Have you ever been sitting there, petting your rabbit in your lap, when suddenly you feel the pitter patter of your bunny’s paws digging into your legs? Or maybe you’re laying down and your rabbit starts aggressively burrowing into your chest or clothes. While this common rabbit behavior may seem perplexing, your clever bunny is actually trying to communicate with you! Rabbits dig and burrow on their owners to express a variety of emotions, needs, and intents. In this article, learn exactly why your rabbit can’t seem to keep its paws off you and how to decipher what your bunny is trying to say when it starts fervently digging on you!
Why Does My Rabbit Burrow On Me?
Rabbits dig and burrow for a variety of reasons. When a rabbit starts digging or burrowing on you, whether it's on your lap, chest, or clothes, it is trying to communicate something. The digging behavior serves a purpose and has meaning behind it. As a rabbit owner, it's important to understand what your rabbit is trying to tell you with this common behavior.
Some common reasons rabbits dig and burrow on their owners include seeking attention, asking to be let down, showing dominance or territoriality, relieving boredom or anxiety, playfulness, demanding to be petted, and expressing that something is wrong or that they don't feel well. Paying attention to the context around the digging will help clue you into what your rabbit is trying to say.
Rabbit Digging Behavior
In the wild, rabbits dig burrows for shelter and protection. Digging comes naturally to rabbits and is an innate behavior. They use their strong front paws and claws to loosen soil and dig holes. Some reasons wild rabbits dig burrows include:
- To create shelters and nests to live in
- To hide from predators and stay safe
- To regulate temperature and have a cool place to rest in summer
- To build nests lined with fur to birth and raise young
Domestic rabbits maintain this natural digging instinct even when living indoors as pets. When they dig on you, it satisfies the innate urge while also serving as a way for your rabbit to communicate with you.
Rabbit Wants To Be Let Down
Sometimes rabbits simply dig on you because they want to get down. For example, if you've been holding your rabbit in your lap and it starts aggressively digging on your legs, it's likely your bunny is indicating it wants you to put it down. Rabbits dig on people to signal they want to be released.
Rabbit Is Showing Territorial Behavior
Rabbits are very territorial by nature. In the wild they live in burrow systems, which they are protective over and defend as their own space. This territoriality translates to house rabbits too. Your rabbit may dig on you when you are sitting or laying in "its" spot, such as on its favorite chair or bed. The digging claims ownership over you or that area.
Rabbit Is Experiencing Boredom
A lack of mental stimulation is a common reason pet rabbits start digging. Digging provides an outlet for their energy and natural instincts when they get bored. Without adequate enrichment and exercise, your rabbit may dig on you while sitting on your lap as a way to alleviate boredom. Make sure your bunny gets plenty of playtime and interactive toys.
Rabbit Thinks You Smell
Interestingly, rabbits may dig on you if you smell unusual to them. This could happen after being around other animals, using unfamiliar soaps or perfumes, or even eating pungent foods like garlic. The digging is your rabbit's way of "marking" you with its own scent glands to re-establish the familiar smell it knows.
Rabbit Is Asking to Play
When your rabbit digs on you gently without causing pain, it may be inviting you to play. Interactive play is important to keep rabbits physically and mentally stimulated. So when it starts lightly digging or nibbling clothes during lap time, take the cue and engage your bunny in some play with toys.
Rabbit Is Feeling Anxious
Stress and anxiety in rabbits can manifest as increased digging behavior. If your rabbit seems to dig on you more during times you know it feels uneasy, like during loud noises or changes in environment, the digging helps relieve nervous energy. Try to minimize stressors to keep your bunny feeling safe.
Rabbit Is Showing Dominance
Sometimes all the digging is your rabbit's attempt to assert itself as the dominant one in your relationship. Intact rabbits are especially prone to this behavior. Getting your rabbit neutered or spayed can help reduce hormonal dominance digging. Also be sure to set boundaries and reinforce that you are the leader.
Rabbit Is Showing Off
Intact male rabbits may dig on owners as a way of showing off and flaunting their masculinity. It ties back to their hierarchical social structure and desire to display dominance. Neutering your male rabbit can minimize this hormonal motivator to dig.
Rabbit Is Demanding Petting
If your rabbit starts digging on you while you are petting it, this is its way of asking for more attention and demanding continued petting. Rabbits love being stroked when relaxed. Yours may dig to keep those pets coming and to dictate how long the petting session lasts.
Something Is Wrong
Finally, rabbits sometimes dig on owners when something is wrong internally. If your rabbit is digging intensely and persistently, accompanied by other unusual behaviors, it could signal an underlying health issue. Schedule a vet visit to rule out causes like gastrointestinal or bladder problems.
How To Prevent Rabbits from Digging On You
While digging is an innate rabbit behavior, there are some things you can do to try and prevent your rabbit from digging on you:
Provide An Outlet
Giving your rabbit a designated digging box filled with soil, straw, or paper bedding can satisfy natural digging urges. Providing an acceptable outlet may reduce digging on you.
Play With Your Rabbit More Often
Make sure your rabbit gets adequate playtime and enrichment each day. Bored rabbits are more likely to act out with destructive behaviors like digging. Engage your bunny in interactive play and provide puzzle toys to stimulate its mind.
Form a close bond with your rabbit so it feels safe and secure with you. Rabbits who trust their owners and don't feel threatened are less likely to dig possessively. Develop trust through handling, training, and positive reinforcement.
Getting your rabbit neutered or spayed can decrease territorial digging, dominance behaviors, and hormonal digging especially present in unaltered males. Neutering helps minimize digging rooted in reproductive urges and instincts.
With persistence and consistency, you can train your rabbit not to dig on you using redirection and rewards for good behavior. Anytime the digging starts, interrupt the behavior and give your bunny a toy to dig on instead.
Ignore the Rabbit’s Digging
If your rabbit seems to dig on you primarily for attention-seeking purposes, ignoring the behavior may discourage it. Avoid giving your bunny the reaction it wants when it digs on your lap.
Your Rabbit Digs On You To Communicate
When rabbits dig and burrow on their owners, they are doing so to communicate a message or need. By understanding common motivations behind this natural behavior, you can address the underlying cause and react appropriately. With time and training most rabbits can learn not to dig on people. But occasional digging should not be cause for alarm, as long as your bunny has outlets for its natural instincts. See it as your rabbit's way of talking to you and build a deeper bond.