can you potty train a rabbit?

Can you potty train a rabbit?

A very common misunderstanding is that rabbits are not intelligent creatures thus, can’t be potty trained. However, this is untrue as rabbits can be potty trained just like any other pet. Potty training, also known as litter training is very crucial if you allow your pet bunny to free roams your house/compound. A rabbit that is potty trained comes with many benefits and most importantly, makes your life as a bunny owner way easier!

Litter trained bunny on a litter box
Our potty trained holland lop on a simple litter box

Some immediate benefits of potty training your rabbit includes

  1. Easy to clean up after them
  2. Less occurrence of random poop droppings around your house/compound
  3. Controlled urine smell at only one part of your house/compound

These are the reason why potty training your bunny is worth it! An indoor pet bunny that is not litter trained can pollute your house with their urine smell. And if your bunny so happened to have a strong ammonia smell in their urine, your quality of life may decrease. In some cases, you won’t even be able to find their urine spot as rabbits like to urinate at odd corners to “mark their territory“. This happens because rabbits are very territorial and urinate at places to leave their scent there happens to be one of their ways to mark territory.

One way to overcome this issue is to neuter your bunny. Neutering your bunny strips their territorial behavior of them and can often make them less aggressive too. We highly recommend you to neuter your bunny as there are many benefits in neutering your bunny. Neutering your pet rabbit prior to litter training can also make potty training a whole lot easier.

We will show you the steps we took to potty train our rabbits. You can expect to find some common do’s and don’ts as well. We hope that our mini guide can help you in your litter training journey! Remember, the key to potty training a bunny is to be patience and attentive.

Is neutering necessary to litter train a rabbit?

Rabbit chinning behavior
Photo by Sankia from Unsplashed

The short answer is yes. In fact, litter training can be difficult for rabbits that are not neutered as rabbits have a tendency to mark territories. They mark territories with behaviors such as “chinning” or spraying their urine at random areas. You should neuter your bunny as soon as they are ready for it as neutering can bring many health benefits. Rabbits can be neutered as young as 4 months old as this is usually the age whereby the rabbit’s hormones starts going hyperactive.

Can adult rabbits be potty trained?

Rabbits can be potty trained at any age. Frankly speaking, older rabbits that are neutered are easier to train. Young rabbits can be harder to litter train as they are often still rebellious and don’t have full control over their bladder. If you would like to have a smooth potty training journey, we recommend neutering your bunny to suppress their territorial behaviors.

Here are some examples of our rabbits marking their territory before neutering. They often spray their thick urine at the corner of places that they are comfortable with. Prolonged exposure to their urine can often cause the damage to be permanent. These actions are commonly found in unneutered rabbits.

Things you will need to potty train a bunny with a litter box

  1. Simple litter box
  2. Bedding or pee pad
  3. (Optional) Collapsible play pen

Litter Box

There are many litter boxes that you choose to use for potty training. We recommend using a litter box that you will be using for a long time as it can make it easier for your bunny to get used to the routine. Don’t pick something that you will only be using as a temporary measure for a few weeks. A sudden change of litter box when your bunny is not fully trained yet may confuse and you may also lose all the potty training progress.

Considerations in choosing the right rabbit litter box

  • Low leveled litter box
  • Flat litter box
  • Plastic grids
  • Dual compartment

When choosing a litter box for your bunny, we recommend using a litter box that is low leveled. A low litter box helps reduce the pressure on your rabbit’s joint when jumping in and out of the litter box. The high litter box may be hard on older rabbits as older rabbits tend to have reduced mobility. A flat litter box is suitable for both young and older rabbits. We have tried tall rabbit litter boxes before and to be honest, we didn’t like how high our rabbits have to jump to get in and out.

Choosing a flat litter box for your bunny is also good as it minimizes the risk of your bunny hitting the litter box when using it. Some litter boxes are built with a wall surrounding 60% of them. While this is good to ensure the rabbit’s urine doesn’t go outside of the litter box, it can also be knocked over. A knocked-over litter box can spill your bunny’s waste all over the floor and this can get very messy. We are also afraid that consistent jumping may cause joint problems when they get older

Plastic grids are preferred over metal grids as it is better on your bunny’s feet. Oftentimes, metal grids made with thin metal wires can be very harmful to your rabbit’s feet. If your rabbit feet are exposed to improper flooring for an extended period, they will develop sore hocks. We choose plastic grids because it is a softer surface compared to metal wire and this is easier on our bunny’s feet.

