Does your adorable rabbit suddenly start furiously digging and burrowing on your lap, clothes, or chest? Don’t panic – it’s just your bunny’s natural instincts kicking in! Digging on you is their way of communicating important needs. But why do rabbits do this bizarre behavior? And how can you curb your bun’s digging on human surfaces? Get ready to hop down the rabbit hole to discover the secrets behind this mystery, from territorial marking to playful energy. This in-depth article explores all the possible reasons for rabbit burrowing behavior on owners. You’ll also learn expert tips to prevent your pet from turning you into their own personal digging pit. Whether your rabbit is digging for dominance, attention, or just sheer fun, this guide unpacks bunny logic and helps foster smooth human-rabbit relationships.
Why Does My Rabbit Burrow On Me?
Rabbits are incredibly cute, fluffy, and loving pets. However, sometimes their behavior can seem strange or unwanted to us humans. One such behavior is when your rabbit starts digging or burrowing on you – whether it's on your lap, chest, or even your clothes.
Though it may seem annoying, there are several possible reasons why your rabbit is exhibiting this digging behavior on you. The key is understanding the natural instincts and communication style of rabbits. Digging and burrowing is completely normal behavior for rabbits. In the wild, rabbits dig burrows to shelter themselves and their young. They also dig to forage for food. So when your pet rabbit starts digging on you, it’s likely an instinctual behavior.
Beyond instinct, the digging can have a range of meanings. It may be your rabbit's way of communicating some need or desire to you. Perhaps they want your attention, need to be let down from your lap, are marking territory, feel anxious or playful, or are simply trying to get comfortable using you as a soft surface to dig on.
The digging behavior itself is not harmful, but it’s important to try to understand the underlying motivation so you can address your rabbit’s needs. Later in this article, we’ll go over the various possible reasons for rabbit burrowing behavior on humans and how to curb or prevent it if needed.
Rabbit Digging Behavior
To understand why your rabbit is digging on you specifically, it helps to first look at the natural digging behaviors of rabbits in general.
In the wild, rabbits dig for two main reasons – shelter and food. Rabbits are prey animals, so they need to be able to quickly escape predators and find protection. They dig elaborate underground burrow systems with multiple entrances and chambers for sleeping, nursing young, and avoiding danger. Burrows provide safety, shelter from harsh weather, and seclusion.
Rabbits also dig to forage. They use their powerful front paws to dig up soil to reach roots, vegetation, and buds buried underground to eat. Digging helps them find the nutrients they need to survive.
Domestic rabbits retain these natural instincts to dig even when living indoors as pets. If they are not provided with adequate outlets for these behaviors, the instinct doesn’t disappear – instead, it manifests in undesirable ways like digging up carpet and furniture…or digging on their owners!
Rabbits often dig and burrow on soft or warm surfaces because it satisfies their natural urge to dig while being comfortable. As prey animals, they are also wary of wide open spaces and like to feel enclosed. Since humans and our clothing provide a warm, soft surface and a sense of shelter, it makes sense that your rabbit wants to burrow on you even if we don't love this behavior as owners.
The domestic rabbit's desire to dig may also be an outlet for energy and a form of playful behavior. Wild rabbits spend much of their day foraging, grazing, and digging to burn energy and prevent boredom. Pet rabbits should similarly have activities to engage their natural behaviors. Without enough stimulating activities, they may start digging on you or around your home.
Rabbit Wants To Be Let Down
One common reason pet rabbits dig on their owners is that they want to be let down from being held. Rabbits prefer to have their feet on solid ground. Though they enjoy affection, being picked up goes against their prey animal instincts. When you hold a rabbit tightly against your chest or on your lap, they can feel restrained and uncomfortable. The digging is your rabbit's way of signaling they want you to let them down.
Rabbits are ground-loving creatures by nature. When you lift them up high, they no longer feel the safety of solid earth underneath them. This triggers their prey drive to get free and get their feet back on the ground. The digging is persistent because they are feeling fearful and insecure.
