Has your rabbit decided the whole house is now his loo? While an occasional stray poo is nothing to worry about, a sudden rejection of the litter box can be frustrating. Your rabbit’s potty habits can be thrown off by a change in routine, new scenery, unfamiliar humans or animals, an issue with the litter box itself, a medical problem, or even a new life stage.
Why Rabbits Stop Using the Litter Box
1) New surroundings – Moving to a new house can cause your rabbit to “go” outside the box to mark his territory. Introducing a new bunny to the home can have the same effect. This behavior will usually correct itself in time. Changes in routine can cause rabbits to become less consistent with trips to the john. Anything from a new human visiting the home to working new or longer hours can be upsetting for your bun.
2) Litter box changes – Have you been a little busier than normal? Less frequent litter changes can cause your rabbit to find alternatives when nature calls. If you’ve recently switched to a new kind of rabbit litter, try mixing in some of the old formula to make a more gradual transition. Even moving the commode to a new location can be problematic. You may need to move the box just a few inches a day until your rabbit is on the same page.
3) Age – Younger rabbits generally aren’t as good at using the litter box. You can blame smaller bladders, but it’s their party and they’ll poop where they want to. Even the adolescents have a good excuse. When rabbits reach 4-6 months of age, you can thank active hormones for territory marking. Spaying/neutering will help with this. Growing buns might also outgrow their original box and need something a bit roomier to get comfortable. Older rabbits sometimes appreciate a similar upgrade with lower sides, as taller boxes become less appealing for achy joints.
4) Medical concerns – Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and other problems can cause rabbits to associate pain with their litter tray. Before looking to potential behavioral explanations for sudden liter box rejection, it’s always a safe bet to consult a vet and rule out illness or injury.
Retraining Your Rabbit to Use the Litter Box
Because there are so many reasons your rabbit’s bathroom habits may have regressed, it might take some trial and error to rectify the situation. You can be using the right litter in the perfect box placed in an ideal location and find your rabbit still might need a little retraining.
Start by going back to basics. Rabbits eliminate most where they eat and drink. Maybe all he needs is a pile of rabbit hay in the box to give it some allure. No luck? Put a litter box under every feeding station so he won’t have to think twice about where he goes. You may need to confine him to a smaller area with plenty of nice big litter boxes for a few days. Gradually take away one box at a time, slowly increasing the amount of floor space.
Trust your rabbit’s eye for interior design. If he only wants to go in the left corner of the living room, put a box there and call it a day. Keeping a litter box in every room your rabbit can access is also helpful, especially if there are multiple box users. Remember, what works for one rabbit might not work for another, so be patient. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.