If you have a pet rabbit and have noticed holes in your carpet, expensive rug, and sofa, you know how frustrating your rabbit’s digging habits can be. So why do rabbits dig?
Wild rabbits dig because it is instinct. They need to create burrows, uncover food, and ensure their muscles stay strong. Pet rabbits dig for fun and play, to relieve frustration and boredom, to make nests when the babies arrive, to ask for attention, and to communicate with us.
Let’s learn more about the digging behavior of rabbits and how you can stop your rabbit from digging holes in your furniture, blankets, clothes, and carpets.
5 Reasons Why Rabbits Dig
There are various reasons why rabbits dig. But firstly, for wild rabbits, digging is normal behavior that is instinctive.
By digging, rabbits in the wild can meet some of their welfare needs. Digging also allows rabbits to use their muscles, helping to keep them strong and healthy.
Reason 1: Because Their Wild Cousins Dig
The first reason why domesticated rabbits dig goes back to the reasons wild rabbits dig.
Wild rabbits need to dig to create underground tunnels and burrows for their family to live in. They also dig to expose cool surfaces on which to rest on a hot day, to escape, to get attention, or to uncover food (most likely in winter).
Reason 2: For Fun and Play
Pet rabbits like to dig for fun. Rabbits that have an outdoor run will happily dig away, and this gets the bunnies really excited too. You may even see them binky-ing.
Reason 3: To Prepare for Kindling and the Kits
In general, female rabbits are more destructive and persistent diggers than male rabbits. However, every individual rabbit is unique.
In the wild, does dig nests off the main burrow so they have a place to kindle (give birth) and the kits (baby rabbits) then stay with the momma rabbit while they nurse.
Domestic female rabbits have the same instincts to dig or nest when they are pregnant and you’ll find that this nesting behavior is worse a few days or weeks before the babies are born.
Reason 4: To Relieve Stress and Boredom
Your pet bunny may also start to dig when they are stressed or bored. Digging feels therapeutic and it is a way for your rabbit to relieve their frustration or comfort themself.
Reason 5: To Get Attention
Rabbits can also dig because they want attention. They might have learned that if they dig, then you come over and give them attention – whether good attention or not.
If rabbits don’t get enough attention from you, they’ll find ways – like digging – to demand it.
My Rabbit Digs on Me. Now What?
Apart from digging in the soil and into carpets, blankets, or rugs, rabbits can also dig on you.
Usually, your bunny is communicating with you when they dig into you. So what does your rabbit communicate with you when they dig into you? Your rabbit might be:
- Begging for attention.
- Asking you to release them if you are holding onto them.
- Communicating that you are in their way.
- Requesting for more petting and massaging.
- Interested in the texture of your clothes or the blanket over your lap.
How Do I Stop My Rabbit From Digging?
Digging is instinctual for rabbits, both wild and domesticated ones. You don’t actually want to stop the digging behavior because it is part of who and what a bunny is.
Rather, you need to find appropriate ways for your bunny to dig – while keeping your clothes, blankets, flooring, and carpets safe. So what can you do to let rabbits safely dig?
Method 1: Make a Digging Box
Making a digging box for your rabbit that is at least twice its size encourages your rabbit to play and dig in a healthy way. The box should have high sides, and you can add sand and some clay soil to the box.
Other options are a sandpit, a cardboard box, or a concrete box with lots of sand. You can also fill the box with lots of hay or shredded paper and some scattered pellets or toys to encourage your bunny to dig.
For an outside area, recently turned soil that’s crumbly with scattered vegetables will encourage your rabbit to dig in their designated area.
Method 2: Get More Rabbit Toys
If your rabbit isn’t mentally stimulated, it may start to dig. So get your rabbit more rabbit-safe toys to keep them entertained.
Method 3: Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit
Unaltered rabbits are more likely to dig, scratch, and engage in aggressive behavior. So neutering or spaying your bunny helps to decrease digging and scratching behavior.
Method 4: Trim Your Rabbit’s Nails
Sometimes rabbits dig into your clothes or other fabrics to file their nails. Trimming your rabbit’s nails means they will be less likely to file their nails on your skin or clothes.
Method 5: Add More Hay
More hay lets your rabbit make mock burrows and soothe their need for digging.
Method 6: Get a Grass Mat
Adding a grass mat or sisal mat to your rabbit’s cage, hutch, or playpen lets them chew, scratch, and dig in an appropriate way.
Method 7: Play With Your Rabbit
Rabbits are very sociable so if your rabbit doesn’t have enough companionship, they’ll start to dig, especially if this gets your attention. So make time to play more with your bunny so their social needs can be met.
Alternatively, if you can afford another rabbit, bond your rabbit so your bunny will always have a rabbit friend.
Method 8: Redirect Your Rabbit’s Attention
If your rabbit is digging into your carpet or other “not allowed” area, you can redirect their attention by saying “no” loudly.
Clap your hands just loud enough to get your rabbit’s attention and take them to their digging box so they can learn where they are allowed to dig.
Method 9: A Vet Visit
If your bunny is obsessively digging, you may want to schedule a visit to the vet. The vet can check your bunny and see if there are any medical issues at play and recommend treatment.
Are Rabbits Happy When They Dig?
Rabbits are happy when they dig because it’s an instinct for them to dig. They dig for play and also to help soothe loneliness, frustration, and boredom.
It is the responsibility of rabbit owners to ensure their rabbits are physically, socially, and mentally stimulated.
Digging behavior is part of a rabbit, so while you can’t have your rabbit unlearn what is instinctual, you can provide safe and appropriate ways for your rabbit to dig when they want and need to. Overall, be consistent and patient with your rabbit while they learn where they can dig to their little heart’s content.