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Litter-Training Your Rabbit

Training your pet rabbit to use a litter pan or litter box isn't too difficult. Most mature rabbits that have been raised in cages will pick one spot in which to urinate and leave their droppings. You'll probably notice that he or she has a pile of droppings in one corner and relatively few droppings in other parts of the cage.

This tidy habit is the key to training your bunny to use a litter pan.

Get a small litter pan, fill it with litter, and put it in the corner that your rabbit uses most frequently. Put a few of your rabbit's droppings in the litter. Usually this will be enough of a hint for your bunny--he or she will start using the litter pan thereafter.

Once your rabbit is using a litter pan in his or her cage, you can set one or more litter pans in the room(s) your bunny runs in. Put a few droppings in each pan and show the pan to your rabbit. Most rabbits will know that they can use the litter pan to do their business. However, keep a close eye on your pet whenever he or she is outside his or her cage until you're confident that he or she is using a litter pan consistently.

Choosing a Litter Pan
Just about any pan that your rabbit can get in and out of easily will work. The litter pan shouldn't be so big that it takes up more than a third of your rabbit's cage, though. You might try a pan with a higher side if your rabbit tends to splash when he or she urinates. Your rabbit might need a pan with a lower edge as he or she gets older to make it easier to climb in and out. Some pet stores sell litter pans that are triangular in shape, such as the Super Pet Hi-Corner Litter Pan, so the pan fits easily in the corner of your pet's cage. These types of litter pans also take up less room in your pet's cage.

Picking the Right Litter
Many rabbits will try to eat the litter in their litter pans, so it's essential to pick types of litter or bedding that will not harm them. Clumping cat litters can be deadly for rabbits; if they eat it, the litter can form a lump in their digestive systems that they can't pass. Deodorized cat litter can contain chemicals that might kill your bunny. You might also wish to avoid using bedding that consists of cedar or pine wood shavings. Many people think that the aromatic oils associated with cedar or pine wood shavings can be bad for small critters like bunnies.

Consider using litter or bedding made from recycled wood pulp, such as Carefresh. It's safe and it's pretty good at controlling odors. You might also try corn cob bedding, although it's not as good at odor control. Some people put rabbit food pellets to double duty and use the pellets as a form of litter in their rabbit's litter pan.

Potential Training Problems
Young Rabbits: Training rabbits younger than three months can be problematic--they are often too immature to learn to use one place consistently as their toliet. If your young bunny isn't picking up the fine points of using a litter pan or the cage, be patient. Keep an eye on him or her outside of the cage. If you see him or her backing up a bit, pushing his or her butt against a wall or other object, or raising his or her tail, this could be a signal that your pet is getting ready to urinate. Put your pet back in the cage as soon as you notice this behavior. This will help your bunny realize that he or she should urinate in the cage. Once he or she is going back to the cage consistently to urinate, you should be able to train him or her to use a litter pan.

Spraying: Rabbits that haven't been neutered or spayed might spray urine. Often this is done to mark territory, particularly with males. If you're not planning to breed your rabbit, having him or her fixed will usually solve the problem. You might also try putting your rabbit back in the cage, whenever he sprays.

Droppings Outside of the Litter Pan: Rabbits will often leave a few droppings outside of their cage or litter pan. This is another way of marking their territory. For most rabbits, there's not a lot you can do to break them of this habit. Because the droppings are hard, clean-up is usually easy. You can vacuum or sweep them right up.

A Lot of Droppings Outside of the Litter Pan: If you notice that your rabbit is leaving a lot of droppings in one place outside of the litter pan or cage, try moving the litter pan to that place or putting a new litter pan there. Some rabbits can be stubborn about the places they pick to go, so it's easiest just to accommodate them if possible.

Wet Droppings: A rabbit's droppings are typically dry. If your rabbit leaves wet droppings outside of his or her cage or litter pan, it's usually due to one of two reasons. If the droppings are very small and stuck together like a little cluster of grapes, these are night droppings or ceacotropes. Not only are night droppings different in appearance than regular droppings, night droppings contain nutrients that the rabbit didn't digest the first time around. Rabbits usually eat night droppings, but occasionally you might find a few that your rabbit leaves behind. Generally, you don't need to worry about finding night droppings unless you find a lot of them. In that event, take your pet to the vet. If the droppings are larger and are jelled in appearance or mashed together, this is (probably) diarrhea. You should take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Diarrhea can be symptomatic of a number of health problems.

Sleeping or Sitting in Litter Pan: Your rabbit might like to sleep or sit in his or her litter pan. This usually isn't anything to worry about. Once your rabbit urinates in the litter pan after you've changed the litter, he or she is less likely to hang out in the litter pan. If your rabbit isn't using the litter pan for urination, however, he or she might not have caught on to the litter pan's purpose. This will often happen with rabbits who aren't yet mature. Try using a second litter pan in the corner that your rabbit is now using for urination. That way your pet will have one litter pan to lounge in and another to use as a toliet.


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