Start with a box in the cage, and one or more boxes in the rabbit’s running space. If she urinates in a corner of the cage not containing the box, move the box to that corner until she gets it right. Don’t be concerned if your bunny curls up in his litterbox–this is natural. Once she’s using the box in the cage, open her door and allow her into her running space. Watch her go in and out on her own. If she heads to a corner where there’s no box, or lifts up her tail in the characteristic fashion, cry “no” in a single, sharp burst of sound. Gently herd her back to her cage and her litterbox, or into one of the boxes in her room. Be careful, however. You don’t want to make the cage or the litterbox seem like punishment. A handful of hay in the box makes it a more welcoming place. After she first uses the box, praise her and give her her favorite treat. Once she uses the box in her room a couple of times, you’re well on your way, as her habits will be on their way to forming. As she gets better trained in her first room, you can increase her space. Don’t hurry this process. And if the area becomes very big, or includes a second floor, be sure to include more litterboxes, so as not to confuse her. Remember, as she becomes more confident and uses fewer boxes, you can start to remove some of her early, “training” boxes. Get your rabbit into a daily routine and try not to vary it. Rabbits are very habitual and once a routine is established, they usually prefer to stick with it.
Another approach is to place a handful of hay in each box, or to simply use hay as litter. It is helpful to put several layers of newspaper under the hay, to absorb urine so that your rabbit is not standing in the urine. Most newspapers today are using soy-based ink, which is safe for your rabbit, but check with your local newspaper to make sure first. Obviously, you need to change the hay fairly frequently (daily), since your rabbit will be eating it. This method often helps to encourage good litter habits as well as to encourage hay consumption, since rabbits often eat at or near the same time as they use the litter box.
Some rabbits often back up so far in the litterbox that the urine goes over the edge. Again, a covered litterbox can solve this problem. Another solution would be to get a dishpan or other type of tub with much higher sides. Still another solution would be to get a “urine guard” to place around the back of the cage, to keep the litter from spraying outside of the cage.
If your rabbit continually urinates in a spot where there is no litterbox, put his box where he will use it, even if it means rearranging his cage or moving a table in the living room. It is much easier to oblige him than to try to work against a determined bunny!
Types of litter
- clay litter is dusty–if your bunny is a digger, the dust can make her vulnerable to pneumonia
- the deodorant crystals in some clay litters are toxic
- clumping litters will clump inside the rabbit’s digestive and respiratory tracts (the latter if they manage to make enough dust to breathe) causing serious problems and often leading to death
- pine and cedar shavings emit gases that cause liver damagewhen breathed by the bunny
- corn cob litter isn’t absorbent and doesn’t control odor, and has the risk of being eaten and casing a lethal blockage.
- oat- and alfalfa-based litters (available from Purina, Manna-Pro, and King-Soopers groceries [not sure what the geographical range of this chain is]) have excellent odor controlling qualities, but if a rabbit eats too much, they expand and cause bloating; these, too, can be added, with the bunny’s waste, to compost
- newspapers are absorbent, but don’t control odor
- citrus-based litters work well, offer no dangers, and can be composted, but may be hard to get and expensive in some areas of the country/world
- some people have reported success with peat moss which can also be composted
- Many people have great success with litter made from paper pulp or recycled paper products. These litters are very good at absorbing and cutting down on odors. A litter called CAREfresh is available.
- Compressed sawdust pellets: are inexpensive, highly absorbent litters used in many foster homes. They are made from softwood or hardwood sawdust, but they are not toxic because the phenolic compounds are removed during their manufacture. Their wood composition helps control bacterial growth and odors. Wood stove fuel pellets and Feline Pine are two examples of this product.
- Litters made from Aspen bark are safe and good at absorbing odors.