If you are planning to use a pee pad, a litter box with a dual compartment is preferred. A dual compartment allows you to easily separate the pee pad from the litter box where your bunny will be on. Some pee pads can be dangerous to your rabbit when ingested thus, it’s best to keep the pee pad out of reach. If you would like to learn more about the rabbit litter box setup that we currently use, you can read a short write-up that we have here.

Bedding/Pee Pad

We choose a pee pad as it is the most suitable for our rabbit litter box setup. Beddings are more suitable if you planning to keep your bunny in a hutch. We also find it more economical to use a pee pad as we clean our rabbit litter box every day. Tossing beddings away every day is just not suitable for us.

If you are clean freaks like us that clean their bunny litter box every day, we encourage you to use a pee pad. The pee pad is easier to handle and you won’t be wasting anything as it gets fully utilized after a day or two. If you are planning to go for bedding, be sure to pick one that is not toxic to the rabbits!

For rabbits, avoid using the following type of bedding;

  1. Cat litter (Clumping) – Often are “clumping litters”. Clumping litters can be useful but when it comes to the rabbit, it’s a no-go. Most rabbits have a habit of chewing and eating their bedding or pee pad. If they ingest clumping litter, it may cause blockage in your bunny’s body.
  2. Pinewood – Considered as “softwood” which is not suitable for rabbits. Softwood can cause health issues for your bunny as it messes with your bunny’s natural liver enzymes. Prolonged usage of softwood will cause liver damage which damages your bunny’s overall health.

(OPTIONAL) Collapsible Play Pen

A collapsible playpen helps your bunny to familiarize with where they should be doing their business. We used this for our holland lop rabbit as he is a bit slower in learning compared to our dwarf. This part is optional as potty training can be done without it.

The purpose of this playpen is to help your bunny to get used to its “zone”. This zone is where they will go when they need to do their business or eat. We recommend using the collapsible type of playpen for rabbits instead of cages.

How to a potty train a rabbit

Step 1: Identify your bunny’s chosen corner

If your bunny has been free-roaming for a while, they might have already chosen a certain corner to poop and pee. This is the spot that your bunny feels most comfortable with. It is usually at a corner where your bunny has a good view of everything that is going on. Since rabbits are prey animals, it is only natural that they will pick a strategic corner over an open space. This is because a corner provides your bunny with a sense of security with their backs protected.

Rabbit pooping at corner
Bunny pooping at the corner

Once you have identified “the spot”, you can begin the litter training by placing a litter box there. If the spot is not easily accessible or is at an awkward spot like behind the door, then you have to create a new spot for your bunny. When creating a new spot for your rabbit, it is best to train them to go there by feeding them there and giving them their favorite treat at that spot.

If you keep your rabbits in a cage or a hutch, the method is the same. Find the corner that they are comfortable with and place a litter box of the appropriate size there. If you don’t have a suitable litter box, do not place a pee pad on its own at the spot. As mentioned earlier, some pee pads can be dangerous when ingested. It is important to choose a litter box that is best suited to your bunny’s potty training journey.

Step 2: Feed and play with your rabbit at the litter box

potty trained rabbits on a litter box
Rabbits with accessible hay on a litter box

The first real step to potty training a rabbit is to make the litter box feel like home to them. What do you do at home? You eat, sleep and play there of course! This applies to rabbits as well. Your goal is to have them comfortable eating at the litter box.

Rabbits often poop as they eat. Feeding them their hay or pallets on the litter box will encourage your rabbit to poop on the spot. You can get creative on how to feed your bunny on the litter box. There are two main methods that rabbit owners can use to feed their bunny on a litter box.

