Everybody Out of the Poo!

Tigger & Shadow and their litterboxesBlaine has actually said that to the rabbits numerous times.  It is amazing how territorial rabbits are about their poo.  When we bring new litter boxes out and start to try to take the old ones away, we always end up with a bunny in the dirty box.  The message is pretty apparent, “That is mine, where do you think you are going with it!”  As they roam around, if they spot a lone poop on the floor, they always stop to smell it.  I don’t know who’s they imagine it is going to turn out to be, but they always double-check. 

After we brought Tigger and Shadow home, I did a lot of internet research on rabbits to try to find info to best help me with bunnyproofing.  I learned that a certain amount of poop outside the box isn’t accidental, but intentional marking of territory.  We have certainly seen that over the years.  They love to poop a perimeter around the litter boxes that are in the living room.  We keep scooping it in and telling them over and over that they don’t need to mark the boxes as theirs, no one else is going to claim them or use them.  The rabbits are probably not buying that one since we keep switching the boxes out for new ones that don’t have that eau d’bunny smell or the artistically placed poo markers.  I am certain little bunny minds are saying we steal their stuff.

Ah well, there is another aspect of the rabbit territorial marking I wish we had given a bit more thought to in regards to the placement of their boxes in their current living space.  When we first got Tigger & Shadow, we were living in an apartment.  The room layouts allowed us to dedicate the smallest bedroom as theirs.  Cages, food, toys and outdoor furniture for us to sit on was all kept in the room.  The bunnies could play and mess it up. Like kids rooms, we could close the door on them if we got unexpected company.  We didn’t do a lot of thinking or planning on where the litter boxes needed to be, they just needed to be in that room.

When we moved to our house, the layout and room sizes were quite different.  We weren’t able to give the bunnies their own room and didn’t have a basement, family room, sun room or room off the main drag.  The house layout is quite open.  So there wasn’t a way to give them privacy or easily hide their worst messes either.  The only space we had large enough for their cages was in the living room.  To give them a bit more privacy, we put their cages at the back of the room. 

Now one recommendation for optimal litter box training is that you let the rabbit decide where they want the box.  We knew in the new home there would be some sorting out until we got them settled in and had their boxes where they were happiest with them. Our cage placement turned out to have unintended consequences as to where the bunnies chose as their spot for their litter boxes. 

Logically if we had thought it out at all, we would probably have realized they would pick the farthest place from their cage on the other side of their territory.  Which is what they did, but it was a slow adjusting training process of us by the bunnies getting us to keep moving the boxes to follow the poo and pee trail until the boxes reached their ultimate prefered spot.

Now Tigger & Shadow have the boxes right where they want them, on the floor in front of the TV, the first thing you see on the right when you walk in the front door of our home.  I think we should have put their cages out in the open so that we could have hidden the litter boxes at the back of the room.  Ah well, always living and learning with the bunnies.

Litterbox Evolution

Evolution of litterboxes through the years for Tigger & ShadowThe one thing that really shows the stages of a bunny’s life are the changes in litter boxes that we have had over 10 years with our rabbits.

With two month old two-pound baby bunnies, we started with high-backed triangle or square pans made for small animals. Those were just the right size to encourage litter box training, yet still gave them a roomy place to flop or eat some hay.

Then Shadow began to develop some serious digging tendencies and he would use the litter box and excavate it out afterwards. We switched them to larger litter boxes with tops. Since they were still pretty little, we had to give them kiddie footstools to help them get in with ease. The footstools also allowed little bunnies another place to crawl under. They both loved to take advantage of that. Tigger and Shadow both liked the flat-topped box as it gave them another place to hop up and hang out. We put a small rug up there to make it a more comfy, less slippery spot.

The bunnies moved into their adult size and we were able to do away with the footstools. Then Shadow showed less interest in digging as he aged and we removed the litter box covers and just left them with the round or rectangle bottoms of the litter boxes.

After they turned six years old, we noticed that they were less inclined to hop over the sides of their pans. They had a few accidents beside their litter boxes. We realized they were probably beginning to experience some of the aches, pains, and loss of flexibility that comes with aging.

We went back to the store and found some dog training pans with lower sides and one side with a low entry. They liked these litter boxes. However, with these pans, Shadow developed a renewed interest in digging them out. So I went back to the stores to look for a fix.  I found a long tray used for drying boots that was exactly the right size. Placed at the front and sides, Shadow can do his dig out, and I can easily dump the litter back into the pans. It becomes a game with him to see how fast he can dig it out again after I dump it back in. If I don’t do my cleanup fast enough, some bunny will decide that the boot trays are fair game for litter box use.

We have definitely learned that one litter box is not equal to another and have adapted as needed due to bunny age and size. So who is training who here?