Rabbits are naturally clean and tidy as animals so if your bunny does go to the toilet away from its litter tray then it’s important to understand what’s behind this behaviour so you can make the necessary changes to stop it. There could be a number of reasons why this problem occurs. The usual suspects can be a change in your home that has broken the litter training, marking of territory of a shared space or a physiological change such as incontinence due to illness or a young rabbit reaching maturity. If your rabbit has started peeing and pooping around you home then don’t panic, it’s something that happens from time to time and in this article we have lot’s of ways other bunny parents have discovered to get things back on track.
What to do when it happens
If you catch your bunny in the act then it’s important to react immediately. Never shout loudly or clap aggressively at your rabbit, they have sensitive hearing and this could cause them a lot of stress. Never hit or forcefully remove your bunny, they simply will not understand this type of discipline more commonly used on dogs and in the long run harsh punishment could make them timid or even aggressive towards you. Instead say their name and NO! in a firm voice, even repeating this a few times and pick them up and move them to their pen or an area where they cannot come back into the room. This will teach them they will be excluded if they do this and also allow you to clean things up. If you leave it more than a few seconds then it’s likely you rabbit won’t know why it’s being told off so this may have little effect. It’s important to remove any scent where the accident happened or the bunny will want to keep going back to this spot and add to it. If it’s just some droppings then toss these in the litter try and give the surface a quick spray with some fabric freshener. If its a wee stain then it’s important to wash any covers that can be removed and soak out any moisture and again treat surfaces with a fabric freshener.
Marking their spot
Rabbits like most pets, like to establish their place amongst us. Areas of your home your rabbit is not allowed or that you spend a lot of time occupying such as the sofa or bed are prime targets. When your rabbit gets access to these areas, especially when you are away, they may want to mark this with their own scent and a strong way of doing this is to pee or poop there. If this does happen then it’s important to remove any smell completely or the bunny will keep going back to this spot to mark their territory further. Following this it’s best to keep your rabbit away from this space for a bit till it forgets about it then reintroduce in with a watchful eye.
Changes to your home can disturb litter training
If you have moved home, moved the litter tray from its regular spot or introduced your rabbit to an additional space in your home, this can cause confusion. Sometimes just moving furniture around in a room can all disturb your rabbits litter training routine, if they can’t easily find their litter tray they may try and establish a new area to go in. If you think this is the case then there are a number of things you can try. If you are happy to let your rabbit choose where it’s litter tray should be then to put down a second litter tray where the new toilet area has developed. It’s likely they will eventual abandon the old litter tray which can then be removed. If you have given your rabbit a larger space to roam in and the litter tray is not centrally located you can choose to provide two litter trays, one at each end. If your rabbit does break its litter training you may need to go right back to the beginning and re-litter train your rabbit. Make sure you frequently lead your rabbit to the litter tray and put some food next to it to encourage your rabbit to spend time there and thoroughly clean up any accidents elsewhere.
Spaying and neutering
When young rabbits reach maturity this can have a dramatic effect on their toilet behaviour and peeing problems can develop in un-spayed or un-neutered rabbits. Getting them done in a lot of cases can also result in a rabbit with much better toilet habits. We recommend spaying and neutering for this as well as many other reasons that will improve your rabbit’s health and happiness.
It can be helpful to try and predict when your rabbit is building up to going to the toilet so you can do something about it before it’s too late. For instance if you rabbit has been out for a while without using its litter tray it’s probable going to happen soon. Keep an eye on your rabbit so if it jumps up on the sofa just after you get up and starts to try and get to the corner where the cushions are and moves about like it does when it is on the litter tray, positioning its backside into the corner you can step in. When you get the sense it’s pee time it’s best to lead you rabbit to it’s litter tray. Try and put the litter tray in an enclosed area so you can keep your rabbit there till it’s done. Another way of encouraging this is when you catch your rabbit on the litter tray repeat to it “Wee Wee’s, Wee Wee’s”. Then when you lead you rabbit to the litter tray again say “Wee wee’s, Wee wee’s” along the way. This will help your rabbit understand what it is you are doing. Given enough time and practice this can even be given to your rabbit as an instruction and if it needs the toilet it will often trot off on it’s own.
Naturally you rabbit would choose where it wants it’s toilet area to be so when you make this choice its important to spend a bit of time making sure it’s also what your bunny has in mind or they will simply choose another spot. Always put the litter tray somewhere against a wall or in a corner where you rabbit will not be disturbed and can feel safe. If you rabbit has an enclosure or pen in your home this is the ideal spot. It can be helpful to put your rabbit’s food bowls next to the litter tray and to place a hay rack over the top so your rabbit can sit in it’s litter and eat . When you rabbit has been to the litter tray successfully always make sure they are encouraged with kind words and treats.
Changes in litter training habits can be caused by health problems relating to old age
Problems in using the litter tray can also be caused by restricted mobility which can come with age and a natural slowing down. This can be helped by choosing a larger litter tray with lower sides and making sure you bunny has easy access to it. If you are worried about this a Vet specialising in exotic pet will be able to advise you.
Need more help? Why not ask the Bunny Proofing group!
We are a community of house rabbit enthusiasts with a specific interest in sharing our experiences of living with these special pets. We like posting tips on enriching our rabbits environments, preventing damage to our homes and making them safe for our rabbits to inhabit.