Rabbits are wonderful companions. They have lots of personality, they are fun to care for, and there is often more to them than meets the eye. Sometimes, however, they do things that confuse us like moving their litter tray around. While this behavior certainly is baffling, it probably is no cause for concern.
So, why does my rabbit keep moving her litter tray? The most likely reason is that your bunny dislikes her tray or litter, either out of personal preference or due to a change in her environment.
In this article, we will discuss your rabbit’s litter tray and litter, its environment and some changes that could be driving this behavior, possible contributing illnesses, and how your companion’s big personality could be at the bottom of it all.
Tray and Litter
In the wild, rabbits often find and use the same area as their “bathroom,” which makes litter training a domestic rabbit at least somewhat straightforward, as it is essentially taking advantage of instincts that are already present.
Given how simple it seems on paper, however, there are several factors to consider for each bunny. Despite issues that may emerge during litter training or throughout the course of the time you share your home with a rabbit, there are plenty of ways to keep your friend happy without having to follow it around with a litter pan every day.
Whether you are litter training a new rabbit or have a veteran litter-user, if your pet consistently moves its litter tray away from where you put it, your rabbit might simply dislike the tray or litter they’re in. Ensure you have the right kind of tray for your friend; something with at least one low side for ease of access is ideal.
You can use a shallow storage bin or a cat litter tray, but many people like to use trays with two or three high sides. This makes the tray a little harder to move and prevents rabbits who like to dig in their trays from tossing droppings and soiled litter all over the place.
Furthermore, make sure your rabbit’s litter tray is the right size. If it is too small, your rabbit might be compelled to drag it around or ignore it completely. Many rabbits like to lounge in their trays and munch on hay while they use them.
Get a tray that is large enough for your rabbit to lay and turn around in, and that fits a little bit of hay in one side or corner. This will make the litter tray more welcoming for your pal and likely will encourage better habits, including leaving the tray in its place.
In addition to finding the right tray, finding the right litter is tantamount to having ongoing litter success with your bunny pal. Compressed recycled paper pellets are best, but you can also use unscented wood pellets for a rabbit’s litter tray. Clay or clumping cat litter and wood shavings are not good for a rabbit’s sensitive respiratory system.
Further, rabbits are chewers and will sometimes chew on the contents of their litter trays, so having paper or untreated/unscented wood pellets is best for their health and safety.
If you are using anything other than paper or wood pellets, your rabbit might be moving the tray because it does not like what is inside. Finally, if the litter is scented, your bunny’s sensitive nose might not be tolerating that scent very well. Try switching to unscented recycled paper pellets.
Outside of tray and litter concerns, your bunny may be taking issue with the location of its tray or its surroundings in general.
Rabbits are territorial and highly social in the wild which makes them sensitive about their surroundings. Domestic rabbits in our homes inherited these instincts and feel the same way about their own spaces. Being social animals, bunnies need to be in central areas of the home, so they are always around their human family and any bonded pets.
Equally, a rabbit’s housing should be somewhere where your friend will not be exposed to lots of sudden, loud noises or other pets with whom it does not get along. If your rabbit is housed in an area with these kinds of stressors, moving its litter tray might be part of a collection of behaviors it is using to tell you that it is unhappy.
Look for these other signs of stress in your rabbit:
- Excessive jumpiness or watchfulness
- Uncharacteristic aggression
- Lethargy and/or uncharacteristic lack of interest in food or toys
- Over- or under-grooming
- Uncharacteristic tics such as water bottle or bar biting, head bobbing, circling, etc.
In addition to these conditions, think about any recent changes you have made in your home. Even the smallest change that we humans would not usually think twice about might have an impact on our furry friends, such as a new laundry detergent or cleaning products that change the scent in your home.
Perhaps you moved into a new house or rearranged furniture in the room your rabbit inhabits, or you gave your cotton-tailed companion a nice new habitat. Any of these things can drive new or abnormal behaviors, especially regarding your rabbit’s litter habits. If this is the case, your bunny likely just needs time and patience to adjust.
If your rabbit is moving the litter tray away from a certain area but still using that area for toileting, your rabbit might be reacting to the new or negative stimuli. Conversely, if your rabbit moves the tray to another location but still uses the tray itself, it might be trying to tell you it would rather have its litter area there based on the rest of its environment.
If the location works, leave the tray where your rabbit would prefer it. If not, or if you suspect your rabbit is reacting negatively to new or changing stimuli, try using a tray that can be attached to sides of a hutch, cage, or pen, and as discussed earlier, put some hay in one side or corner to encourage use and make the space more welcoming.
If your rabbit moving its tray is a behavior that just started and you do not suspect environmental factors are the cause, your rabbit could be suffering from an illness.
Rabbits cannot tell us when they are feeling sick, and even if they could it is likely they would choose not to because they are prey animals. This means that, in the wild, rabbits will often hide any signs of illness, injury, or weakness to make themselves less appealing to predators.
Therefore, it is important to understand what behaviors and body language cues to look for when determining if your rabbit is ill.
Some common rabbit conditions associated with litter habits include bladder or urinary tract infections and kidney stones. If you suspect an illness such as these might be driving this behavior, examine the rest of your rabbit’s behavior.
Has your rabbit stopped using the tray entirely in addition to moving it? Is it exhibiting any signs or symptoms of the above conditions? Here are just a few that apply to all three of the conditions we discussed:
- Uncharacteristic increase or decrease in urination
- Visibly painful or straining urination
- Hunched posture
- Blood in the urine
- Loss of appetite or sudden weight loss
If your rabbit is displaying these symptoms in addition to suddenly wanting to move its litter tray, consider visiting your veterinarian to have your furry friend checked out, just in case.
Luckily, if your companion is suffering from one of these conditions, your veterinarian likely will be able to treat the condition with relative ease so your pal can get back to being the quirky bundle of energy you know and love.
If your rabbit is happy and healthy, has the proper kind of tray and litter, and you do not suspect any environmental stressors, your friend’s big personality could be driving this odd behavior.
As with humans, rabbits have their own unique personalities, preferences, and quirks. Anyone who has a rabbit in their home knows that despite being amongst the smallest of our furry friends, they often have some of the biggest personalities! With these big personalities can come some big quirks; for example, moving a litter tray around.
Perhaps your bunny thinks it is a game you are playing with it—you put the tray down, it moves the tray, you move it back, and so on. Your rabbit might also simply enjoy moving things and perhaps views the tray as another toy in its environment.
If you have a rabbit that enjoys tossing its toys around, moving the litter tray may be a new and exciting challenge for your pal. Regardless of why, if your rabbit is moving its tray around because it just wants to, there is really no reason to be concerned if it is using the tray as intended.
If your rabbit is moving its litter tray around, one of the most likely explanations is because it does not like the tray, litter, or location you have chosen. There could be some environmental factors affecting your bunny’s behavior, or it might have a location it prefers to yours.
Your furry friend could have an underlying illness that is driving its behavior, but a visit to your veterinarian will fix your companion in no time. Finally, your rabbit might simply be playing or have a personal preference for its tray. Whatever the cause, understanding and/or mitigating this behavior is a simple process that will just take a little patience on your part.