Litter tray success – 11 suggestions to help your clients

In the wild, rabbits will naturally choose to defecate and urinate in a few favourite locations, often in corners or boundaries. The fact that they choose where to go can help us as we can place litter trays in the areas where they prefer, and with a bit of luck, they’ll learn to use the tray quickly.

Posted: 26 June 2018

Litter tray success – 11 suggestions to help your clients

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However it doesn’t always go to plan, so we’ve put together 11 suggestions that you can use to help your clients.

1. Encourage neutering – you’re more likely to have litter tray success if the animal is neutered. Spay or castrate them before 6 months of age, before they start marking their territory. 

2. Choose the right litter – it’s important to avoid any form of litter that will cause problems if eaten. Clumping litter can cause obstructions if ingested, whilst pine and cedar shavings contain phenols, which are caustic, poisonous and acidic and could potentially cause respiratory and hepatic complications. Good alternatives include shredded paper or hay.

3. Cleaning and removing litter – a clean litter tray will encourage the rabbit to use it again. Wash out with fresh water. Avoid disinfectants and biological detergents.

4. Stick to a routine – rabbits are habitual and once in a routine, will usually prefer to adhere to it. Clean the trays at the same time, and if possible by the same person. Use the same litter and keep to the same place.

5. More than you need – at first, use plenty of litter trays in all the preferred places. As the rabbit consistently uses the same tray, you can start to remove unused trays.

6. Covered trays can help – there are times when a rabbit will urinate over the edge of the tray or kick the litter out. In these circumstances, use a tray with a hood to help contain everything.

7. Lots of praise - a handful of hay in the litter tray will make it a more welcoming place. After the litter tray has been used for the first time, give encouragement with praise and a treat.

8. Trouble spots – if the rabbit insists on using an area that has no litter tray, you’ll have to make concessions and move the trays around. Place the litter tray where it will be used, even if it means rearranging the home.

9. Be observant and vigilant – make sure the homeowner keeps a watchful eye on what is happening. If the rabbit urinates on the carpet without being seen, but is then moved to the litter tray after the event, the association with urinating and the tray will be lost and learning will be slow. Tell your clients that it’s worth taking the time to sit, watch and reward.

10. Failure for a reason – there are numerous reasons why litter tray training fails, so identifying the reason will help you understand and modify your efforts. Failure could be as a result of;

  • Medical reasons – including urinary infections, sludge, renal disease
  • Behaviour issues – stress related to other pets, family, change in routine
  • Territorial reasons – especially when several rabbits live together

11. Don’t give up – generally, rabbits tend to train more efficiently the older they get. It’s wise to start when they are young, but reassure your clients that they should persevere, as they’re more likely to get success as their pet gets older.

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