Digging is normal behavior for rabbits.
Though it’s cute, it can turn weird when they start digging on you too.
Are they mistaking you for a toy or a pile of earth to dig into? Is something wrong?
You’d end up feeling confused. And at the same time, you might worry about their health.
Since rabbits have a unique language to communicate with us, we have to pay attention.
But there are ways to know what your bunny is trying to tell you.
So keep reading to find out:
- 15 reasons why your rabbit digs on you.
- 11 tips on how to stop them from digging.
- When should you take your rabbit to the vet.
- Whether you should tolerate this behavior or not.
- And a lot lot more…
Why does my rabbit dig on me?
Your rabbit digs on you to get your attention. It’s one of their ways to communicate with you. They might want to play or want to be alone. Sometimes, they also do it when they’re trying to be dominant. In other cases, they might be nervous or they can smell something on you.
15 reasons why your rabbit digs on you
#1: They’re bored
As weird as it sounds, rabbits do weird things when they’re bored.
They will start digging on you whether it’s on purpose or not. If they’re doing it on purpose, their goal is to show you that they’re bored.
They might be thinking, “Look at me. I’m so bored. Give me something to do please”.
Like digging for an answer or out of frustration.
In the wild, digging is one way for rabbits to kill time.
As claimed by research, they dig to build tunnels or “warrens” in the wild. It serves as their base and their home.
When the area is safe, rabbits try to expand their warrens.
It gives them better access to other places while avoiding predators.
It shows that digging is part of their instinct. It’s one of the things they will do when they have nothing else to occupy their time with.
To know if your rabbit is feeling bored…
They will also do other things aside from digging.
Here are signs of boredom in bunnies:
- Low grunts.
- Staring at you.
- Following you everywhere.
- Picking things up and throwing them in the air.
- Trying to chew on things that they’re not supposed to.
#2: To assert dominance
When rabbits reach maturity…
They might start showing aggressive behavior. It includes digging on you, your clothes, or your room.
Most rabbits reach maturity as early as 3 months old.
Smaller bunnies might only need 2 months. Giant breeds can take up to 6 months.
When they dig on you, it’s a way for them to show they’re “above” you in rank. They’re trying to overpower you.
This is often accompanied by other behavior caused by hormonal changes.
For example, they might also try to bite you.
It’s not one of those soft nibbles.
It’s a hard, rough bite that can sting for a moment.
They might also try to “push” you by bumping their forehead against you.
It’s anything to show you that they’re the boss-bunny.
Though it can be cute to watch them try…
This type of problem needs fixing. Otherwise, it can be bad to let your bunny develop bad behavior.
You can stop them by asserting your dominance. Don’t submit to your bunny.
When they try to push you or dig on you, try your best not to move from your spot.
Instead, be the one to push them aside. Be gentle to not hurt them by accident.
If you show them the difference in your strength, your bunny might back down.
Keep doing it until your bunny gets the message.
If they’re also marking their territories with their scent…
Make sure to get rid of their scent right away. It will help control dominant behavior in bunnies.
#3: They can smell something on you
Rabbits have an incredible sense of smell. It’s the main sense that they rely on, other than their hearing, based on a study.
This shows that if your rabbit can smell something on you, they might start digging on you too.
For example, if they can smell the scent of a predator on you…
They might start digging in an attempt to hide. They might feel afraid, thinking a predator is nearby.
Another reason could be that your scent is different than usual.
If you use a new or different perfume, your rabbit might have a hard time recognizing you.
Their vision is not the same as ours. They rely more on your scent to identify you.
At the same time, some perfumes can also have a strong smell.
This smell can attract your rabbit if it smells sweet.
Most of them have a sweet tooth after all.
But if it does not smell sweet at all, their nose might get irritated.
Out of annoyance, they’ll start digging to try to “escape” from the scent.
It can be any scent, light or not. But remember, what smells light to you, will be twice for them.
They have over 100 million scent cells. Compared to humans with 5 to 6 million scent cells, rabbits are far better.
