new baby bunny mama... questions on behavior! HELP!! - Mothering Forums
Pets > new baby bunny mama... questions on behavior! HELP!!
jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 05:08 PM 01-30-2011

Hi all! I had bunnies growing up, but this is my first bunny as an adult. (and!) Stella's a 7 week old Holland Mini-lop (i thought they were 2 different breeds?!)



i would like to use all-cotton pee pads, and wash them every couple days (i cloth-diapered all 3 of my children as babies, so this doesn't bother me.) , instead of bedding. anyone ever do that? i think it's so much easier then changing bedding. also i'm going to kitty-liter train her. so the pee-pad won't get very messy anyway. i plan on putting blankies in her cage, so she can burrow in that. 


she seems to just lay around alot, not really playing (she'll play a little here or there). is something wrong with her or is she just getting use to me. i got her only 2 days ago. or is this normal behavior in a baby bunny? she'll hop around and play a little, but then sits for awhile and chills. i was afraid that she was too sedentary. i wish i knew what to expect about normal bunny behavior. i knew they all have their own personalities, but just generally i wish i knew what to expect.


thanks for any info on baby bunny behavior!


Oubliette8's Avatar Oubliette8 05:32 PM 01-30-2011
Holland Lop and Mini Lop ARE two different breeds, either your bunny is a mix, or whom ever you got her from doesn't know the proper names for bunny breeds. Hollands are smaller than minis.

For litter training do NOT use kitty litter. It can irritate bunny's respiratory systems. Most folks use a pelleted litter with bunnies for box training.

I assume someone else will come by with behavior advice, it doesnt sound too unusual to me. Some bunnies are less active than others. The bunnies I have known spent a good deal of time just hanging out. And, she may still be adjusting to her new home, she might become more active over the new few weeks.

Has she been to the vet yet? I dont know where you got her, but my vet said a lot of shelter bunnies he sees have internal parasites, so a good once over might be a good idea.
heartmama's Avatar heartmama 06:57 PM 01-30-2011

Yes they are two different breeds. Google Mini Lops and Holland Lops to see which one you have. Hollands are somewhat thicker and more compact with wide ears, while mini's are a bit bigger, leggier, with longer thin ears (if I remember right).


Do not use kitty litter, EVER. That is highly dangerous. The cheapest and best solution I've used is a giant 40lb bag of Equine Pine (sold under different names) from Tractor Supply or a similar livestock store. It is horse stall litter. It is compressed sawdust pieces. It is safe and absorbent for rabbits.


I have house trained all of my rabbits and the key is to remember they like to eat and poop at the same time. I put hay IN the litter box. Then I put the box in the corner of a very small area, like a pen. Once I see the bunny is peeing and pooping in the box I let them have more freedom.


I am not sure how it will work to use cloth. It depends on whether your bunny chews it. Eating bits of cloth could kill a rabbit. So, watch that carefully. I think it would be hard to train a bunny to pee on something they can't dig in, since they love to dig, chew, pee, and poop as part of their toileting routine.


It is rare for bunnies to ever be alone. It is not natural to them. They live in warrens and always have other bunnies near for safety and comfort. When a baby bunny is alone is it not really designed by nature for that experience. In the wild, that would be death. This is why I recommend adopting siblings, two bunnies from the same litter. Over a lifetime they will be easier to care for, healthier and happier. Many bunnies never quite bond to humans in the way cats and dogs do. I think it is because they are deep down a prey animal and not a predator and never TOTALLY get over their fear of us as carnivores. Luckily lops are among the most domesticated of rabbit breeds. They tend to be much more sedentary than other breeds. I've had 2 holland lops and both were 100x mellower than all my other bunnies. One of them was so mellow he could literally fall asleep next to a running vacuum cleaner. Give your bunny LOTS of company and attention and opportunity to touch, snuggle, and play together each day.


visit for lots of great house rabbit advice!!

tonttu's Avatar tonttu 10:48 AM 02-02-2011

I have made good experiences with plain wood shavings , like the kind you can buy at pet supply stores for bedding .

I didn´t even realize , that rabbits could be potty trained until  i noticed my very first bunny using only one corner in her cage . And I´ve been doing that ever since with every bunny we got ever since , I put some of their droppings in the corner I want them to use and they pick up right away , that they should go there

I would be a little careful with the cloth diapers , some rabbits like to chew fabric and it may end up as a ball in their stomach (not very healthy in my opinion) . Same goes for newspaper by the way , one of my friends actually lost hers , because she was lining his cage with them and he chewed it and died from the ink in it .

