When I tell people that my rabbits use a litter box, they respond with the astounded, “You can litter box train a rabbit to use a litter box?! I didn’t know you could do that!”
It’s not that they believe rabbits are too dumb to use a litter box; it’s just something most people never think about.
The good news is rabbits potty train much easier than dogs and take to litter box training faster than some cats!
When I was a kid, one of my good friends kept a rabbit outside in a covered building attached to the house. There sat Mr. Bunny in the cage chowing down on his food and underneath was a gigantic mountain of poop. Anyone who hasn’t been around rabbits might think that all they do is eat and poop.
But the cool thing is, rabbits are actually really clean animals.
They are constantly grooming themselves. They also like to “organize” their poop into one specific place, and if you don’t give them a specific place, they will find one on their own. These OCD furballs will pick one corner as their toilet and stick with it. It just isn’t very obvious they are doing this when you see a cage above “Poop Mountain.”
There are some good reasons to litter box train your bunny and here are my favorites:
You can get them out to play with much less stress!
There is nothing more nerve-wracking than getting a bunny out and having to hoover over it like a winged predator, worrying if it is going to pee on the floor! It doesn’t matter how good you are at watching for the “bunny squat,” because once you see it, it’s usually too late.
You must have lighting fast reflexes to do this and a talented rabbit who can “squeeze it off” in mid pee. Most of my rabbits just let it all go once they have made up their mind to and then it is too late. When you have them litter trained, you can almost always count on them using the box.
Litter training makes cage clean up sooo much easier.
It takes a lot less time to dump and rinse a litter box than it does to clean an entire cage. That is how you benefit from their “organizational” skills.
You can keep them in an area with a solid floor.
This is awesome for both you and your bunny! It is easy to sweep and rinse a solid floor and it prevents them from potentially getting sore hocks (sore back feet), which some of the heavy breeds can get when they sit on wire all day.
This also makes cleaning easier, because you no longer have to try and clean poo and hair from between the wires. It can really get stuck and take for-EVER to clean.
Litter training can really help control the stink.
I use an ultra-absorbent litter in my boxes, so the smell is virtually non-existent. You still have to keep up on the cleaning, but it is really nice to breathe easier with bunny in the house.
Now that I’ve told you the benefits of litter training your bun bun, I will tell you exactly what I do to toilet train mine.
This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive a small commission when you purchase from my links, at no additional cost to you… which helps me spoil my adorable rescue rabbits.
Steps to litter box training your rabbit:
- Pick a style of litter box that is best suited for your needs. Make sure you measure your rabbit enclosure so it will fit. You can get a litter box with a low side if you have a dwarf breed, or you can get something with a higher side. I recommend something with higher sides all the way around if you have a rabbit larger than 4 lbs. There are large corner litter boxes you can use that work well for rabbits under 4 lbs., or you can get the cheap plastic wash bins. Try your local dollar store for the best price on wash bins! You can use any low-sided sturdy tote as long as it will fit your rabbit’s enclosure.
- Decide on what type of litter you want. I use pressed pellet bedding for horses that I get for around $8 for a 40 lb. bag at the hardware store. You can also use wood pellets, as long as they don’t have chemicals or glue in them. Stay away from anything with aromatic oils like cedar since it can really irritate their respiratory tract. If you can’t find anything locally, you can order rabbit-safe pelleted litter online. This litter goes into a plastic pan and is covered with timothy hay. Don’t use the ultra-EXPENSIVE paper litter you find at pet stores, unless you enjoy wasting money. It’s marked up near a bazillion percent and doesn’t do half as good a job as the pressed pellets!
- Figure out which corner of his or her cage your rabbit has picked for the toilet. This is where you will place the litter box.
- Clean the cage reserving some of the poo to place in the litter box. A spoonful of “Cocoa Puffs” will do just fine. This will make it smell like their toilet and encourage them to use it as one.
- Put the poo-baited litter box into the cage where your bunny’s toilet is. They might be scared of it at first, but be patient. Some rabbits will take to it right away, while others might take a little longer. Mature female rabbits may get angry and territorial trying to “beat it up” and “show it who is boss.” Having the hay will make it much more enticing and comfortable to sit in.
- Clean up any litter box misses and keep baiting the box with their own poop. Eventually they will get the message that this is the new place to go potty.
Here is a picture of what I use for rabbit litter. It is very, very absorbent!
Here is how I line my litter boxes. I line the bottom with a couple of paper towels to make clean up easier. Then a thin layer of pellets since they expand a lot when they get wet! Then it’s topped off with timothy hay.