Thanks to this fact…
Rabbits become more curious. Anything they smell, they either want to check it or run away from it.
You might also want to know: Why does my rabbit climb on me?
#4: They might be pregnant
If your rabbit is a female and already an adult…
There’s a chance that they might be pregnant.
According to research, a pregnant rabbit digs burrows to make a nest.
Your rabbit may be trying to dig on you, thinking you can hide their babies.
At the same time, they might be doing it to tell you, “I’m pregnant!”
But even if they’ve never mated with any rabbit before, they can still think they’re pregnant.
This can also happen to humans.
It’s known as “pseudo-pregnancy” a.k.a phantom/false pregnancy.
When this happens, their body tricks itself. They will convince themselves that they’re pregnant, even when they’re not. It’s more common in lonely, bored female rabbits.
Due to lack of activities and socialization…
They might long for motherhood.
But this is not too alarming. A study reveals that this issue can last for 16 up to 18 days.
After that, it often goes away on its own. To avoid it, it’s best to spay your bunny.
Check out also: 11 Surprising Reasons Why Rabbits Move Their Bedding
#5: They’re hungry
Rabbits always need to chew on something. This is why they might be digging on you, it’s their way to ask for food.
Kind of like saying, “I’m hungry. Give me more food!”
Even if you do feed them enough, some bunnies can want more than that.
Despite their tiny bodies, some of them have a big appetite.
Of course, you don’t have to give in if you know they already ate enough.
Obesity is also bad for rabbits, so it’s crucial to control their diet.
Though, it won’t hurt to give them a treat once in a while.
It’s also possible that they’re bored or tired of eating the same food over and over again.
If they can also see you eating your food, they might want some of it too.
Since they can’t reach you, they’ll dig on you to make you go down on their level.
But this type of behavior can turn worse if you keep tolerating it. They’ll get used to begging for food.
Avoid giving in. Instead, hide some treats for them in the corners of their room.
Let them “hunt” or “forage” for food.
It will make them forget about digging on you.
They will leave you alone to look for the food you’ve hidden for them. At the same time, this will stimulate their mind and make them have fun.
#6: They’re annoyed
Rabbits can also be grumpy.
It can happen due to many reasons.
Despite being prey animals, pet bunnies know how to have a bit of “sass”, as some would like to call it.
It can be cute and funny, but it can also be painful if they’re digging on your skin.
To fix that behavior, you need to know what’s annoying them.
Here are other signs of an annoyed bunny:
- Thumping their feet on the ground.
- Staring at you as if “judging” you for what you did.
Many things that can make them upset.
Did you ignore them by accident? Forgot to refill their water? Made a loud sound that surprised them?
Did you move some of their belongings?
While these seem like small things, they might be a big deal for your bunny.
Depending on your bunny’s personality, there will be a lot of different things that can annoy them.
Don’t take it against them, instead, try to calm them down.
Most of the time, bunnies don’t hold a grudge… unless they’re traumatized.
You can expect them to stop later on when they forget about it.
Reading tip: Why does my rabbit thump?
#7: They’re curious
Thanks to their strong sense of smell and hearing…
Rabbits tend to act like fluffy little detectives. If they’re curious about something, they might want to dig into it.
For example, if you’re wearing a bag, it might capture their curiosity.
They might dig on it while thinking, “Oh, is that a toy? It looks fun. I want to see what’s inside of it.”
You might mistake it as your bunny digging on you, but they’re digging something else.
Sometimes, some colors can also attract them.
Rabbits can only see blue and green. So if you wear something green, they might come to you and try to dig.
This is because these are the natural colors that they can see in the wild.
#8: They’re stressed
Stress will do a lot of bad things to your bunny’s health.
It can cause them to have destructive behavior such as… digging.
Excessive digging to the point that they will also dig on you.
Sometimes, doing so is their way of telling you, “I’m so stressed and you need to help me.”
There are many things that can cause stress in rabbits.
Here are 9 examples:
- Other pets.
