Rabbits and Toilet Training

Rabbits are by nature clean animals when they are in a confined space, ie rabbit cage, they will usually choose a distinct spot like a corner to deposit their urine and most of their droppings. Consequently toilet training is usually very easy and involves little more than putting a litter tray where the rabbit chooses to go. This tends to be close to their feed- ing area and many rabbits will happily eat whilst sitting on their litter tray.

The easiest way to litter train a rabbit is to place it in a confined space such as a run or an indoor cage, with its food and litter tray next to each other. The rabbit will happily sit in the tray to defecate and urinate soon after eating. Initially, it may be necessary to place some droppings in the tray to get the rabbit used to the idea. Once the habit is established, gradually enlarge the area and you should find that the rabbit is happy to return to the tray.

Most rabbits quickly get the idea, especially if you keep an eye on them and herd them towards the tray in their early days. However you may encounter problems when your rabbit reaches the age of 4-6 months at which time their hormones become active and they usually begin marking their territory. By spaying or neutering your rabbit, it will be more likely to use the litter tray as well as being much healthier and happier. Some rabbits love to kick their litter out of the tray. You can get covered litter trays, which the rabbit might accept. On the other hand, it may consider that the cover makes the tray into a burrow, which it wouldn’t normally soil in and refuse to use the tray altogether. If this happens, try a tray with high sides. Another problem is that rabbits often back up so far in the litter tray that the urine goes over the edge. Again, a covered litter tray or one with higher sides may solve this problem.

Litter should be non-toxic, dust free and absorbent, but not to the extent that it goes into large clumps once it is damp. Rabbits spend a lot of their time on their litter tray and will always nibble some of it, so toxic litter or the clay-based type, which could swell up to several times its original size in your rabbit’s stomach should not be used. Rabbit urine also has a very strong smell and can irritate your rabbit’s skin. It is important, therefore , to choose a good absorbent litter, but avoid dusty litters which may irritate a rabbit’s eyes or nose. For these reasons, it is probably better to use an organic litter.

Finally, if you haven’t kept a rabbit before, you may be surprised and revolted to see your rabbit eating its droppings. There is no reason to be alarmed or disgusted. The material you see your rabbit eating are caecotropes, partially digested particles sealed in a coating of colonic mucus, which are fermenting and from which the rabbit will get more nutrients as they are ingested again.