Rabbit Digging in Lawn, Yard, Cages or House Items

Written by Editorial

Rabbit digging holes on your lawn or yard, carpet, furniture, litter box and so on can be so frustrating. Although this is a natural behavior, here is what worsens it and how to stop this behavior.

Digging, like chewing, marking, grooming and cecotrophy is an instinctive and natural behavior of both domestics and will rabbits which descended from Oryctolagus cuniculus, the European rabbit.

When digging, they often use their paws that have study and sharp nails that scrabble or scratch off dirt for a long time until they create a hole or burrow.

Rabbit digging behavior
Rabbit digging behavior

Some of the predisposing factors include gender where “does have greater tendencies to do this than bucks.”[1] and age where the younger ones dig more than older bunnies.

This natural behavior, together with chewing is noted in adolescent bunnies and as they grow older, they become more sedate.[2] Also, some may naturally be great diggers while others may not.  

Finally, besides lawns, yards, and gardens, you will notice this behavior on cardboard boxes, furniture, carpet, corners or places with enclosures, among other places.

Why do rabbits dig holes in the lawn or runs?

Most of the wild rabbits live in burrows or warrens with an exception of the cottontails which live in nests, natural cavities or burrows dug by other animals. Therefore, these animals must dig their own burrows and warrens to use as a hiding place from the various predators as well as get protection from natural elements such as rain and wind.

When you see them digging, they are trying to pass messages such as ‘I must escape’, ‘I am bored’, ‘I must clear a place to rest on or hide’, I am scared, and I want to protect myself’, and so on.

Besides being a natural behavior, some things may worsen this behavior and they include the following.

1. If a rabbit keeps digging…

If your rabbit keeps digging, it could be bored or angry. Therefore, this is one of their natural behavior which will be made worse if they are bored, i.e., if they are without shade, shelter, toys and so on. Your bunny may want to dig out and escape[3] since he or she is too bored. 

When bored you will often note repeated digging, chewing, rattling water bottles, overgrooming, making digging motion in their cages, and so on.

Also, it can be a displacement behavior when these pets are angry and not attacking or responding to their anger.

2. No designated area to dig

If you see your rabbit digging up the lawn, litter box, or anywhere in your yard, he or she may be they lack a designated area to do so. They need to be given designated areas or toys.

3. Rabbit digging a hole when pregnant

This behavior is often noticed in does that are about to kindle when they are in the wild. They dig burrows and make nests where they can kindle.[4] They do this to ensure their litter will be safe from predators as well as natural elements.

4. Marking a territory

It is common for some bunnies to dig a “shallow hole to leave feces in as a way of marking territory.” [5]

Do not forget that the land where their burrows are is considered their territory and they will always stay close to burrows so that in case of a predator while in the wild, they can swiftly escape into them.

Other reasons

Also, this behavior can be out of curiosity, fear, stress, seeking attention, and the need to make a good place to lunge.  Also, the need to extend their home, explore, and so on may encourage this behavior.

Why do rabbits dig holes and fill them in?

A few people may have noted their rabbits digging holes and filling them in with hay, straws, and other materials. This may be a nesting behavior if they are pregnant, it could be that they are burying their feces, or they could be doing it out of fun.

Why digging isn’t always bad

Whereas this behavior is often seen as undesirable by many rabbit owners, it is helpful since it can help wear out your rabbit’s nail and reduce the frequent need to trim them. As home pets, they do not have many activities like wild bunnies who do not need to trim their nails.

Also, digging enriching and it will exercise this pet if they do it in their designated areas. It is one of the boredom breakers. Besides the physical exercise, it will also give them psychological pleasure and reduce aggression and being cranky [6].

How to stop rabbit digging behavior

People who let their rabbits exercise outside in the garden need to supervise them to avoid this behavior since things such as rabbit digging up lawns, yard or garden can happen. 

Also, your rabbit may dig its litter box, your flowerpot, as well as other things, possibly damaging them. 

On the other hand, if you have freely reigning bunnies, you need to bunny-proof your house to avoid damaging items in your house including your bedding, sofa, carpet, rugs, soft baseboards, and other items.

Do not let them access any of your valuable things as they may damage them. Here are some of the ways to avoid and reduce this behavior:

1. Provide a digging box and toys

Provide rabbit digging toys or areas such a box, pot, crates, cardboard concrete box, untreated wicker basket, tunnel etc., that is deep enough to allow them to dig and explore. You can fill it timothy hay, straws, wood chips (not pine or cedar), shredded newspapers and other safe materials to help them satisfy this natural behavior. An old rug, carpet, and so on will also help.

Also, allow them to burrow any secured spots in your garden where you are certain they will not escape, or predators will not tunnel in and harm your pets.

2. Secure them if rabbit digging out of their run and hutches

This is intended not only to stop this behavior but to ensure your furry friends are safe from predators. Ensure their hutches are placed on a paved area or an area that has concrete if they touch the ground or place a wire mesh beneath them.

Also, a run should have a wire mesh or skirt on its bottom to avoid your bunny digging in or even a predator tunneling into the run or playpen if it is not placed on a paved area.

Since they are natural grazers, placing your run on an area with grass and a wire mesh beneath the run will help them foliage as they play.

3. Train them to stop the habit

If you notice this inappropriate behavior, consider reprimanding or interrupting your pet by saying something followed by clapping your hand or stomping your foot. Say things such as ‘NO’ or ‘STOP!’. However, this should not be done in a way to scare them.

Reprimanding will distract him or her momentarily to stop the digging or move on to something different. Repeat it again if he or she begins the digging. Your bunny will associate her behavior with the clapping or thumping your foot and saying ‘no’ or ‘stop’. Afterward, take his or her attention to their digging boxes.

Secondly, consider rewarding these pets. Use the various treats including pieces of fruits and non-leafy vegetable treats to reward them if they are digging in their designated area. These pets will love fruits such as apples, pineapples, oranges, papaya and so on.

You can also pet your bunnies, praise them, groom them and so on. They will associate their good digging behavior with a reward.

Finally, consider using ‘time-outs’ where you return this pet to its hutch or cage if it shows this behavior. Do this for a few minutes before letting it out again. This will make it associate the caging with this digging on a wrong spot and may help it stop the habit.

4. Reduce boredom

Boredom can be reduced by things such as providing enough hay, keeping two bunnies together, giving them plenty of rabbit toys including chew toys, as well as a large rabbit run to where they can play and spend some of their energy that would otherwise make them very destructive.

5. Bunny proof and limiting access

Also, consider bunny-proofing your home to stop these pets from accessing and damaging any of your valuables. Things such as placing thick clothing on furniture, plastic covers on carpets, creating barriers and so on will limit access and stop the damage.

6. Consider spaying or neutering

Sometimes, excessive chewing and digging can be triggered by sex hormones. Spaying and neutering might reduce this tendency. Talk to your vet if you notice and obsessive digging behavior in unneutered bunnies.

7. Avoid strong sprays or perfume use

Whereas some people may recommend the use of strong chemicals or perfumes to deter this behavior, they may cause allergies as well as respiratory problems to both humans as well as your furry friends. Also, those formulated for cats and dogs might not work for rabbits. 

Leave a Comment