Rabbits are great pets for a family. With a little care and effort, your new rabbit can be trained to eliminate in a litterbox, allowing him to roam in the house.
The first thing you need to do is to have him or her neutered or spayed. Male rabbits can be neutered as soon as their testicles descend at 8-12 weeks. For females, the surgery is more involved and most veterinarians recommend spaying at about 6 months of age. As it is very difficult to litter train a rabbit that has not been altered, you will want to consider having this done before considering litter training your bunny.
The process of litter training your rabbit should begin as soon as you bring him home. Select a medium-sized cat litter box, or larger if your bunny is large. There should be plenty of room for the rabbit to stretch out and feel comfortable. Start in a small, enclosed area, such as a bathroom or laundry room. If the floor is tiled, make sure the bunny’s claws are trimmed so she feels comfortable. Provide a towel or blanket on which the rabbit can sit and lie down. The small, enclosed area is vital to successfully litter train a rabbit. If given run of the house, the rabbit will see the whole house as his litter box!
Make sure you have an appropriate litter for the box. Do not use clay cat litter as it can cause breathing problems for rabbits. Also, avoid litters that contain zinc or cedar, as these can harm rabbits. Buy newspaper-based or corn cob litter for your rabbit, which is available at pet or farm supply stores. Fill the litterbox about an inch deep and cover it with a shallow layer of timothy hay, also available at pet stores. Put some of the rabbit’s urine and droppings in the box to connect the scent with the litterbox.
When training your bunny to use her litterbox, stay with her and clean up any accidents as soon as possible. If you have to leave the area, place the bunny into her cage. Use lots of praise and pets when your rabbit uses the litterbox properly, but do not yell or scold when she has an accident. Rabbits are naturally timid and do not react well to negative reinforcement. While cleaning the litterbox is important, let it stay a little dirty to reinforce to the rabbit that this is where she is supposed to use the bathroom.
Once your rabbit has mastered the enclosed space, expand the area and repeat the process. If you catch your bunny going to the bathroom outside of her box, pick her up gently and put her in the box. Every ten minutes or so, pick up your rabbit and put her in the litterbox, and if she uses it, be ready with a treat and lots of praise.
Eventually (it’s hard to say how long it will take as all rabbits are different), given enough patience, praise, and treats, your rabbit will regularly use her litterbox and can be left to roam for longer periods.