Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Wild rabbits leave droppings on significant places. c Celia Haddon

It is normal for a rabbit to leave some droppings outside the litter tray but if urine or lots of droppings appear outside the tray, then there is a problem. The litter tray has to be organized as your rabbit wants it, not as you want it.

  1. Your rabbit is ill. Urinary infections, bladder stones and other diseases make rabbits unreliable with the litter tray. If a previously litter trained rabbit starts missing the litter tray, it is important to consult a vet.
  2. You are not cleaning the tray frequently enough (Crowell Davies, 2010).
  3. The litter tray is in the wrong place – too near the rabbit’s bed or food bowls, in too busy an area like a corridor, or too far away from its normal living space. Add a second tray with some soiled material and if this is used, then and only then remove the first tray.
  4. You are cleaning the tray too much so it no longer smells like a latrine. Put back a fragment of used litter each time you have changed the tray’s contents.
  5. You are using deodorants or scented cleaning fluids. The tray must smell like a rabbit latrine not a hairdressing salon. Don’t use them.
  6. You have changed the litter type. Change it back to the one bunny is used to. If you must change, then change slowly with a handful at a time over four weeks. But it is safer to stick with what your rabbit is used to. If in doubt, put down several trays with different litter and let your rabbit choose.
  7. You have moved the location of the tray. Put it back. If you must move it, move it a few inches a day (Crowell-Davis, 2007).
  8. The litter tray is too small for your rabbit – your rabbit has outgrown it and its bottom is over the side. Get a bigger one (Crowell-Davis, 2007).
  9. There are not enough litter trays. For house rabbits there should be one in every room to which the rabbit has regular access (Crowell-Davies, 2010).
  10. There are too many rabbits per tray. There should be one litter tray per rabbit and one over (Brown, 2001).
  11. Something has frightened your rabbit while he was in the litter tray. A loud noise? An ambush by your cat? An attack by another bunny? He thinks the tray caused the fear. Try putting down a new tray with some soiled litter to see if this works. Or move the existing tray to where the rabbit is now urinating (Crowell Davies, 2010).
  12. Your rabbit’s toilet habits can be upset by moving house, a new human, a new rabbit or a change in routine. Confine your rabbit in a small area with the tray so he starts using it again then let him back into a larger area.
  13. The sides of the tray may be too high. Your rabbit is elderly or has arthritis and it hurts to get into it. Get a lower sided tray or cut the entrance lower on an existing tray.
  14. The sides of the tray may be too low. Rabbits lift their tail to urinate and if the litter tray is too low, they will pee over the top of the sides. Either put a washable mat or newspaper in that area or get a box with a higher side (Crowell-Davies, 2010).
  15. Your rabbit poos outside the tray. Well, they just do. Litter trays work for pee but not for all the poo. Add some hay to the litter tray so your rabbit stays there munching. They enjoy eating while they poo (like we enjoy reading in the loo). It will reduce the number of droppings outside the tray. If there are lots of moist droppings outside the tray, consult the article on dirty bottoms.


Crowell-Davis, S. L., (2007), ‘Behavior Problems in Pet Rabbits,’ Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, 16, 38-44

Crowell Davies,S. L., (2010), “Rabbits,’ in ed: Tynes, V. V., Behavior of Exotic Pets, Chichester, UK, Wiley-Blackwell, 69-77

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