  1. Putting it directly on the litter box – By far the easiest method if you have a large litter box. Quite effective as you can monitor the hay level easily and don’t require much effort. The negative thing about this method is that rabbits may eat the hay from outside the litter box. Eating outside the litter box causes them to urinate and poop there and this is not ideal when litter training. You may have to pay more attention to your bunny if you decide to use this method.
  2. Using a hay rack – Mounted hay rack is suitable if you are using metal fencing for your rabbit’s playpen. You can easily DIY a very effective mounted hay rack with home equipment and tools. There are standing hay racks for the bunny as well but usually, the standing hay racks are required to have their back faced against a wall. This is because standing hay racks can be knocked down by rabbits if placed without back support.

Rabbit’s habit of pooping while eating will help tremendously in creating a routine. With hay available in abundance near the litter box, they will continue to eat and poop there. This routine will help your bunny to get used to doing their business in the litter box.

Giving your bunny their favorite treat at the litter box is also a very good way to make them feel comfortable around the litter box. By constantly giving them treats on the litter box, they will get used to the routine and run to the litter box whenever they see you holding their treat. This helps in potty training because rabbits love sweet treats and will often wait and rest on the litter box hoping for some!

To make your bunny more comfortable with their potty area, you can play with them near the litter box. Your bunny will appreciate the brain activation and attention you give them during playtime! This also helps strengthen the bond between you and your bunny. One example of a brain-teasing and fun toy is our wooden stump toy.

Rabbit toy wooden stump
Wooden stump toy for bunnies

Step 3: Keeping their scent in the litter box.

Once your rabbit starts urinating and pooping in the litter box, we recommend not cleaning them up and leaving their waste in the litter box for at least a day or two. As you know, rabbits have a very strong sense of smell and this can help them find their “spot”. By leaving your rabbit’s waste there for 2 days, the smell will naturally attract your bunny. Rabbits can notice their scent and will think that that “spot” is their home.

Potty training must do when rabbit urine outside the litter box
Urine tissue thrown back into the litter box

Sometimes your rabbit may misfire their urine and accidentally urinate outside the litter box. If you notice this, do your best to wipe it up with tissue and toss it into their litter box. The sooner you do this the better. This is because the rabbit’s urine leaves a very strong scent. By doing it immediately, your rabbit’s scent is kept concentrated within their litter box.

Step 3: Be patience and monitor your bunny

Waiting for rabbit to get used to the new spot
Photo by Lukas Blazek from Unsplashed

After you have done all the previous steps, the final step is just to sit back and monitor your bunny. You must be patient when in potty training a rabbit. Every rabbit has their own pace. During the 3rd day to the 10th day period, you have to closely monitor your rabbit to ensure minimal setbacks happen. Potty training a rabbit can take anywhere between half a week to 2 weeks.

Setbacks are completely normal the new potty training routine may be confusing. Enforce the new routine by spending more time doing the previous steps and paying close attention to your bunny. You should never punish a rabbit when setbacks happen. What you should be doing is to tend to the setback immediately. Punishing a bunny only makes things worse as they may lose their trust in you and won’t feel comfortable around you. A rabbit’s trust is hard to gain and easy to lose!

Common setbacks faced when potty training a rabbit

  1. Rabbit constantly urinating outside the litter box. This usually happens because your rabbit is still not used to using the litter box yet. Try to wipe the urine with tissue paper and toss it into the litter box. The sooner you do this, the better as leaving the urine alone will cause the scent to stick to the flooring. You can also spray the area down with vinegar to neutralize the scent.
  2. Rabbit keeps choosing other corners to do their business. Your bunny may do this if they were already comfortable with a certain spot. Sometimes it is easier to give in and place the litter box there to speed up the process. However, if it is at a place that is not possible (eg, behind a door) then you will have to block out the area or use a playpen for your bunny to potty train.

If setbacks still happen even after constant remedying, it may be an issue related to your bunny’s health. Health problems can cause prolonged setbacks and sometimes even make your bunny fail his litter training. Some common health problem includes;

  1. Joint problem
  2. Bladder infections
  3. Kidney stone

That is it when it comes to potty training a rabbit! We have tried our best to keep this guide as short and direct as possible. Feel free to ask any questions in regards to litter training. We will pin some of the questions in this post for readers to read in the future!

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