Why Rabbits Stop Using A Litter Box - With Videos

Why Rabbits Stop Using A Litter Box – With Videos

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Once you have a rabbit litter box trained, one of the most frustrating things that can happen is to have your bunny stop using their litter box. There are a number of reasons that this might happen, and in this article, we’re going to go through the reasons that a bunny stops using their litter box and what you can do to get them back there.

The most common reasons that a bunny stops using their litter box include a dirty litter box, a changed litter box, feeling unsafe, or a major change in their environment. Once you identify the reason that your rabbit quit using their litter box, you can begin to figure out how to correct the behavior.

16 Reasons A Rabbit Will Quit Using A Litter Box

If your rabbit has stopped using the litter box, the first thing that you have to do is figure out why they’ve stopped. Let’s go through the possible reasons.

1. Too Young to Use Litter Box

Sometimes we try to litter box train our rabbits when they are just too young. Young rabbits have small bladders, which creates an urgent need to frequently pee. While your young bunny might have seemed to be litter box trained, you might have been mistaken.

Maybe they were just using the litter box by luck more often than not.

While very young rabbits can begin the process of litter box training, they will need to be mature (3 to 6 months old) before you can really consider them trained.

I would suspect that this is the cause of your problem if your pet rabbit is under 5 months old.

2. Isn’t Feeling Safe

It takes very little to scare a bunny. Don’t expect them to use a litter box or be well-mannered when they are feeling unsafe or afraid. 

Your bunny may feel unsafe for various reasons, including loud or unexpected noises, the presence of other pets, or simply changes in their environment.

A scared rabbit is either hiding or always prepared to run. They might also be thumping or vocalizing if they are scared. If you think this might be the problem, I encourage you to read this article I wrote about fearful rabbits. That article includes more details about identifying a scared rabbit, including videos.

3. Litter Box Smells Odd

Many rabbits stop using their litter box because of an unfamiliar litter box odor.

In short, a rabbit’s litter box has to smell like a ‘rabbit’s litter box.’ The rabbit’s urine helps him identify his territory. If the litter box smells too good, the rabbit’s urge to use it will not be as strong. 

The most common cause of an odd-smelling litter box is cleaning materials used on the litter box. Really flowery-smelling detergent or too much bleach might turn a bunny away.

Keep in mind that not all rabbits get chased from their litter box by odor and they certainly don’t all hate the same smells equally. If you suspect that this is the cause, you are probably going to need to experiment to find out what works for both your bunny and you.

If you have recently washed your bunny’s littler box, then I’d suspect that this is the cause of your problem. If this is the case, I’d encourage you to rewash the litter box using a much different smelling cleaner.

I did include a section about cleaning in this article about rabbit litter boxes.

4. Litter Box Is at the Wrong Place

Rabbits are creatures of habit. They like set schedules and everything in its place. That includes their litter box.

If your rabbit isn’t using their litter box anymore, ask yourself if you recently moved their box, even just a little bit, this might be the problem. Move it back!

Or maybe your bunny just decided to do a mental rearranging of their living space. If your rabbit isn’t using their litter box but primarily uses one spot elsewhere as a latrine, you should move the litter box to that spot.

5. Wrong Size Litter Box

Do you have a growing rabbit? Then maybe your rabbit has just outgrown their litter box.

If your rabbit is just missing the litter box, then perhaps you should consider upsizing. Don’t just think about a litter box with a larger footprint, but consider one with tall sides to help keep your bunny’s mess contained.

Likewise, a litter box that is too large can be a factor that makes a rabbit stop using it. If the litter box sides are too high, it could discourage a smaller rabbit from using it.

A litter box should be about twice as big as your rabbit, giving them room to turn around and get comfortable while doing their business.

6. Dirty Litter Box

Rabbits are clean animals. Even if your bunny is pooping all over your house, it will keep itself clean. Just watch how much time your bunny spends each day just grooming themself.

Rabbits don’t like standing in filth and they have a very sensitive sense of smell.

If the litter box is too dirty, your bunny will stop using it.

How often you need to clean a litter box depends on the size of the litter box, the number of bunnies using it, the size of the rabbits, and the litter material you are using. Most people change their rabbit’s litter every two or three days.

7. Litter Box is Too Clean

Keeping in mind the strong sense of smell of rabbits, you have to remember that they use that sense of smell to identify their bunny bathroom. Some bunnies will quit using a litter box if it doesn’t smell like their own droppings or urine.

If you just cleaned out the litter box and your bunny quit using it, first check to make sure it doesn’t smell like detergent and that it still smells a little like rabbit waste.

If this is the cause of the problem, simply putting some rabbit 0droppings inside the litter box might solve your problem.

8. Not Enough Litter Boxes

The brutal truth is that some bunnies are lazy and other rabbits just get lazier over time.

Some rabbits can be so lazy that they can’t be bothered to move from one side of your bunny room or rabbit shed to the other side to use the bathroom.

Since bunnies poop 300 times daily on average, they frequently need to access the litter box. Therefore, having multiple litter boxes within the normal bunny range is a good practice.

As silly as it sounds, just adding another litter box on the other side of the room might be solve your problem.

9. Your Rabbit Is Angry

Sometimes when your rabbit is angry he or she will angry pee. This is a mess as their goal is to spray everything with pee.

If your rabbit is doing this, maybe it’s time to figure out what your rabbit is mad about and how you can apologize to your rabbit.

