Rabbit Litter - Best Bunny Litter

Rabbit Care ~ Health ~ Living & Sleeping ~ Bedding ~ Shelter ~ Rabbit Litter

Rabbit litter

You may think that where a rabbit poops is not really important and to a certain extent you're right - a rabbit chooses 'where' depending on a number of factors.

However, WHAT they poop ON, is vital and recent studies have proved that the illness and disease in many house rabbits (and outdoor rabbits) can be attributed to the types of litter rabbit owners have been using inside their rabbit's litter boxes.

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So, What types of litter should I use?
It depends on what’s available in your area and what your rabbit’s habits are. Keep in mind the following as you choose your litter:

  • most rabbits spend lots of time in their litter boxes
  • rabbits will always nibble some of the litter
  • rabbit urine has a very strong odor.

House Rabbit Society recommends organic litters, made from alfalfa, oat, citrus or paper. (Some brands to look for: Care Fresh, Cat Country, Critter Country, Yesterday’s News, and Papurr) For a complete listing of litter types, see the litter boxes and liver disease article.

Stay away from litters made from softwoods, like pine or cedar shavings or chips, as these products are thought to cause liver damage in rabbits who use them.

CatWorks litter has been linked to zinc poisoning. Swheat Scoop Litter should be avoided, because rabbits will often ingest it. Because it is comprised of wheat, it is very high in carbohydrates and can cause obesity, excessive cecal production, diarrhea, bacterial imbalance, and other health issues.

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.

Pros and cons of the various types of litter include:

  • 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 damage when breathed by the bunny
  • corn cob litter isn’t absorbent and doesn’t control odor, and has the 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 at most pet stores. A similar litter in a pelleted form is called Cellu-Dri. These litters are harmless if ingested.
  • 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. One brand is called GentleTouch. 

Cleaning & Disposal
Clean litter boxes often, to encourage your rabbit to use them. Use white vinegar to rinse boxes out–for tough stains, let pans soak.

Accidents outside of the cage can be cleaned up with white vinegar or club soda. If the urine has already dried, you can try products like “Nature’s Miracle” to remove the stain and odor.

To dispose of organic litters, they can be used as mulch, or can be composted. Rabbit pills can be directly applied to plants as fertilizer.

Litter Box Setup for Success
Not sure how to set-up a bunny-friendly litter box? Learn the basics, below, and help your bunny on his way to successful litter box training.

Plastic Cat Pan
Basic plastic cat litter pans work best for bunny's litter box. They come in sizes small, medium, large, and giant, and can be found at most stores.

We recommend sticking to the medium, large, or giant litter pans for most bunnies, unless your bunny is very tiny. However, you can't go wrong with a larger litter box that your bunny can grow into. Choosing the size of pan to buy, will depend on the size of your bunny.

If you have a pair of bunnies sharing the same litter box, you'll want to get one very large box, or give the bunnies multiple boxes to keep them well supplied with hay and fresh litter.

Setting-up the Litter Box
We recommend using CareFresh and fresh hay to prepare your bunny's litter box. CareFresh is a bunny-safe pet bedding that does not contain any pine or cedar products, and is also environmentally friendly. Fresh hay in the box entices bunny to jump in and do his "business."

  1. Get a clean box with about 1 inch of clean CareFresh covering the bottom.
  2. Next, add a BIG handful of hay. Spread some grass hay over the CareFresh.
  3. Add a nice bunch of oat hay and put it to one end of the box, giving your bunnies a combination of oat and grass hay to nibble.

Keep a Fresh Box
Change bunny's box frequently, to ensure a clean, fresh box. This will prevent bunny from heading to cleaner places to eliminate. If your bunny does not soil his box completely within a 24-hour period, simply add another large handful of hay to the "kitchen" end, to replenish his supply. But never go for more than two days before giving bunny a fresh litter box.

Once dirty, dump the entire contents of the box into your "yard waste" container or regular trash, to dispose. (If you're a gardener, bunny's litter box waste makes great compost!)  Wash the box, and if urine build-up occurs, pour in some plain white vinegar to soak it clean. Rinse, wipe dry, then add new CareFresh and hay.

Bunnies Enjoy Their Litter Boxes
Once introduced and used to being given fresh hay in a clean box, your bunny will grow to love it! He will nibble hay nearly 24 hours a day - important for good bunny digestion - and may even burrow under it searching for the most choice bits.

Safe Litters
It is very important to remember to use bunny-safe litters in your bunny's box. Clay, or clumping litters for cats can be dangerous to bunnies who may ingest some of their litter while eating hay.  Pine, cedar, or other aromatic wood shavings may also be harmful to bunny's health. Sticking with a simple, paper-based, recyclable litter provides bunny with a safe litter and one that's also environmentally friendly.

If, after setting up your bunny's litter box in this manner, you still have some problems with bunny using his box, try some of our litter box training tips.

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