Rabbits are easily litter trained. By nature, many rabbits will choose to relieve themselves in the same place. However, do note that realistic litter training is that a rabbit will pee consistently in their litter box(es) and nowhere else. It is very common for rabbits to poop in small amounts in their housing enclosure outside of the litter box for territorial reasons. Also, sometimes poop may be kicked out when the rabbit jumps from their litter box. This should not be a large problem because rabbit poop does not smell and is easy to pick up, sweep, or vacuum if your rabbit is healthy.
- 1 Litter boxes
- 2 Appropriate litter substrate
- 3 Preparing your litter box
- 4 Changing the litter box
- 5 Training methods
- 6 Common problems
- 7 Further reading
- 8 References
There are a large variety of products and options that are appropriate for use with rabbits.
Corner litter boxes
Many pet stores carry litter boxes that are specially marketed for rabbits. These litter boxes are typically triangular in shape and are meant to be placed in the corner of a cage or enclosure. Some examples can be found here. However, these corner litter boxes are typically only suitable for very small young rabbits and breeds unless you look for a large one.
Some large corner litter boxes available:
- Ware Plastic Scatterless Lock-N-Litter Bigger Pet Pan, Jumbo - 16"W x 11-1/2"D x 8"H
- Ware Lock-N-Litter Bigger Pet Pan, Jumbo - 16.5"W x 10-1/4"D x 8"H
- Kaytee Rabbit Large Hi-Corner Litter Pan - 20"W x 12"D x 9"H
- SmartCat Corner Litter Box - 18"W x 18"D x 8"H
- Nature's Miracle Advanced High Sided Corner Litter Box - 26"W x 23"D x 10"H
We would suggest removing the grids of the litter boxes that come with a wire floor as rabbits can break their nails and toes if they jump out badly unless it is absolutely necessary for hygiene.
Cat litter boxes
To decide what size of cat litter box to get, use the following guide:
- under 5 pounds: medium - 16"L x 12"W x 4"H
- under 10 pounds: large - 18.5"L x 15"W x 5"H
- over 10 pounds or bonded pairs: extra-large - 23"L x 18"W x 6.5"H
Using a larger litter box than the minimum can also allow you to change the litter box less often.
Metal litter boxes
Non-plastic litter boxes can be a good choice for rabbits that like to chew and eat the edges of their plastic litter boxes.
One idea is to check out restaurant steam pans such as the following:
- Stainless Steel Full-Size Anti-Jamming Steam Table Pan - 4" (22 gauge) - 21"L x 13"W x 4"H
- Winco SPF6 6-Inch Pan, Full - 21"L x 13"W x 6"H
as well as stainless steel cat litter boxes:
- iPrimio Ultimate Stainless Steel Cat XL Litter Box - 23.5"L x 15.5"W x 6"H
- Yangbaga Stainless Steel Litter Box for Cat and Rabbit - 23.5"L x 15.5"W x 6"H
Low-sided litter boxes
If you have a disabled, elderly, or young bunny that doesn't like to or is unable to hop, try low-sided litter boxes or feeding and potting trays. You can also manually cut down an entry way on one side of a regular litter box.
Some other low-sided litter boxes available for purchase:
Litter boxes for diggers, long-haired rabbits, and litter eaters
For rabbits that like to dig, long-haired rabbits that may get litter stuck to their fur, and rabbits that can't stop eating their rabbit-safe litter, it may be a good idea to invest in a litter box setup that prevents access to the litter with a rabbit-safe mesh or grid.
To make your own gridded litter box, you can use material like plastic canvas or window screening. Be careful that the material you use will not rust or corrode due to bunny urine and that you cover or hide all sharp edges. These materials should be placed directly on top of the litter and do not directly support their weight.
If you decide to use something stiffer and heavy-duty like hardware cloth or egg-crate lighting as the main layer instead, another layer of softer mesh or rubber hole mats linked below should be placed on top for comfort to prevent sore hocks and broken nails and toes from the larger holes.
A few commercially available litter boxes with grids:
- SKEMIX Sifting Cat Pan Litter Box - 19"L x 15"W
- Pet Mate Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan - 19"L x 15"W
- CalPalmy Large Rabbit Litter Box - 17.3"L x 13.4"W
- Hamiledyi Large Rabbit Litter Box - 16.9"L x 13.3"W
Some commercial plastic and mesh mesh mat options:
- BinkyBunny, Litter Box and Screen Kit
- RUBYHOME rabbit mats - 13.6"L x 9.8"W
- Niteangle rabbit mats - 13.6"L x 9.8"W
- Planet Rabbit cage mat (pack of 6) - 15"L x 10"W
Some DIY gridded litter box setup combinations:
- White Stacking Recycling Bin from The Container Store with their Basic Stack Basket. Example setup by milabuns on Instagram here.
