Why do rabbits dig on you?
Why Does My Rabbit Dig On Me?
Rabbits dig professionally, so having a rabbit dig on you isn’t always the same cutesy thing as having a cat kneading your knee (though claws can be sharp), though sometimes rabbits kind of mean iti in the same way.
Not all rabbits will do this. Mine only EVER dig at me because I’m in the way.
Your rabbit is playing
Rabbits are very playful animals, but the way they play varies tremendously from rabbit to rabbit. Some will dig in your knee because they think it’s a fun way to play with you – perhaps they like the fabric.
My rabbit doesn’t dig in me, but she cannot resist a towel on the floor. It sounds so tragic when we say ‘let’s give Holly a towel for a treat’ but she LOVES it (if I leave one out for her it loses its charm pretty quickly, so I like to keep this one as a treat).
Some rabbits are very cute about their digging and will scrabble at your clothes for a few seconds before running away, sometimes with a little head shake or tail-flick.
The head shaking/tail-flick is classic rabbit playing behaviour.
If you suspect your rabbit is playing, I wouldn’t advise you to discourage them from doing it. If anything, it’s a good way to remember to keep on top of trimming their nails. Perhaps invest in some loungewear that’s the same colour as your rabbit.
Your rabbit wants attention
One of the reasons I don’t actively encourage my rabbits to jump onto the sofas is that once they’ve learned how to get your attention, it’s hard to get them to stop (and don’t fall into the trap of giving them treats whilst they’re up there with you).
My rabbits are allowed on the furniture, I just don’t sit there going ‘come on! Come sit by me!’. It’s all well and good until you’re trying to charge your phone whilst scrolling and you keep having to stop to pull the wire out of their mouth.
Your rabbit is mad at you
Usually, this is a more directed, short, sharp attack. Your rabbit may fling themselves across the room, dive at you, furiously dig for a few seconds and then bounce off.
Look, I don’t know what you did. I’m not here to judge.
But perhaps you’re a few minutes late with dinner, or you’re sat where bunny wants to sit. It could even be that you’re wearing the wrong perfume, or a sweater that smells weird.
JUST DON’T DO IT AGAIN.
Digging is a natural behaviour for rabbits (and you got in the way)
I mentioned not encouraging your rabbit to dig on you on the sofa, and this kind of links back to that.
Digging is part of what rabbits do, and I don’t think it’s fai to discourage a natural behaviour.
Providing them with a dig box is a great way to direct the digging behaviour, and keeps them off your furniture.
You could try moving them to the dig box if they start digging at you BUT most rabbits hate being picked up so I strongly suggest you put the dig box close to the sofa (or wherever you are when your rabbit is digging) so you can quickly pop them in the box.
HOPEFULLY this should teach your rabbit that digging in itself is a-ok, but that there is a time and a place.
HOWEVER, if you’ve ever tried to wean a cat off curtains and onto a scratching post, you’ll know that some animals do what they damn please. We can but try.
Your rabbit wants to be left alone
Hilariously, digging at you to get them to leave you alone not only means that your rabbit is sick of you petting them, it’s that they’re secure enough in their position that they think YOU (yes, you that pay the rent and buy the food) should be the one to leave.
I love the entitlement.
Most of the time, if you’re petting your rabbit and they get sick of it, they’ll just hop away.
If you hang on to them and don’t let them get away they might dig at you but they’ll usually bite, and frankly, you deserve it.
I just love that if they dig it means that they think that you’ve overstayed your welcome.
Your rabbit is establishing dominance
Rabbits establish dominance in many different and weirdly cryptic ways.
Frustratingly, most of the ways they do and ones you can’t really push back on. I mean, you can’t really fight them, I wouldn’t recommend pretending to hump them (I mean, like, how?), and you can’t live in their house (I mean, you could, but I think if you and your rabbit switch areas, they’ve won).
You can dig back though.
I’m kind of joking, because they probably won’t understand what you’re doing.
Rabbit usually look to dominate other rabbits in the ways I’ve just mentioned, but when it comes to dominating humans, they have to sometimes change tactics.
And some choose digging at them.
I mean, you can’t exactly move away, because then they’ve won.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT LET YOUR BUNNIES ON THE BED
My rabbits don’t go on the bed.
Not because they’re not allowed, but because they’re frightened of the stairs.
So this is not a problem I have to deal with it, but I know a lot of people do, so read this BEFORE allowing your bunny on the bed.
Your bed will smell A LOT of you. So to get rid of that smell and establish, if not dominance, at least some marker that they exist, rabbits will pee on your bed.
