There are few more confusing habits than a rabbit drinking its own pee. Thankfully, this behavior isn’t something to be overly concerned about as a rabbit’s urine isn’t usually harmful to it if consumed. However, it can sometimes point to an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
Rabbits that drink their own urine may lack a consistent supply of water or aren’t getting certain nutrients in their diet. It can be a response to stress triggers, such as changes to the rabbit’s living environment, or even hormones. Urine-drinking in rabbits also occurs due to bad habits that have been formed due to areas of neglect.
No matter the reason for your rabbit drinking its own wee, there are ways to prevent it from happening. These include giving your rabbit a high-nutrition diet, as well as forming good litter box habits.
Why Rabbits Drink Their Own Urine
Rabbits are prone to many different habits and eccentricities. There are various reasons why rabbits may drink their own pee. These include:
Lack of Water
Owners who notice rabbits drinking their own urine should check the source of water. Pee still has a lot of water content, but rabbits who drink their own urine are most likely to be taking extra water into their bodies. So, make sure that the water bottle or water bowl is accessible. Also, ensure that the water bottle hasn’t frozen.
Another thing to note is the behavior of rabbits. If the rabbit is sharing a water source with others, you should make sure that other more dominant rabbits are stopping it from drinking due to physical aggression.
Rabbits know when their bodies are lacking certain vitamins and minerals. A rabbit drinking its own pee may be trying to address this imbalance
According to Veterinary Clinics of North America, rabbits excrete about 60% of ingested calcium in their urine. Other substances that rabbits may be trying to gain from drinking urine include salt and iron.
If you think that your rabbit is lacking in key nutrients, you should scrutinize its diet. A rabbit should be fed a balanced diet that’s rich in grass hay, grass, leafy vegetables, and pellet feed.
Rabbit urine contains hormones. These hormones can affect a rabbit’s stress levels, diet, and bathroom habits. Spraying, or the behavior of urinating in random locations, is driven by hormones. Spraying has been found to occur alongside the drinking of urine in rabbits.
Neutering and spaying can decrease these behaviors. This means less spraying, and possibly less urine-drinking. Neutering will also decrease some unwanted behaviors, such as excessive mounting and aggression.
Stress can cause rabbits to exhibit confusing behaviors. This modified behavior can include drinking urine, among many other things. There are many different factors that can stress a rabbit.
Most of the stress that rabbits undergo comes from a change in their living environment. Rabbits can be easily stressed by novel things, like new family members, a new house, or even a new type of food. Other common stressors for rabbits include improper handling, a lack of enrichment, and being fed the wrong diet.
When it comes to changes in their living environment, rabbits should be introduced to the change gradually. Sometimes, this is not possible, such as moving to a new home. If this is the cause, keep your rabbit as comfortable as possible during the transition period.
Stress can also adversely affect a rabbit’s health. Symptoms include nervousness, which may appear as being hunched up with flat ears. Bulging eyes is also a sign of anxiety. Other signs of stress include aggressiveness, heavy breathing, and restlessness.
When it comes to licking urine, the most common reason for this habit to form is neglect. Urine-drinking behavior is common among rabbits that have been neglected early on in their lives. Not surprisingly, many owners of rescued rabbits have reported this behavior.
Neglected rabbits often pick up this behavior when they are not provided with enough water. To increase their water intake, a deprived rabbit would drink its own urine in order to survive.
Developed out of survival, this habit will be hard to break. Even now that you are providing your rabbit with enough water, a neglected rabbit may still drink its own urine out of instinct.
Will Drinking Urine Harm Rabbits?
Rabbit urine is waste. It contains everything that the body does not need, including excess vitamins, minerals, and water.
This waste would have harmed your rabbit if it stayed in the body for longer. However, drinking urine won’t be a problem for your rabbit. In the end, this waste will simply be excreted again.
How To Prevent Rabbits from Drinking Their Own Pee
A rabbit will not be harmed if it drinks its own urine. However, it can still be an unsightly habit, resulting in the yellowing of the paws and chin. Beyond aesthetic preferences, it can be unhygienic for owners to handle their pet rabbits if the animal is covered in urine.
People can experience adverse effects from contact with animal waste. For example, e. cuniculi, can be present in healthy-looking rabbits. In a study in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, up to 81% of pet rabbits were tested positive for this parasite.
It can be a difficult behavior to discourage, but there are methods you can employ to prevent your rabbit from drinking its own pee. These include giving your rabbit the right diet and forming good litter box habits.
Change of Diet Plan
A balanced diet will provide your rabbit with all the nutrients and vitamins that it needs to thrive. In this way, a rabbit will not feel the need to drink or eat anything other than what it’s given by you.
Rabbits should be given an unlimited supply of clean drinking water. The majority of a rabbit’s diet, about 80%, should be composed of grass and grass hays. This should always be available for rabbits to graze on.
Rabbits should be given high-quality feed. This will ensure your rabbit not only eats frequently, but is provided with all the correct level of nutrients and minerals. Vegetables and fruits can be given to rabbits as treats.
Litter Training Your Rabbit
Rabbits are less likely to drink their own urine if they use a litter box. Good litter box habits will keep your rabbit safe and healthy. Here’s how:
Set Up a Litter Box Area
This space should include the litter box, as well as food and enrichment for your rabbit. Once positioned, the little box should never be moved, so your rabbit never becomes confused about where its bathroom time is spent.
Start The Litter Box Training
If your rabbit poops outside the box, sweep up the mess and place it in the box. This helps the rabbit associate the smell of bathroom time with the box. Any urine should be cleaned up to remove the smell entirely.
Place your rabbit in the litter box every 10 minutes or so to encourage your rabbit to visit it. Any time your rabbit uses the box, reward it with praise and treats. This step should be repeated until its behavior is modified.
Expand The Litter Box Area
If your rabbit is allowed to roam the house, you need to expand the litter box area. Otherwise, your pet will observe box training in one room only.
To expand the area, simply add more litter boxes, along with access to food and water. This will encourage your pet to visit these other locales and observe the training there. As time progresses, you can see which boxes the rabbit favors most and slowly remove the extra boxes.
No matter the quality of care that you provide, there are still habits that are difficult to break. Thankfully, rabbits drinking their own pee won’t harm it. As you work to break this habit, be patient and understanding. Your rabbit is just following instinct and will learn when taught how.