Litter box training your rabbit is fairly easy, and it can start at any time, with a rabbit of any age; all it takes is a little time, patience and consistency.
Things you will want to have on hand:
- Several litter boxes—one for bunny’s cage & a few to put in different locations around bunny’s play area.
- Bunny safe litter for the boxes – be mindful of dangerous litter types
- Spray bottle filled with white vinegar for easy clean up.
Note: Rabbits should be spayed or neutered as soon as they are sexually mature (males 3 ½ – 4 mos., females 6 mos.). This will alleviate most of the hormone based territorial behavior, such as spraying and marking territory with urine and feces, which will make house training your bunny a lot (!) easier (see ZoohPaper on Spay/Neuter).
IN THE CAGE
The first step in litter box training your rabbit is to make sure there is a comfortable litter box in your rabbit’s cage. Most rabbits choose a corner in which to do all their bathroom deeds and that is where you will want to put the litter box. If your bunny likes to rearrange his house, secure the box to the side of the cage by poking wire through it and attaching it to the wire cage side (make sure no wire ends can hurt your bunny). Put bunny’s hay in one end of the litter box to encourage bunny to hop in and stay awhile. Make sure to keep the box clean, as most bunnies like to nap, groom themselves and relax in their box! Spend a lot of time with your rabbit, let him know when you are pleased with his behavior: the key to any good animal-human relationship is communication!
OUT OF THE CAGE
For the first out-of-cage excursions it is best to keep the area limited, and make sure there are plenty of litter boxes around. Put a bit of hay at one end of each box, or maybe a bunny-safe chunk of wood, or a favorite toy (we use hay) to encourage bunny to hop in. Watch the place your bunny goes to kick back and put a litter box close to that spot. Keep the excursions short (start with about five minutes) and make them frequent. You want these learning experiences to be positive, and limiting play area and time out are the best ways to do that. Watch your bunny the entire time he is out, so that if he does make a mistake, you can catch him immediately and put him in a litter box. Once you have put him in the box, praise him for his good manners! Don’t force him to stay in, but encourage him to do so by showing the food/toy/wood, then let him do as he chooses (never force or restrain a bunny unless it is medically necessary) for a few seconds before putting him back in his house. Wait at least 15 minutes to ½ hour before the next jaunt.
Let your bunny tell YOU when he is ready for more time out and more room to roam. Be patient and clean up his mistakes cheerfully (keeping the area clean gives him less reason to make mistakes) and eventually you will have a happy, well-mannered house bunny.