Yes, rabbits can be litter boxed trained. In fact rabbits are very clean animals and like being hygienic.
Litter box training for rabbits is a fairly new ideal. As more and more rabbits are becoming indoor house pets, we have the need, and a crucial need at that, to curb their pooping and weeing!
"My Rabbit Just Won't Be Litter Box Trained!"
If your rabbits are pooping and peeing everywhere it's not a failure to be litter-trained on your rabbit's part, but more of an indication of a little more training needed on your part ;-)
Not Naughty, But Nature
There are three main 'natural' reasons why a bunny might defecate or urinate around their living areas, or near their litter box, rather than in it.
If any of the main disturbances (mentioned above) occur while they are actually in their litter-box, they will associate the feeling of insecurity with their litter box and will set about reassuring themselves by instilling a sense of 'self'. (Yes, rabbits are self-aware). They do this by underlining their own 'signature', by leaving droppings and urinating all around it. They make the space around them their own again.
Bad Rabbit Habit
If the ongoing stress (similar to any of the situations above), is removed, the problem of poop outside the litter-box will still remain. The important factor here is, not what happened the first time, but any habit that is allowed to develop from the initial reaction. Your rabbit will continue to pee and poop outside the litter box because they did it before.
It's important to catch these bad habits as soon as they happen. If you don't take action, even with a rabbit that may have had good habits in the past, it will give this new bad habit time to take hold. Usually by the third day or so this habit is fairly entrenched and correction of the original cause will not solve the problem.
Solution to Polution
Confinement, praise, rewards, vigilant observation and supervision during free-run time are all steps to correcting free-range pooping. But there’s a catch in doing this too. It generally requires a change in routine, which is a common cause for the behaviour in the first place.
However, sometimes just by adding a new and different box to your rabbit's area can break the cycle. It’s often easier to get rabbits to go in a new box than to go in the old one they have been eliminating next to. The novelty of the new box will make it attractive to your bunnies, especially with treats placed inside it. When your rabbit hops in to investigate and eat the treats, they may poop while they are in there and hey-presto, you've got a 'good' habit on your hands which needs lots of rewarding.
Take Time to Train
It’s important to understand that rabbit training of any kind can take a lot of time and litter-box training is no different. A rabbit who’s been perfectly litter box-trained for years and has peed next to their litter box for several days in a row may need weeks of intensive rabbit training to correct this 'bad' behaviour.
A Rabbits House is Their Castle
It is very important for your rabbit to identify their own house, shed or cage etc as their personal property, so that when they leave this area and go into other rooms and places around your house, they will distinguish your family’s areas from their own and will avoid marking it with rabbit deposits.
The trick to getting a rabbit to keep their poop in their litter box is to give him ownership of his house. Respect the house as theirs and they will respect you and your areas.
To encourage this sense of security remember the following:
Litter box training brings up all sorts of issues as far as rabbits are concerned and while you are in the training process the steps above will really help.
Roomed or Roaming
The same techniques can be used if your rabbits live in their own room in the house or they live outside in a house and run.
Just make sure their territory is marked out. A fence or barrier will do the trick outdoors and indoors you can mark their territory with a rug or tape on the floor.
So, when litter box training, just make sure whatever you use, you don't trespass over that area when your buns are in residence and you should find the whole process much easier.
OK, so now you know the basic reasons why a bunny may pee and poop in certain areas at certain times, and you also understand the importance of respect when it comes to territory. So how do you start litter box rabbit training? Follow these simple steps to success:
How much space should I give my rabbits when litter box training?
How many litter boxes will I need?
This is dependent on your rabbit, and on how many rooms you intend to let your rabbit use. You'll need one in their cage, one to two in their run or exercise space and one in each room, at least until they are fully litter-box trained. When their toilet habits are perfected you can decrease the number of litter-boxes you have around. You'll know which ones to remove - the ones that have hardly been used.
How can I stop litter kicking?
Kicking litter out of the litter box is quite common but easily solved with a covered litter-box (one with a hood) or you can try experimenting with different litters.
How do I stop my rabbit urinating over the edge of their litter-box?
Rabbits often back up so far in their litter box that the urine goes over the edge. Again, a covered litter box can solve this problem. Other methods would be to get a dish-pan or other type of tub with much higher sides or to get 'urine guard' to place around the back of the cage, to keep the litter from spraying outside.
What to do if your rabbit insists on using another spot? Compromise. If your rabbit continually urinates in a spot where there is no litter box, put their box where they will use it, even if it means rearranging their cage or moving an item of furniture. It is much easier to oblige than to try to work against a determined rabbit!
What are the most common rabbit training mistakes when litter box training?
Letting the rabbit out of the cage and not watching them with undivided attention; You can’t watch TV or read the paper or talk on the phone and expect to keep your mind on what your rabbit is doing. If they urinate without being seen and sent towards the litter box, they will be that much slower in their learning.
Can I litter box train my rabbits any quicker?
Rabbit training takes time. In my opinion, that's the beauty of owning rabbits. It gives us time to reflect on the now, the present moment and enjoy it. Rabbits require that we take time out to sit and watch and do nothing else. Besides getting a well-trained bunny for your efforts, you also get a short period of time each day to watch one of the most charming little creatures on earth explore, skip for joy generally entertain you. If you don't actually enjoy this interaction time, a bunny might not be right for you :-(
What should I do if my rabbit starts dribbling pee all over her cage instead
of using the litter box?
Dribbles usually indicate a bladder infection. Get your bunny to a rabbit-veterinarian where they will probably advise a course of antibiotics. If the dribbling stops, you know that that was the problem. (Watch out for antibiotics given by veterinarians not familiar with rabbits as companion animals) If the 'dribbles' are more than dribbles, or if the antibiotic doesn’t stop the problem, consider any factors that may be making your bunny feel insecure (new pet, house guests etc.), any of which can cause a bunny to mark their cage more often .
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