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Why Does My Rabbit Pee on My Bed!?

Why Does My Rabbit Pee on My Bed!?

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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For 80 years now, Bugs Bunny has been one of the great international animated symbols of mischief. Whether he’s being hunted by Elmer Fudd, threatened by Yosemite Sam, debating Daffy Duck, or coolly outwitting them and any other adversaries who cross his path, Bugs has a way of getting into and out of trouble with ease.

While his rebelliousness and troublemaking may be fun, however, one thing Bugs doesn’t do is, um, pee on people’s beds.

If that seems like a highly specific statement to make, you’ve never owned a pet rabbit dead set on doing just that. Rabbits may seem cute, but anyone who has ever owned one before knows that to say they have a mischievous streak about them sometimes is an understatement.

Bugs Bunny may lay down some snark while saying “Ain’t I a stinker?” but there’s nothing snarky or fun about the “stinkers” real bunnies-as-pets can leave behind, especially when it comes to peeing on beds and other furnishings.

You’ve trained your bunny better than that, so why are they doing this, and what can you do about it?

Housetraining Your Pet

Before we get into the reasons why bunnies may break their training, let’s consider the possibility that your rabbit simply isn’t fully trained yet.

To housetrain your rabbit:

  1. Buy a litter pan about the size of your rabbit.
  2. Fill the litter pan with pellets about an inch thick; while some are scented to mask smell, if strange scents are a triggering factor for your rabbit, you’ll want to consider unscented pellets.
  3. Place the litter pan in a corner of your rabbit’s cage.
  4. Keep the rabbit in the cage until they use the litter pan.
  5. Give your rabbit encouragement via treats if necessary.
  6. Once they can be “trusted” to use the litter pan, give them some time out of the cage.

Behavioral Skittishness and Triggers

For as confident as Bugs Bunny may be, real-world rabbits are a lot more skittish, and understandably so. They are commonly hunted by predators, and so they need to constantly be on alert.

If you lived in a constant state of knowing that a split-second difference in reaction time is all that stands between you and being someone’s dinner, you might have a little trouble controlling your bowels out of fear, too.

It is thus important to make sure that your rabbit does not feel threatened in your home.

If your rabbit has been fine in the past and only recently started peeing on your bed, one of the first things to check is if anything else has changed in and around your home. For example, have you gotten a new pet that your rabbit may perceive to be a threat?

Even if you keep them separated, rabbits, like cats and dogs, have a good sense of smell, and so they can smell and sense your new pets.

Other animals that terrify rabbits include large birds, raccoons, weasels and, in some cases, humans. In addition, loud noises can startle cats and dogs, causing them to urinate, and the same is true of rabbits.

Remember, rabbits have far more sensitive hearing than us, so just because you can’t hear something doesn’t mean they can’t, and what sounds like a softer noise to us can be thundering to them.

As with dogs, automobiles zooming past is one of the most common sources of rabbit anxiety. Other domestic noises that can bother rabbits include:

  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Appliances such as dishwashers
  • The clattering of forks, knives, plates, pans, and so on
  • Televisions, radios, tablets and iPhones playing shows and music, and so on

Soundproofing the room in which you keep your rabbit may be a costly answer, but if loud noises are the problem, it’s a last resort that should at least prove effective. You may also want to simply change the room in which you keep the rabbit to move it further away from the troublesome sound.

The same goes with dogs and cats. If you keep your rabbit in a room isolated from your dog or cat, and don’t allow their scents into the space, your rabbit should eventually calm down.

Then you can decide if you want to keep it like that or to gradually introduce it to your other four-legged friends in a calm, controlled manner, with plenty of treats for all parties for positive reinforcement.

Rabbits and Territoriality

Still, the question remains – of all the places a triggered rabbit might pee, why your bed? The answer may lie in their latent territoriality. Like dogs and cats, rabbits are territorial. Part of this is due to comfort, and part of it is down to issues of dominance.

For example, before or after it disturbed your bed, your rabbit may have peed in the corner of its cage. If so, this may be another example of it marking its territory. If this is the case, you’ll want to place any new litter pan in that same corner, since your rabbit has identified it as the part of the territory which it “wants” designated with its urine.

One potential response to this is to restrict your rabbit’s freedom for a while. As mentioned above, you may need to keep your rabbit in its cage while it’s learning to use its litter pan. Once it has started to use its litter pan with greater consistency, you can try taking your rabbit out again.

If you do take your rabbit out of its cage once it has become more used to using its litter pan, you may want to take a separate litter pan and place it on your bed. If your rabbit knows “where to go” in its cage, part of that newfound toilet knowledge will be them associating the sight and smell of the litter pan with the proper place to pee. Bringing that pan out when it comes out can thus help clue it in and keep your bed safe.