Also, rabbits like to be in control of their environment. When you abruptly pick up your rabbit, they lose that sense of control. The digging behavior reflects their attempt to reestablish control and let you know they want down.
If your rabbit starts vigorously digging or scraping on your lap or chest while being held, slowly lower them down while supporting their back feet. Don't squeeze them tighter or punish the digging behavior. This will only reinforce their fear and need to get away from you. With time and training using positive reinforcement, you may be able to help your rabbit become more comfortable being held for short periods.
Rabbit Is Showing Territorial Behavior
Rabbits are very territorial by nature. In the wild, they mark and defend their turf to establish dominance and protect themselves. Your house is your rabbit's territory, and they want to clearly define their space within it. One way they claim their territory is by digging on objects, furniture, or sometimes people.
When your rabbit digs on you persistently, especially if un-neutered/unspayed, it may be them trying to define you as their property and claim dominance. This territorial marking reinforces that you are part of their space and establishes their rank in the household hierarchy.
Intact rabbits are especially prone to territorial behavior like digging on owners, furniture-chewing, lunging, and spraying urine. That's because their hormones drive them to establish territory and show dominance. Getting your rabbit neutered or spayed can significantly reduce hormonal territorial behavior.
It's also key to properly rabbit-proof your home and give them adequate space of their own. Provide your rabbit with a clearly designated play area, hideout, litter box, toys, and bedding to satisfy their territorial needs. If they have enough enriched space of their own, they should feel less urge to inappropriately mark you or the rest of the house as part of their turf.
Rabbit Is Experiencing Boredom
Do you give your rabbit plenty of enrichment activities and playtime every day? If not, sheer boredom could be the reason they're digging on you.
As natural foragers, rabbits need mental stimulation and activity to stay engaged and happy. A bored rabbit with pent up energy may act out by digging, chewing, or other destructive behaviors. Without enough constructive outlets, they resort to using you as a digging surface and chew toy.
Make sure your rabbit has enough daily exercise and playtime. Let them run around in a rabbit proof area for at least a few hours. Provide interactive toys such as tunnels, cardboard boxes, willow balls, and treat-dispensing puzzles. Rotate their toys to keep things interesting. Also set up a digging box with shredded paper or cardboard they can dig in. These activities let them exhibit their natural behaviors in a positive way.
You should also directly play with your rabbit daily with interactive toys. Pet them frequently so they don't have to resort to digging on you for attention. The more enriched their environment is, the less likely boredom digging will occur.
Rabbit Thinks You Smell
Believe it or not, your smell could be triggering your rabbit to dig on you!
Rabbits have a highly developed sense of smell. They rely on scent signals to gather information about their environment. One reason rabbits dig is to mark territory with their own scent. So if your rabbit keeps digging specifically on your clothes or lap, they may be trying to mask your scent with their own.
Your perfume, soap, lotion, laundry detergent or fabric softener may have an unpleasant or overwhelming scent from your rabbit's perspective. To them, their own scent is most calming and appropriate. The digging deposits scent glands from their chin onto you.
Try to avoid using strongly fragranced grooming products and laundry detergents around your rabbit. When holding your rabbit, wear old clothes that carry less foreign scent. You can also gently rub a soft cloth on their chin then rub it on your lap before placing them down. This deposits their scent first.
With time, they will become accustomed to your normal scent. But strong unfamiliar smells can trigger territorial scent-masking behavior.
Rabbit Is Asking to Play
Sometimes all that digging means is your rabbit wants to play!
Digging is a natural behavior rabbits use to interact with their environment. It doubles as a fun activity and fulfills their needs. Your rabbit may see you as a playmate and engage in play digging to get your attention.
Especially if the digging seems energetic but not distressed, your rabbit is probably just inviting you to have some fun. Rabbits often dig and burrow on owners affectionately to get a play session started.
