Rabbit Digging Made Simple: Learn Their Instincts

Published November 24, 2020
Rabbit digging

Rabbit digging is a natural behavior for all bunnies. In the wild, rabbits live in a burrow. Indoor pet rabbits may dig at the carpet to get attention from their owners or because they're stressed.

Understanding Rabbit Digging

Like any small pet, rabbits have many behaviors pet owners should know about before they bring their bunny home. Did you know that they love to dig? Rabbits love to dig as much as dogs love to bark. This is because rabbits dig extensive warrens, a network of interconnecting rabbit burrows. What's amazing about these burrows? The tunnels are narrow, and they only allow one rabbit to pass at a time. Because of this, owners should be prepared for their bunny to dig into quilts or carpets. There are a number of reasons rabbits might dig.

Rabbits Dig From Boredom

Rabbits may dig when they are bored or stressed. Therefore, you may notice digging behaviors if you keep your rabbit alone in its hutch all day with nothing to do or interact with.

Stressed Rabbits May Dig

Stressed rabbits also can become diggers. Your rabbit may be stressed for a number of reasons, including:

  • A recent move of their housing to a new room
  • Uncomfortable temperature
  • A move to a new home
  • Your rabbit senses household stress

Rabbits Dig Due to Lack of Stimulation

A lack of stimulation with all small animals may lead to destructive behaviors. In addition, digging and chewing are behaviors that rabbit owners often talk about in online communities. Pet bunnies or house rabbits will nibble a sofa or dig on items if they don't have any activities to focus on during the day. Daytime is when they're most active!

Brown dwarf rabbit digging a hole

Lack of Exercise May Cause Digging

Likewise, rabbits need exercise. If they aren't getting adequate exercise, you may notice they engage in excessive digging behaviors.

What to Do About Rabbit Digging

If you're tired of your rabbit digging up the carpet, then you have some options to help with the behavior.

Offer Safe Digging Options

Digging is a form of rabbit enrichment, a wonderful way to exercise your rabbit, and it satisfies a basic instinct. However, instead of letting your rabbit dig on you or something like a carpet or comforter, provide more acceptable places for your rabbit to dig.

  • Provide a cardboard box with newspaper for digging and shredding.

  • Place an old piece of carpet or a seagrass mat anywhere your rabbit digs.

  • Let your bunny dig in the dirt in an outside pen (this may be the best way to satisfy this behavior).

  • Create a mini-burrow with a large volume of hay and let them dig.

  • Crumpled paper also works as a 'filling' your rabbit can dig in if dirt is too messy.

  • Create a sandbox for your rabbit to dig in when you place them in an outside pen.

  • If the DIY options listed aren't viable, consider affordable toys that promote digging including a grass hut, rabbit scratchboard, or special bunny mat.

Training a pet rabbit to dig in a place you've set-up for them may require some treats, but bunnies will work for food. Give your rabbit some supervised time each day to dig in these acceptable places. When the rabbit starts to dig in the special area, reward them with treats.

rabbit digging

Consult an Exotics Pet Veterinarian

If the digging behavior seems obsessive or excessive, it's best to talk to your vet. Rabbit owners should always rule out medical issues with a vet that specializes in exotic pets. Bunnies don't handle stress well, and if they're sick, they need a special treatment plan and environment. Additionally, if a rabbit is not spayed or neutered or if he doesn't get enough time to free-range in a bunny-safe area outside the cage, as we discussed, they may display obsessive behavior. A vet can help rule out whether a pet rabbit has any health issues.

Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit

When sex hormones kick in, pet owners may see a few new behaviors in both males and females. One reason to spay or neuter your pet rabbit is to decrease behaviors like digging (this is especially common in females).

Should I Try to Stop My Rabbit From Digging?

Now that you know why your pet rabbit is digging, there are ways to curb this behavior. While this natural behavior should be encouraged in safe areas where digging is acceptable, you may want to stop your pet rabbit from digging when the situation isn't safe or if they can't be supervised.

  • Keep your rabbit entertained with toys, treats, and playtime with the family daily.
  • Train your rabbit where it's acceptable to dig; they will learn quickly.
  • Invest in an outdoor playpen that can easily be moved to different environments during playtime and introduce novel toys that don't encourage digging.

Manage Your Rabbit's Digging Behaviors

Digging is an important behavior for rabbits, and pet owners need to set their bunny up for success. New owners especially need to observe their pet's overall behavior to determine why their rabbit is digging. Preparing safe digging options when their pet bunny is introduced to their new home should be a priority. If the behavior doesn't appear normal and becomes obsessive, schedule an appointment with an exotics pet veterinarian.

Rabbit Digging Made Simple: Learn Their Instincts