If you want to, you can add a second pan as a “holder pan” to keep your bunny from scooting the litter box all over the place. Just drill two sets of holes in the holder pan and use twisty ties to attach it to the cage.
And that’s it! It is incredibly easy to litter box train a rabbit. Even so, there are things that can go wrong.
Litter Training Troubleshooting Guide
Your rabbit still has some pooping episodes outside of the litter box.
First of all, this is to be expected and can’t be 100% prevented. Sometimes they accidentally kick a few out when jumping out. Other times they just forget. (Nobody is 100% perfect, right?)
But, the most likely reason they are leaving little droppings in and around their area is they are not spayed or neutered. Unaltered bunnies have a much larger drive to mark their territory and they use droppings to mark the perimeter of their property. Getting them fixed will help a lot! The cool thing is that rabbit poo is pretty dry and pretty easy to clean up if this does happen.
Your rabbit peed outside of the litter box.
Sometimes they just forget, but it might be that you are waiting too long to change the litter. Another reason is that they sometimes miss. I have personally witnessed this.
They will stand in it, think they are good to go and end up squatting right over the edge. Usually this happens if one edge of your litter box is low, or you fill it too high with litter and hay.
Again, spaying or neutering will help, especially if they are spraying urine to mark their territory. The boys are worse about this and it is usually because they are in close proximity to a female bunny.
I once had a cat that would always stand in the box and go over the side, so this problem isn’t unique to bunnies. You can always try a box with higher sides or get one that has a hood on it. Just make sure it will fit in the rabbit enclosure.
The bunster is eating out of the litter box.
This is totally normal, but it’s just a tad bit embarrassing if you have company over for dinner. Bunnies like to eat and poop at the same time and hay is a staple. There is not much you can do about this. Just embrace their weirdness!
Your bunny is digging in the litter box.
Again, this is normal behavior. All of mine do it to some extent. Captain Carrot likes to dig out half of the hay to use as a bed and munch on at the same time. He always leaves the other half in for his toilet. Houdini simply likes to lay in her litter box and use the side of it as a pillow.
If your bun is making a giant mess and you need another option, you can use a litter box with a wire drop-through floor. It keeps the litter contained so your rabbit can’t access it, but is removable for cleaning. For mine, I line it with a pee pad and just spread out a couple if scoops of litter on top of the pad. Here is a link to the metal one I bought here: Large Metal Litter Pan – 19in X 13in X 6.5in. I use the 23″ x 36″ pee pads and by cutting each one in half, I can get two liners from each pad that fit that litter pan perfectly.
Your rabbit keeps pushing the litter box around.
Some bunnies are more inclined to express their interior decorating side than others. You do want to keep the box in one place to help maintain good habits, though.
The best and cheapest way that I have found to fix this is by drilling a couple of sets of holes a half inch apart and wiring it to the side of the cage. You can either use twisty ties, or use two boxes.
One box is for anchoring to the cage and then stacking another identical one inside of it to prevent the bun from chewing on the wire. To clean it, you simply lift the top box out of the lower box.
Once your bunny has mastered using a litter box in their own little space, you can move their litter box with them anywhere you go and they will now have a toilet.
Just keep in mind that they might need two or three if they are running loose in a large area. And, always remember to play it safe and keep an eye on your bun when out of its enclosure. They can easily get into mischief with wires or chew up furniture.
I hope you found this information valuable! It’s been fun sharing what I’ve learned with you, especially since I got to type the word poo a lot more than usual. (Yep, grew up with brothers and all that goes with it!)
Now that you know all the ins and outs of litter box training your rabbit, you can now impress your friends and family with how smart and well-behaved your bunny is!
This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive a small commission when you purchase from my links, at no additional cost to you… which helps me spoil my adorable rescue rabbits.
Disclaimer: Jaimie is not the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, a lawyer, a doctor, a veterinarian, or a CPA. Nothing your read in my blog is a substitute for professional advice and doing your own good research. Remember that just because someone has credentials doesn’t guarantee their advice is golden or perfect. Put your smart hat on and do your due diligence. Good luck!
Marion Brauss says
Loved the info. ..our CC is also trained and knocks when he wants to come in. His box is on a jalousied breezeway. We got him when he hopped over to my son getting out of the car. After no luck finding an owner he is part of the family. He’s become the grand and great brands best friend. He understands everything I say to him. He’s very much loved.
It sounds like you found yourself a real unclaimed treasure, Marion! He must have picked you guys for a reason. Thank you for sharing such a sweet story!
