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Litter training your bunny
by Carolina James

Rabbits tend to deposit their urine and pellets in just one or a few places and are fairly easy to house-train. The majority of bunnies will quickly learn to urinate in a tray, but still scatter a few droppings on the floor. This is normal bunny behaviour and the dry, odourless droppings can simply be swept up or vacuumed.

Adult rabbits over a year old are easier to litter-train because they have already been through adolescence and are generally calmer and neater, especially if they are neutered. Neutering and spaying are essential if you are keeping your rabbit indoors. They reduce spraying and territorial marking and generally make bunnies more reliably house-trained.

It’s important to get your bunny used to his litter tray from the very first day, so make sure you have one or two trays ready when you bring your rabbit home. Providing more than one litter tray will increase your bunny’s chances of success and after a while you’ll be able to remove the trays he uses less often. Buy a large litter tray or a storage box with high sides to help contain the litter. You can also use a plastic dog basket, which combines high sides with easy access and doubles up as bunny’s bed. For litter, we recommend newspaper covered with hay and straw, paper-based litters (Drybed, Yesterday’s News), pelleted straw or non-clumping cat litter. Avoid softwood bedding (e.g. pine shavings and sawdust) and clumping cat litters, which may harm your rabbit.

When litter-training a bunny, it’s better to start with one room even if you intend to give your rabbit full run of the house. A small uncarpeted room is ideal, for instance the kitchen, boxroom, bathroom, hall or landing. Fitting a baby gate in the doorway is a good way to confine your bunny while still letting him feel part of the family.

Put one litter tray in your bunny’s cage or near his bed and a second in a corner of the room. Leave a few droppings and a piece of urine-soaked paper inside the trays so your rabbit gets the idea. If your bunny hops in the tray, give him lots of praise and maybe a treat. Otherwise herd him gently towards the tray or lure him there with a favourite tidbit. If your rabbit urinates on the floor, say "No" firmly but without shouting and gently put your bunny in his tray. Remember to do this immediately after the event or you will just confuse him. If your bunny doesn’t like to be picked up, coax him to the tray with a food reward. Never trap or chase your rabbit then put him in his litter tray or you will make this seem like punishment. Needless to say, you should never raise your voice or smack your bunny, no matter how lightly. This will not help with litter-training and will terrify your new pet.

The trick to house-training a bunny is to make the litter tray very inviting. Put a fresh handful of hay, half a carrot or even her food dish in one corner. Don’t do to your bunny things that she doesn’t like while she is in her tray. Try different types of trays and litter to find out what your bunny prefers. Many rabbits like digging and rolling in their trays, grooming or even taking a nap. This is wonderful behaviour – if your rabbit loves spending time in her litter tray she’s more likely to mark it with urine and droppings.

In the early days it’s important to supervise your bunny carefully during exercise times – rabbits are creatures of habit and once they get used to urinating in certain places it is more difficult to stop them from doing so again and again. Always reward your rabbit (with praise, cuddles, etc.) when he uses his tray and hopefully he will want to repeat the experience. Many rabbits prefer finding their own spot – behind the sofa, under a chair or table, in a corner of the room – for doing their business. Simply move the litter tray where it is needed. Even if this means rearranging a piece of furniture, it is easier than working against a determined bunny. When you are not at home or you don’t have time to supervise your rabbit, leave him in his cage (minimum size 4’ X 2’ X 2’) or a small, easy-to-clean room to contain the number of "accidents". As your rabbit becomes more reliable, you can gradually increase his running space by one room at a time, until he has full run of the house.

Use diluted white vinegar to clean litter trays and wash urine stains off carpets and upholstery. Use undiluted white vinegar to remove calcium deposits from litter trays and floors.

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