Story of Hillary, Kensington and Pee
By Elizabeth Richer Campo
begins my sad tale of woe: about a month ago, Hillary (my second
rabbit) decided that the litter pan was but an option - one that
she chose not to use. Both of my rabbits had had very nice litter
box habits, a few "pills" here and there but nothing a
small dust broom couldn't handle. It was the smell that clued me
in first, then the too damp bunny mat confirmed my suspicions -
Hillary had stopped using her pan.
may ask how I knew it was Hillary and not Kensington (bunny number
one). Was I just blaming her because she was new? No - as embarrassing
as it is to admit, I can tell their poops apart. Kensington is a
little bit bigger and so are his droppings, and he is also strangely
fussy about where he relieves himself. I think he is trying to create
a monument to his greatness.
need to know about my rabbits to understand how I was able to use
their strengths and weaknesses to successfully retrain them both.
Did you know that when one rabbit develops a bad habit the other
will soon follow? Anyway, Kensington is mini lop that my husband
and I picked up at the ASPCA. He was a year and a half old when
we got him and he ruled the roost for a year until I felt we weren't
home enough and he needed a friend. I contacted Zooh Corner and
they introduced us to the very shy Hillary.
had led a very sad life, resulting in the Zooh's decision to amputate
her rear left leg. She gets around surprisingly well and is otherwise
very healthy. Alex at the Zooh bonded Kensington to Hillary but
it didn't really take until we moved to a new apartment. Before
you think we are way beyond rabbit freaks, we didn't move to bond
them - it was a happy result of an unplanned move. Everything seemed
to be bliss until the peeing started.
first reaction was to just clean up the mistakes and hope it didn't
happen again, but after a few days it was getting irritating and
a little stinky. The rabbit area either smelled of pee or vinegar.
So, I contacted Alex to ask for her sage bunny advice. Her first
recommendation was to take Hillary to the Vet to make sure she did
not have a bladder infection. I honestly didn't think she was sick,
but better safe than sorry.
the problem to the Vet who agreed that she was healthy, so the problem
must be psychological. Hillary was suffering from stress related
to territory. Here were her symptoms: relieving herself next to
the litter pan no matter where it was placed, matted fur around
her vent, otherwise bright eyed and bushy tailed. She is a skittish
rabbit but continued to be curious and beg for treats. She is the
only rabbit I know who will eat treats on the way to the Vet.
was a big relief that she was healthy; the matting was a result
of her only having the one back leg and shedding season. Now she
gets mini baths and trims to keep that under control. The next hurdle
was to figure out how to deal with the territorial stress thing.
I did not want to put up cages because they seemed to prefer being
free range and together; in fact Kensington would not stop thumping
while the Vet was examining Hillary; he wanted his girl back.
to try different bunny zone configurations until I found one that
worked. Then it would be triscuits (that's champagne for bunnies)
all around. The first thing I did was to get rid of the old mat
I had under the litter pan and dishes and soak the whole area in
vinegar to get rid of the ammonia smell. I put down a rubber-backed
doormat that would be easy to clean but still comfortable for the
rabbits. This did not work!
added a pan that Kensington could use but Hillary couldn't and placed
their hay in between the two pans for them to munch while they did
their business. This worked for two days until Kensington decided
it would be fun to start tossing his pan over and they both started
peeing on the hay.
I put a cover over Hillary's pan so she could feel secure. I also
hid a grape in each pan to tempt them into using them. The grape
thing worked with Kensington but Hillary wasn't as easy to fool;
she was smart enough to take the treat and hop out to pee in front
of the pan. Needles to say I was getting perturbed but at least
I was back to where I started.
I got rid of the cover on Hillary's pan and put a few Hillary poops
in her pan along with a lot of hay. Eureka! It worked. To keep the
scent just right I would leave a little soiled litter in each pan
so they could smell which was theirs. I did this for about ten days,
and then I scrubbed the pans completely but by that time they had
each created their own litter box territory.
very happy with the new improved litter trained rabbits, even though
I have two pans to clean everyday. The task of cleaning two pans
is small compared to cleaning rabbit urine off the floor three times
a day. Another hidden perk in the new system is that Hillary and
Kensington seem so much happier together. They used to spend most
of their time apart and join each other for grooming, or to steal
food. Now they are practically inseparable but they still steal
treats from each other. I wonder if that should be my next behavior
modification? Nah, they look too cute doing it.