That said, if your rabbit is peeing to mark its territory, placing a litter pan on your bed may not help. This is a case of “Fool me once, shame on you, pee on the bed twice, shame on me.” If you see your rabbit peeing on your bed for marking reasons, you probably shouldn’t let it back on your bed, litter pan or no, for a long time.

This territoriality can extend to their behavior with you, leading to them “marking” you, your bed, or possessions of yours as their “territory.” For example, if someone gets between you and your rabbit while on the bed, your rabbit may feel the need to “reassert their dominance” and “reclaim their territory,” which can lead to your rabbit “marking” you, them, or both.

The same may occur if it jumps all over you. This can be another way rabbits show that they “own” someone or something, and as we’ve established, that can lead to marking. Instead, try inviting your rabbit onto the bed in a calm manner, and promptly removing it if it gets too fidgety or aggressive.

After a while, your rabbit should get the idea that this territoriality isn’t the sort of behavior it should show while it’s on your bed.

Behavior Problems

Then again, sometimes a rabbit really does have an attitude problem. Dogs and cats sometimes pee for attention, and rabbits are no different.

One of the most common mistakes here is to give rabbits treats while they’re on your bed. Maybe you think this is a cute way to feed them, or maybe you think treats will calm their nerves and thus keep them from peeing. Either way, however, you’re simply reinforcing the rabbit’s idea that the bed is a great place to be, thus a great place to pee.

Making this even worse is the fact that rabbits tend to “go” where they eat, so if you transform your bed into a buffet table of treats for them, don’t be surprised if they transform it into a toilet.

If your rabbit has been well-behaved for a long time and you think that it’s ready to try being on your bed again, remember how long ago you’ve fed it. Rabbits, like dogs, don’t exactly have the biggest bladders or wait times between eating and drinking and going to the bathroom.

Even if they are well-trained by this point, if you put them on your bed after they’ve eaten or drank a lot of water, you shouldn’t be surprised if their little bunny bladders and bowels can’t “hold it” long enough for them to get back to their cage, leading to an accident.

If your rabbit is starting to get fidgety or look in the direction of its cage and litter pan, that’s a pretty good indication that it may need to use its toilet.

Your rabbit’s hormones may also have something to do with its behavior problems, especially if you have other rabbits around. If you have male and female rabbits in your home and they have reached sexual maturity, they will both give off a hormonal scent.

To combat this, you’ll want to consider having your rabbit spayed or neutered. Even without the risk of them soiling your bedding, spaying and neutering is an essential way to prevent your rabbits from breeding like, well, rabbits.

Unless you are prepared to deal with frequent large litters of baby rabbits, you should have your rabbits spayed or neutered, which will also calm their hormones and thus lessen the chance of their senses triggering an “excited” pee session on your bed.

When Vets Can Help

Obviously, the biggest indication that you should seek out a vet’s help with your rabbit’s urination issue is if your rabbit has a medical problem. For example, nosema is a parasitic infection that affects rabbits and can cause urinary and kidney problems.

A veterinarian will be able to test and diagnose your pet for any parasites, infections, or other issues that may be causing their urinary issues.

Sometimes dogs who have recently been spayed have difficulty controlling their bladder or “leak” urine for a few days or weeks afterward. This is because the muscles that are responsible for controlling their bladder can be stretched or exacerbated by the treatment, and need time to heal.

If your rabbit has started peeing the bed immediately after having been spayed or neutered, this may be why.

Additionally, if your rabbit has been well-trained for years and suddenly starts missing the litter pan, it could be a sign that its memory is starting to go, or else that it has urinary incontinence. The onset of urinary issues could also be a sign of greater health problems.

Either way, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian to get a fuller idea of what’s going on and what you can do about it.

Catching Your Rabbit in the Act

While your rabbit peeing on your bed is understandably frustrating, you want to avoid yelling at it.

Remember, it’s not your rabbit’s fault, as it’s just ill, following its instincts, or simply made a mistake. Yelling will only upset the rabbit further – and as established above, when rabbits are upset, they often pee even more.

A strong, firm “No” and the rabbit’s name should be enough to get its attention. Done enough times, this can help give them the message. Some people even train their voice to say the rabbit’s name or other phrase in a way the rabbit recognizes as “bad,” giving it the indication it’s done something wrong.

Additionally, you may want to lightly spray your rabbit with a light mister or squirt bottle. Just as treats build positive associations, squirt bottles form negative ones without excessively upsetting or scarring your rabbit.

For as cute as rabbits are, there’s nothing adorable about them peeing on your bed. There are plenty of reasons why they may do this, and you’ll want to diagnose the reason before acting. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can address it and stop them from turning your bed into a bunny bathroom.

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