Next time your rabbit starts enthusiastically digging on you, respond by getting on their level and engaging them with an interactive toy. Drag a towel along the floor for them to chase and attack as if it were live prey. Offer a cardboard box with treats hidden inside for them to forage and dig for. Let them push a toy soccer ball around with their nose.
Joining in the play shows them you understand their signals. Reward good behavior by indulging their desire for playtime when they dig on you politely. With enough daily play sessions, they'll be less likely to bug you for attention through digging at inconvenient times.
Rabbit Is Feeling Anxious
Digging or scrabbling on you can also be a sign your rabbit is feeling anxious or stressed. Like most prey animals, rabbits can be easily frightened by unusual sights, sounds, and smells. Their first instinct is to get low to the ground and dig to safety.
Your rabbit may start anxiously digging on you if something has scared them or put them on high alert. Loud noises like vacuums, storms, or slamming doors can trigger this reaction. Even subtle environmental changes or unusual smells can make them feel unsafe. Sudden movement by you or other pets also activates their prey drive.
If you notice this behavior when certain stimuli are present, your rabbit is likely digging on you for comfort and protection. They are trying to take cover and hide by scrabbling against you. Hold your anxious rabbit gently and reassure them by petting calmly and speaking softly until they relax. Remove the stimuli making them frightened if possible.
You can also litter train your rabbit and teach them to go to their safe space when frightened. Place a cardboard box with entry holes in their play area. When you observe them digging on you from fear, promptly direct them into their hideout so they learn to go there for security.
Rabbit Is Showing Dominance
In rabbit society, digging is not only for shelter and food. It also establishes rank. In the wild, the dominant rabbit claims the best burrows by digging, scent marking, and chasing away subordinates.
Your rabbit may dig on you to exert their dominance. This behavior often presents in unfixed rabbits once they hit puberty and their hormones surge. The digging displays their claim over you and confirms they are top bunny.
Other dominance behaviors include lunging, growling, nippy biting, and urine spraying. If your rabbit is unneutered/unspayed and displaying these traits, it's best to get them fixed. This curbs the hormonal impulses driving their claim for top rank and territory. Proper fixing resolves most rabbit aggression issues.
While waiting for their surgery, ignore dominance digging and walk away. Yelling or forcing them down reinforces it. Giving them a designated digging box and play area also reduces their need to inappropriately dominate you and your home. Apply scent markers to "claim" the human spaces as yours.
Rabbit Is Showing Off
Happy, energetic digging on you may also just be your rabbit showing off! Rabbits are very intelligent and social animals. When they are feeling playful, especially young buns, they love showing their owners what they can do.
Digging is a skill rabbits take pride in and want to demonstrate. Your rabbit may excitedly dig on your lap as a way to boast "Look what I can do! I'm an expert digger!" and gain your praise. They know digging makes you react.
In response,Redirect their energy into a constructive outlet like foraging toys or a digging box. Let them teach you how to properly dig by demonstrating in their box. Praise them for digging in designated areas. This positive reinforcement trains them to show off their skills in appropriate places, not on you.
Rabbit Is Demanding Petting
Many rabbits love being petted and will ask for affection by nudging your hand or climbing into your lap. When on your lap, some rabbits may then lightly dig or scrabble on your legs or shirt as a way to say "Okay, now PET ME!"
Rabbits don't have hands to tap you with or voices to speak with. So digging is their attempt to signal that they want your tactile interaction and stroking. Think of it as their version of a nudge, head butt, or bark to demand your attention.
Next time your lap rabbit starts gently digging after getting settled, try immediately petting them to see if that satisfies them. If they stop digging and melt into your pets, you've found the meaning behind the behavior – they just wanted your love! As smart animals, rabbits can learn to dig as a way to request more stroking once they associate you petting them with digging on you.
It's important not to pull away or stop petting when they dig, as this can reinforce the behavior. Keep showing affection until they relax and the digging ceases, then gently end the snuggle session. This teaches them that calm cuddling, not demanding digging, is the way to enjoy petting from you.
