Litter training is going nowhere!

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Melxyz

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Hi there, first time posting on this forum, would really appreciate any advice anyone might have!
I have 2 bunnies, one I got about 2-3 years ago (boy - brown bunny in photo) and one I got about 6 months ago (girl - white bunny in photo). Not too sure how old they are but they’re both de-sexed and have bonded well. They don’t fight and generally enjoy each other’s company. The issue is that we had no trouble litter training the boy, but the girl bunny has become a complete nightmare! She constantly scatters poo all around the house (they’re free roam) and pees outside the litter tray all the time. She digs in the litter box and scatters it everywhere and also in general doesn’t seem to like me very much (doesn’t like pats, wont let herself be picked up etc).
I have tried the following:
- lots of litter trays around the place
- blocking off areas that she seems to pee in a lot
- paper towel with her pee in the litter tray
- cleaning up her poo and putting it in the tray
- leaving her poo for a few days before cleaning it up
- different types of litter boxes
- different types of litter
- different hutch/enclosure environments
- isolation in a neutral space post bonding
- moved both bunnies to a neutral home (my parents) for 2 weeks and she did the same things there

There is also one weird thing she does where she’s “grooming” the boy bunny but actually biting bits of his fur from around his eyes. Not entirely sure what that is about but he has a small bald patch on his face. It doesn’t seem to bother him when she does it though.

I’m out of ideas and wondering if it might be time to give up and try to find a new home for her. Can anyone help please?!F3636DF2-E35B-423F-B335-B66F091C56A8.jpeg
 

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FuzzyBun

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Ouch, what a mess! I am a thorough failure when it comes to litter training rabbits (but they were babies so give me some leeway!), but have you tried restricting her to the rabbit hutch or maybe a playpen? I had a similar problem with a really young female rabbit (not spayed). She never went outside her enclosure, but she treated her whole enclosure as a litter box. I kept her restricted and made some progress. She started mostly using the litter box…..then made a habit of throwing it everywhere afterwards 🤦🏽‍♀️. I rehomed her later due to a host of other issues. Maybe it has something to do with her background? An old habit that was never corrected in her old home? You said they’re both fixed, but could it still be a dominance thing?
 

Melxyz

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Ouch, what a mess! I am a thorough failure when it comes to litter training rabbits (but they were babies so give me some leeway!), but have you tried restricting her to the rabbit hutch or maybe a playpen? I had a similar problem with a really young female rabbit (not spayed). She never went outside her enclosure, but she treated her whole enclosure as a litter box. I kept her restricted and made some progress. She started mostly using the litter box…..then made a habit of throwing it everywhere afterwards 🤦🏽‍♀️. I rehomed her later due to a host of other issues. Maybe it has something to do with her background? An old habit that was never corrected in her old home? You said they’re both fixed, but could it still be a dominance thing?
Thank you for making me not feel so alone! Bunnies are wonderful pets but they can definitely be a handful! I used to keep her in a caged enclosure but she spent so long chewing on the bars of the cage I was worried she’d wear her teeth down to nothing so I decided to let her be free roam.
I try distracting her with toys and treats and that doesn’t seem to work either. It’s a real head scratcher!
 

JBun

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There are a few changes I would suggest. First is a screen that lays over the litter to prevent digging the litter out. 1/4-1/2 inch wire hardware cloth could be cut to size to make a mesh screen, though I prefer a soft one made from pet window screening with a frame. I've also used plastic cross stitch canvas with some success.


It's also good to provide different activities to help divert your buns energy to things that are ok for her to dig, rip, and chew up. You may just need to try different things to find the type of activity that works best for her personality.


The other suggestion is that I think for now you will need to stop free roaming and restrict your rabbits to a smaller penned area to restore litter box habits. Your girl bun may be experiencing some territorial insecurity, and needs to feel like she has her own established space that she knows is hers and feels secure in. She needs to have time to reestablish good litter box habits in this space, then gradually expanding their area from there. To stop her from chewing on the pen bars, I would use wire mesh or even cardboard ziptied to it will work fine, though may need to be occassionally replaced if she rips it up.


