Why Does My Rabbit Dig On Me? 11 Possible Reasons


Why does my rabbit dig on me? What message could he be trying to send across through this behavior? Is he being disrespectful? Doesn’t he want to be petted by me anymore?

Admittedly, we receive these questions all the time particularly from bunny owners who consider this behavior to be either downright annoying or extremely confusing.

Well, without thinking too hard for the answers, it is imperative to first understand that the art of digging is in every rabbit’s DNA.

When in the wild, these little furry creatures dig and burrow the ground for fun, sometimes to burn off excess energy, and most importantly, to build their safety tunnels.

A rabbit is a creature of habit; don’t judge your bunny too harshly for minding his own business of being a rabbit.

Today, our focus will be on why these cute but mysterious pets often dig on their owners. So let’s get to it

What does my rabbit digging on me mean?

As we have already established, your rabbit will dig on you because digging is part of his DNA, but there are more reasons:

rabbit digging on a mans lap

1. Shyness/mistrust

Your rabbit digging on you partially aligns with the fact that bunnies are shy, aloof, and wary animals. Most of them don’t trust us enough to curl up peacefully when we hold them.

As a matter of fact, bunnies will rarely come running when called. They like enjoying their peace undisturbed; that’s, of course, with a few exceptions; some bunnies actually crave attention.

If you haven’t yet built a good relationship with your rabbit, why not read our guide to bonding with your rabbit here.

2. He’s sad

If you have been locking up your rabbit in a cage for hours on end, digging could be a sign that he’s sad; perhaps too immersed in sorrow to even have room for your petting. 

Cooped-up rabbits tend to get aggressive, defensive, and cranky when held. They become easily displeasured, psychologically dormant, and unhealthy.

Rabbits can also become very lonely without a companion of their own species, you can read more about this and the advantages of getting your existing rabbit a companion here.

3. He’s missing the rug, blanket, or cushion

Does your bunny love to play with the rug or blankets? Most of them do love digging on cloth. If he only digs on the clothed areas of your thigh, for example, that can be an indication that he wants to play with the rug.

Rabbits love a little comfort and if your rabbit doesn’t already have a blanket why not try one?

You can read our guide to choosing the best blanket for a rabbit here or if your pushed for time you can see one of our (and Princess’s) favorites below linked here (Link to Amazon.com).

4. He wants you to get down on the floor and play

Rabbits play more comfortably when on the floor so if you figured this out and have been playing with your furry friend while lying on the floor, you can be sure that he enjoys it and will be demanding it from you a lot.

If you are standing and he digs at your feet, he probably just wants you down at his level.

5. You aren’t petting as consistently as he wants

You are petting your rabbit, he’s relaxed on your lap, and then without warning, he’s digging on you hard. Why the sudden change of mood?

Most probably, you stopped petting to maybe take a call, switch TV channels with a remote, or scratch your hair. That short moment you took your hand off him is enough to annoy your furry friend and he’s is now demanding that you resume petting him ASAP!

6. Perhaps he’s trying to impress a doe

Digging is such a prestigious art in the rabbit world that a female would be impressed by how well a male can dig. If your bunny is not fixed, expect him to dig on you every time he sees a female.

7. Your clothes are too baggy

Does your rabbit dig on you only when you wear a particular dress/shirt? Try wearing tighter clothing and note his reaction. If he stops digging, then it could mean that he gets excited by loose clothing.

8. He’s establishing dominance

You definitely will not love this one but we get to say it anyway. Your bunny could be digging on you as a way of telling you that he doesn’t really need your attention.

He could be telling you that between you and him, he is the superior roommate. Sometimes this form of digging is accompanied by biting and nipping.

9. Curiosity

Rabbits are naturally curious. He will sometimes dig on your lap in a bid to investigate what type of material it’s made of. You will tell if your bunny digs on people out of curiosity by observing his behavior around visitors. 

Does he dig on visitors more determinedly than when digging on you? If yes, that’s curiosity driving him.

10. He hates how you smell

Yes! Bunnies get annoyed by strange scents. These innocent creatures are never at ease in the wild whenever they sniff unfamiliar scents, mostly because every carnivorous and/or omnivorous living thing out there is potentially life-threatening.

