The first step is to get a cage, exercise pen, or other way to contain your bunny when you're not home. Make sure the cage is low enough to the floor that your bunny can either hop in and out or use a ramp. For the Prevue Hendryx cage pictured above, I had to engineer a ramp that attached to the door when open so my Holland Lop, Ruby, could come and go when the door was open. Don't worry, the ramp was not made of wide wire as you see above, it was wooden with grips.
Next, get a litter box for the cage. My favorite is the Ware JUMBO Lock-n-Litter pan that attaches to the cage side and has the handy grate to keep your bunny's tush Charmin-clean. Use a thin layer of absorbent material in the bottom. Yesterday's News is excellent and can be ordered on Amazon, but Carefresh Natural is also effective and compostable. Place the litter pan in the corner where your bunny likes to do his/her business. Some people place the bunny's hay in the box or on the cage wall over the litter box as bunnies often eat and relieve themselves at the same time. Your bunny should soon use the litter pan for most potty breaks, especially #1. You'll likely find quite a few #2 poo balls rolling around the cage bottom like billiard balls.
As you allow your bunny to begin to exit the cage and roam around, keep the space small and make sure to have a litter pan (with some of his/her poo balls in it) close by. Do not allow your bunny to have any more space to explore until it consistently uses the litter pan in that room or by returning to the cage to use the bathroom. A baby gate can help to keep your bunny's space small at first. Keep in mind that even the most experienced litter-box-trained bunnies drop poo balls here and there - especially when they get excited or someone scares the poo out of them!
The above photos are from my customer, Beth, who has an adorable black Holland Lop buck named Batman. After having Batman for about three months, she is confident to let him roam freely in the rooms where the family is present. Batman returns to his cage to go to the bathroom (except for a few rogue escapee poo balls) and even gets along with the dogs, though these interactions are supervised. Batman has a special hiding place in a grass tunnel on a shelf, where he hops to feel secure.
Another customer, Doug B., has owned bunnies for years and is pretty much a pro at potty training bunnies and treating them like royalty! His new blue bunny named Samson is already using the litter box most of the time and is slowly being introduced to his Dutch bunny friend, Tronic (who is fixed). These lucky bunnies have their own room in the house and are allowed to explore the house when their owners are home!
Doug offered some terrific tips for litter training rabbits:
So, if you are faced with the task of litter training a bunny, don't despair! IT IS POSSIBLE, but it takes time, patience, and perseverance. If things don't go well at first, be creative in finding a solution, but DoN't GiVe Up! Thank you to my wonderful customers for their pictures and feedback about potty training rabbits!
*March, 2017 Update:
Since I published this blog article, I have switched my entire herd to solid floor cages and have litter trained all of the bunnies. Most of them use their litter boxes to urinate nearly 100% of the time, but the poop is a different story. Part of the issue is that I have a dozen un-neutered and un-spayed rabbits housed in close proximity, so I believe some of the poop trails are for territory-marking. Based on what my customers say, the poop doesn't get more sparse until spaying/neutering, so I just keep a wet/dry vacuum handy and suck up the dry poo balls twice a day. I then dump the vacuum canister into a bucket every few days and use the manure as garden fertilizer (it's great stuff!). The smell is very minimal compared to traditional cages with collection trays, and I only have to clean litter boxes a few times per week. Hint: a cheap plastic putty knife/spatula works wonders for scraping litter boxes so they can be cleaned in the sink and not clog your drain!
Overall, litter training was easier than I imagined for most of my rabbits (adults and babies alike), but there are a few who challenge me, so I have added one or two extra litter boxes to some of the rabbits' cages. I also didn't allow my bunnies to have access to the second floor of their bunny condo until they were litter trained on the first floor. The Ware Jumbo Scatterless Lock 'n Litter pans from Amazon/Drs. Foster & Smith are still my favorites when compared with the metal litter boxes from KW Cages or options without grates on top. Bunnies love to dig, so a litter box without a grate is a recipe for disaster. You can use a plastic foot rest mat with a cheap plastic kitten litter box if you prefer, but the Ware boxes have nice high sides and attach to the cage - worth the $13 price tag if you ask me. Good luck!
The rabbit cages pictured above are Bunny Villas from KW Cages. They come with one, two, three, or even four floors, but I wouldn't recommend more than three unless you're at least six feet tall. :)
Hook's Hollands is a small hobby rabbitry on our Ohio farm and is operated by me (Diane) with the help of my family. We have a small herd of Holland Lop rabbits and focus on raising colorful bunnies with the best type and temperament possible.
This blog serves to spotlight various bunny care topics and share a bit about my experiences raising bunnies.