If she continues to have issues peeing outside the litter box, other changes may be needed, or possibly a vet check to make sure it's not health related(eg. UTI). Especially if she is having any signs of urine soaked or stained fur around her bottom.


To develop a bond with your girl bun, it's all about understanding rabbit behavior and communication, as well as using the right techniques to build a bond with your rabbit. It's similar to how rabbits are bonded with each other. You start off with just sitting with them in a smaller area(eg their pen, blocked off hallway, bathroom) so they can't just run off and avoid contact, but have to be near you, giving the rabbit a chance to learn to trust you.

One common mistake made that can affect a rabbits ability to learn to trust you, is trying to pick them up and/or hold them. Most rabbits hate this as it's what a predator would do and is against their nature. Some rabbits can be trained to accept being held when it's necessary, but for now I would suggest to hold off on that and first work on developing a trusting relationship with your bun.




 
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The one thing I'd add to other folks' suggestions is to replace her litter box with a higher-walled one. I thought my bunny was using the entire cage as a litter box until I replaced her litter pan with a 5-6" tall dish pan. It turned out that with a typical size litter box she was hanging her butt over the side when she peed. Because the pee ran in all directions it seemed like she was peeing in every corner, but the dish pan solved the problem. It's been a huge relief.
 
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Hi there, first time posting on this forum, would really appreciate any advice anyone might have!
I have 2 bunnies, one I got about 2-3 years ago (boy - brown bunny in photo) and one I got about 6 months ago (girl - white bunny in photo). Not too sure how old they are but they’re both de-sexed and have bonded well. They don’t fight and generally enjoy each other’s company. The issue is that we had no trouble litter training the boy, but the girl bunny has become a complete nightmare! She constantly scatters poo all around the house (they’re free roam) and pees outside the litter tray all the time. She digs in the litter box and scatters it everywhere and also in general doesn’t seem to like me very much (doesn’t like pats, wont let herself be picked up etc).
I have tried the following:
- lots of litter trays around the place
- blocking off areas that she seems to pee in a lot
- paper towel with her pee in the litter tray
- cleaning up her poo and putting it in the tray
- leaving her poo for a few days before cleaning it up
- different types of litter boxes
- different types of litter
- different hutch/enclosure environments
- isolation in a neutral space post bonding
- moved both bunnies to a neutral home (my parents) for 2 weeks and she did the same things there

There is also one weird thing she does where she’s “grooming” the boy bunny but actually biting bits of his fur from around his eyes. Not entirely sure what that is about but he has a small bald patch on his face. It doesn’t seem to bother him when she does it though.

I’m out of ideas and wondering if it might be time to give up and try to find a new home for her. Can anyone help please?!View attachment 62802
They are quite handsome and beautiful. I am glad they enjoy each other’s company. I know there are many people who have had many rabbits over the years, fosters and rescues and I think they could offer the best advice for you. With my first bunny places she had urinated in the past she would consistently go in. She didn’t poop a great deal out of her litter but the pre was a problem. I just kept cleaning it up. She would go in 3 places my closet, the linen closet and the main bathroom. She would go other places too. My suggestion would be to get her own space and see if that helps at all. I do have a different litter pan that would prevent digging. It has a screen of metal over fake wood placed over the litter.
 

Melxyz

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There are a few changes I would suggest. First is a screen that lays over the litter to prevent digging the litter out. 1/4-1/2 inch wire hardware cloth could be cut to size to make a mesh screen, though I prefer a soft one made from pet window screening with a frame. I've also used plastic cross stitch canvas with some success.


It's also good to provide different activities to help divert your buns energy to things that are ok for her to dig, rip, and chew up. You may just need to try different things to find the type of activity that works best for her personality.