If you are changing your hand lotion or perfume a lot- or when a visitor wears strong cologne, the bunny gets confused and uneasy to the point of digging on whoever is holding him.

11. He’s too young for petting

House bunnies below the age of 15 months are free, energetic souls that want nothing but to see the world. Holding them is tantamount to limiting their God-given freedom. Besides, he probably hasn’t lived with long enough to trust you.

How do I stop my rabbit digging on me? (7 possible ways)

It is possible to train your rabbit against digging on you, although you will have to be extremely patient with him. Could you have thought of punishing him into stopping this annoying behavior?

Well, bunnies do not react well to punishments, however, they are intelligent animals that can be gently disciplined.

1. Provide him with toys

If you must coop up your bunny in a cage, then ensure that he has enough toys to play with all day long. That will keep him busy and eliminate the chances of unhealthiness and boredom.

In turn, the crankiness and aggressiveness that makes him dig at you when you get home will be neutralized.

If your interested in rabbit toys you can read our full Bunny Gift Guide here.

Alternatively if your looking for a quick fix to curb some annoying digging behavior you could try keeping him busy with a rabbit activity mat like the one linked here (Link to Amazon.com)

2. Get him a grass mat

It is in your bunny’s DNA to dig. Indulge his digging instincts by installing a grass mat in his cage and in any other place in the home where he loves to hang out. This will eliminate his desire to dig on you during petting time.

3. Show your disapproval

Rabbits are quite intelligent and will easily notice when their caregivers are disappointed in their behavior. If he is digging on your feet a lot, for example, clap your hands vigorously or shrill until he stops.

Of course, he will come back after a minute and pick up from where he will have left. Don’t be discouraged, though; keep doing this until the message is home. Yes! It will get home eventually.

4. Redirect his excitement

If he is digging on you out of excitement, just give him something else to do. You can, for example, distract him a carrot whenever she begins to dig on your feet.

Rabbits learn through repetition so you will need to be extremely consistent with one activity if you are to successfully redirect his excitement to it.

5. Reward good behavior

When he sits quietly on your lap, give him a treat. That will teach him to always be in the best of his behavior.

6. Play with him

Your precious, complex pet is probably digging on your ankle and running away with the hope that you will chase after her. There isn’t a better way to bond with her and encourage good behavior than playing with her under her own terms.

7. Take him to a vet

Not just any ordinary pet; a pet with enough rabbit experience. Why so? Well, because rabbits can get extremely aggressive when they are in pain or unwell.

Maybe he has ear mites. Maybe his teeth are aching too much that he doesn’t find any joy from chewing on things anymore. If he can’t chew, then he will redirect his anger to digging at you and anything else in site.

Trimming rabbit nails

If you lack the patience to study your bunny until you find a way of stopping his digging, then trimming his nails would be a good option. And besides, nail trimming is one of the rabbit grooming practices that every bunny owner needs to understand.

However, don’t trim your pet rabbit’s nails if you aren’t confident in your ability. A small blunder can injure him and cost you a lot in vet charges while more serious mishaps can permanently incapacitate your furry friend. Just pay a reputable pet groomer or a rabbit vet officer to do the job for you.

If you opt to trim the nails on your own, follow these 5 tips:

  1. Acquire nail clippers preferably those designed specifically for small pets/rabbits. Some styptic powder is also necessary just in case you need it to stop any possible bleeding.
  2. Wrap him in a towel to calm his nerves and then get someone strong enough to hold the pet for you. That way, your entire concentration is on the nails.
  3. Now trim the nails slowly and carefully not to hurt your bunny. You don’t have to trim the entire nail at once; just trim a small, sizable portion.
  4. Confirm that none of the nails are not bleeding. If you accidentally injured him, apply some styptic powder. Take him to the vet immediately if the bleeding doesn’t stop.
  5. Give him a good treat for letting you cut his nails.

You can also read our complete picture guide detailing how to cut a rabbits nails here.

Further Reading

Rabbit Behavior myhouserabbit.com

Why Does My Rabbit Dig and Scratch at My Clothes? petkeen.com

Why Do Rabbits Dig? lafeber.com

Darren

Darren is the founder and editor at Bunny Advice and has been caring for rabbits for over a decade. He has a passion for helping animals and sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

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