I've really been struggling to toilet train Sherwood our newest addition, which is not that unusual and something that I regularly get asked about. However the whole concept got me thinking about the origins of rabbit toilet behaviour, it is probably best to get a better understanding of this before attempting to modify it to suit our own ideas of cleanliness.
Rabbits are usually very tidy with their wee, they will choose a toilet area (a latrine) near to their warren and preferred grazing areas and this is where they will go when they need to wee. Latrine sites near to warren entrances are usually covered over with dirt to help mask the scent. Rabbits rarely use urine to mark their territory (instead preferring to leave dropping piles and using the scent gland on their chin), this makes it relatively easy to get your rabbit to use a litter tray to wee in, simply place the tray over their chosen toilet area. Urine can vary in colour (especially in rabbits who eat a wide range of different fresh food), it can be pale yellow, thick and creamy, orange or even blood-red.
'Spray' is very thick urine - usually white - that is highly concentrated. Rabbits (mainly bucks, but dominant does can also spray) flick their rear end and shoot this spray. If there are lots of 'rival' rabbits (from other social groups) in the area rabbits will spray more often as a territory marking. Bucks often spray does during courtship in an attempt to make them receptive to their advances (the does rarely seem impressed by this - I can't think why). Some rabbits are natural sprayers while others never are inclined, the only way to curtail spraying behaviour (in either bucks or does) is through neutering.
Rabbits can produce up to 300 poops a day, these are hard round balls. The size colour and texture of these will vary depending on the rabbits diet (very pale to a rabbit that eats mainly hay and dried feed, to darker to rabbits that eat mainly fresh feed). You can tell a lot about your rabbit's health by checking it's poos - I'll revisit this topic in another article. Most of these 300 poos will be deposited in the latrine areas or toilet scraps as discussed above, so these are again very easy to litter train, lower ranking rabbits in a colony will only use latrine areas and will not territory mark. Rabbits naturally like to keep their toilet away from their main living/sleeping area, so if your rabbit has permanent access to an outdoor run you will probably find their chosen toilet area will be outside.
Rabbits will also use these hard poops to create territory markers, often on top of mounds of earth, tree stumps or other prominent places towards the perimeter of their territory (or enclosure), they will place small piles of droppings to show other rabbits where their area is. It is impossible to get a rabbit to place these markers into a litter tray and is simply easier to clean them up as you find them. Neutered rabbits are less likely to mark their territory in this way, but it does still happen from time to time.
A rabbit's digestive tract is in constant motion, this means that while they are eating they are producing droppings. While some rabbits will break frequently to visit a latrine, many others simply poop while they graze. It has been suggested that this help to fertilise the grazing land to ensure continual production of quality feed (rabbit droppings are indeed a first class fertiliser), however this can be problematic in a domestic setting. If your rabbit is a poop grazer, the only way really around this is to place a litter tray where you feed them. Several companies now produce hay racks with built in litter trays for this purpose. If like me you prefer to scatter feed, you may just have to accept that you won't have your rabbits 100% litter trained.
These are the dark, soft poos that rabbits produce - usually over night and in their sleeping areas. In a normal healthy rabbit these should be eaten straight as they pass them. However on occasion they may become tangled in the fur or left in the bedding. If you are finding a lot of these poos you may need to reconsider your diet, or check your bunny - rabbits that are overweight or older rabbits that are having trouble reaching their bottoms will no longer eat their own caecotrophs. Mother rabbits will feed their own caecotrophs to their kits for the first 6-8 weeks of their life, these are full of the bacteria and gut flora a young rabbit needs to help them digest the foods found in the mother's diet.