- IRIS cat litter box with Baker's Secret Non-stick Cooling Rack. Example from /u/FuzzyBinky on Reddit here.
And some fancier litter box/hay rack setups:
- BunnyRabbitToys, Rabbit Hay Feeder With Litter Box
- PhillyCreations, Large - Rabbit Bunny Hay Feeder and Litter Pan Combo
- AsasWood, Rabbit hay feeder with litter box
A few DIY litter box ideas with screens:
- Bunny Wonderland. (2016). BW Litterbox
- Haley. (2007). Litter Box w/Grate Idea
- Runestonez. (2010). The Stormhaven Litter System-Step by Step Instructions NOTE: Please add another softer layer on top of the egg crate for comfort.
- Coding with Bunnies. (2013). DIY Litter Box Setups
Other litter box tips
If you have a pair of rabbits that share a litter box, you will want to give them plenty of room -- the bigger the better! A cheap alternative for a large litter box is an underbed storage box which come in a variety of colors, sizes, and heights. Another idea is to buy a cheap large plastic tote and cut out an entryway in one or more sides. Otherwise, have multiple litter boxes.
You can also use regular appropriately-sized clear storage totes as litter boxes, too, such as this 28 qt clear Sterilite tote.
In general, we would not recommend covered litter boxes for rabbits as they reduce air circulation and can make it easy to overlook regular cleaning. Build-up of ammonia can cause respiratory issues over time, so it is important to be on top of litter box cleaning if you decide to use a covered litter box for appearance or other reasons.
If you have issues with rabbits kicking out litter or feces or eating outside of their litter box, usually a high-sided litter box can solve most of these issues.
Appropriate litter substrate
It is important to choose a rabbit-safe material to use in the litter box.
Rabbit-safe litters include the following:
- paper substrates (e.g. Carefresh, Yesterday's News, Eco Bedding, Cell-Sorb Plus, shredded newspaper and phone book pages)
- sawdust-compressed pellets (e.g. Feline Pine, wood stove pellets, pelleted horse bedding)
- straw pellets (e.g. Cat Country, Critter Country, Oxbow Eco-Straw)
- hardwood chips (e.g. aspen)
- coconut husks (e.g. Kitty's Crumble)
The following litters are not recommended for use with rabbits:
- untreated softwood chips (i.e. pine and cedar)
- clay and clumping cat litters
- corn or wheat based litters
- CatWorks litter (manufactured by Absorption Corporation) linked to zinc poisoning, by Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM, Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital
A few sad stories about owners using inappropriate litters with rabbits:
- East Coast Rabbit Rescue. (2019). Rabbit forced to share a litter box with two cats - RIP
Heat-treated and kiln-dried pine chips or compressed pine pellets are safe for rabbits because the treatment and manufacturing process removes the dangerous aromatic oils, but it may be dustier compared to hardwood chips.
Make sure that your bunny is not ingesting too much of the litter substrate regardless of type. If you see them doing so, you may wish to invest in a gridded litter box or make your own mesh cover for the litter. In the case of a grided litter box, using clay and clumping cat litters and corn or wheat based litters is safe because the rabbit will be unable to ingest the litter, since it is below the mesh/grid. However, do continue to stay away from untreated softwood chips as litter because it is the aromatic oils that are potentially dangerous, not the consumption.
Some resources on making your own litter:
- Hamster Hideout. (2014). Making your own Bedding from Recycled Paper
Preparing your litter box
A basic litter box should consist first of a layer of your chosen litter substrate and then a layer of hay to encourage your rabbit to eat in it. It may sound gross, but rabbits tend to eat and poop and pee at the same time and place. As a result, keeping their munchies in or near a litter box will encourage proper litter habits. If you are worried about the rabbit getting sick, they are smart enough and will not consume the urine-soaked hay.
A thin layer of around an inch of litter substrate is acceptable if you change the litter box every day or every other day. If you wish to change the litter box less, put a layer of around 3-4 inches of litter substrate. You will probably be fine for at least 3 days. The main reason to change a litter box is due to the odor or lack of litter substrate left to absorb urine. Urine is the main cause of rabbit odor and is used as the main method by rabbits to mark territory. Your rabbit will probably also produce mountains of poop but it is not as big of a problem as soaked litter. If your rabbit seems to not use their litter box after a while, it may be because it is too dirty. Rabbits are meticulous creatures -- you can tell from their grooming habits -- and will not use dirty litter boxes. Additionally, if urine is in contact with the bun's paws too long, it will stain and may even burn their feet. As a result, please make an effort to change your rabbit's litter box regularly.
