The stages of litter training a rabbit
If you have brought a bunny home that has not been litter trained then you need to take their litter training in a series of gradual steps, special care needs to be given to juvenile bunnys as they will need to learn how to use a litter tray as they develop. Its unlikely that setting up their new home and simply putting a litter tray in the corner will work as they tend to make mess everywhere to begin with which can be hard to clean up. The best first step is to prepare a pen or other enclosure as a litter training area for when they arrive home. This can be done by covering the entire floor surface of this area with something that is absorbent and can be cleaned easily such as news paper or wood shavings or hay. As with most things rabbits do, litter training its going to need to be on their terms so remain patient and progress from here at their speed because if you move to quickly this process may take more time in the long run.
So how do you litter train a rabbit? Well in this first stage its a matter of time and patience where you let your rabbit establish a place they choose as a toilet area inside their pen or enclosure. This will typically be in a corner next to a wall where they feel save. Once this happens this is what you work with to take them through the various stages till they are comfortable using a proper litter tray. If your rabbit does not seem to favour a spot then this can be encouraged by putting a hay feeder over an area as its quite natural for rabbits when they are not resting to want to sit in a toilet area eating food. Rabbits go to the toilet regularly so if you do let them out in your home away from a litter training area make sure to put them back frequently for small periods at a time so they can reorientate themselves. If you let them out for to long its likely they will try and establish another corner as a toilet. If this does happen make sure you clean up any mess thoroughly as any odour left behindwill encourage them to go to the toilet there again. If its a fabric surface use a odour control spray. Please remember rabbits are not like Cats and Dogs and ‘rubbing their nose in it’ will not be something they understand at all. Any aggregation towards them is more likely to make them timid and harder to train. If you catch them in the act a firm No! is best, them pop them back in their pen and ignore them for a minute or two.
When they do start favouring a spot then the first stage is over and the next stage begins. It may still be too soon to use a litter tray as this change in environment could be confusing and your rabbit may end up simply going next to the litter tray which can start a bad habit. Instead you want to encourage them as much as possible to keep this spot as a toilet area. Placing food over this area such as a hay rack or hanging treat as this will encourage them to stay there longer because if your bunny is not resting then is likely they will be eating and going to the toilet, which they are quite happy to do at the same time in the same place. It’s important to keep all other areas very tidy by cleaning up any mass to further establish this spot. When you are cleaning out the corner keep some of the toilet waste back so it retains a familiar smell. It can be helpful to start sprinkling some of the litter you want to use in this area to help with the transition to the litter tray.
Let this continue for even a couple of weeks and you will notice your rabbit will get tidier and tidier with its habits, then when you think the time is right take some of the litter and toilet wast, transfer this to a litter tray and place this over the spot and hopefully you bunny will take to it. Its best to transfer some toilet wast every time you clean the litter tray out till you are confident it has been adopted. If you rabbit is really not getting the hang of transferring to a litter tray a trick that can be used is when you are happy the corner is the only spot your rabbit is using put the litter tray in makings sure it has some toilet waste in it then stretch a cotton bed sheet over the floor of the area surrounding it. This works because its removes any smell anywhere else that may associate with a toilet area that may have permeated into flooring and other corners. Its also useful as if they do go on the sheet you can tell instantly and whip it out and give it a wash.
What’s the best litter tray for litter training
Corner litter tray can be good in the litter training process as they typically have a low side along one edge and a high back which makes it east to get into and will stop it being tipped over. The bigger the tray the better when litter training and you can always get a smaller one later. your rabbit may sometimes kick the litter out over the edge so it is worth putting paper down underneath so it can be easily spotted and clean up quickly.
Neutered/spayed can make a big difference
Here at Bunny proofing we recommend neutering and spaying of rabbits for a variety of reasons, however we understand its your choice. Most rabbit owners that have had there rabbit done say they noticed an improvement in their toilet habits. Un-neutered male rabbits are more likely to be territorial and will want to mark spots, they may also spray urine which can get very messy and leave a lot of odour. If you are thinking of having this done we advise you seek the advice of a Vet that specialises in Exotic pets with experience in rabbit care.
Moving the litter tray to a new spot
If you need to move your litter tray from its regular spot this can cause confusion and if your rabbit can’t easily find their litter tray or don’t like where its been moved to they may return to where it was or even try and establish a new area on their own. If your rabbit does then break its litter training you may need to go right back to the beginning and re-litter train them so any sudden changes should be handled very carefully. When you move the litter tray make sure you frequently lead your rabbit to the litter tray and put some food next to the new spot to encourage your rabbit to spend time there. Totally remove any odour from the old spot by cleaning it thoroughly and quickly clean up any accidents elsewhere so these don’t get adopted as alternatives. If your rabbit dose not adopt the new place and consistently starts going in another part of the room you may want to move the litter tray there as its a clear preference that can may be impossible to discourage.
What to do if you rabbit goes to the toilet on you carpet, bed or sofa.
There may be many reasons why you rabbit does this and we have a full page of advice you can follow here How to stop your rabbit peeing on your carpet, bed or sofa
Need more help? Why not ask the Bunny Proofing group!
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