The other suggestion is that I think for now you will need to stop free roaming and restrict your rabbits to a smaller penned area to restore litter box habits. Your girl bun may be experiencing some territorial insecurity, and needs to feel like she has her own established space that she knows is hers and feels secure in. She needs to have time to reestablish good litter box habits in this space, then gradually expanding their area from there. To stop her from chewing on the pen bars, I would use wire mesh or even cardboard ziptied to it will work fine, though may need to be occassionally replaced if she rips it up.


If she continues to have issues peeing outside the litter box, other changes may be needed, or possibly a vet check to make sure it's not health related(eg. UTI). Especially if she is having any signs of urine soaked or stained fur around her bottom.


To develop a bond with your girl bun, it's all about understanding rabbit behavior and communication, as well as using the right techniques to build a bond with your rabbit. It's similar to how rabbits are bonded with each other. You start off with just sitting with them in a smaller area(eg their pen, blocked off hallway, bathroom) so they can't just run off and avoid contact, but have to be near you, giving the rabbit a chance to learn to trust you.

One common mistake made that can affect a rabbits ability to learn to trust you, is trying to pick them up and/or hold them. Most rabbits hate this as it's what a predator would do and is against their nature. Some rabbits can be trained to accept being held when it's necessary, but for now I would suggest to hold off on that and first work on developing a trusting relationship with your bun.




Thank you so much for your suggestions! How long would you say they need to be enclosed for before they start to show better litter box habits? Like I said, my first bunny was super easy to train and had it down in a few days. This one has been kept in an enclosure for a few weeks in the past and still wasn’t using the litter tray…
 

JBun

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If you make the right changes, with the right litter box set up, the right litter box placement, enough litter boxes, and providing other activities to route all her bunny energy to, then I would say anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Enough time for it to start to become habit. Though this is just a guess. Some rabbits can take longer, and even then it may not be perfect, as some rabbits will be determined to mark their territory regardless, and just aren't a good fit for free roaming.

Keep in mind, this is for urine and not poop. A rabbit is considered litter box trained when they consistently pee in the litter box. Poop marking is a whole different thing, and how good a rabbit is with keeping their poop in the litter box varies widely with each rabbit. But it helps if they have a home base pen that they consider is 'their territory' only, and that the rest of the house is 'your territory' that they're allowed to come into by you.

The best way to try and teach this, is by a rabbit having a pen that is their space, that they know they're secure in, that this space is safe for them from being bothered by us humans when they don't want to be bothered. That they won't be taken out of when they don't want, that they won't be picked up from when they don't want.

You have to approach this with a view of how rabbits communicate hierarchy and claiming territory with each other. If a dominant rabbit wanted a subordinate rabbit to move out of the way or essentially tell a subordinate rabbit off for something, they would give a little nip or a bit of a chase to get the other rabbit to move, and then the dominant rabbit is essentially claiming that space and/or claiming dominance. Once you've given it a few weeks with your rabbits in their own pen, and litter box habits have been good(with urine primarily), then you gradually expand that space by allowing your rabbits into a small section of 'your territory'.

I would suggest doing it for short time periods where you can sit with your rabbits and monitor. If your girl bun pees or poop marks in this area, I would shoo your bun back into her territory immediately, by giving a firm(but not overly loud) 'no' and gently but firmly scooting her little bunny butt back into her area. This has to be done immediately after she poops/pees or she'll have difficulty associating what she did with you 'chasing' her out of your space. I would then wipe up the accident, scoop up the poop, and deposit it right in front of her, in the penned area that is theirs.

This is you trying to communicate in 'bunny language' that that is still 'your space', and she's not allowed to claim it as hers, you're just allowing her to be in your space with you. I can't say how well this will work, but this would essentially be how other rabbits communicate a claiming of territory with each other, so in theory it should work to some extent.
 