Some may be concerned at the waste of hay by placing it in the litter box. The waste can be reduced by instead placing a hay rack near the litter box so that the rabbit can sit in the box and eat. It is less of a concern if you have bought a bale of hay for your rabbit. Ultimately, it is a good idea to combine the location of the hay feeding and bathroom.
You may also wish to place some of the bunny's poops and urine-soaked paper or hay in the litter box to let them know that the litter box is an acceptable place to potty.
For bunny owners that use wood pellet litters, you can make the pellets go much further by pre-expanding the pellets with water before use in a litter box. The absorption efficiency is the same, and you can use even less litter for the same effectiveness!
Some more links to read for more information on setting up a litter box have been listed below.
- San Diego House Rabbit Society. Setting Up Bunny's Litterbox
Changing the litter box
Commonly, the entire litter box is dumped and refreshed when it's time to change the litter. This is the easiest method. If you are more proactive, you can go through and scoop out only the wet litter and replace that section. A gridded litter box can allow you to recoup the most hay and make it easier to pick out the poop and scoop out wet litter.
Be careful about changing the litter box too often. The rabbit can get the impression that they are not supposed to use it if they never find their scent there.
Make a mixture of water and vinegar, around 1:1, to wipe down the litter box to dissolve any deposits that rabbit urine leaves. This mixture is also useful to help clean surfaces that your bunny has marked. The vinegar will break down the scent to reduce urges to re-mark.
The most important thing to remember is that your rabbit is very unlikely to retain reliable litterbox habits upon reaching sexual maturity unless she is spayed/he is neutered. Sex hormones give a rabbit an uncontrollable desire to mark the territory with urine and specially scented fecal pellets. Spay/neuter will eliminate/greatly reduce this drive, as well as eliminate the risk of uterine/ovarian cancer and unwanted pregnancy in females. And let's not forget the huge relief from endless sexual frustration that spayed/neutered animals enjoy.
Once you have set up a proper litter box, place it in area where the bunny can be comfortably confined for a couple of days except when let out for exercise and play. You may place it in any corner of the housing enclosure but be warned that you may need to move it if the bunny decides to pick their own potty corner. Rabbits are rather stubborn, and it tends to be easier to go along with their choice rather than try to adjust them. Reward the rabbit with more and more free space when they pee and poop in the litter box consistently.
It is expected that the bunny will have poor litter habits the first few days, but clean up any messes not in the litter box with a mixture of 1:1 vinegar:water or a pet-friendly enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle to rid of the scent and discourage the urge to re-mark. Plain soap and water are not sufficient to clean out all traces of urine scent. If you catch the rabbit peeing or pooping outside, try to interrupt them and move the rabbit in the litter box. Reward with treats whenever you see the rabbit going in the right spot. You may also place some pee-stained papers and poop pellets in the litter box to let them know that it's an acceptable place to potty.
The hay in or over the litter box should encourage proper litter habits since, disgusting as it may seem to humans, a rabbit will often happily munch on one end and potty from the other at the same time. You can reinforce the behavior by rewarding the rabbit with a healthy treat when you see them sitting in the litter box.
Do not get too frustrated with the rabbit if they do not seem to be getting the point. Remember, rabbits do not respond well to physical discipline. They are easily frightened and hurt. Some bunnies may take a while to learn but generally should get better in a week or two. A rabbit at any age can learn proper potty habits given enough time and motivation.
If there are particular problem areas that you can't seem to get your rabbit to stop urinating in, you may need to add another litter box there, cover it with a slick material like a marble tile to make it unattractive for urination, or even remove the problematic surface or block off the area completely.
While many times rabbits will litter train themselves easily, other times rabbits will refuse to properly litter train for a variety of reasons.
Eliminating outside of the box
Do note that realistic litter training is that a rabbit will pee consistently in their litter box(es) and nowhere else. It is very common for rabbits to poop in small amounts in their housing enclosure outside of the litter box for territorial reasons. Also, sometimes poop may be kicked out when the rabbit jumps from their litter box. This should not be a large problem because rabbit poop does not smell and is easy to pick up, sweep, or vacuum if your rabbit is healthy.
