Generally speaking, this article applies to getting a very young rabbit and preparing to make it a house pet. It is nearly impossible to start with an older rabbit that hasn’t been trained early and kept as an indoor pet. You should get a rabbit that is newly weaned, preferably about 8 weeks of age.
Take the rabbit to your veterinarian right away, have it checked for any health concerns and get your vet’s recommendation on spaying or neutering age. Rabbits kept intact for breeding are not ideal house pets and will mark territory all over your home, so we are assuming here that your rabbit will be neutered.
You can use cat litter boxes for rabbits. A good sized litter box is needed, one that would work for a large adult cat. You don’t want to get the super-deep type that is fine for many cats, and rabbits do not do well with a box covered by any kind of lid or hood.
When it comes to the litter itself, don’t just buy any product that might be great for cats. Choose an unscented litter that does not clump and has no significant additives. Litter made from recycled paper, wood or corncobs are good choices. Many regular cat litters have scents, oils, minerals and other additives that can harm your rabbit. Put about an inch and a half of litter in each pan. Cover the litter with a light topping of timothy or another rabbit-safe hay.
Start out with your rabbit in a small and fairly confined space and put the litter pans as far apart as you can. A bathroom or an indoor puppy pen can work well to start with. The ideal space should have at least one corner and at least one pan should go in a corner. If you have to work on a carpeted space, cover it with plastic during the training phase. Rabbits do not have the same bowel and bladder control that kittens have, so they will not be perfect with litter. You should also be keeping some hay in the rabbit’s normal habitat, so take a little urine-soaked hay and add it to each litter pan.
Your rabbit will be attracted to the litter pans by the scent of their own urine and they like to live in a clean space, so they will usually get the idea on their own. At first, you will need to monitor closely and leave the litter pans a little dirty but clean up any soiled flooring. This will help the rabbit understand that the litter is a good place to go and they will prefer to lay about and eat in the clean areas. Never try to physically or verbally punish your rabbit if it misses the box. That is not how rabbits think and it will only stress them out and derail your training attempts. You can praise or pet your rabbit right after it eliminates in the litter boxes. Positive reinforcement is helpful.
Once your rabbit gets the hang of it, it will eliminate in the litter boxes most of the time. Only then can you allow the rabbit to expand its free roaming space. It is still best to keep your rabbit in its own habitat when you are away or at night. If you stick to the training methods when the rabbit is loose, though, your rabbit may be able to be in a fairly wide area by the time it reaches adulthood!