Litter-training - Ross Rabbits - Probably the friendliest French Lops you'll ever meet

Ross Rabbits
Probably the friendliest French Lops you'll ever meet
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Ross Rabbits
- probably the most affectionate French Lops you will ever meet
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If your rabbit is to live indoors, it is advisable to ensure your bunny is litter-trained, preferably from 4-5 weeks of age, ie soon after leaving the nest.

Most of our bunnies are litter-trained (by their mother and breeder) from an early age, but there can be 'accidents' with a young rabbit or when there is a disruption in their lives such as moving to a new home.  Although they may be 100% litter-trained in their birth hutch, they might need a little extra training as they adapt to their new home.  However, they soon learn and their early potty-training pays dividends -and can greatly impress (and surprise!) new bunny owners.

A plastic litter-tray (widely available for cats) is ideal for smaller bunnies.  For large breeds, 55cm cat litter tray, potting trays or an 'igloo' design 'Cat Loo' with a deeper tray covered by a plastic hood can be useful.  Some designs have an odour absorbing filter in the hood and is less unsightly than an open litter tray.  It can easily be carried from room to room to accompany your bunny as s/he travels around the house - if you tend to keep doors closed.

If you are worried about urine odours in your home, then we highly recommend Carefresh bedding which we've thoroughly tested and found to absorb odours very effectively.

When you introduce your new bunny to your home, try and give him his own space, ie a suitable cage or pen arrangement and keep him/her confined to this small area while s/he settles in.  If s/he is suddenly introduced to a large area, then s/he's likely to 'go mad' and scatter droppings everywhere and perhaps leave a few puddles and may be less keen on being picked up.   Instead, having his/her 'own space' will encourage him/her to adopt this as his/her own territory and 'safe place' and use just one corner as a litter area.  Where s/he chooses, is the place to pop his/her litter-tray.  If it's not exactly to his liking, he'll either stubbornly persist in using the corner of your best carpet or drag the tray to his preferred corner himself.  If he chooses the centre of your best sofa, don't despair but simply pop the tray there (remembering, of course, to remove it when your posh friends come for a visit!).  Gradually move the tray to one side of the sofa, then onto the floor and then gradually into a more discreet corner.   It can take a couple of weeks but it's worth investing the time in litter-training a house-bunny.  Your carpets will also agree.

If your bunny is to become a hutch-bunny then litter training is less critical but it is very convenient.  Most prefer their litter tray to be in the enclosed 'sleeping area' and it is actually quite rare to find a bunny sleeping in his 'bedroom'.

Uncovered litter trays should be lined with a 2" layer of wood-shavings (or other litter) and stand on a further tray or sheet (to catch shavings kicked out when bunny jumps out). If your rabbit doesn't immediately understand the purpose of the litter tray, scoop up a few of his/her fresh droppings and deposit these in a corner of the tray. Next time bunny squats with that tell-tale give-away expression of concentration, scoop him/her up and gently place him/her in the tray. He/she will soon learn and regularly use the tray. This should be emptied and cleaned daily.   

If your bunny still doesn't understand what the litter-tray is for, then try confining him/her to a much smaller area and gradually increase this area as litter-training progresses.  Bunnies naturally do not like to soil their living area so, when forced into a smaller area, our bunnies will deposit their droppings in one area only and this is the spot to place the litter tray.  Also ensure the rest of the hutch floor is completely bare so that the tray becomes the most comfortable area of the hutch.  It may look a little 'odd' at first but it does work.  Your bun won't like to 'paddle' in urine so she'll naturally choose the most absorbent area and, hey presto, bun is litter-trained!!  Once the tray is in use then further bedding etc can be added to the hutch.  

Should your bunny have 'accidents' then these should be scooped up and placed in the preferred corner of the litter tray, preferably whilst the guilty party is watching you.  Similarly, should your bunny squat down, tail raised with an expression of concentration, scoop him up, pop him in the tray and make a fuss of him while s/he continues to perform.  Nose-rubs, treats, hay etc can be used as rewards.

Once litter-trained, there might be the occasional stray dropping deposited outside the tray but often there is no need to scoop these up as your bunny will eat them next time he/she passes them.  This is perfectly normal rabbit behaviour,  especially amongst house-rabbits.  Caecotroph pellets might also be deposited in the centre of your lounge carpet but, again, your bunny will probably return to eat these very soon.

Occasionally, some rabbits become so house-trained they will not even soil their litter-tray and manage to 'hang-on' overnight for up to a bladder-stretching 12 hours.  In these cases, you need to ensure you can take your rabbit into a favoured corner of the garden (they'll choose the spot for you!) at 4-6 hourly intervals as a minimum.

Some cat litters are also suitable for rabbits - but please avoid the 'clumping' variety as these could lead to internal blockages if your bunny decided to eat any.  Carefresh litter is designed specifically for bunnies and other small animals and is perfect for house-bunnies as it is extremely effective in absorbing odours.

Bunny-Proofing your Home

Your rabbit might chew so please ensure his/her environment is safe and there are no trailing electrical cables.  These should be tucked beneath carpets, threaded through tubing (loo overflow pipe is ideal or tough tubing can be purchased from aquatic suppliers) or taped to skirting boards to ensure they are out of temptation's way.  Telephone and modem cables are especially enjoyed so please ensure these are safely tucked out of reach!  Visitors might not understand why you have plumbing parts around your lounge and  phone cables sealed down with masking tape but you'll soon get used to it.

If your bunny likes to join you to 'surf the net' or send emails to his/her bunny-friends, please ensure the mouse cable is well out of reach.  A quick nibble and you'll find your mouse isn't quite as lively as your bunny!   

As for your bed, bunnies do seem to enjoy joining their owners for a snuggle beneath the duvet.  However, they also seem to like to empty their bladder, or leave a fresh pile of droppings, on the side of the duvet occupied by their closest carer -so, be warned!

If your bunny nibbles wallpaper in a favoured spot, then a clear sheet of perspex over will prevent this.  As for carpet-chewing, we don't recommend this as part of their diet.  

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