Rabbit Litter Training Setup
Rabbits are generally very clean animals and they pick a specific area to use as a toilet. You can take advantage of this natural behaviour and train your rabbit to use a litter box.
Litter training is most successful when a rabbit is neutered. Unneutered males and females will use droppings and urine to mark their territory though they may also make some use of a litter box too. Litter training just involves placing an appropriate tray in the area your rabbit currently uses as a toilet (usually a corner) and then picking up any accidents outside the tray and moving them into the tray. If you are having trouble with litter training try this guide to fixing bad litter box habits.
It's beneficial to litter train outdoor rabbits as well as indoor as it makes cleaning easier and also reduces wear on the hutch.
Choosing a Litter Tray
There are a wide variety of litter trays available commercially, however, it's also worth considering some of the wide range of trays sold for other purposes, which can provide cheaper and more practical options. The main considerations when choosing a litter tray are the size of your rabbit, the area you want the tray to go (eg will it fit in your cage or hutch), and the depth of the tray.
The tray needs to be big enough for your rabbit to comfortably sit one end with enough room for a pile of hay the other (rabbits like to eat as they poop). If the tray is too small your rabbit may not use it or may go next to it. A minimum of around 40cm x 25cm would cater to one small rabbit. If you have multiple rabbits and want them to use the same tray, you need one big enough for two. Rabbits grow quickly so think about the size your rabbit will be when fully grown not just while they are a baby.
The height of a litter tray is important. Rabbits back into a corner and lift their tails to urinate and if the side of the tray is too low they will urinate over the edge. Keep in mind you'll be adding a layer of litter and hay which will raise the floor level. Many standard litter trays are too low for this reason. I'd suggest a minimum of 10cm tall, but really 15cm is better. A cheaper option to litter trays, excellent for large or multiple rabbits, and with higher sides is a storage box. Underbed storage boxes come in a variety of sizes and heights to fit even giant rabbits. They are also available in a wide range of colours for those that like to coordinate. A slightly smaller alternative but also widely available are washing up bowls - they also come in a range of colours if you are coordinating.
Underbed Storage Box (£5 Wilkinson)
60cm x 40cm x 18cm
Washing Up Bowl (£5 Amazon)
39cm x 32cm x 16cm
Most healthy rabbits will have no problem hopping 6" (15cm) into a tray. However, if your rabbit is elderly or has mobility issues they may benefit from a litter tray with a low front and a high back so it's easy to get into. Corner litter trays, sold specifically for rabbits can work for this. However, check the size carefully if you are buyinng online as many quite small and won't fit larger rabbits or rabbits who like to relax in their trays. One option is to place the corner tray inside a large shallow tray to give you a larger space high corner but low sides. Another good option is a tray sold to gardeners as a 'potting tray' for holding soil. These have shallow fronts and high backs.
Trixi Hi Sided Corner Litter Tray
45cm W x 21cm H
£7 from Amazon
Potting Tray (£13 Amazon)
60cm W x D x 20cm H
Litter Boxes for Diggers
Some rabbits delight in digging in their litter tray. Providing a separate digging box may help, but if your rabbit likes to dig you may find enclosing the litter tray helps contain the mess. A cheap DIY option is using a cardboard box. You'll need one big enough to fit the tray, but with as little spare space around as possible - the more snug the fit the better. Next make a note of the direction most of the litter ends up in when they dig. Put the tray in the box and cut a doorway just big enough for your rabbit to fit through at a right angle to the direction of the mess (you don't want them to kick the litter straight out of the door). Then see what your rabbit thinks. You may need to experiment some rabbits don't like their tray completely enclosed so you may need to cut the box so it only has three sides or doesn't have a roof.
Hooded Litter Tray
Cardboard boxes will need replacing when they are chewed or become soiled, so if you find the box works well, you might want to upgrade to using a large plastic storage container. Use it the same way as the box by cutting a hole in the side. Make sure you sand the edges of the hole you cut to make it smooth and, if you have the lid on, add extra holes in the top to make sure there is plenty of ventilation. As long as you make the entrance hole above the level of the litter you plan to add, you don't need to use a separate tray in the bottom.
If DIY isn't for you, look for covered cat litter trays. These have a hood over the top and an entrance - sometimes with a flap. Most rabbits can manage a flap and this helps contain the mess, although they usually pop off easily if your rabbit doesn't like it. Hooded cat litter trays are also particularly good for outdoors as they prevent rain flooding the tray.
