Bloinks Blessed BunniesSarah Maberry          email:          Call: (970) 302-6232      Eaton, Coloado USA         

Potty Training Your Bunny

Information courtesy of Corky's Cave

Rabbits are very intelligent. They make wonderful house pets for adult households. If you supply the litterbox and some gentle guidance, many rabbits will practically train themselves to use it. You can use a plastic Rubbermaid tub that is shallow enough for your rabbit to hop in and out of it or a metal litterbox from KW Cages. If you use the plastic tub, you will need to use shredded newspaper, hay, or Carefree cat litter. Other litters contain too much dust, which can cause pneumonia in your rabbit's delicate upper respiratory tract, which can be fatal. In the rubber tub, your rabbit will sit in the litterbox on whatever puddles and pebbles he leaves. The KW Cages litterbox contains a removable metal mesh floor, so your rabbit's paws and bottom will remain clean.

1. Sit on the floor in a small, enclosed area with your rabbit and place the litterbox in one corner of this area.

2. Place a handful of hay in the litterbox. Rabbits like to munch hay and use the litterbox at the same time.

3. Soak up any puddles your rabbit does with a tissue and place the tissue in the litterbox.

4. Place your rabbit in the litterbox and let him sniff the soiled tissue. Say, 'Do puddle, (and your rabbit's name). Do puddle.'

5. Let your rabbit go. He will probably resist staying in the litterbox and go hopping about the small area you are in.

6. Pick up any pebbles (feces/turds) your rabbit drops and place your rabbit back in the litterbox.

7. Hold the pebbles under your rabbit's nose, so he can sniff them and say, 'Do pebbles, (and your rabbit's name). Do pebbles.'

8. Let your rabbit go, so he can continue to explore.

9. Do this every day at the same time for several days, until you know that your rabbit is using his litterbox regularly.

10. Praise your rabbit for using the litterbox correctly.

Rabbits drop pebbles as they hop about to mark their territory; expect to find some rabbit pebbles scattered throughout the area in your home where your rabbit plays.

Sometimes rabbits forget their good litterbox habits; you will have to take the time to re-train your rabbit when this happens.

Eliminate the odor from rabbit urine in the carpet on on clothing with white vinegar; it also lifts the urine stain from carpet and fabric.

Never yell at, scold, or hit your rabbit when he eliminates in the wrong place. Just reinforce his litterbox training by placing him in his litterbox with the pebbles or soiled tissue and repeating, 'Do pebbles' or 'Do puddle' and your rabbit's name. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with rabbits.

Litter Types

Meadow hay/straw: This is one of the cheapest and most readily available litter, but you must line the bottom of the tray with a thick layer of newspaper. It can be used to encourage rabbits to eat more hay and straw, which is essential for a healthy digestive system. It is easy to clean as when the litter is soiled you can simply roll up the paper and throw it away. This type of litter tends to be a bit messy so should be used with a high sided litter box or a plastic dog bed/storage box to keep it contained. The sharp seed husks of barley straw can cause injury to the rabbit's paws, so you need to shake them out before putting it in the litter box. Make sure the hay and straw are dust extracted so they do not contain mites or mold.

Dried grass: This can be used as a litter, it is more nutritious than straw and hay but it is also quite expensive.

Chopped barley straw: This is similar in consistency and appearance to wood shavings and it is a bit messy for indoor use. The small particles may also irritate the rabbit's eyes and respiratory system.

Pelleted straw litter: This litter is absorbent, breaks down when wet and can be easily disposed of in the garden. The litter has a natural fragrance which helps disguise the smell of urine.

Peat/garden soil: This is quite am absorbent litter, but it looks a bit 'dirty' indoors. It also tends to cling to the bunnies fur and falls off around the house, so it is quite messy. Rabbits love to dig and roll about in compost so it is best kept in a large tray in the garden.

Corncob litter: This litter is fairly absorbent and has a pleasant smell. However it may be tasty to your bunny resulting in weight gain from eating it, and it is very expensive. Like other organic litters it can become moldy so the tray needs to be cleaned on a regular basis (mold is toxic to rabbits).

Recycled paper litter: Like the brands made for cats, this litter is available in flakes and pellets. It is dust free, light weight and absorbent but make sure your bunny does not ingest large amounts. Recycled paper should not become moldy.

Shredded newspaper: This litter is not very absorbent, but it is adequate providing your bunny does not chew on it. Plain newspaper is not recommended as it is not very absorbent, and the bunny may step on the urine, resulting in splash back and leading to urine burn.

Paper pulp bedding: This is a natural litter made from reclaimed wood fibers that are too short to be used in paper production. This litter is very absorbent and has good odor control. It is light weight and easy to carry. It does not contaminate wounds, therefore is ideal for post operative care, rabbits suffering from sore hocks, sensitive skin, etc. It is sanitized to kill bacteria, mold and fungus so it will not harm your rabbit if ingested. Its has no added inks, dyes or chemicals, unlike recycled paper litters. The paper wont scratch floors, it can be vacuumed up, flushed, composted and is biodegradable.

Clumping cat litter: This is not recommended for rabbits. It is generally made of a substance called sodium benotine, a naturally swelling clay. When liquid is added it expands to approximately 15 times its original volume. As bunnies are very clean animals, if it is ingested it swells in the stomach forming a mass and lining in the digestive tract. This causes dehydration both by drawing fluids from the rabbit and preventing the absorption of nutrients and other liquids. As a result the bunny may develop diarrhea (in an attempt to cleanse her system), an internal blockage or even die.

Other cat litters: Non clumping, dust-free cat litters and a safer choice for your rabbit. They are lighter than ordinary clay and are available from pet shops and supermarkets.

Softwood litters: Studies from as far back as 1967 have shown that softwood beddings (for example pine shavings) can cause liver disease in small animals. When you open a bag of soft wood shavings you can immediately smell their fragrance, and this is where the problem lies. The smell is from natural volatile chemicals in the wood called phenols. Phenols are caustic, poisonous, acidic compounds which are routinely diluted for use in disinfectants, such as Jeyes Fluid. Inhaling phenols over time can irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and respiratory tract, which in turn, predisposes the rabbit to bacterial infection. The risk of damage to the liver and kidneys however is more serious. As the principal organs for filtering blood and urine and eliminating toxins from them, the liver and kidneys are designed to process only a certain amount of toxic material. The most obvious consequence of regular exposure to large amounts of toxins such as phenols is that the body is working to its limit already and cannot cope with the added burden of anesthetic. At lower levels however, however, there may still be damage to the liver which is not fatal in itself but which is sufficient to depress the immune system, leaving the rabbit vulnerable to infections, particularly of the respiratory tract. Fortunately this type of liver disease can be avoided by removing the soft wood bedding from the environment. For a safer use of soft wood litter, keep in a large, open, well-ventilated areas only and have your rabbits blood checked every few months. Finally the dust contained in soft wood litter (particularly sawdust and shavings) can irritate the bunnies eyes