How to Potty Train a Bunny
Consider this article as Bunny Litter Box Training 101. Since we brought home our first bunny - Ms. Bunny, over 10 years ago, we have discovered that bunnies have a long list of demands. One such requirement is that their living area be kept clean and tidy. Through many trials and errors of creating living spaces and litter boxes suitable for bunnies, they taught us so much about what they prefer. Here we share these wisdom encounters from our buns.
For over a decade we have endeavored to build a better bunny potty. It is a clean and refreshing way to live with indoor bunnies. Before we learned to speak bunny we were just guessing at what they wanted. When we set about to make our first bunny potty we encountered many failed attempts. Gentle reader, please look at the pictures we share as our lessons learned, for we now have more natural habitats for our little bunnies to run, play, and live in. Because of Ms. Bunny we are able to teach the world about what bunnies want.
At first, we filled the bunny's cage with wood chips and that lasted about 15 minutes until we observed that little Ms. Bunny did not go for this idea at all. Next, we filled a litter box with hay, and this proved problematic for Bunny's feet got soiled and the hay got wet. We then tried filling the bottom of the potty with various items to create a filter effect such as rocks and sand, which caused little Bunny to just shake her head at us as if to say, "Keep trying, my beloved humans."
We had no idea what bunnies want and over the years Ms. Bunny has patiently, and often impatiently, taught us so much. At last, we emptied her cage and created a little potty from an office supply holder (shown below in blue) and wrapped some chicken wire to make a bottom floor that she could stand upon while she did her business. We needed to separate Bunny from her waste by using a floor with holes that allowed the elements to collect in a bin filled with kitty litter or fragrant wood chips that is far removed from sweet bunny feet. This allowed each bunny to keep its feet unsoiled and the smell of potty to a minimum. At last, everyone rejoiced for we had figured out the potty conundrum! Everyone in our bunny kingdom was overjoyed, for our bunnies were finally appeased…for the moment.
Lessons Learned for Bunny Potty Design
Following are some lessons we've learned over the years when designing your own bunny potty:
Include a Toilet Seat
Use a cooling rack you can get for a few bucks that fits into a plastic bin or bend chicken wire around a metal shelf for the potty stand (or toilet seat if you will). Ensure the stand has holes large enough for pellets to drop through.
Use Fragrant Litter or Wood
Fit the potty stand in a plastic bin and place kitty litter or other odor absorbing material in the bin to keep smells down and bunnies clean and happy.
Use Sides to Avoid Untidy Messes
Catch near misses by using a potty with sides that are about even with the bunny's lower back. Often bunnies will urinate at the edge of their potty, so having sides can help ensure what happens in the potty stays in the potty.
Empty the potty every other day or more often. No one likes a dirty potty! People mistakenly say, "Rabbits smell!" but imagine if we only flushed our human potties once a week, same goes with bunny potties. Empty often and live better. Empty the potty and refresh the kitty litter or other absorbent materials you are using in the bottom of the potty every few days.
Include Potty Reading Materials
The more time the bunny spends on the potty, the more likely they are to use it as intended. Place hay in in the potty will encourage eating and pooping. Our bunnies like to make pellets as they eat hay, so set them up for success.
Evaluate Your Efforts
How do you know if your bunny loves the potty? They will, of course, use it. Also, the best measure of bunny love is to look for your bunny to chin mark his/her potty. If your bunny loves it, you’ll often notice a chin mark on the corner.When we bring our bunnies to a new area and set down their potty, they will immediately run up to it and mark it with their chins, as if to say, “Yeah, that’s my potty.”
We have attempted several variations of the bunny potty, and below we found a strategy that works for our household. Here is Mr. Toops enjoying some hay in his potty. Notice his feet are elevated above the wood chips and kitty litter we used on the bottom floor and he can eat his hay in peace and safety as he manufactures lovely, healthy pellets.
To design this potty, we used a storage bin as the base, and covered plastic coated metal shelf with wire that was large enough to allow pellets to drop through.
We then employed a gym clip to affix a container to hold the hay. This allowed us to make the potty portable if we were going to take the buns with us on trips or position the potty around the house for their indoor play time.
