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BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > HOUSE RABBIT Q & A > Thinking outside the litter box
Last Post by Gravehearted at 8/27/2006 8:41 PM (4 Replies)
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User is Offline BooBooBunny
30 posts Send Private Message
7/30/2006 1:34 PM

Hello all.  So I have read much about the subject of litter training in books and on rabbit.org and other sites, but my bunny is still having a few problems.

My bunny, Sugar (or Boo Boo as I usually call him), is a little over two years old.  When I got him (he was around 1 year old), he was already litter box trained.  The only thing I changed was switched the cardboard box they were using to a plastic corner-fitting type box, and he initially had no problem with the switch.  But for the past several months (really since I had him neutered I think, last October)  he has been going to the bathroom next to his litter box as much as in it.  I've had no problems with him going to the bathroom anywhere outside his cage or any territorial marking since he was neutered, but none the less I wish he would keep everything in the litter box rather than all over the cage, as it would make daily cleaning much easier for me.  I understand that some droppings outside the litter box are to be expected, that he is just marking the cage as his, but usually half the droppings are out and half are in the box at this point.  Not to mention he loves to then "flop down" right next to his litter box and roll a bit in his own droppings, and although it does look funny, the poop stuck to his fur afterwards is rather unbecoming!

I have tried various things to encourage him to only use the litter box:  I put hay in a corner of the box and he eats the hay while sitting and going next to the litter box, I moved the box to the corner next to it and he 'goe's in the corner where the box was,  I try to pivot his butt into the box when I catch him going next to it but he usually thinks I am trying to pick him up and runs to hide, I get a treat for him when he does use the box but when he hears it he immediatly jumps out of the box and runs to the side of the cage to excitedly recieve said treat.  I'm not sure what else to try at this point.

Since he has been insisiting on going outside the box, he also started kicking pellets out of the cage and onto the floor.  So to prevent that I put pieces of cardboard on the side of the cage near his bathroom area; he really didn't appreciate that remodeling and so the going outside the litter box problem only got worse after that (to really show me who's cage it was and that he didn't appreciate my messing with it, I'm assuming).

 He is the first bunny I've ever had, so I'm still learning.  Any more suggestions on what else I can do (and why he is doing this) would be greatly appreciated!


User is Offline Gravehearted
Campbell, CA
2442 posts Send Private Message
7/31/2006 8:24 AM
Most bunnies litterbox habits improve post-neuter, but that doesn't sound like the case with Boo Boo. Have you been to the vet to make sure he's not trying to tell you that there's something wrong physically? 

Often bunnies going outside the box indicate they're marking the territory - are there other animals in the house?  My other recommendation would be to add more litter boxes to his house. Generally you keep adding boxes until he gets the point and once he's really gotten it for a few weeks, you can start to remove them.  This trick has worked well for me.

good luck!
~ bunny mom to to HRH Hareiette, Viktor the crazy Krum and Pandora, prima binky ballerina ~ Save a life, Adopt!

User is Offline BB
San Francisco Area
Forum Leader
8678 posts Send Private Message
8/01/2006 9:34 PM

BooBooBunny -  Gravehearted gave some good advice and it's true that if a bunny is having health issues sometimes they'll go next to their box.

Here are some suggestions too:  It can take weeks to train a bunny and it can take only a few days of bad habits to ruin it all.  So you have to be persistent in getting good habits back on track.

1.  Change back to other box that he used to use more.

2.  Put hay and treats far enough in the box where he'd actually have to get into it to eat them. If he can still get to the farthest corner of the box while staying outside of it, then the box may be to small.

3. If he runs and hides while you are trying to correct him, be sure to still get him in the litterbox, otherwise he'll just end up associating pooping and peeing with being chased only which may only have adverse affects, so it's important that when you catch him in the act that you get him to the litterbox,   Offer a treat once he's in there (which will mean you'll have to have some in your pocket or someplace easy where he won't hear it and get out of his box to come get it.   As soon as he gets his treat, immediately give him space so he feels safe in there, like you'd leave him alone. (If he's really nervous when he's been forced to go in there, you might not be able to give him a treat, you might have to back away right away.   He'll  need to associate the litterbox as his safe haven. 

4. When you are getting him to the litterbox, actually say the word litterbox over and over.  I know this sounds crazy, but I can tell you that my bunnies understand that word now, and if they even look like they are going in the wrong place, I can just say the word a few times and they actually go to the litterbox.  It took about a week for them to associate the word with the box.

Bunnies are all different, and so sometimes what works for one bunny will not work for others keep us updated.  But remember, be persistent with one method for a couple of weeks before giving up and trying another.


User is Offline BooBooBunny
30 posts Send Private Message
8/26/2006 7:25 PM

Hello again.  I appologize that it has taken me so long to get back (unfortunately had a family emergency not long ago and a busy month overall).  Thank you Gravehearted and BinkyBunny for all the good suggestions! 

Since the area of Boo's cage wouldn't accomodate 2 litter box's, I decided just to try a bigger one that filled the whole general area he was using as his toilet.  Rather than buy another plastic litter box, I just cut down a cardboard box (since that is what he was using when he came to live with us) to properly fit the space.  I put some hay in the back corner (where he can't easily reach it from outside the box) and he took to using it right away, I try to praise him and repeatedly say "litterbox" when doing so, like suggested.    Its been in the cage for about a week, and he hasn't had any problems up to this point; everything stays in the litterbox (with the exception of a few strays that get kicked out).  He seems to enjoy hanging out in there and munching hay much more than the other box.  Maybe he just found the smaller corner shaped box less comfortable becuase he was too big for it?   Other people have commented that he's a 'big boy' , but being a bunny novice I don't have much to compare to.  The only small issue I have is that I have still seen him laying/ flopped down in the litter box a few times already, but I will take the other victory with that for now, i just hope he doesn't make it regular practice.

As far as the 'why' to this: Gravehearted mentioned any other animals in the house possibly causing territoriality with him.  I do have a guinea pig whose cage is in the same room with his, and we have a dog (both of whom were here when Boo Boo came to live with us).  Boo and the guinea pig run around outside their cages at the same time occasionally, and since he was neutered he seems for the most part to ignore the piggie and shows little to no intrest in him.  Boo is never out in the same room with the dog ( I just don't want to risk it), but at the same time doesn't seem frightened or threatened when the dog walks near his cage.  So do you think that either the dog or the guinea pig could be behind the litter box refusal? 

Also, if he seems to continue to do well with the larger cardboard box, is it safe to assume that the problem wasn't health related?  Or should I still be concerned about that possibility? 

Thanks again so much for your suggestions and advice, they were a great help to me!


User is Offline Gravehearted
Campbell, CA
2442 posts Send Private Message
8/27/2006 8:41 PM
I'm so glad to hear Boo's doing so well, but am sorry to hear about your family emergency.

It may have been that the other box just wasn't large enough for him. It hard to know for sure why he wasn't using the old box - it may have been size or a territorial issue. Some bunnies are happier in larger boxes and that certainly sounds like the case in Boo's situation.

My bunnies lay in their litter boxes sometimes and it doesn't concern me too much. The fact that he's laying in it means he's associating it as a safe place, which is good. Since his litter habits have improved so dramatically, I am doubtful there was a health issue involved. Glad to know he's doing better :-)
~ bunny mom to to HRH Hareiette, Viktor the crazy Krum and Pandora, prima binky ballerina ~ Save a life, Adopt!
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