Although rabbits are typically easy to litter train, some rabbits may display problem behavior, such as relieving themselves outside of the litter box and peeing on beds and couches. The cause for this varies, but in many cases can be solved by spaying or neutering an intact rabbit. If your rabbit is altered, angry bunnies may intentionally pee to show their displeasure. The Litter Training FAQ also has more ideas on how to specifically teach your rabbit from peeing in a certain area.
Some rabbits like to lounge in their litter boxes and consequently will not use them to poop and pee in. In this instance, try offering other sleeping locations like a cardboard box or a pet bed or provide another litter box that they can properly use to not soil their sleeping location.
If your rabbit has already been fixed, environmental changes, stress, and medical problems can also cause poor litter habits. The introduction of a new pet (bunny, cat, dog, or other) will cause your bun to feel territorial and poop everywhere. The same may occur if you move around furniture too much or move to a new place. However, as the rabbit gets used to the new environment, their litter habits should return to normal. If no stressful or environmental factors can be detected, your bun may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or another condition that is causing a weak bladder. In this case, please take your rabbit to your rabbit-savvy veterinarian to be properly diagnosed and medicated if necessary.
If the rabbit reliably uses their litter box in their area yet consistently potties in another corner when let free to exercise and play, you may wish to set up another litter box in that corner if properly cleaning up after them does not change their behavior. Like stated before, rabbits are very stubborn, and it may be easier to compromise.
Some rabbits may accidentally eliminate over the side of the litter box. Rabbits typically shuffle back into a corner and lift their tails to urinate, and if the tray is too shallow, the rabbit may miss the edge. To fix this issue, get a tray with higher sides or make your own urine guard. One idea is to use a plastic folder as a urine guard. This may also happen with a litterbox that is too small for your rabbit.
Digging in the box
Rabbits have a natural instinct to dig, and this sometimes results in them digging in the litter box and thus flinging clean and dirty litter and poo everywhere. Although there is not much you can do to stop the rabbit from digging, there are a few things you can try to prevent messes. A gridded litter box with litter underneath the mesh portion prevents the rabbit from digging in the litter. You may also try making your own mesh cover to sit on top of the litter or use a baking cooling rack. You can also put the litter box in a larger cardboard box to contain the mess and make it easier to clean up.
See the previous Litter Boxes section for more details and ideas.
Smelly litter box
If your litter box smells, that is a sign that you should be changing your litter box more frequently. A proper litter box should not give off any significant ammonia odor. Anecdotally, paper-based litters will require cleaning most often, while the wood-based litters can last for 3+ days before requiring a change.
A larger-sized litter box and putting a thicker layer of litter down during setup can also help reduce the amount of changes a litter box may need.
The following are some additional resources about bad litter box habits.
- The Rabbit House, Rabbit Behaviour Problem: Bad Litter Box Habits
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, Linda Dykes, Help! I can't housetrain my rabbit. Updated Feb 2002.
- SaveABunny.org, Litterbox Training Your Bunny
- House Rabbit Network, Kathy Smith, The Basics of Litterbox Training. (2003)
- House Rabbit Society, Litter Training
- House Rabbit Society, Marinell Harriman, Litter Training: for those who want to but can’t
- House Rabbit Society, Amy Espie, Litterbox Encore
- San Diego House Rabbit Society, Litterbox Training
- Precision Pet Products, Rabbit Litter Box Training Guide
- Kathy Smith, Supplies
- Kathy Smith, Nobody’s Perfect. (2004)
- The Rabbit House, Rabbit Litter Training
Here are some relevant discussions on litter training rabbits.
- Flickr, Bunny Lovers Unite, BLU Guide: How to litter train
The following are some relevant videos:
- Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue, Zinc Poisoning Linked to Litter
- House Rabbit Society, Marinell Harriman, Litterboxes and Liver Disease
- House Rabbit Society, George Flentke, Ph.D., The Dangers of Softwood Shavings
- Zooh Corner, Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM, Zinc Poisoning Linked to Litter
- Zooh Corner, Litter Boxes, Liver Disease and Your Rabbit
- Corinne Fayo, The Truth About Pine Shavings
- Raising-Rabbits.com, Rabbit Litter
- House Rabbit Society. (n.d.) Litter Training. Retrieved 29 Sep 2016 from http://rabbit.org/faq-litter-training-2/
- Dana Krempels, Ph.D., Training Your Rabbit: Reality 101
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Litter Training
- Wikihow.com, How to Litter Train a Rabbit
- The Language of Lagomorphs, Offended Rabbits
- allcreaturesrescue.org Rabbit litterbox recommendations