover 50-60% of their area just to help them learn to make it in the box. Then once they’ve consistently made it in the boxes, you slowly remove some of the boxes they don’t use as much till you’re back down to one or two litterboxes.
If your rabbit is allowed to explore multiple rooms, you may want to include a litterbox in each room if they spend a lot of time there, or if their habitat/home base is on one side of the house and they don’t often make it back to their litterbox.
Once you find out which boxes your rabbit is using frequently or your rabbit starts using certain ones less and less as they feel more at home or that their space is respected, you can remove one at a time until you find a happy medium.
We recommend using paper pellets such as Yesterdays news (½ to 1 inch layer) with a thin to medium layer of hay on top. When changing the litterbox, you can change whichever corner they are frequently peeing in and not necessarily have to change the whole thing like with some other litter types (if you’re using a litter scooper, a solid scoop typically makes less mess than one with slits or holes). Paper pellets are also the best when it comes to absorption and odor control - rabbits really don’t stink unless it’s been a while since their box was changed. Just think if you were stuck in a bathroom where the toilet didn’t flush for days on end!
Some rabbits do not like the texture of the pellets, so they may need a thicker layer of hay (but not so much that over half the box is full) or you may need to try a softer litter such as Carefresh or paper shreds. The disadvantage of shredded or fluffy paper is that it can is more easily kicked out of the litterbox, and often sticks to long-haired rabbits.
Most of the time when bunnies are first brought home it takes about 2 weeks for them to settle back into their good litterbox habits, but sometimes it takes 1 to 2 months since it’s dependent on the rabbit and their environment.
Rabbits that were spayed/neutered a few weeks before may take longer to settle in than rabbits who have been spayed/neutered for months or years. Some young rabbits (under 1 year) may be more lax in litterbox habits since they’re still growing, learning, and still in their “teenager” phase.
Some rabbits seem to like using the bathroom on couches or beds. Sometimes they are doing this to be territorial, i.e they smell a cat, dog, or another rabbit and they’re trying to remark their territory, or it could be because they find it absorbant like their own litter. Human’s beds and pillows seem to be a favorite to “claim” too!
There are a few things you can try if they are doing this.
If your rabbit was using the litterbox perfectly and then suddenly or even gradually stopped and there weren’t any changes in their environment, this may indicate a health issue and you should bring them to your rabbit veterinarian for an exam.
Arthritic, senior, and disabled rabbits generally need low entry litterboxes and/or a special set-up to better accommodate their needs.