When Arthur, the French Lop, lived with his foster family he was very good about using a litter box. Upon arriving at our house, he was going everywhere but the box. I soon discovered part of the issue; we used hay in our litter boxes and he thought that made a really nice bed. He had been using a pellet litter in his former home, so I got a second box and put litter in it and let him keep the hay box as a bed.
The problem was not solved. Still he was going everywhere (occasionally in the litter box too). I sat and meditated, visualized and communicated several times each day. Things got a little better but still not great. I would ask, “Why Arthur?” Rarely did I get any reply at all. During the first few weeks he seemed to be in his own world of adjustment, uninterested in my communications. I went on the assumption that he was marking his territory.
I begged Clyde , “Please teach him, then you can both have nicer things and more freedom”. Clyde was very sweet about it, “OK, I will show him how to do it.” After that Arthur began using the hay box for a litter box. I would cheer and congratulate him. Slowly we had fewer accidents, and better communication. Now Arthur responds to my inquiries and lets us know if he needs something.
During the time of Arthur’s non-box use, I would sometimes feel despair. “How will this ever work out?” I had to take time outs, breathe deeply, and remember that he is a living being, ever capable of adjustment, change, and cooperation. Keeping in mind that it was not my will against his, but our mutual desire for him to have a new healthy happy life. When feeling stressed about his behaviors I would go in a separate room to avoid upsetting him.
When it comes to undesirable behaviors with animals it is so important to remember that they are beings with feelings, thoughts and free will; just like us. With love, cooperation, and compromise on our part, the goal of meeting both parties’ needs is possible. Sometimes it is necessary for humans to identify the difference between chosen behaviors and natural behaviors with animals (i.e. rabbits by nature feel a need to mark in a new environment- we need to allow for that need).