A rabbit is as fastidious as a cat when it comes to grooming, but in terms of litter products, can cat litter work in a rabbit hutch or cage? It certainly seems to be a convenient option … but are there any dangers associated with using cat litter for rabbits?
Most cat litter types aren’t safe for rabbits. While cats don’t eat their litter, rabbits do nibble on whatever there is around their hutch or cage. If rabbits ingest unsuitable litter, it can cause digestive problems and lead to death. However, there are rabbit-friendly cat litter (and alternatives) available.
So just what about cat litter makes it unsuitable for rabbits? And what can you use without putting your fluffy long-eared bestie in danger?
Read on to learn more about safe litter options, how to set up a rabbit litter box, and how to litter train your bunny.
Cat Litter Types to Avoid & Why
There are some cat litter types that are bunny-safe, but which ones should you avoid?
Cat litter that clumps is very dangerous to your bunny. For example, the litter expands up to 15 times in size when it absorbs moisture, and if your bunny eats this, it can expand in their tummy. This results in intestinal blockages, and your rabbit’s digestive system can completely stop working.
Also, avoid clay cat litter; if your bunny ingests this, it can also lead to blockages and other digestive problems. Moreover, the dust from clay litter is harmful, resulting in respiratory issues when your bunny breathes this in. Cats, on the other hand, are not as sensitive as rabbits when breathing in this dust.
Crystal cat litter, while seen as a safe alternative for cats, is not safe for rabbits. Interestingly, crystal litter is most likely to be ingested by your pet rabbit. This litter type also contains chemicals that help it maintain its crystalline form, and these are toxic to rabbits.
Cedar and pine litter is also a no-no as when your bunny urinates on this kind of litter, fumes are released since both of these woods are aromatic. The fumes can make your rabbit sick, and some dust may also be released, leading to issues for your rabbit’s respiratory system.
Moreover, being exposed to these tree oils elevates your bunny’s liver enzyme levels, making your rabbit more vulnerable to anesthesia (when it’s time for surgery).
Zinc cat litter is another kind you should avoid. Zinc is a poisonous metal to rabbits. Exposing your pet bunny to zinc causes bloody stool and, eventually, death.
What Do You Put in a Bunny Litter Box?
Now that you know about the cat litter types to avoid and why, what can you use in your bunny litter box?
Things You Need
Here’s a list of items you’ll need to set up the litter box for your bunny and to litter train it:
- A medium-sized cat litter box or a shallow storage container
- Litter that’s rabbit safe
- Hay feeder
- Puppy pen
- Chair mat
- Snappy trainers
For the hay, you can bulk order this online or buy a bale or two from a local farmer. The hay feeder is placed next to the litter box so the bunny can eat while using the litter box.
A puppy pen limits the space in the cage or hutch; this helps your rabbit to use the litter box.
The chair mat merely protects the floor in your bunny cage or hutch, so ensure to get one that is chew-resistant and made from hard plastic (but that’s toxin-free).
Snappy trainers help you keep your bunny off the bed and couch if these are areas where your rabbit has done its business before.
How to Set up a Litter Box for Rabbits
Correctly setting up your litter box for your bunny helps you in training it to use the litter box, so you are killing two birds with one stone here.
Step 1: Get a Litter Box
One of the most important parts, aside from actually getting your bunny to use the litter box, is ensuring the one you get is the right size. The litter box should be big enough that your bunny comfortably fits in, so it can turn around in it and also fully stand inside it.
There are many options available, as well as things to keep in mind, like do you want a grate and an integrated hay rack and feeder.
Step 2: Place the Litter Box
The next step is placing the litter box inside the hutch or cage. Find a spot in the cage your bunny likes hanging out and also where it is relatively quiet so Miss Fluffles feel safe to do her business.
Step 3: Line the Litter Box
Many rabbit owners line their litter box as this makes cleaning up even easier. The lining ensures that nothing sticks to the bottom of the litter box.
Step 4: Fill the Litter Box
There are various materials you can fill the litter box with that have high absorbency levels. You can use aspen shavings, compressed sawdust pelleted litter, paper-based pelleted litter, bedding, or shredded, recycled paper.
Fill the box with the litter to at least 1 inch in depth. If your bunny Mr Fluffles likes to dig, increase the depth to 2-3 inches.
Step 5: Add Hay
To the one side of the litter box if you don’t opt for one with an integrated feeder and hay rack, ensure there is a tasty treat, like hay, for your rabbit to munch on while it pees or poops.
With no feeder, ensure that about half of the box is filled with hay and the other half with your choice of litter.
Adding hay helps promote good litter box habits for your bunny.
Litter Training Your Rabbit
Rabbits can be litter trained; you just need a bit of patience. You’ll notice that your bunny likes using a specific area as its toilet; take advantage of this when you litter train.
Step 1: Confine
If your bunny has urinated and pooped wherever it likes, then you may need a whole lot more patience with the litter training.
Whether your bunny is “brand new” or not, you should keep it primarily in its cage or hutch, or limit its movement to one room. The litter pan should be placed inside the cage or room if you give your bunny slightly more freedom.
See where your rabbit likes to urinate and poop, and then move the litter tray to that area. You need to be flexible and move the litter box around.
You may also need to add a puppy pen to the hutch or cage to further restrict your rabbit’s movement.
You can also have 1-2 litter boxes per bunny.
Step 2: Motivate
Rabbits like to eat while they pee and poop. So if you notice that your bunny isn’t using the litter tray, then bunch up some hay and place this inside or in a container next to the litter box. So long as the bunny can reach its hay, it should be happy.
Step 2: Teach
If your rabbit doesn’t use the litter box but instead does its business outside the box, then get some paper towels and absorb some of the urine. Also, pick up some poop droppings.
To help your pet rabbit accept that the box is there for “business,” place the paper towels that have the scent of your bunny’s urine and the poop in the litter box.
Step 3: Herd
You can also herd your bunny to the litter box when you see signs that it is about to pee or poop. Rabbits usually slightly lift their tail or back up a bit.
If your bunny uses the litter tray, then give it a reward, such as a treat, praise, food, or a toy.
What Kind of Cat Litter Can You Use for Rabbits?
Don’t use clay litter, cedar or pine wood shavings, materials with a high amount of dust, litter that’s scented, zinc litter, crystal cat litter, or litter that forms clumps.
There are some other kinds of litter that are marketed toward cat owners that are safe for rabbit owners. Look for:
Aspen shavings are a kind of wood litter that’s safe for rabbit litter boxes. It’s good for odor control. It is not highly absorbent, so you’ll find that you will use a lot of it.
Paper-Based Pelleted Litter
Most rabbit owners recommend this kind of litter. It’s made from recycled paper, which is then compressed into pellets that are highly absorbent.
Compressed Sawdust Pelleted Litter
Leftover sawdust that has been compressed into pellets can be used in rabbit litter trays. Buying in bulk is best and kindest on your wallet.
Bedding that’s paper-based is thin, soft, and safe; however, this doesn’t score high for its absorption quality.
Shredded paper is the cheaper rabbit litter option, and if you have a shredder, you can make this kind of litter yourself. However, it doesn’t absorb rabbit urine as well as other kinds of litter.
Alternatives to Rabbit Litter
Alternatives to rabbit-friendly cat litter are hay, shredded cardboard, newspaper shavings, and wood fuel pellets that are also known as compressed wood stove pellets.
Knowing what kind of litter is safe for your bunny is important as it helps you take good care of your cotton-tailed buddy.
Most cat litter that you find on the market isn’t safe for bunnies. Do your research and read the label before you buy something that your rabbit should not use to do its business on.