Hi my lionhead/lop ear bunny Nugget is potty trained and neutered but he continues to poop and pee everywhere when he is not in his area. Could u possibly know why? I do have 4 other bunnies living in the house but all have cages.
Hi, Maribel. How frustrating! I can’t say for sure what his issue might be, but what I would consider is limiting the area he has access to. It may be that he’s just forgetting when he has more area to run in. It could also be that he just doesn’t care, or you may need to give him a couple more litter boxes. Just like cats and dogs, some breeds are harder to train and each individual animal has his or her own cleanliness standards. With my rabbits, one is just more clean in his habits than the other.
Hello I was wondering if I could use the bedding from the bottom of my bunnies cage in the litter box and not put bedding in the bottom of the cage? Instead of buying litter. Pretty much use the bedding as litter. Thank you for your help.
Hello, Dawn! It sounds like you have a solid bottom cage with the entire cage lined with bedding. Is this correct? Once you find their toilet area, just put the box there with some poop or pee litter in the box to give them the hint. Two of my bunnies have solid bottom cages with no bedding and I just put the absorbent bedding in the litter box. One bunny has a plastic tote litter box lined with paper towels, pellets and hay on top. The other has a metal litter box that is raised with a wire floor. That one is lined with a pee pad and the pellets. I had to get the metal box with her because she was always digging in her litter box and making an awful mess of it. Here is a link to the metal one I bought here: Large Metal Litter Pan – 19in X 13in X 6.5in I use the 23″ x 36″ pee pads and by cutting each one in half, I can get two liners from each pad that fit that litter pan perfectly.
Hi! My 6 month old bunny was about 90% litter trained and now she poops and pees everywhere else but in her litter box in her cage what can I do.
Hi, Diane! She may not like the litter box for some reason. You could try a different type of litter box and/or litter. I have different litter box types for my rabbits because they have different needs. You also might consider talking with a vet. It is possible she has some type of infection like a bladder infection. If she is not spayed, it could be her marking her territory. Both males and females do this and spaying greatly reduces that instinct.
Thanks for this great information. I have a question my bunny is almost 4 years old and I recently got a bigger litter box but it does fit in the cage so I put it in his run around area and he keeps peeing inside where her old litter box was. How can I get him to stop and use larger litter box. Thanks for your help.
Hi, Leslie! I guess it’s hard both humans and rabbits to break old habits! The only thing I can think of is to make sure you “bait” the new litter box well and block off access to the old litter box area of the cage until bunny gets the hint. You could also try a temporary setup with the new litter box until the new box becomes more familiar.
Our bunny is about 3 months old and doing pretty well on potty training with poop, because we placed litter box near food dish. Think she like to eat and potty at the same time! She is still having trouble on the peeing:(. We have a litter box that has a grid cover, so she can’t really get to the litter. The way you have it set the bunny is able to get the litter under Timothy hay. Is the litter safe? Do the bunnies ever eat the litter? Thank you for all the great information.
Hi, Jennifer! The litter is under the Timothy hay for our rabbits. Most paper and wood is safe as long as it doesn’t contain other ingredients that are harmful for rabbits. Some of my rabbits dig in the box like crazy and some just leave it alone. I have never caught mine eating the litter underneath, but they will tear up the paper towels and eat the pee pads if they can reach. I guess blue plastic is just soooo mouth watering to mine. Lol!
I recently rescue/adpted 3 rabbits, about 7mo – 1yr old. I started learning how to care and train for their litter box, and observed most of the behaviors you described so far. I noticed when I used the wood pellets to line their litter box, they didn’t seem to like it as much. As once they peed on it, and the wood pellets expanded and broken into wood dust. Thus, every time, they jump in and out the box, the dust kick everywhere.
Would you suggest a better way to use wood pellet without the mess?
Hi, Chappi! I always cover the pellets with an inch or two layer of Timothy hay. If the rabbit digs and make a mess constantly, like one of mine does, you can use a large metal litter box that has a raised wire floor that comes out for cleaning. For that, I line the box with a pee pad or paper towels and spread out several of scoops of wood pellets to absorb the urine. It works well and I no longer have my rabbit flinging that peed-on wood dust everywhere.
Cathy Schlim says
Hi! I am frustrated. Our 2 yr old neutered male dwarf bunny is free roam. He was litter box trained. Then he started peeing n pooping all around the box but never goes in it. I used to use the paper bits and switched to the pine pellets to see if that would help but no. I now have puddle pads in front of the box and about half the time he uses that. The vet said he is fine. I tried the hay bUT that doesn’t help. The litter box is baited. I have even put a treat in the box but that doesn’t work either. I tried putting him in a pen with the litter box, etc. but he was MAD and wouldn’t eat or poop. I let him back out and got him eating and pooping. I am at a loss and tired of vacuuming and cleaning the carpet! Help!