It makes perfect sense to them, since a lot of rabbit will quite happily sleep in their pee-soaked litter tray. They dgaf.
And they do NOT understand why their human is so shirty about it.
Especially since some rabbits (not all of them, but a significant amount – I’ve only had ONE that didn’t do this) MUST pee on soft surfaces.
Sofas are ok because they feel pretty hard to rabbit, which likely isn’t heavy enough to sink into the cushions.
But cosy dog/cat beds? And your cosy duvet, that smells too much like human?
PEE ALL OVER IT.
I can’t tell you how to stop it. There are methods that can work, but it’s like training a dog not to take a chicken of the countertop. You CAN do it, but it’s MUCH easier to simply…not leave a chicken on countertop.
Keep rabbits of beds unless you’re happy to let them pee on it.
You have been warned.
(Obviously if it’s a case of seeing if your rabbit will pee on the bed and if they do then you can keep them out of the bedroom by closing the door FINE, but if you keep your bunny in your room or live in a studio apartment, DON’T DO IT).
Your rabbit is trying to impress a mate
This is most likely to happen if you’ve got a new bunny and you’ve successfully bonded them. SOme bunnies are show offs, and will show their dominance over you off to their new husbun by digging in you.
I mean, you can deal with this how you like, but I would just pop them on the floor, thereby asserting your dominance. I feel like if you told them off you’re making them look like a fool in front of their friend.
If you don’t like your rabbits digging on you, you’re best off either moving away (if you’re sat on the floor) or putting them on the floor (if you’re on the sofa).
I’ve made my feelings clear about having rabbits on the bed.
Between the peeing and the late night zoomies, I’m happy with my decision.
I don’t really think there’s any harm in letting your rabbit dig on you (provided, you know, they’re not drawing blood). Most of the time they’re playing, and aren’t being malicious.
Why Do Rabbits Dig Holes? 6 Likely Reasons
You feed them, you give them shelter, yet your rabbit stubbornly decides to dig a trench through their backyard or living quarters. Are they building a new house or planning an escape route? According to science, it might be either or both. Although rabbits can live as domesticated animals, their wild instincts don’t leave them even when they’re housed in a plushy urban home. Here’s what you need to know about your rabbit’s wild hairs.
The 6 Likely Reasons Your Rabbit Loves to Dig Holes
1. They’re constructing a warren.
Rabbits sleep in burrows, or warrens. These connected underground tunnels look like a mini city where rabbits comfortably abide, safe from predators above ground. Because it’s natural to them, rabbits may create burrows even if their cage is comfortable. Don’t feel bad like you’re a bad pet parent or the shelter you provide isn’t cozy; it’s just instincts.
2. Congrats! It’s a girl.
Pregnant rabbits may go into a type of nesting phase and seek out an underground shelter where she can raise her rabbits in peace. You might consider the possibility of your rabbit being pregnant, especially if there are males in her enclosure or if she might’ve had contact with wild rabbits in the backyard.
3. Hiding from predators.
Loud dogs barking, kids screaming, or the cat hungrily eyeing their enclosure may make your rabbit feel a little stressed. They may try to dig holes in their nesting materials or outside during their time out of their enclosure if they don’t feel safe. Providing your rabbit with a place to hide, or limiting other pets’ access to their space can help them feel secure.
4. Trimming their claws.
Digging is actually a beneficial practice because it automatically trims your rabbit’s claws. Even so, you still may need to trim their claws every month or two unless they’re consistent excavators.
5. They’re playing or practicing survival skills.
Even if your rabbit feels comfortable and nothing is out of the ordinary, they may still enjoy digging just for digging’s sake. Just like how kittens practice “fighting” on each other, rabbits like to dig because they’re supposed to. Since they don’t intuitively know the difference between the forest and your living room, digging isn’t a behavior that they’ll likely stop according to their environment.
6. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
Just like Peter in Mr. McGregor’s garden, rabbits can be nosy little creatures who are curious about the world outside their fence. A sandbox or secure outdoor enclosure can limit their opportunities to escape while allowing them to dig safely. Remember, rabbits tunnel underground, so unless your fence goes into the ground a considerable depth, they can still find their way out.
While it’s perfectly normal for your rabbit to dig, you’ll need to provide a way they can practice this natural instinct safely. Your rabbit ideally needs 4 hours outside of their cage every day to play. Just be sure you keep them in a safe place away from wild animals and loose pets that might harm them. You might want to let them dig in a sandbox or secure enclosure so they can practice their skills without risking the chance of escape.
Featured Image Credit: Viktoria Szabo, Shutterstock