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Best Litter Material for a Pet Rabbit

Find out what is the best litter material for a pet rabbit in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.


Amy: What is the best litter material for my bunny?

Mary: Well a lot of people argue about what's the best litter material so we're going to talk about a couple of different kinds here.

Amy: Okay.

Mary: So people can make informed decisions. So one kind of litter we don't have here today is a pelleted newspaper litter. It's pellets...

Amy: Yesterday's news!

Mary: ...this size. Yesterday's News is one brand of it. You can find other brands as well. It's absorbent and it can pick up the rabbit urine. It's not inexpensive but a lot of people love it and find it very very useful. Another kind is called feline pine and that is what this litter looks like and it's a hard pelleted pine, also very useful for absorbing urine.

Amy: And how much do you put in the bottom, just a little bit right?

Mary: Well, funny. If you're paying for it yourself you tend to scale it down as you go...

Amy: I'll say. You're carrying it yourself.

Mary: That's right. A lot of people will start with a lot of the litter and they'll see how fast it goes and how much it costs and they'll start using a thinner and thinner layer. So whatever. The idea is for it to absorb...

Amy: About a quarter...

Mary: Yeah, cover the bottom of the pen. We put a section of newspaper in the bottom of the pens before we put any litter material in because that does two things. It keeps the pan good longer, you want your pan to be in good shape. And it also lets you look at the newspaper while you clean the little box. Because if your rabbit's urine is changing or if there's blood in the urine or if there's something we call bladder sludge which is partially a result of calcium excretion you can actually bring that piece of newspaper in to show your vet, you can say this is what was in my rabbit's litter box this morning. Very helpful for the vet to see exactly what's going on. The litter that I personally like best is this. And it is just plain grass hay. This is timothy hay. This litter box has a couple sections of newspaper on the bottom and it's filled with hay. And what I like about hay for litter is a few different things. It's very comfortable to the rabbits' feet and if you put a lot of hay in the way we have in this litter box, we have it right up to the top...

Amy: That's what I do, yeah.

Mary: ...yeah and me too. Some people use a polite little handful of hay and that's not really enough. If you fill it to the top it forms a good cushion and that keeps your rabbit's feet well off the dirty urine covered stuff below. The urine will drop right through the grass and your rabbit's feet will stay clean and neat and free of urine scald which is really nice.

Amy: So you put the newspaper, then you put they hay?

Mary: Newspaper first.

Amy: Then you can either just put hay or the pellets and then they hay.

Mary: Yeah I don't use the pellets at all, I always use hay.

Amy: You put the hay on top of the pellets?

Mary: I do. I do. It's less expensive for me. I buy hay from my local stable and I also buy hay on the internet that's really clean and beautiful like this.

Amy: And then to clean the pan I think you told me once use white vinegar, correct?

Mary: Yeah white vinegar is really useful for rabbit litter because white vinegar neutralizes the urine. As a matter of fact, when you have rabbit urine to clean up, like a rabbit has an accident on your rug. If you put white vinegar into a spray bottle and your spritz it a couple of times you can watch it go [noise] kind of foams up...

Amy: Science project.

Mary: It's like a science project, yeah. And you just blot it. You don't rub it, you blot it. But it will pick up the urine stain right away. White vinegar is great at cleaning.

Amy: And how often do you change the litter box?

Mary: it depends on the size of the rabbit, the size of the box, and the rabbit's diet.

Amy: Okay.

Mary: So depending on how much the rabbit drinks. IN the summer rabbits are going to drink a lot more than they're in the colder weather and you'll have to change the litter box more often. For a rabbit of this size and this is a New Zealand White, a beautiful girl.

Amy: Yes.

Mary: This is a breed that typically weighs between eight and ten, eleven pounds. I would change this litter box probably every other day.

Amy: Every hour on the hour.

Mary: Every other day. Every other day. Assuming you have a big litter box. If you ave a smaller litter box like this size litter box you might want to change it every day.

Amy: You told me once you don't want to change it too much because what they do is they eat the hay with the flowers on it.

Mary: Exactly. If you have hay in the litter box the reason you don't want to change it every day and have a big enough litter box so that you don't have to change it every day is because typically they'll eat the softest hay the first day and they'll leave the tougher fiber stuff for later and it's the tougher fibrous hay that is so good for their digestive track. So if you change the litter box every day you're throwing out good fibrous hay that the rabbit will eat if she has no choice.

Amy: And then if you wait too long they can get urine scald on their feet and no one wants to sit in their wet.

Mary: That's right, that's right. Exactly. It's kind of like cleaning your bathroom at home. If you have four kids you're going to clean your bathroom more often than if you have no kids because it's going to get dirty more often.

Amy: And what about this kind of, what's this over here, this cedar?

Mary: This is the kind of litter that we tell people it's really best to avoid. This is a cedar litter and they make a pine litter that's very similar in that it's a bunch of chips. Take a sniff of that.

Amy: Wow.

Mary: What does it smell like?

Amy: I think it smells good.

Mary: Doesn't it smell good?

Amy: Yeah.

Mary: If it smells good like cedar or pine it's not good for your bunny.

Amy: Oh.

Mary: These strong, good smells to humans, and we love them they're very fresh smells, smells like a cedar closet. But these are called aromatic phenols. The fumes that come off this litter and those aromatic phenols actually are not good for your rabbit and can change your rabbit's liver enzymes which may mean that if your rabbit ever needs to take a medicine or go under anesthesia that the results will be more unpredictable. So it's really best to avoid litters that smell wonderful to us like cedar and pine. There is a kind of cedar litter that has had that kind of aromatic smell removed. And a kind of pine that has had the aromatic smell removed too. I think it's kiln dried pine. You can look for those things in the pet store too. That's okay to use. Do not use the aromatic litters for your rabbit though, it's really better to avoid them.

Amy: And also make sure you have something like this and not like something with a metal bottom. Like a lot of people who have their rabbits outside they just throw hay in the cage that has a wire bottom and that's a big no no.

Mary: Yeah, yeah we're going to talk about that when we do our cage video too, the right kind of cage. But you can also, as Amy started to say earlier, you can use one of these pelleted litters like feline pine underneath and put hay on top of that and that way the pine can absorb urine and the hay will sit on top. If you want to spend the money you can do that.

Amy: Just make sure you have enough hay so they can eat and go to the bathroom at the same time. Like we all want to.

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