- Loud noises.
- Being lonely.
- Small spaces.
- Dirty living space.
- Not having enough food.
To know if your bunny feels stressed…
There are also other signs you can notice.
Here are 7 signs of stress in bunnies:
- Loud teeth grinding.
- Stiff or tensed muscles.
- Rapid, heavy breathing.
- Showing aggressive behavior.
- Trying to chew on everything.
- Changes in the shape or size of poop.
- Attempting to escape or hide from you.
Note: Stress can be a health risk for bunnies. Try to help them relax in all ways possible.
#9: They’re playing
Digging is also one way for them to play. It’s more common in baby rabbits, but of course, any rabbit can do it for fun too.
You will know they’re being playful if you observe their pattern.
For example, some bunnies will do a “binky” then stop somewhere to dig.
They’re pouring their excitement and happy energy into a fun activity.
If you happened to be their target of digging…
Don’t be mad, they could be happy to see you. They can’t speak our language, so they don’t know what to do with their joy.
But if it’s becoming too painful, you can leave the room for a bit.
This way, it can tell them that you don’t like it when they dig on you too much.
Don’t worry, rabbits are as smart as an average cat or dog. They can get your message.
Be patient until they pick it up.
#10: Their nails are getting long
In some cases, your bunny might also dig on you to show you that their nails need trimming.
“Look, my nails are long and it’s getting uncomfortable. Can you help me?”
In the wild, rabbits keep their nails short by digging.
But as pets, they don’t always get the chance to dig as they please. It can be common in strict-house rabbits.
Since they have no access to any soil, they have limited ways of trimming their nails.
As the owner, only you can make sure that their nails stay short.
It’s not good for it to stay long because they can scratch and wound their skin.
It can also make it painful for them to hop around.
They might also dig on you because they feel in pain.
Acting in unusual ways is their only way to let you know about it.
Check their paws if it needs trimming. You can tell it’s time for a trim if it’s showing out of their paw fur.
#11: They want to be left alone
Sometimes, rabbits want some alone time too.
Yes, they are social animals. But like people, too much handling can also tire them out.
It can be common in busy households, especially if kids are playing with your bunny.
Bunnies like some peace.
So if they get too frustrated, they might misbehave. As a result, they will dig on you instead.
“Put me down. I want to be alone.”
If you’re not holding them, they can still do it to show you they’re unhappy.
It’s best to give them enough attention, but not too much to the point of tiring them out.
#12: They’re lonely
Digging can also happen when a bunny feels lonely.
They might be longing for a companion. This feeling can lead to stress or depression, or both.
Whichever it is, it’s unhealthy for your bunny’s mental health.
They might start “rebelling” by digging on you, your feet, or your clothes.
This can happen if they also miss you a lot.
As social animals, they’re used to having a close friend with them at all times.
They rely on each other for comfort.
So if your rabbit only has you…
You can expect them to feel more clingy or dependent on you. If you’re a busy person, their loneliness can turn into sadness.
“Where have you been? How could you ignore me for so long? Why’d you leave me alone all this time?”
While it can be sad to read such things, bunnies can feel that way even in a short amount of separation.
Not all bunnies are like this, but if your bunny happened to be a clingy one…
Try to spend more time with them to keep them happy.
#13: They might be sick
In other cases… rabbits might dig on you because they’re ill.
Something might be wrong and that’s why they’re acting odd.
While most bunnies try to hide their illness due to their nature, some might try to show it on purpose.
But since they don’t make much noise, their other option is to dig.
They’ll dig on you hoping you notice something’s wrong with them.
A possible illness could be an infection.
Check if your rabbit has a dental issue. Sometimes, eye irritation can also lead to a problem called “snuffles”.
Try to pay attention if there are symptoms of an illness in your bunny.
Do they make weird noises like grunting? Crying? Do they have a runny nose or eye? Does their poop look normal?
It can be hard to spot an illness in bunnies…
So it’s important to pay close attention.
