Why Does My Rabbit Dig On Me? Reasons And Solutions.

Categorized as Bunny Diet

Last Updated on May 2, 2022 by Rei Garnet

It’s a normal behavior for rabbits to dig because wild rabbits do it all the time to make their homes (burrows).

But if a rabbit is digging on its owner, it can be due to frustration, stress, hormones, or a medical condition. 

Most of the time, digging behavior can be solved or significantly reduced by neutering or spaying your rabbit.

If your rabbit is suddenly digging on you out of the blue, it’s best to consult a veterinarian.

Veterinarians should be called when there are sudden changes in personality and other signs, like a change in appetite.

Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail the reason why your rabbit digs on you:

Reasons why your rabbit is digging on you.

Rabbit on their owners lap.

According to Dana Krempels, Ph.D., digging is a normal behavior for rabbits.

Wild rabbits dig burrows in the wild all the time.

But what exactly causes pet rabbits to dig on their owners?

Here are the most common reasons why your rabbit is digging on you:

1. Filing their nails.

Wild rabbits are able to file their nails by walking and digging on rough surfaces like rocks all day.

As for pet rabbits, who walk on smooth surfaces all day, they need to file their nails somehow.

Rabbits that have long nails will always be in pain when they are walking or hopping around.

If you’re not regularly trimming your rabbit’s nails and your rabbit doesn’t have an outlet to use their instinct to dig, it’s possible that they are digging on you as a way of saying you need to cut their nails. 

2. Unneutered or spayed.

Another reason why your rabbits are digging on you is hormones.

Rabbits that are not neutered or spayed will show signs of territorial behavior.

Your rabbit digging on you is their way of saying to go away from their territory. 

3. Trying to get your attention.

Your furry friend digging on you might be their way of trying to get your attention.

When your rabbit digs on you, are you holding a treat? Digging on you is your rabbit’s way of saying they want what you’re holding.

It could also be that your rabbit wants to play with you or wants you to give them attention.

This is common for solo rabbits or rabbits that don’t have a companion.

Rabbits are social creatures. In the wild, they would spend their days socializing with other rabbits.

That’s why it’s common advice to get a pair of rabbits.

If you’re always at work and you only have one rabbit, it might be lonely and want some social interaction from you.

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4. Your rabbit wants you to release them.

Rabbits would also dig on their owners as a way to “fight back.”

If you’re holding your rabbit in your lap and he suddenly digs on you, it might be because he wants to be released.

Rabbits that are captured by a predator will use their nails and hind legs to get the predator to release them.

Your rabbit might be doing the same.

If this is the case, be patient with your rabbit. Rabbits are naturally cautious because they are prey animals.

5. Your rabbit does not like how you smell.

Rabbits have excellent noses. They have 100 million scent receptors (also known as olfactory receptors) that they use to detect predators.

They rely on the familiarity of the scent around them to distinguish what’s a danger to them.

If you’re wearing a cologne that’s unfamiliar to your rabbit, he might get confused about why your scent changed. 

This can cause stress and confusion for your rabbit, which might drive them to dig on you.

Changing your deodorant, perfume, laundry detergent, or soap can confuse your rabbit, which can cause them to begin digging on you.

6. Asserting dominance.

Another reason why rabbits dig on their owners is when they’re trying to assert their dominance.

The most guilty of these are unnetered male rabbits.

7. Being territorial.

Another side effect of rabbits that are unneutered is that they are territorial.

Male wild rabbits defend their territory from other rabbits by scratching, biting, and kicking the other rabbits until they leave.

The same is true for domesticated pet rabbits. Your rabbit might be angry that you entered their territory.

8. Your rabbit wants you to move.

You might be blocking where your rabbit wants to go.

Rabbits that are frustrated because something is blocking their way will usually “dig” through them.

9. Mating behavior.

Another possible reason why your rabbit is digging on you is that they’re showing off their digging skills to a female rabbit.

Rabbits in the wild will show off their digging skills as a courting ritual.

They are basically showing the doe (female rabbit) their capability to build a home (borrow) for them and their potential children.

10. Your rabbit might be sick.

Finally, your rabbit may be in pain and discomfort as a result of an illness.

Rabbits that are in pain are great at hiding it. They would usually just hide in silence, all on their own.

So if your rabbit suddenly becomes distant and you notice that every time you try to touch or bond with them, they dig on you, then hide away, it’s best to consult a veterinarian. 

Should you be concerned if your rabbit digs on you?

If your rabbit is just digging, your rabbit is probably fine.

According to Dana Krempels, Ph.D., digging is a normal behavior for rabbits. 

