Not all, but the vast majority of rabbits become housebroken with appropriate training. With a few little tricks and some background knowledge, you can get almost all rabbits used to the toilet. However, droppings will still fall out of the toilet from time to time. Daily vacuuming is recommended.
As with dogs or cats, “housetraining” is necessary, but since rabbits cannot be trained, it is more a matter of “support for cleanliness”. Rabbits are very clean by nature and do their business only in one or a few places. Even in nature, they have “toilet places” that all group members share.
Never punish a rabbit for leaving a puddle (yelling at it, locking it in the cage…), not only is this completely ineffective, but it only scares the rabbit away. Rabbits do not understand the connection between the punishment and uncleanliness.
Tips and tricks for cleanliness education:
Put cat toilets, cage tubs or other easy-to-clean tubs in all corners of the room or enclosure!
Rabbits need very large toilets with a low rim so they can hop in very quickly. Otherwise they will hardly become housebroken.
Wherever food (hay, fresh food, treats…) is offered, there must be a large tub underneath. When rabbits eat, they defecate and urinate a lot and will not housebreak there either. Therefore, everything must be designed so that the rabbits basically sit on a littered area when they eat! A large cage tub is required so that the rabbit really sits inside when it eats and does not sit next to it and fishes out food!
Toilets need to be bedded in a cozy but very absorbent way. We recommend a layer of wood pellets (binds the smell very well and sucks a lot of liquid), which are covered by straw (so that the rabbit likes to sit in there and it is comfortable, also it does not get dirty when peeing). For cleanliness training, sand can also be beneficial, as it is very popular. In the long run, however, it stinks too much.
For the beginning, the toilets are filled with dirty (smelling of urine) litter.
The toilets must be very accessible around the clock!
The procedure of the training
- Put the rabbit in the toilet when it arrives so that it gets to know it. It can also be advantageous to combine the toilet with something nice (e.g. food).
- Place several large toilets per room/enclosure, especially in all corners, then gradually remove the toilets that are not used.
- Fence the rabbits in a bit for the beginning, until they know the retreat, feeding and toilet place well and used the toilet in the fenced area, then gradually expand the area.
- If the rabbit makes a mistake, wipe up the stain with a kitchen towel and put the towel in the toilet (this way the rabbit also smells that it is his toilet).
- If the rabbit particularly likes to make a certain place, a toilet is placed there.
Help positions to try out if it does not work yet.
- Put up more, large and shallow toilets (e.g. cage tubs) and then gradually take away individual ones when they are no longer being used.
- Feed over/in the toilet, many rabbits do where they eat.
- Increase the attractiveness of the toilet: the rabbit should feel comfortable there, be able to eat, sit and lie well, find protection from above (roof).
- Remove carpets, cloths & co. from the enclosure, some rabbits like to make on soft. When the rabbits are super housebroken, at some point you can slowly intergrate them back into the enclosure.
- Enclose the rabbits in an area of about 4m², use a good wipeable surface (PVC flooring, tiles) and place large cage tubs in all four corners.
- Check if the rabbit is freshly socialized (territory markings), hot or sick (see below!). Go over all the items listed below carefully! Impurities also occur during puberty (around the first year of life).
- Training requires time and patience. No rabbit becomes housebroken overnight!
If something does go wrong…
Urine stains can be easily removed with simple tricks. On mattresses and carpets, it is a good idea to spray on glass cleaner, let it work for a short time and then rub it out. The stains often disappear almost completely. If you want to be on the safe side, we have had very good experience with Dr.Beckmann’s stain remover (for fruit, red wine, vegetables), which we also use to remove our dandelion stains from picking.
Rabbits mark their territory not only with scent glands, but also with urine and feces. This occurs especially in unneutered rabbits.
This behavior is especially extreme when they are not neutered. Uncastrated males are therefore hardly to be kept indoors.
Heatiness and false pregnancy
Also in the heat and during false pregnancies often occurs temporarily uncleanliness. More info
Other rabbits in the household
Prefer to mark territorial edges (along walls, along enclosure fences, etc.) to “stake out” their own territory. If there are other groups of rabbits living in the same household, this behavior is reinforced, then it is almost impossible for them to become housebroken.
New territories, freshly cleaned territories
If the rabbits are let into a new area or the smell and/or environment has changed (new furniture, after cleaning), the marking behavior will occur more.
Group size, group harmony
The larger and more inharmonious the group, the more pronounced the marking behavior.
Uncleanliness due to a new addition
If you want to get a rabbit, you have to expect that during the socialization and for a while afterwards the rabbits are very unclean, because they mark their territory extremely to make their claims clear to the intruder.
Territory marking during puberty
Also uncleanliness often occurs between the 6th and 12th month of life, when the rabbits become adults/pubescents. More info
(Invisibly) sick rabbits
Various diseases can cause fecal or urinary incontinence. Causes are many diseases, such as diarrhea, bladder stones or cystitis. It is especially noticeable when previously housebroken rabbits suddenly become unclean and urine is spread everywhere. During the shedding season, when rabbits form chains of droppings, fecal impurities may also increase.
Rabbits with osteoarthritis, spondylosis, etc.
Your rabbit may still be able to get over the edge of the toilet, but it is painful or troublesome because it is suffering from a skeletal condition. Especially older rabbits are often affected and then prefer to make next to the toilet.
The right toilet and its location is the crucial point in cleanliness education.
Only when rabbits accept their toilets, they become housebroken. The toilet corners are not chosen by humans, but rather by the rabbits themselves. The toilets must be placed where the rabbits increasingly urinate and defecate. Room corners or secluded areas are often chosen.
No large toilet under the feeding area
The feeding area should also be a large toilet (cage pan) because rabbits especially like to defecate while eating. Be sure to feed only there and offer the food in such a way that the rabbits have to sit with their rear end in the toilet pan to get to the food.
No suitable toilet bowl
The toilet must be sufficiently large. Cat toilets or cage trays or another container are suitable! The commercial rabbit toilets are accepted reluctantly. In addition, the rim must not be too high, so that they can reach their toilet quickly and easily.
The rabbit must feel comfortable in its toilet and the bedding should be sufficiently absorbent so that it always stays clean. For example, wood pellets with a layer of straw or hay on top are suitable.
Too few toilets
At least one toilet per animal and rather a few too many – than too few. Too few toilets are one of the most common reasons for uncleanliness.
If it doesn’t work out…
If for some reason the rabbits do not become housebroken, outdoor housing is recommended. If you cannot offer this, you must find a solution in the apartment or place the rabbits outdoors. For the apartment, it is advisable to mark off part of a room with lattice elements and protect the floor with PVC. Small carpets (found at IKEA or furniture stores) can be laid on the PVC. The small carpets easily fit into the washing machine, likewise cloths or blankets can be used. Or you can use painter’s fleece, which is available cheaply in hardware stores. It is waterproof to the bottom, but has an absorbent top that soaks up urine. It can be washed in the washing machine. Also suitable are changing pads. However, painter’s fleece and changing pads must not be gnawed on. Often it helps to put a cloth or straw over it.
Rabbit toilets with deep entrance
Especially when animals do not become housebroken, this type of toilet has proven its worth. The toilet is ideal for baby rabbits, handicapped animals (E. Cuniculi, arthritis, spondylosis, old animals…) or for unclean animals. You should offer hay and fresh in the toilet (where they eat, they go!) and thereby it must of course be kept appropriately hygienic.
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