Hi, Cathy! After what you just described, I would be totally frustrated, too! You have gone above and beyond what most people would. So, here’s the deal. This is what I would consider if I was in your shoes.
First, not all vets are good vets. With rabbits, there aren’t many who understand them and even if they take exotic pets into their practice, they don’t always have enough experience or the skill needed for the harder stuff. I’m not saying your vet is the issue, it’s just what I would think about. If I was really attached to the rabbit, I would look at trying another vet simply for a second opinion. (I did have a rabbit with sediment in her bladder that was painful and it was from the commercial rabbit feed. Thankfully my vet figured that one out.)
If it’s not a health issue, the only other thing is could be is a personality issue. I have had rabbits that have strange habits just because of who they are. He may just be a brat when it comes to wanting what he wants. Regardless, you need your sanity back. I think it’s a natural response for him to be mad if he’s used to having free-roam of the house.
What you could do is SLOWLY restrict his access a day or two at a time to a smaller and smaller area until you have him contained in a way that brings your sanity back. Regardless of what others may believe, it’s OK to have him in a wire bottom enclosure with his litter box and a spot to get off the wire. That way the messes only have to be cleaned a couple of times a week. See how he responds, and if just isn’t having any of it, it’s OK to consider re-homing him. I know that’s a hard thing to think about, but if he doesn’t come around you might start to resent him and that isn’t good for you or him. You have my permission to let this one go if it’s too much for you, not because I have any say in it, but I don’t want your conscious to eat you up if it doesn’t work out.
I love the idea of “free-range” rabbits in the house, but depending on the situation sometimes a cage actually is the best option. That way you can control his antics by just doing supervised play time outside the cage.
Good job making sure he’s eating and pooping no matter what. That can quickly turn into gut stasis. I wish you the best! I know how it feels to be torn over stuff like this.
Is it normal for my bunny to want to sleep in her litter box? She is 9 weeks;)
Yes! Absolutely! One of mine does it all the time. I think it makes them feel more secure, because I highly doubt they are in love with the smell. 🙂
We’ve had our bunnies for about 5 months, and been cleaning their area 2x a day. Honestly shooting everything down 2x a day gets tiring. So glad I seen your post, I just wish I seen it sooner. Is it too late to train them?
Hi, Kassie! That does sound tiring! Five months old is still pretty young, so I think they would do just fine with the litter training. It would definitely be worth a try, since it will save you some work. Good luck! 🙂
hello i have a bunn brat free roam only one little problem he’ll poop in the litter box but can’t seem to make him pee in it his a yr and 3 months not nurtured but soon will be please help the smell isn’t so lovely lol
Hi, Natalie. I would stop free roaming him. Use a smaller area and see if he will pick a spot, then put his box there with some urine soaked paper towels in the box under the hay. If he’s in a smaller space, he’ll hopefully want a toilet area and not want to sit in it. Neutering them really does help.
Ellen Johnson says
Hello, I just got a new bunny (I’ve had bunnies over 20 years),most of them were dark if that matters. Katie the new one is a mini lop,7 weeks old and has very light fur underneath her and the bottom of her feet, I’m in the beginning of potty training her she’s going in the potty some but she’s peeing and pooping more on the bottom of her hutch so she is sitting and walking in the pee. Her fur around her butt and bottom of her feet are getting so wet yellow and stinky. I’m wondering how I can wash up or clean her up? Is it safe to use a pet store quick & clean instant shampoo (KAYTEE). Thank you, Ellen
Hi, Ellen! Yes that should be fine if it lists use for rabbits on the label. I have Kaytee Squeaky clean shampoo for Guinea pigs and rabbits. When I give them a “butt bath” I always make sure to rinse well and dry well when done, which can be tricky if they get squirmy. At the very least, towel dry them as much as you can, and use a hairdryer on low if possible. Sometimes using a brush on the damp hair can separate the wet clumps and help the fur dry a little faster. It sounds like her hutch is a solid bottom. I have found solid bottom hutches to be less sanitary than wire with a foot rest, because it can create more problems with a dirty bum and feet. Two of my three buns have solid bottom enclosures. They are always spilling drips of water and making a mess out of the bottom, so I do a lot of mopping up wet hay and drool. Of course, even the wire cages can have enough pee and poop stick in spots to make them dirty anyway. Bunnies are kind of like cars. The color matters on how the dirt shows. 🙂