In this article we take an in depth look at litter boxes that come with a grate. This includes grates that are moulded into the design as well as wire grates and screens that are fitted over the top. We ask, are litter boxes with grates any good and do litter boxes with grates help stop the litter and poops going everywhere. We see if the claims they are sold under really live up to reality and talk about how they will affect your bunnies behaviour should you choose to use one, as you will see this may not be as you expect. We always put our bunnies first here on bunnyproof so this article will mostly talk about what's best for your bunny rather than what's convenient for you.
Going from the typical sales advice you find alongside them, the main claim is about how the addition of a grate allows for easy cleaning and helps prevent toilet waste and litter being kicked out of the box. They also state they can help avoid your bunny sitting in pee which can irritate or stain their paws. The key advantage is the mess stays in the box. Lastly some litter boxes with finer mesh grids are recommended as helpful for recycling as they separate the solid waste from the litter.
So how do these claims stand up? We will take a look below, point by point.
Undoubtedly collecting the poops and stopping you bunny digging about in the litter will stop poops and litter being spread outside the box however, there may be some unintended consequences on your bunniesnlitter training habits that need to be understood.
It's important for your bunnies health and happiness that they spend time in their litter box, sitting, eating and of course going to the toilet. However, these types of boxes don't cater for this and may even make it uncomfortable for them to spend time in which is essential to maintain good litter training habits. Consider the following advice from Rabbit.org
- All rabbits will drop poops around their cage to mark it as their own. This is not a failure to be litter trained. It is very important for your rabbit to identify the cage as their property so that when they leave the cage for the bigger world of your house, they will distinguish the family's area from their own and avoid marking it. The trick to getting the rabbit to keep their poops in the cage is to give them ownership of their cage. -
This would seem to say that It's likely if your bunny doesn't like their litter box, they may start to poop or worse pee around their litter box or decide to choose to start a new toilet corner. This unwanted behaviour can be very hard to stop when it starts and may even set your litter training back to square one.
Our verdict: If your bunny does take to this type of litter it will help reduce the mess, however, don't be surprised if your bunny finds it uncomfortable and simply starts pooping and peeing somewhere else. If you are finding it difficult to contain the mess, we would instead recommend getting a deeper litter box.
It is a concern of a lot of bunny parents that their bunnies paws get saturated in pee when they sit in their litter box as this can cause irritation of the skin or discoloration of the fur. While it is certainly true that a litter box with a grid above the litter will stop your bunny sitting in their pee they are by no means perfect at preventing this. Having read through some user reviews on amazon they often comment that urine and poop may clog up the grates after a while which can make cleaning more difficult. People also comment on how urine can't pool up in the corners of the grate and not get absorbed into the litter.
It seems these litter trays are not perfect especially if they are cheap and are also harder to keep clean. Our best advice to keeping your bunnies paws dry is not to use a litter box with a grate but to make sure your bunny has a litter box that's big enough to move about in so they can maneuver into a corner when they go for a pee. It can also help to put a layer of hay on the top to help keep any damp areas of litter away from where your bunny is sitting. Rabbit.org recommends placing a fresh handful of hay in your bunnies litter box each day. They say -This method helps encourage good litter habits as well as encourages hay consumption, since rabbits often eat and use the litter box at the same time.
Probably the best thing you can do to stop your bunny from coming into contact with toilet mess is simply to make sure that you clean it out regularly. The Santiago rabbit society gives the following advice on this subject and how regularly you should clean their tray out.
- Rabbits are very clean creatures. A smelly, soiled litter box could cause your rabbit to choose another place to do his business, sometimes just outside the box. Depending on the number of rabbits and litter boxes, clean litter boxes at least every other day. –
Our verdict: We think the advantages of using a litter tray with a mesh don't outweigh its disadvantages. i.e. harder cleaning, uncomfortable for your bunny. If you are worried about your bunny sitting in its pee, instead provide a box with lots of absorbent material and even a layer of hay in it and make sure you clean it out regularly.
Yes by design litter trays where the litter is out of reach will stop your bunny chewing the litter or digging in it however if you bunny is a bit of a chewer and digger then you should not expect this problem behaviour to simply go away by using one of these trays and the most likely result will be that this problem with move somewhere else.
It is important to understand that digging and chewing is all part of a bunnies natural behaviour. If your bunny is looking for fibrous material and is eating your litter, then in most cases its best to tempt them away with something more interesting to chew then blocking access to it as this can lead to them chewing your baseboards and carpet instead. We recommend placing a hay feeder over your bunnies litter box and changing this out with fresh hay regularly. Chew toys, hay or toilet roll tubes can also make great acceptable alternatives.
If digging in their litter box is a problem, then again covering it over could cause them to choose somewhere else to exercise this behaviour. This can lead to your carpet being damaged, soft furnishings being ripped, and plan pots being burrowed into. The best way to stop your bunny excavating its litter box is to provide an acceptable alternative like a digging box. Lots of bunny owners find these a great way of letting their bunnies do what they love while containing the mess. To make a digging box take a large cardboard box and fill it with lots of stuff like shredded paper, hay and chew toys that your bunny will love.
Our verdict: Digging and chewing is all part of a bunnies daily behaviour. The best way to stop this happening in their litter tray is to provide lots of acceptable alternatives such as chew toys and a digging box to act as an acceptable alternative.
This is often stated as an advantage in the sales blurb for these types of litter trays. The idea is you can separate the bunny poops from the litter to compost them separately. You may want to do this however, if you use biodegradable litter all of it can be composted in one go. According to compostthis.co.uk
- Yes you can compost rabbit droppings & their bedding (assuming their bedding is something like paper, straw or wood shavings). As vegetarian animals, rabbit poop from healthy rabbits does not pose a significant health risk (unlike meat-eating animals like cats and dogs) so it can be added to the compost heap. -
Our verdict: A regular litter box is just as easy to use for composting or recycling.
Having looked at the advice from some of the leading websites it's clear how important it is to your bunnies health and happiness to set their litter tray up correctly, what we have discovered about litter trays with meshes is they can make it difficult to follow this advice which is to make the litter tray a comfortable place for your bunny to spend time and even graze food. They will stop the mess from litter and poops being kicked out however, they may also lead in the end to poor litter training habits if your bunny decides to go elsewhere. In the end the problems these types of litter tray claim they help solve can be achieved with a regular litter tray which we would recommend as the best setup for your bunny.