Loops are quite docile , I have a chinchilla loop and he is very calm .

If yours doesn´t have diarrhea , discharge out of it´s nose or ears and seems lethargic , he may just be a little scared , after all , he is a baby and you are a new person to him .

I would also think about getting a friend for your bunny . Rabbits are pack animals and no matter how much love you give it , a human is not another rabbit

Same goes for guinea pigs , by the way , people think , they are great with a bunny , and even though , it may be better than no friend at all , they are completely different species .


jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 08:06 PM 02-06-2011

thank you so much for the replies. i'm using carefresh litter in her litter pan, but wanted to use a pad for the cage (like a chux pad that you would lay on in the bed of a hospital, after you gave birth). some people said to use fleece (as is popular for guinea pigs), but i know that there are little bits of fuzz that comes off of fleece that i don't want her to eat. that's why i thought i'd go with the chux pad.


thankfully she absolutely loves me. by day 2 she was giving me little kisses everytime i held her! she's so cute!!! i bought her an exercise pen, that i'm attaching to her cage, and putting in the family room, so the kids can play with her and she can go in and out of her cage at will. (and i'm going to teach the kids to respect her space and leave her alone when she seeks the solitude of her cage.) right now she lives in my kitchen (with gates up). everytime i go in there, she hops over to me and sits on my foot, so i can pick her up. i cannot afford another bunny right now, but we all are giving her alot of love. in the future i would love to get her a friend.


thanks again!

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 08:09 PM 02-06-2011

i put hay in the litter pan already, but what about how they pee when they eat their pellets? there seems to be pee right in the spot where she eats her pellets. so,. where should i put that? i also heard that she can't be fully litter-trained until she's fixed, b/c they mark their territory.

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 09:51 AM 02-07-2011

I've litter box trained 5 rabbits the same way (and none were fixed at the time). It is much the same as training a puppy. I keep them in a small cage. I watch to see which corner they seem to potty in the most. I put a low tray in that corner and tie it to the wire so it cannot be shoved or moved. I put hay and litter in that corner. The rabbit is given NO unsupervised outside play. The bunny is given NO chance to pee anywhere outside the cage. Same as with a new puppy. Supervised play only. Then, back into the crate/cage. Once the bunny pees consistently IN the box then I let them have cage+small enclosed area outside the cage. Once I see they ALWAYS return to the cage to pee then they get a larger space, and so on, until they have as much room as I can safely give them.


The key is NOT to let bunny get in the habit of peeing anywhere they want. Start small, wait for success, expand their space.


Poop is different. Many bunnies drop marbles here and there to mark territory. Even after they are spayed. Especially males. You can't stop them. Luckily bunny poop is odorless and easy to sweep up.

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 03:57 PM 02-07-2011

so what do you do about her peeing while eating her pellets? i put a pan in the corner of the cage, and put her hay and bowl of pellets in it.


and is my bunny too young (7-8 weeks) to be litter-trained?


also, for a week, stella has had free access to the kitchen and her cage. would it upset her really bad if i put her in the cage full-time (with limited supervised play, several times/day)?


thanks SO much for sharing your experience with me! (oh, and about how long does it take to litter-train the way you do it?)

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 07:33 AM 02-08-2011

ok... i noticed something last night. i have her cage open, so she can come out into the kitchen. at the end of her ramp, i have a towel down where she plays, etc. (she never goes off of the towel). i noticed that she does not pee on the towel (or anywhere outside of her cage) anymore at all. i've been watching her for 2 days now. she goes into her cage to pee. i think that she thinks that her cage is where she's suppose to pee. SO... how do i get her to pee in only one corner of her cage now? (btw, i'm very excited that she at least never goes anywhere else!!!)



tonttu's Avatar tonttu 02:09 PM 02-08-2011

I would pick up some of the stuff , she peed on and put it in the corner , where you want her to pee . That worked quite well with mine

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 02:13 PM 02-08-2011

That is GREAT that she associates the cage with peeing--that is a very good first sign. As a rule, young females are the easiest to train (in my experience). And no she is not too young, the sooner she learns, the fewer bad habits to correct later. Now you need her to associate certain textures with peeing--namely the feel of her litter box materials. So there are a few ways to do this and the answer depends on the size of her cage and exactly where she pees in it. Does she pee randomly? Or only in corners? Is this a wire bottom cage? What are the dimensions? Once I know all of this I can help you come up with a plan to get her peeing consistently IN a litter box IN the cage.