But, if your rabbit’s digging is accompanied by other symptoms like: 

  • Reduced appetite
  • Any changes in your rabbits’ poop.
  • Loud teeth grinding or any unusual sounds
  • Lethargy
  • Hunched or bloated appearance

Bring your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.

Your rabbit might be in pain due to a medical condition that causes them to be destructive.

How to stop and prevent your rabbit from digging on you?

Three white rabbits outside digging to make a borrow

Now that we know the possible reasons why your rabbit digs on their owner, its time to discuss the ways to prevent them:

1. Neutering or spaying

I strongly advise you to have your rabbit neutered or spayed. It can help stop unwanted behaviors like digging.

As early as 6 months old, you should get your rabbit neutered or spayed.

If your rabbit has already been neutered and it’s only been a couple of days or weeks, be patient.

It might take a while before you notice any changes in your rabbit’s behavior.

Their hormones need to reach stable levels first before you start to see changes.

As an added benefit, neutering your rabbit will also remove other destructive behaviors like:

  • Kicking or thumping
  • Biting
  • Aggression to other rabbits and owners
  • Spraying
  • Mounting
  • Thumping
  • Nipping
  • Charging
  • Grunting

2. Regular nail trimming

A rabbit getting its nails clipped by its owner using a nail clipper.

You need to trim your rabbit’s nails every 2 weeks.

But, your rabbit’s daily activities will have a big impact on this timeline.

As an example, if you let your rabbit play outside for a couple of hours every day, you might stretch their nail filling to every 3–4 weeks. Use your best judgement. 

Just be careful when cutting your rabbit’s nails. Avoid cutting the quick or the flesh part of their nails.

Your rabbit could end up traumatized if you accidentally cut it.

Use a flash light if your rabbit has dark nails.

You could also ask your veterinarian to cut your rabbit’s nails for you if you are not comfortable doing them.

3. Provide toys.

You can also provide your rabbit with some toys to keep them busy and ease their boredom.

The best toys for rabbits are those they can chew on. 

If you’re short on budget, you can give your rabbit a simple cardboard box with holes in it or a toilet paper roll.

If you have more money, you can buy one of the following:

  • Willow balls
  • Willow bridge
  • Willow sticks
  • Wooden dumbbells
  • Twig Tunnels
  • Ka-Bob Chew Dispenser Toy

You can also get your rabbit a “digging box.”

Here’s a great video on how to make one:

4. Give your rabbit enough exercise.

Because of their current living situation, your rabbit may be digging on you out of frustration.

If your rabbit is living inside your house all day without doing anything, consider letting them play and exercise outside for a couple of hours every day.

Rabbits are not meant to be kept in small cages all day.

Wild rabbits would spend their days in the wild exploring and looking for food.

Remember, the best way to care for a rabbit is to mimic what wild rabbits do.

5. Let your rabbit dig outside.

A brown new zealand rabbit digging a hole. Why do rabbits dig holes then fill them in

Another way to get your rabbit to stop digging on you is to allow them to fully fulfill their urge to dig.

Let your rabbit dig outside for a few hours each day.

If you don’t have a yard, you can make your rabbit a “digging box.” 

A “digging box” can be a simple wooden box with dirt in it.

Just make sure to include a way to catch all of the flying dirt when you build one. 

Rabbits are excellent diggers, and letting them dig in a digging box would likely result in a lot of mess. 

6. Find out if your rabbit is stressed or anxious.

Find out if there is something in your home that’s scaring your rabbits and stressing them.

Here are the most common reasons why your rabbit might be anxious:

  • Loud sound
  • Predators nearby.
  • Unfamiliar things, people, and animals.

Conclusion

Rabbits dig on their owners as a way of saying they need their nails filed, play with them, or try to get your attention.

Digging on you could also be a sign that your rabbit needs to be neutered or spayed.

It could also be due to changes in your scent. Changing your deodorant, perfume, laundry detergent, or soap can confuse your rabbit, which can cause them to begin digging on you.

Neutering or spaying your rabbit can help them relax and eliminate a lot of territorial behavior, such as digging.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (May 2, 2022) Why Does My Rabbit Dig On Me? Reasons And Solutions.. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/why-does-my-rabbit-dig-on-me/.
"Why Does My Rabbit Dig On Me? Reasons And Solutions.." Bunny Horde - May 2, 2022, https://bunnyhorde.com/why-does-my-rabbit-dig-on-me/

Sources

  • http://www.bunnyworldfoundation.org/diseases/

Image credit – Ed Brey; Elizabeth Brey, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

By Rei Garnet

I’ve loved and cared for rabbits since I was 9 years old, and I’m here to share my passion for rabbits. My objective is to help rabbit owners give their rabbits the best life possible.