10. Your Rabbit Has Any Mobility Issues

If your rabbit has lived long enough, i.e., when they are in the later stage of their life, it’s common that it becomes hard for them to use the litter box because they are having trouble moving easily. 

Older rabbits can’t jump into a litter box as easily as a young rabbit. Sometimes just modifying the litter box so that your senior rabbit has a lower edge to enter and exit the litter box is all that your older friend needs.

11. Your Rabbit is Hormonal

Rabbits are seasonal breeders. This means that during the spring both bucks (males) and does (females) get a rush of hormones that encourage them to mate. We refer to this time as being when rabbits are hormonal.

To be clear, rabbits don’t go into heat, but their hormone levels do drive them to mate during their breeding season. While rabbits can and do breed at any time of the year it’s more likely that it will happen during the breeding season.

When your rabbit is hormonal, it can act a little crazy. This includes spraying its urine in various places around its territory which is probably also your house.

Neutering or spaying your rabbit will probably reduce this behavior, but it doesn’t always eliminate it. There are other health benefits to fixing your rabbit, but it’s also quite expensive.

12. Wrong Rabbit Litter Material

While there a lot of different kinds of rabbit litter box materials that work, not all bunnies like the same material. Some bunnies will literally refuse to use litter material that they really don’t like.

If you’ve recently changed litter material, you should strongly consider trying something different or going back to the old material.

13. Shared Litter Box

Just like people, every bunny had its own sweet and sour quirks. We have had a bunny that did not like to share a litter box with anyone else.

If you have more than one bunny, consider adding a second litter box and see if that solves the problem.

When we have multiple litter boxes, we like to separate those litter boxes as far as possible to give the rabbits choices.

P.S. While we don’t recommend keeping hamsters and rabbits together, we know that some people do this. If you do, we encourage you to have separate litter boxes. 

14. Going To The Bathroom While Eating

All rabbits defecate while eating. It’s nature and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it.

Could this be the behavior that you’re seeing that is causing your concern?

If it is, then I suggest that you put your feed near or even over your litter box. This is my family’s preferred setup, and it even helps litter box train a rabbit more quickly and easily. The litterbox below is the king of litterbox feeders. You can learn more about it on Etsy. {affiliate link}

Image of A rabbit Feeder
Photo by Phillycreations on Etsy

15. Pooping While Sleeping

It’s a perfectly natural behavior for rabbits to poop when they are sleeping and sadly there is little to do about this except have your bunny sleep where it’s okay if they drop some bunny treats while dreaming.

16. Your Rabbit is Ill

When your bunny stops using the litter box and starts pooping elsewhere, it’s annoying but not worrisome.

However, if your rabbit isn’t going to the bathroom anywhere then you should be worried. At best, your rabbit is constipated, and at worst it has an intestinal blockage.

The same is true if your rabbit isn’t peeing. Kidney stones and urinary tract issues are two common reasons why rabbits stop peeing.

If your bunny isn’t going to the bathroom for more than two days, you need to get them to your veterinarian ASAP.


Tips To Get Rabbit To Use A Litter Box

I tried to give you the specific fix for each reason that a rabbit might stop going in their litter box, but below I’m going to share a few general tips to get your bunny back to doing its business where it is supposed to.

1. Be Patient & Keep Trying

Developing good litter box habits in a bunny isn’t always easy and takes time. It isn’t an overnight process and will require your efforts to change the bad habits of your rabbit.

When you see them deviating off their track while peeing or popping, gently pick them up and put them in their litter box. It won’t be easy, but you have to bear it.

While your bunny hustles to learn to use the litter box, you may use rabbit diapers temporarily.

Do not EVER shout at your bunny when accidents occur. You’ll just scare your bunny which causes them stress while not actually correcting the behavior. If you’ve already made the mistake of screaming at your bun, you should start focusing on apologizing to your rabbit.

2. Put the Litter Box Where Your Rabbit Goes

Oftentimes, a place or a corner of your house is your rabbit’s favorite potty spot. If you find your rabbit in the same area repeatedly, place the litter box there. 

Your rabbit also might want to tell you that this is the place where it wants to poop.

3. Line The Messy Location

You can reduce the family’s stress by making sure that your bunny’s messes don’t damage the floor or carpet. I suggest you do this by lining the area that your bunny frequents with either a plastic mat or a puppy pad. Just make sure your bunny doesn’t chew on either of these things.

Linings like this are even helpful under your litter box. Even if your rabbit has enough sense of using the litter box when answering nature’s call, they might leave a few droppings around the litter box. This is completely normal, and there’s nothing to worry about this behavior.

It’s difficult to clean the floor every time after the bunny uses the litter box. Instead, try placing a plastic mat or bag below it and simply change that mat every few days.

4. Move Messes To The Litter Box

If your rabbit makes a mess outside of their litter box, quickly pick up the mess and move it to their litter box instead of throwing it away or composting it. The smell of their own droppings will encourage your bunny to make future deposits in the litter box.

5. Get Your Rabbit Neutered

To make your life easier, get your rabbit neutered as soon as it’s six months old. Rabbits that are not neutered try to spray urine to mark their territory. Neutering will ease their territorial feelings and will provide other health benefits.


I hope this pet bunny article has been helpful in allowing you and your bunny to live in peace.

~Stacey

Stacey

My name is Stacey Davis and my family has kept rabbits for decades. Here on RabbitPros.com we share our love of rabbits, our experience, and lots of research to help you enjoy your pet bunny even more.

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