Something Is Wrong
While digging on owners is usually a harmless behavior for rabbits, sometimes it can signal an underlying medical issue or problem in their environment. New onset of insistent digging combined with other symptoms warrants a veterinary examination.
For example, Uri sometimes digs repeatedly at his stomach because of gas pain and needs medication or a dietary change. Elderly Ralph dug on himself obsessively due to arthritic discomfort. Lola scrabbled anxiously on her owner whenever children visited because the noise and chaos distress her.
Digging directed at specific body parts can indicate parasite irritation or skin infections. Digging around the mouth may signal dental problems or abscesses. Frequent digging on you combined with decreased appetite or lethargy can indicate illness or chronic pain.
Sudden destructive digging around the cage could mean your rabbit is under stress from environmental factors, behavioral issues, or health problems. If the digging seems abnormally obsessive, happens concurrently with other symptoms, triggers self-harm, or begins suddenly in adulthood, consult your rabbit-savvy vet.
While digging or burrowing on you is rarely cause for medical concern, it's worth paying attention to any abnormal accompanying symptoms and getting them checked if you notice multiple issues arise in correlation with the digging.
How To Prevent Rabbits from Digging On You
While occasional rabbit digging on humans is harmless, you may want to discourage the behavior if it becomes excessive or bothersome. Here are some tips for curbing and preventing bunnies from turning you into their personal digging pit:
Provide An Outlet
The easiest way to stop your rabbit digging on you is providing them an acceptable outlet for their natural digging instincts. Place a generous sized litter box or cardboard box filled with shredded paper, hay, straw, or soil in their space. When you see them start to dig on you, promptly move them into their approved digging box and let them dig to their heart's content!
You can also build or purchase a multi-level "digging tower" with ramps, platforms, and tunnels made from natural wood. Spread organic potting soil, straw, leaves, or shredded paper over the platforms for them to dig in. These engaging toys allow healthy digging while protecting your lap. With regular use of designated digging spots, rabbits get satisfactory scratching time and leave human legs alone.
Play With Your Rabbit More Often
Lack of attention and activity is a prime reason rabbits start digging on their owners. Make sure you are playing with your rabbit and letting them exercise for at least a few hours daily. Drag toys across the floor for them to chase after like live prey. Engage their foraging instincts by hiding small treats in cardboard boxes for them to ferret out.
Pet and talk to them frequently so they don't have to resort to destructive digging for interaction. Rabbits are intelligent, social animals that thrive on activity and bonding with their owners. Keep them engaged and they will dig where they are supposed to, not on you.
Fear and lack of trust is another factor that can prompt digging. If your rabbit seems to dig on you when anxious, work on building a strong bond and making them feel safe in your presence. Sit on the floor to seem smaller and less threatening. Hand feed them treats to build positive associations. Approach slowly and let them come to you.
Create a soothing environment by diffusing calming scents like lavender or chamomile around their space. Speak softly and reassuringly when holding them. With time and patience, they will feel more secure with you and no longer need to frantically dig for safety.
If your rabbit's digging seems territorial or dominant, have them neutered or spayed. intact rabbits are highly prone to behaviors like digging due to surging hormones. Spaying or neutering eliminates the hormones driving this possessiveness and aggression.
Fixed rabbits are happier, healthier pets who no longer feel the need to establish territory, rank, and mates. They are calmer, more affectionate, and less prone to inappropriate digging after this procedure. Talk to your vet about the benefits of fixing your digger!
Use positive reinforcement to teach your rabbit what objects and areas are okay to dig on. When they start digging where unacceptable, interrupt the behavior with a firm "No!" then move them onto a dig box or toy and praise lavishly.
You can also place double-sided sticky tape on surfaces you don't want dug up. Rabbits dislike sticking their paws to it. Apply it to your lap, then praise and give a treat when they avoid digging there. With training, they learn good digging vs. bad.
Ignore the Rabbit's Digging
If your rabbit seems to dig on you for attention or a reaction, the simplest fix is to ignore their digging completely. Don't yell,