Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Litter Training Your Bunny

What is litter training?
Litter training is the process of training an indoor pet (in this case, bunnies) to dispose of his/her excretions in a litter box. Bunnies can be trained to urinate in a litter box.

Benefits of litter training:
  • Your job of cleaning the litter box is eased and the process is sped up!
  • Your bunny's play area space can be expanded, since he/she wouldn't be urinating after every other hop.
    • Your bunny can even be given full access to the entire house!

    Obviously, the advantages listed above benefits both bunny and human. However -

    Expectations and reality facts:
    • Your bunny will still be extremely likely to leave poop at random places OR while hopping around.
    • Occasionally (or even a couple of times a day), your bunny may still urinate outside the litter box.
    • The litter training process may take weeks or months; the time varies from bunny to bunny.
    • Young bunnies (below 6 months old) tend to be more difficult to litter train.
    • Adult bunnies (above 6 months old) tend to be easier to litter train.

    Beginning with the Right Attitude
    • DO NOT scold, hit, or punish your bunny in any way when he/she does not use the litter box. The bunny would come to associate the litter box with bad treatment, and this does not help the training process.
    • When you spot your bunny using the litter box, DO
      • Give lots and lots of praise!
      • Reward your bunny with a piece of his/her favourite vegetable.
    • Bunnies learn by doing the right thing and being rewarded, NOT by making mistakes and being scolded.

    Things needed:
    Note: Various suggestions are listed in (i), (ii) ... etc.

    1. Litter box
    • The litter box is where the bunny hops inside to urinate.

    (i) Household-item-turn-litter-box
    This is the litter box my bunnies use. It is a two-layered basket-like object - its original usage was for people to place washed vegetables and fruits in it to dry.

    • Notes on litter box:
      • If the litter box purchased has two layers, check that the holes on the upper layer are smaller than your bunny's feet. This is because if the bunny's foot gets stuck in one of the holes, there is a dangerous risk of the leg breaking as he/she attempts to pull out the foot in a panic manner.
      • You can place rubber matting on the upper layer to better ensure safety.

        Rubber matting on upper layer of litter box

    (ii) Cat litter box*
    More on using cat litter boxes for bunnies here

    2. Litter
    • Litter is to be placed into the litter box to absorb the bunny's urine.

    (i) Newspaper
    • the cheapest and safest kind of litter.
    • you can shred the newspapers before you line them in the litter box.

      Dutchie amidst shredded newspaper.

    (ii) Carefresh litter*

    • Notes on litter:
      • It is strongly advised that you DO NOT purchase the following types of litter:
        • pine OR cedar shavings - phenols, which are natural volatile chemicals in the wood, have been found to cause respiratory problems and liver damage in bunnies.
        • clumping OR clay-based litter - causes potentially fatal blockage if the bunny consumes it.
      • Personally, I also advise that you DO NOT purchase any shavings that are sold and marketed as "scented". Once, I bought a "natural" scented shaving and I noticed that my bunnies (and also me) sneeze a lot when the shavings are used. Everyone returned to normal when the shavings are no longer used.

    *Recommended by many bunny owners, but I personally have not used this.

    3. Some poop and urine-soaked litter
    • These will be placed in litter box. This sends the bunny the message that the litter box is where he/she should urinate.

    4. Puppy pens
    • Puppy pens are used to confine the bunny in a restricted area and used throughout the litter training process.
      Puppy pens
    • Note on puppy pens:
      • The puppy pens should be able to be hooked and unhooked, so that they can be rearranged to create different play area sizes.

        One of the hooks

    5. A shallow storage box (optional)
    • I use this to contain the litter box.. I use such a box because sometimes, my bunnies' furry bums back up so far in the litter box that urine goes over the edge.

      The storage box lined with a layer of newspaper

    The litter training process
    1. Place your chosen type litter into the litter box.

    A layer of newspaper at the bottom and shredded ones on top.

    2. Place urine-soaked litter and several poop into the litter box.

    Placing urine-soaked newspaper into the litter box.
    (Alternatively, you can use a paper towel to mop up a puddle of urine and place that inside.)

    Placing poop into the litter box.

    3. Place the prepared litter box in your bunny's favourite toilet spot.
    • Also, make Timothy hay available right next to the litter box. Bunnies like to munch on hay and use the litter box at the same time.
    I've made two holes in a paper towel and stuck hay into them; the paper roll is hung onto the cage with a S-hook.

    Jippie eating hay

    4. Confine your bunny to a limited area using puppy pens.
    • When your bunny successfully uses the litter box for a period of time (eg: a week), rearrange the pens to create a larger space. Then, after a week, if he/she successes again, expand more!
    • Example:

    Week 1
    Week 2

    Week 3

    Cleaning chores
    The cleaning process:

    1. Wear a mask and a pair of plastic gloves.
    2. Throw out the litter and wash the litter box.
    3. Place new litter into a second, clean litter box.
    • Litter boxes should be cleared and washed daily
    • Rinse and scrub the litter box thoroughly with water, or they'll get really foul-smelling over time.

    General tips
    • If your bunny has chosen a new toilet spot right after the litter box is placed in his/her old one, move the litter box to the new spot. It's easier to follow the bunny's choice rather than instruct (which is quite impossible) him/her to urinate in a spot you have chosen.
    • If your bunny has multiple toilet spots, you can supply the bunny with more litter boxes; one for each spot. Reduce the number of boxes gradually as your bunny develops the habit of using a litter box.

    As a final reminder: Patience is key when litter training your bunny.

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