As Easter draws near our thoughts turn to cute bunnies and often times we bring these home as pets for our families. Rabbits make excellent companions and I highly recommend them, however they are commonly seen on local classifieds “free to a good home” or in animal shelters as people grow weary of cleaning cages and furniture.
A way we can reduce this, and make sharing your home with a rabbit a much more enjoyable process is to train the rabbit to use a litter box, much as we do our cats. Rabbits are naturally very clean animals and do not like to eliminate in the same area as they eat and sleep. This makes it very simple to litter train them as they usually go to the bathroom in the same spot in their cage.
To begin the training you will need a good quality litter box. Keep in mind the size of your rabbit and be sure that the sides of the box are the right height. You want the rabbit to be able to easily get in and out but also keep the urine in the box. Rabbits urinate horizontally unlike cats and dogs so in a box with short walls it is easy for accidents to occur!
Once you have your box place it in the corner of the cage where you notice the most rabbit droppings. It might be a wise idea to secure it to the side of the cage. Especially if you have an active rabbit! Be sure to use a good quality litter, there are several commercially available substrates to choose from. You may also use pine or aspen bedding but do not use cedar. Kitty litter is also hazardous to the respiratory system of your rabbit so please stay away from that! . At first only clean it out a couple times per week so that your bun gets the idea and smell.
Keep careful watch and any time you catch your rabbit using the litter box praise and give a treat. Be consistent and understand that accidents will happen. Never Scold your rabbit for having an accident, this only confuses them and damages the trust. It may be helpful at first to place a handful of hay and some rabbit poops in the box. This will encourage your rabbit to use it.
Do not be concerned if you see your rabbit sitting in the box munching on hay, rabbits poop while they eat and the hay helps to stimulate the digestive cycle. However if you notice your rabbit sleeping in the box and using it as the nest box, consider placing another more attractive nest box/bed in the cage for him/her.
Once your rabbit is using the box consistently in the cage you can try placing a litter box in the corner of a small room (rabbit proofed of course). Do expect some accidents, it is perfectly normal for even a litter trained rabbit to drop some poops around the house, it is a way of marking their territory as much as it is a natural bodily function.
I also encourage you to have your rabbit neutered, this not only improves the health and longevity of your rabbit but helps to eliminate spraying. Contrary to popular belief both male and female rabbits spray.
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