Having chosen a litter tray you now need to fill it with something absorbent and safe for your rabbit. Paper or wood based litter is the most readily available and suitable for rabbits. Very similar products are sold for cats and rabbits, but sometimes the cat versions are sold in bigger and cheaper bags so it's worth comparing. If you buy cat litter it must be 'non-clumping' litter which means it won't stick together when wet and cause blockages if ingested. Most paper based litters are also non-clumping and it should say on the packaging.
Here are some common brands of litter suitable for rabbits. The cost per litre is based on the smallest bag available - if you buy in bulk it will be cheaper.
Back 2 Nature Small Animal Bedding
Material: recycled paper
Bag Sizes: 10L, 20L & 30L
Cost: 64p per litre (£6.49 10L Amazon)
Bio-Catolet (UK Only)
Material: residual cellulose (waste paper), pressed to form an absorbent granule.
Bag Sizes: 12L & 25L
Cost: 66p per litre (£7.95 12L Amazon)
Material: Reclaimed pulp from paper industry
Bag Sizes: 14L, 30L, 50L & 60L - Packed compressed so these are expanded sizes for comparison to loose packed litters.
Cost: 54p per litre (£7.60 14L Amazon)
Critter Care (US only)
Material: reclaimed wood pulp
Bag Sizes: 14L, 30L & 60L - Packed compressed so these are expanded sizes for comparison to loose packed litters.
Cost: 57c per litre ($8.11 14L Amazon)
Breeder Celect Cat Litter
Material: recycled paper
Bag Sizes: 10, 20 & 30L
Cost: 65p per litre (£10.99 30L Amazon)
Megazorb Animal Bedding (UK Only)
Material: virgin wood pulp
Bag Sizes: 85L
Cost: 20p per litre (£17.45 85L Amazon)
If you have a large number of rabbits the best option is Megazorb, made from virgin wood pulp. This is sold as horse bedding and is available from most horse supplies or through some pet shops and online retailers. It's a very economical product as it's only sold in bulk.
Non Commercial Alternatives
If you can't find suitable litters available near you, the most basic option is paper with hay or straw on top - the paper is absorbent and the hay/straw will act as a barrier between your rabbit's paws and the wet paper. The tray will need changing more regularly though. Another option is garden soil - avoid collecting this from any areas you use chemicals such as pesticides. The used soil can be returned to your garden.
Litters to Avoid
Avoid clay, mineral or crystal based cat litters, and any that are described as clumping. It's also best to avoid litter made from materials rabbits may consider food such as corn, oats and grass. Although these aren't poisonous they may swell dangerously in the gut if ingested.
There are some concerns that the phenols released by softwood (pine and cedar) shavings may cause liver problems. Scientific studies suggest there are some potential issues, but as far as I'm aware no studies have been specifically done on the effect of its use for pet rabbit's litter trays. To make the issue more confusing, not all shavings are the same and it can be difficult to know what exactly you are buying. Both the wood species - pine is considered worse, but spruce, which is lower in phenyls, is often suggested as an alternative - and the way they are dried can affect the level of phenols. Wood shavings are also light (which tends to mean they get spread everywhere) and less absorbent than paper litter, so it's probably best to just avoid this as an option unless you don't have access to alternatives.
Litter Tray Setup
Rabbits like to eat whilst using their tray so having hay within reach encourages litter training. If you've chosen a large tray, there should be space for hay the opposite end to your rabbit uses. If your tray is small or your rabbit particularly messy a hay rack positioned over the tray is another alternative.
Cleaning & Disposal
Various factors influence how often you will need to clean out the litter tray, for example the size/number of rabbits using it and the absorbency of the litter. Some owners prefer daily cleaning others twice a week. In summer months when there is an increased risk of flies frequent cleaning is advised. If you are using paper based litter and hay this can be composted.
Most pet shops sell spray disinfectant suitable for cleaning litter trays. However, if you prefer less chemicals then hot soapy water or white vingar (which removes urine marks) work also.
Most rabbits will happily use a clean litter tray but if you find your rabbit is not fully litter trainned placing some old litter in after cleaning may help your rabbit 'remember' where it is supposed to toilet.