TiffandTom

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First of all, your bunnies are beautiful! You've got lots of great advice for potty training and bonding to your bun here, I just wanted to add something I learned related to rabbits grooming each other.

Last December a family surrendered a pair of bonded Netherland Dwarfs to us to care for them and rehome them. When they arrived I saw that one had a bald patch on her face from the other one grooming her. It didn't seem to bother her, either. There didn't seem to be any pain or infection or anything like that-- she was just balding there.

After doing a little online research, about bonded rabbits' behavior, I learned that the rabbit with the balding spot was actually the dominant rabbit and it was being over groomed by the other rabbit-- who was the submissive rabbit in the relationship. This is called "barbering". You'll find lots of info online about rabbit barbering.

It sounds to me like your bun may just be having trouble figuring out where she fits here. I love JBun's advice above. I suspect helping this little girl find her consistently safe places/territory may also help with the overgrowing of her new bun.

Also, one last thing, I think I read that you said she is only about 6 months old (is that right?). Your bun's temperment can change lots over the next year or two. Try to remind yourself that this is a young (albeit considered an adult at this age) rabbit and she absolutely will change as she matures.

Best of luck!
 

Melxyz

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If you make the right changes, with the right litter box set up, the right litter box placement, enough litter boxes, and providing other activities to route all her bunny energy to, then I would say anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Enough time for it to start to become habit. Though this is just a guess. Some rabbits can take longer, and even then it may not be perfect, as some rabbits will be determined to mark their territory regardless, and just aren't a good fit for free roaming.

Keep in mind, this is for urine and not poop. A rabbit is considered litter box trained when they consistently pee in the litter box. Poop marking is a whole different thing, and how good a rabbit is with keeping their poop in the litter box varies widely with each rabbit. But it helps if they have a home base pen that they consider is 'their territory' only, and that the rest of the house is 'your territory' that they're allowed to come into by you.

The best way to try and teach this, is by a rabbit having a pen that is their space, that they know they're secure in, that this space is safe for them from being bothered by us humans when they don't want to be bothered. That they won't be taken out of when they don't want, that they won't be picked up from when they don't want.

You have to approach this with a view of how rabbits communicate hierarchy and claiming territory with each other. If a dominant rabbit wanted a subordinate rabbit to move out of the way or essentially tell a subordinate rabbit off for something, they would give a little nip or a bit of a chase to get the other rabbit to move, and then the dominant rabbit is essentially claiming that space and/or claiming dominance. Once you've given it a few weeks with your rabbits in their own pen, and litter box habits have been good(with urine primarily), then you gradually expand that space by allowing your rabbits into a small section of 'your territory'.

I would suggest doing it for short time periods where you can sit with your rabbits and monitor. If your girl bun pees or poop marks in this area, I would shoo your bun back into her territory immediately, by giving a firm(but not overly loud) 'no' and gently but firmly scooting her little bunny butt back into her area. This has to be done immediately after she poops/pees or she'll have difficulty associating what she did with you 'chasing' her out of your space. I would then wipe up the accident, scoop up the poop, and deposit it right in front of her, in the penned area that is theirs.

This is you trying to communicate in 'bunny language' that that is still 'your space', and she's not allowed to claim it as hers, you're just allowing her to be in your space with you. I can't say how well this will work, but this would essentially be how other rabbits communicate a claiming of territory with each other, so in theory it should work to some extent.
Should I be putting the boy bunny in the enclosure as well? It seems mean to restrict his space when he’s so well behaved…
 

JBun

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What Diane R said. Bonded rabbits should normally never be separated or you risk breaking the bond. Though if you wanted to let him out to have a short run around by himself, that possibly may not cause any issues. But if you decide to try it, I would suggest doing it in a different room from their enclosure so it doesn't upset your girl bun to see him running around when she can't.
 

Melxyz

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Thank you all so much for your suggestions, I will be trying them all and fingers crossed I have some success!
 

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