For example, you might catch them tilting their head after digging on you.
While it looks cute, it actually shouldn’t be. It’s a sign of a parasite in their brains.
Your bunny will need help ASAP.
If you suspect your rabbit could be sick, take them to the vet right away.
#14: They’re nervous
As prey animals, rabbits can be very sensitive.
Even the smallest noise can make them nervous.
They do have great senses after all. This is another reason why they get scared so fast.
In the wild, bunnies dig to run and hide from predators. It’s their best way of escaping to survive.
So if they feel afraid, your bunny might dig on you too.
They’re trying to flee something and their instincts tell them to dig.
They might also do it to tell you to help them hide or protect them.
To know if your rabbit is afraid, there are many signs.
Research claims that anxious bunnies have an increased heart rate.
This means that their breathing should be faster than usual.
Sometimes, they might also freeze on the spot. They might dig on you then freeze if they think there’s nowhere to run.
Their poor little hearts can’t handle the fear.
It’s best to get on the ground, be on the same level as them. Try to cover them with your body to give them comfort.
As much as possible, avoid anything that can cause fear or anxiety in your bunny.
Warning: Too much shock from fear can lead to a heart attack.
Continue reading: 13 Things Rabbits Do When They Are Scared (Behavior)
#15: They want your attention
Sometimes, they will also dig on you for your attention.
If your rabbit feels bonded to you, they’ll want you to notice them as much as possible.
They always want to stay close to you. They might dig as their way to stop you from leaving the house or their room.
They might be thinking, “Don’t go yet, stay here!”
Some rabbits can learn that some behaviors can help get them what they want.
This is because they can be as smart as a 2-year-old kid.
Even if you already gave your rabbit enough attention…
They can still keep asking for it. Some of them can be attention-hoggers.
In other words, they love you a lot.
While they don’t mean any harm, tolerating it can be a bad idea.
Should you let your rabbit dig on you?
You shouldn’t let your rabbit dig on you at all times. It can turn painful and they will get used to it, thinking that it’s okay. Once or twice can be okay, but don’t let it happen more than that.
After all, bad behavior in rabbits can lead to more trouble.
For example, it might discourage you from taking care of them. It’s a common issue in all pets, aside from bunnies.
The bad behavior they picked up got them abandoned in shelters.
To prevent such a heartbreaking scenario, read on to learn some useful tips.
11 tips to stop your rabbit from digging on you
#1: Give them a place to dig
The best way to stop them from digging on you is to give them a different place to dig.
It’s part of their instincts, so why stop them?
Give them the chance to do it somewhere else.
For example, you can take them to the park or an open field. As long as it’s clean and safe, it should be alright for them to dig.
Buy a vest and harness like cats or small dogs use.
You can take them out for walks like those pets.
If you have space in your backyard, that’s an option too. Make sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t dig in risky areas.
They might also end up digging out of your lot.
Place them in a spot that will prevent them from escaping by accident.
If they’re only allowed indoors, you can also make a DIY digging box.
It’s easy but you only need to clean up in case they make a mess.
Buy a box and fill it with sand or soil you can buy from pet supply shops.
Make sure it’s deep and large enough for your bunny to enjoy.
#2: Train them
You can also use positive training to make them stop.
For this trick to work, you need to carry around treats for them.
Whenever they start digging on you, tell them to stop. Pick any word to use as a “command” that they will remember.
It can be as simple as “No“, “Don’t“, or “Stop“.
If they understand your tone and expression and they stop doing it, reward them with a treat.
Bunnies can be very food motivated.
This will make them think that their good behavior gets rewarded.
But be careful and time it right. If you give them a treat too soon, they might think that “digging on you” is the right thing to do.
As a tip, make them follow you whenever they stop.
If they follow you and they stay calm, then give them a treat.
Praise them for behaving. Repeat until they lose the bad habit.
This can work on other bad habits too.
#3: Keep them entertained
Bored rabbits can get grumpy…
So the best solution is to keep them happy. It’s a good thing that there are many simple ways to do so.
