House training your rabbit

Sharing your home with a couple of rabbits can be a rewarding and fun experience. However it’s a decision which should not be taken lightly. Your home will need to be bunny proofed so that you can live in harmony and the house rabbits will also need their own safe enclosed area. Rabbits live in social groups in the wild. Although they will learn to love you, they also need a companion of their own species to share their home and their lives. As with outdoor rabbits, companionship is vital to their health and well-being. Read on to see what’s involved and then consider carefully.

Litter training your rabbit

Rabbits are usually quite easy to train, especially if you start when they are young. Neutered rabbits are easier to litter train and this operation can be done by six months of age. In this way, any hormonal or territorial behaviour will not become “learned”. Entire males can actually spray, which is extremely smelly and trust us, is not something you want happening in your home!

  • Choose a small room or caged off area in the house to start with. This area needs to be at least 3 x 2 metres for a couple of rabbits. The flooring should ideally be easy to clean.
  • Rabbits tend to like going to the toilet in the corners of the area. Put a couple of litter trays in different corners and see which they prefer.
  • Use a cat litter tray filled with rabbit bedding material (such as Auboise or Megazorb). Never put cat litter in the tray or anything clay or pine based. You can also use newspaper with hay on top.
  • Put some of their droppings/ urine in the tray to make it smell right and encourage them to go there.
  • Put a hay rack next to or above the litter tray. Rabbits love to “poo” and “chew” at the same time.
  • Rabbits are clean animals. They will be happier to use the tray if it is not allowed to get full or dirty.
  • Be aware that rabbits have an excellent sense of smell, and using a lot of disinfectant type sprays to clean the trays will remove their smell and they will be less keen to use it.

Preparing your home for house bunnies

  • House plants. A lot are poisonous to rabbits so it’s best not to have any, or keep them well out of reach if you must.
  • Electric wires. Have a look around your home. How many exposed wires are there that could be chewed? Rabbits are used to chewing through tree roots whilst making their burrows and will treat your electric cables in the same way! You can get cable protector online or from a DIY store, or you could use a heavy duty hose pipe.
  • General chewing. Rabbits will chew anything they can get their teeth into, they love wood so all furniture, door frames, skirting boards etc. are at risk. Provide your rabbit with their own toys and chew things from the pet store but be prepared to expect damage!
  • Slippery floors can be a nightmare for rabbits as they have woolly feet which have no grip. As long as your rabbits are not carpet chewers, you can add non slip rugs all over the place so the rabbits can move around safely.
  • Rabbits do quite literally get under your feet! They will often place themselves just where your foot is about to land. Therefore you need to develop a sixth sense as to where they are, so they don’t trip you up or get trodden on themselves.
  • Rabbits need places to hide, so place strategic cardboard boxes wherever your rabbits are allowed, to give them the opportunity to feel safe and secure.
  • The great escape. Watch out for the determined bunny looking for a day out. Rabbits love to jump and leap and can sometimes hurt themselves in their bid for freedom.
  • Other pets. Rabbits are prey animals, so at first they may feel threatened by predator species like cats or dogs. If you are at all concerned with how the integration of your new house rabbit and other pets is going, your vet will be able to help with advice.

A compromise

Most people choose the “not quite free range option”, when considering keeping rabbits indoors.  A  safe area where they can be put when you are not around to supervise them makes a lot of sense, and is much more likely to enable you all to live happily together.

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