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 06:31 PM 02-08-2011

well, the cage is a medium plastic bottom cage. 28 1/2" X 16 1/2;.lined with a towel (my friend is making me a cotton liner) (also, i don't mind the cage  being small, as she's never in it, except bedtime or when we go out of the house to run errands).


she peed in one corner only, so I put the litter box there (with hay in it). i put her food bowl in the opposite corner, and she started peeing when she ate her pellets. SO, I then put her pellets in her litter pan. but then i noticed that she was peeing in the other corner of the cage, where her blankie is. ugh. SO, today, i moved the pan to THAT corner, and i noticed that she did not pee in any other corners today. BUT she peed where her water bowl is. SO should i just put her water bowl in her litter pan also, with her food bowl and her clump of hay?!


and thank you SO much for helping me figure this out. i REALLY want this to work out, i love her so much; but with raising 3 little kids, and working part-time, i want to minimize the amount of work involved, yk?!

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 02:26 PM 02-09-2011

Okay so if I understand you right she is always peeing ON something at this point, like a fabric, towel, or blanket. Is this right?


Has she ever peed straight onto the plastic floor leaving just a puddle that got her wet?


The reason I ask is because it is possible she thinks the towel is another type of litter. So anything soft inside the cage might signal "pee here!!". If this were me, I would not have anything soft on the floor of the cage until I figured out her pee associations. I want you to check out the information here: as well as google litter box training rabbits for more ideas. But at this point my basic idea is that she is probably peeing anywhere there is something soft in the cage. She has made the association "Pee in the cage" but she hasn't figured out WHERE to pee in the cage because there are so many soft options. You could test this by taking out all soft material EXCEPT for what is in the litter box. I have never heard of putting pellets in the litter box but since they are basically compressed hay, why not? I would not put the water in the box, because that would be a mess if she kicked litter in it. However I always hung the bottles over the litter box so that, yes, they had to hop in to get a drink, and so that the 'drips' were soaked up by litter below. Basically if she were my baby I would have a hard surface floor, and a roomy, low, litter box filled with litter, hay, and her little pellet bowl, and nothing else in the cage except a water bottle hanging over the litter box. This way she learns all good things happen in the box. Then, I would see if she still peed outside the box. If not, you have your answer--she is confused by the soft bedding. If she still pees outside the box, let me know and we can brainstorm from there.  It might seem harsh to have her in there without a towel but she is covered in fur and would sleep on cold dirt in the wild.

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 02:29 PM 02-09-2011

Okay. I just re-read the dimensions of the cage. That is a really small cage. She is a baby so I know she is small too, but I have litter boxes that size! How big is the litter box inside the cage? It might be that the cage is just so small she really does think the entire thing is her toilet.

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 08:04 PM 02-09-2011

thanks! great idea! i'll do it tomorrow when i'm home and she can have her cage open and run around in the kitchen, so everytime she goes into her cage, it'll be to eat, drink, and go potty. (and yes, she only goes pee on her towel in the cage.)


her litter pan is a baking pan (throw-away). it's the one that you would put 2 together in a chafing dish, so its kind of small.

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 06:57 AM 02-10-2011

In the wild a rabbit digs a warren, and inside it is a specific "room" for toileting. The only other time I've seen rabbits toilet outside their 'secret spot' is males dropping poop marbles to mark territory, or using urine spray to mark females/territory. Otherwise, rabbits are naturally careful regarding where they toilet. Rabbits have to be very careful where they pee, because it leaves a scent for predators to follow. Thus, litter box training a rabbit is really just a matter of guiding her towards success in light of her instinct to pee in a "secret" area where predators can't follow. This is why litter box training a bunny is totally different than a dog or cat. You can't train rabbits with rewards or any method that ignores their basic motivation to pee in secret. Training is just a matter of figuring out how to 'interpret' the environment in light of instinct.


You can see how even such a young bunny as yours is making an effort to pee in her 'secret place' without any rewards or guidance. That is instinct.