For example, you can buy them chew toys to keep them busy.
At the same time, you can also hide treats inside their room. It will motivate them to move around and have fun looking for food.
It’s like a treasure hunt game for them.
If you also have some time, try to play with them once in a while.
#4: Trim their nails
As mentioned earlier, their nails can also be a cause for digging.
To keep it at a safe and healthy length, it’s best to trim their nails every 3 to 4 weeks.
If you’re not sure how to do it, you can ask a vet to do it for you. But remember, constant trips to the vet can cause them stress. To avoid the risk, try to learn how to do it.
Try to watch this video to learn how to trim their nails:
#5: Get them a companion
If your rabbit is a lonely bunny…
Getting your bunny a friend will solve many problematic behaviors.
It can even help improve their lifespan. They will be happy to have a friend around.
Of course, they won’t be close right away. Give them enough time to bond. Be there as their guide.
For your bunny’s best interests, get another bunny around the same age as them. It can help make them get along better.
If you have no plans of breeding them, spay and neuter both bunnies to avoid mating.
#6: Make sure they eat enough food
Hungry bunnies can also become grumpy bunnies.
Keep your bunny’s tummy full to make them a happy bunny.
Depending on your rabbit’s age, weight and size, their appetite will be different too.
Always give them access to hay and a good amount of pellets.
Treat them with some greens and fruits once in a while too.
Don’t forget to keep their water bowl or bottle full as well.
If you want a detailed diet for your bunny, you can consult your vet. Sometimes, their breed plays a role in it too.
#7: Avoid causing stress
As mentioned earlier…
There are many things that can cause stress in your bunny. Now that you know those things, you can focus on avoiding them.
Keep them in a quiet and clean room. Their environment should be peaceful.
Get them checked in case they might be ill.
Keep them happy and busy too.
Though it might seem like taking care of their stress is a lot of work…
But in reality, it’s quite simple. All your rabbit needs are almost the same as a human.
Peace, quiet, cleanliness, social life, food, health, and entertainment.
Reading recommendation: 21 Quick & Effective Ways To Reduce Stress In Rabbits
#8: Take them to the vet
If you think your rabbit is digging on you because they’re sick or hiding an illness…
You shouldn’t hesitate to take them to the vet.
Most rabbit illnesses won’t surface until it’s severe. Don’t wait until it reaches that point.
They have a more fragile body than we do and that’s why they will need help ASAP.
#9: Avoid causing anxiety
Fear can cause stress in bunnies. As listed earlier, there are plenty of things that can make them nervous.
The best thing you can do is keep your bunny away from noisy places.
If possible, keep them in a sound-proof room. Or at least, a room that is far away from noise.
If your bunny isn’t bonded to other animals in the house, it’s also better to keep them away from them.
As prey animals, they can be afraid of other pets in the house.
If they don’t get along at all, save your bunny the fear by separating them.
Keep the surroundings clean too.
The scent of a predator from far away can also alert them. By cleaning, you can help get rid of the scent that makes them anxious.
If you want to know more tips on how to comfort a nervous bunny, try watching this video:
#10: Spay or neuter them
If your bunny seems to be showing dominant behavior…
The best way to fix it is to spay or neuter them. If you don’t plan on breeding them as well, it’s a good choice for your bunny.
It will bring some extra health benefits.
For example, it can help remove the risk of reproductive cancers in your bunny.
This will help improve their lifespan and fix many problematic behaviors.
After all, their hormonal changes affect them a lot. Getting it fixed and under control will solve it all.
#11: Give them enough attention
If you tried everything and the problem persists…
Sometimes, it might mean that your rabbit only wants your attention.
At the end of the day, they only want to be around you.
They want to play with you, they want you to notice them, do everything near them.
Even if they’re already spoiled with attention, they can still want more.
So if this is the case, spend more time with them.
As much as possible, give them all your love and care.
They want to be a part of your life and they’ll do anything to make it happen, even in desperate ways such as digging.