Ok, so dont panic, it’s definitely not as difficult as potty training a toddler, trust me!! Not even as hard as training a puppy. It is fairly simple and easy but it makes the world of difference to your time and comfort. Rabbits are naturally very clean animals, so it is in their nature to want to keep their wee’s and majority of their poops in one area. Having a bunny who is litter trained will not only make your life easier when it comes to keeping bunnys housing area clean but it will mean there is much less smell and rabbit will also smell beautful without any stains on his/her little feet. Cleaning a litter tray is a two minute job opposed to spending hours scrubbing wooden hutches or your floors/cages.
It does take a bit more time for a baby bunny to wee in just one area, especially if the breeder did not provide a litter tray while they were growing up. But, even if your breeder did litter train your baby (its very easy once you provide a litter tray they just copy mummy bunny), as your baby moves home it will take baby a little time to adjust to the new surroundings and to pick an area baby likes to wee in, putting in a litter tray will make this easier for baby. An adult rabbit should litter train relatively easy, it is more likely the only missing element is that litter tray!
How to set up your litter tray
Firstly, you do not need to buy an expensive rabbit litter tray. A mini lop bunny will fit very nicely into a washing up bowl and enjoy spending time in there too! I use washing up bowls £1 from Wilkos, bargain! My babies and adults use them. As I have many bunnies I have to provide a lot of litter trays so this makes sense for me. One of my bunnies actually prefers to use a large cat litter tray for some reason, so it just does not matter what you have to hand,as long as they have something they can fit comfortably in. I think the appeal of using a product specifically designed for a rabbit litter tray is the high back as this prevents wee going over the tops. With mini lop bunnies this isnt a problem in a washing up bowl or a cat litter tray as they are small bunnies.
Next, you need a substrate. The substrate is quite important and necessary because this is what soaks up the wee. Rabbit wee (more so males wee) is strong smelling and without the substrate the wee will be too stinky. I use two inches of woodshavings (dust extracted). Some people do not like to use woodshavings for fear of risking their bunnies health. I totally understand this, but where I live there isnt a lot of alternatives. The only alternatives would be timberflakes and they just do not soak up the wee. This could be trial and error for you. I have a bunny who does not get on with woodshavings and it seems to make her sniffle so I have removed it from her pen. I tried the litter trays without woodshavings, the bunnies used them fine but the smell was overpowering lol. I use cat litter pellets, the woodbased ones, instead. She is totally clear of sniffles now. Sometimes, I will mix these cat litter pellets with the sawdust and it reduces the smell. But, to be honest, when you keep bunnies on their own there is no need to do this as there isnt much smell when you clean the litter trays regularly anyway.
Next, and the most important element to litter training your bunny, is the hay. No hay, No litter training, simples. hehe. Take a big handful of hay and plant it right on top of the woodshavings. Bunny wont even come into contact with the woodshavings this way too. The hay is so important because bunny needs a reason to sit in the litter tray. And, I suppose, hay is more comfy to wee on?? No idea, but without it, they wont use their litter tray. It is worth noting too… you will still need to provide a hay rack so bunny has fresh, clean hay to nibble on. A great idea is to have the hay rack next to/above the litter tray if possible, then bunny can eat and poo! Perfect, hehe.
Where to put the litter tray?
Ok, YOU can not chose where to put the litter tray! Your rabbit will hehe. Where ever your rabbit wee’s, is where you need to place the litter tray. If your bunny is young or not used to a litter tray then he/she will probably be weeing in a few different places (usually corners). You will need to place a litter tray in each of these corners (this is where your unused or £1 washing up bowl will come in handy hehe). Eventually you will see that bunny is only using just one of the litter trays and this is when you can use just one. Yay! Your bunny should do all their wee’s and most of their poops in this litter tray.
What About Straw?
Well, I personally, dont use straw. I do not see the point of it. Yes in the winter it will keep your rabbit warmer as you can put lots in because it is so cheap but… is it not best just to use hay? Rabbits can eat hay, they do not eat straw.It is important to encourage your bunny to eat as much hay as possible. Hay is extremely important for your rabbits digestive system and for keeping their teeth short by grnding them down (the top teeth grow 3mm per week!). For this reason I do not bother with straw. I do not buy little bags of hay either, it is not good value. I buy bales of hay for £5 (this is from a farm but you can get them commercially for around £8, still good). Bales last me, months on end and I have 3 bunnies at the time of writing this. I also believe in feeding as much hay as a bunny wants. I do not limit it to a handful per day but a handful is more of a guide/minimum. If you are going to buy bales you need to make sure you have somewhere dry to keep it. You also need to be sure it hasnt gone rotten, mouldy or damp. You will know this from the smell of it. Hay should smell sweet and should also have a greenish tint. If its all yellow inside and out then it isnt that fresh. Use the not-so-fresh for the litter tray and the bedding and the green for the hay rack.
Why isnt my bunny using his/her litter tray?
There could be a few reasons, could it be because…
- the litter tray is dirty? Buns will stop using a litter tray when it gets too full of poo and wee. its best to clean them daily, it takes two mins this way.
- Is your bunny weeing else where? If so, add extra litter trays to cover these areas?
- If your bunny is totally not getting it and maybe even moving the litter tray out of the way, try firstly securing the litter tray someway and putting soiled woodshavings and poos into the litter tray. This is very rare that they do this, I have only ever had to do this with one bun.
- Does your bunny have diarrhoea? If so, your bunny is very very poorly and you need to seek the help of an expert. Only feed your bunny hay and water until you can get expert advice. Do not confuse diarrhoea with a bunnies caecotrophe. These are poo’s which are different to the normal pellet type poos. They are soft and often stuck together,similar to a squished up bunch of grapes lol. This is healthy and they normally eat them. Diarrhoea is runny/watery poos. If your rabbit is producing too many caecotrophe (you shouldnt really see them as the rabbit needs to eat them) and your seeing quite a few each day then you are feeding your bunny too many carbs (such as carrots, maybe even too many pellets see Healthy Bunny Dietfor more info).
- Is your bunny sharing with another bunny? see below!
Bunnies who share – Can they litter train?
YES! It may be a little bit more complicated with bunnies who share. Things are a little more complex. Bunnies love company but at the same time they are territorial animals. So, with this in mind, you need to provide them with one of everything each if they do not seem to be litter training very well. For example, when I had 3 bunnies living together in their bunny outhouse, I had four litter trays at all times. A bunny who is sharing with another could be prevented by the other bunny from using the only litter tray. Also, they need to have enough room. Two bunnies in a really small hutch are just not going to get on and being messy/not using their litter trays is probably one of the first signs that things arent going well.
Litter training still not going well with your co-habbiting bunnies even though you have done all of the above? Bunnies living together may spray and this isnt the same as not using their litter trays. It’s natural and its just a way the bunny will tell another this is mine, do one! hehe. So, if you see eveidence of spraying and messy buns… Ask yourself if you are 100% sure that you dont have un-altered male and female rabbits living together by mistake! It happens, alot! Rabbits are notoriously hard to sex. And messy hutches with sprayed urine can be a sign of this. Since my bunnies have lived seperately they are incredibly clean and tidy hehe. Un-altered males and females are just not meant to live together, it would not happen in the wild (the female would chase the other bunnies away) so this could explain your litter training problems maybe? You are best with females if you are not planning to neuter/spay. But even then sometimes they can fall out due to territorial issues and hormones (having a large living area solves a lot of these problems). I will write a blog on this soon.
Here are some litter training / litter tray ideas from my own bunnies and online…