It is possible that your baby views the entire large play room as her "warren" and the cage as her "toilet room". *IF* she persists in peeing anywhere inside the cage what we can do is literally turn the cage into a big toilet by covering the entire floor with litter, since this is not a very big cage to begin with (like I said I have used large low tupperware containers for litter boxes the size of her cage). Kind of a 'if you can't beat em join em' approach. THEN you would use a few NIC cube panels to create a permanent tiny 'play yard' outside the cage so she can always get away from her 'potty room' so sleep and play. The one thing you NEVER EVER EVER want to do with a bunny, is 1) trap them in one big toilet forcing them to sleep and play in their own litter (like what pet stores do, covering the entire cage with shavings and making rabbits sleep on it). This slowly kills their instincts to keep toilets separate from play areas. The other way to kill the instinct is keeping a rabbit on a wire bottom cage with no litter pan in it. The pee and poo disappears and the rabbit stops trying to honor that instinct to hide it. It is VERY hard to train some bunnies once their instincts are destroyed. In fact with all my bunnies the first sign of serious illness has been sleeping in their litter box. A health rabbit will usually NOT sleep on top of dirty litter.


Luckily you are training your bunny at exactly the right time! She can probably be trained to just pee in a pan inside her cage. BUT if she keeps peeing everywhere in the cage we can move on to turning it into her potty and adding a separate small area for sleep and play at night.

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 07:24 PM 02-10-2011

wow. alot to think about. incredible information!!! thank you so much!!!


so, i got the exercise pen today in the mail, and i put it in a big square, with her cage on one end, and her litter box in her cage. her cage is open all day, so she can come and go as she pleases. and her food and water are on top of her litter.  i wanted to lock her in her cage at night though. i took the towel out, like you said to do. the only thing soft in her cage is her litter pan (carefresh litter).

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 07:26 PM 02-10-2011

and "ok" to trying what we can, but maybe having to turn the whole cage into her litter pan.


thanks again!

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 07:52 PM 02-10-2011

ok, i just checked her cage (her new cage set-up that we did today. i moved her from the kitchen to the family room downstairs, with her cage attached to an exercise pen).  after all day of "no towel in cage", she went pee once outside of the litter pan, right on the plastic floor (it was right by her pellets- which are in the litter pan- though, so maybe she was just eating.) i'm going to get a larger litter pan that fits the whole one side of the cage tomorrow, so there will be enough room for her food, water, and hay in it, and it'll take up one whole side of her cage.)


also, the exercise pen (xpen) that i just got today is on tile floor. i didn't put a towel down, as i know she'll go pee on it, but i put a sea grass mat down, and she peed on it. so i washed it, and will not be putting ANYTHING on the floor at all until she gets the hang of going potty IN her pen only (hopefully IN the litter box).


let's see how she does tomorrow with the "no towel, etc. anywhere" thing. hopefully all pees will be in the litter box ONLY!!!


so if they all are, how long do i do this for before i can start introducing soft bedding/blankies for her and confidently know that she will not pee on them?!

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 05:02 PM 02-12-2011

well, she's peeing in the litter and laying it it. she's also peeing right on the plastic. how do i get her to pee IN the litter pan?!!!!  AND NOT lay in it! the fur by her peepee is getting matted and yucky with poops!!! HELP!!!!!

heartmama's Avatar heartmama 11:00 AM 02-14-2011

Hmmm....well at least now you know she is not confused by the towel, she is just not associating the litter pan as her exclusive toilet. Maybe the sleeping towel should be put back, so that she stops sleeping in the box (She might be doing that since it is soft).


I would expand the quest for answers. See if there are any forum recommendations at and also try asking at the Etherbun  group on Yahoo Groups. You need better advice than I can give. She IS still very young so do not lose heart, this can take time!

jee'smom's Avatar jee'smom 08:01 PM 02-14-2011

yah, i asked the same question on binky bunny (house rabbit forum). i have a couple of suggestions from there. one person told me that i should just make the cage her litter box, and leave the cage door open to her xpen.


i put carefresh litter in the bottom of her whole cage for 2 days now, and i noticed that she goes potty all around her food, but is NOT pottying in the corners opposite her food. i think i'm going to just leave everything the way it is, so she gets into the habit of going in one area only. THEN, i'm going to start moving the litter away from the corners she doesn't go in, and put a towel there, leaving litter on the side of the cage with the food. just so it's not so expensive (using so much litter). we'll see how that works. i think the most important thing is to just leave everything alone for now, to get her into a habit.


anyway, i appreciate all of your help!!! thanks!!!