When you have a fresh potty you have a happy bunny. You can see the potty in the corner far removed from their play and sleeping areas. To train our bunnies, we kept picking up random pellets and wiping up any urine spots on the floor until the only place they would relieve themselves was in their potty.
We did not have to keep wood chips or other bedding down on the ground, for the bunnies learned to use their potty. They even got to have a soft blanket upstairs for their bed, which stayed clean. Ms. Bunny was already trained and when we later adopted Toops and trained him too. He would jump in, eat some hay, do his business, and then run around their house completely pleased with himself.
We've observed that bunnies tend to relieve themselves in one area of their habitat, and if they have a specific litter box or “bunny potty” they will jump in and use as needed. When we had this bunny habitat, each evening after work, we would open their door and let them run around the porch for a few hours to get some exercise and they’d always go back in their house to use their potty.
When we visit with our bunnies in the house, we always have their potty in a safe corner. When they need a bathroom break, they jump right in, do their business, and then resume play and exploration.
When it is time for the bunnies to go outside and enjoy the sunshine in their garden, sometimes I put their potty outside with them. I’ve noticed that they will actually jump in to relieve themselves or drop a few pellets. Below is a picture of Cassey enjoying some hay while using the potty.
How to Train a Bunny to Use a Litter Box (Potty)
Following are three factors that can hep encourage a bunny to use its potty:
Position the Potty
Observe where your bunny typically urinates or drops pellets in his/her living area. If there is not one specific place then choose a nice safe corner to place the potty.
Keep Habitat Tidy
Clean up all the other wood chips, hay, or debris from their floor so there is only one area that smells like the potty. If you notice pellets around the potty or in other areas of the living area, pick them up and put them in the potty. Quickly clean up any urine that is outside the potty. This is where the training comes in – fast and consistent pellet and urine clean up!
Remember the Hay
Place hay in or near the potty so your bunny can get to it while standing in the potty.
Never Give Up, Never Surrender
After applying these strategies, in a few weeks or even days bunnies generally take to the idea of a potty and will not want to be without it.
It took us some time to train our Bigs (big bunnies) and our Littles (dwarf bunneis) to use their potty when living together. When they first began living together they seemed to revert back to pre-potty behaviors. Below is a picture of one of our indoor bunny habitats. Notice the bunny potty in the back corner and no pellets on the floor. Once our bunnies bonded and began to enjoy each other's company, they settled down and now all happily use their potty.
If bunnies feel unsafe or are having territory disputes, there may be some urine or pellets. However, when our bunnies are happy with their home and their potty is set up for them, they will typically use that instead of the floor.
Considerations for Baby Bunnies
Baby bunnies typically cannot control when or where their pellets come out, but as they grow up they will limit their bathroom breaks to a certain area in their habitat. To encourage potty use, it is a good idea to keep fresh hay on one side of the potty or in a hay trough of some sort for them to eat and make pellets. You may notice several piles of pellets and urine in the potty which is great, but also a lot of pellets or urine puddles outside the potty. Don’t give up, just stay with it!
In the pictures above and below, we had just brought home our dwarf bunnies - The Littles. This was their temporary living space until we could incorporate them with our big bunnies. I used this time to begin potty training them. In this picture, you’ll notice The Little’s first potty.
The little bunnies were too small to jump over the sides, so we had to make it flat. They were so light we just bent some chicken wire and placed it in a glass casserole dish we found at a thrift store for a few dollars. We let them exercise on the porch and run around most of the time, but they would sleep in their little house. This helped them learn where their potty was.
I kept their temporary cage cleaned up and all waste inside the potty so they would quickly learn. This meant replacing their little soft bed, which they would urinate and make pellets on, several times a day. Often I'd find a random pellet, so I'd quickly put it in the potty to help them learn where those are kept. As our little bunnies grew up, they were able to control when and where they drop their pellets.
When potty training a bunny, be very patient, avoid scolding, and work with your bunny. You will both be glad of this new skill once all the training is complete, for a potty trained bunny is a happy bunny!
In the video below, you'll see how Bunny and Toops use their potty after some porch playtime. Mr. Toops actually waits his turn to use the potty after Ms. Bunny. You gotta love bunnies!