Why do rabbits scratch the ground? Bunny digging is a natural behavior, and not something that owners usually need to worry about.
Sometimes it can be because your rabbit is bored, stressed, or because they want somewhere to hide away.
But, there are times when your rabbit scratching the ground can be annoying or dangerous.
If your rabbit is digging enough to escape from their runs outside, or trying to scratch things like wires in your home, you should redirect the behavior.
Why Do Rabbits Scratch the Ground and Other FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about rabbits scratching and digging.
- Why do rabbits scratch the ground?
- Do rabbits dig in the wild?
- Do rabbits need to dig?
- How can I let my indoor rabbit dig?
- Is my rabbit trying to hide?
- Can digging be dangerous?
- How do I bunny proof my home?
- Can I stop my rabbit from digging?
Why Do Rabbits Scratch the Ground?
There are a number of potential causes for digging and scratching behaviors in rabbits.
But, it’s not usually a sign that there’s something wrong with your rabbit. This is a normal behavior that is observed in wild rabbits as well as domestic rabbits.
Domestic rabbits are descended from wild European rabbits.
European rabbits naturally dig to excavate burrows and warrens, so it’s entirely plausible that domestic rabbits have inherited this instinct.
In the wild, rabbits dig holes to create warrens, for shelter, for maternal reasons (to have babies), to hide from predators, and to regulate their temperature.
Here are some other reasons why your domestic rabbit may be scratching or digging.
- As exercise
Do Rabbits Dig in the Wild?
Most breeds of wild rabbit will dig to create burrows. A linked network of burrows forms a warren, where multiple rabbits can live.
Burrows and warrens can serve multiple purposes to wild rabbits.
It provides somewhere safe for them to sleep and hide if there are ever any predators.
Warrens and burrows are also a great place for wild rabbits to regulate their temperatures. When it gets cold, they can warm up in their burrows and nests. And when it’s too hot, being underground protects them from the sun.
Pregnant rabbits will dig and burrow to create a nest where she can have her babies.
Do Rabbits Need to Dig?
Our domestic rabbits live very different lives to their wild ancestors. Most of them live in hutches, safe from predators, and are fixed, so there’s no risk of breeding.
It’s also very common for rabbits to live indoors with us, rather than in hutches outside.
So, it makes sense for us to believe that our rabbits don’t need to dig.
However, our bunnies don’t know this! Despite the safety we can provide them, they may still feel the need to dig or scratch the ground. After all, it’s a natural behavior.
And, digging can have other benefits to our rabbits.
It can offer some physical exercise, an opportunity for rabbits to use their muscles. Plus, it offers some mental stimulation.
How Can I Let My Indoor Rabbit Dig?
So, we now know that digging and scratching behaviors can be beneficial for bunnies, even when they’re safe from predators, kept at a comfortable temperature, and aren’t going to be having babies.
But, it’s hard to find somewhere safe and easy for rabbits to dig when they live indoors with you as a house rabbit.
There are a couple of solutions to this. You don’t need to let your rabbit dig at your carpet, floors, and furniture.
Firstly, you can make a designated digging box for your bunny! This is a box that your rabbit can easily get in and out of, that you can fill with hay, soil, or sand. Make sure it’s a rabbit-safe filling.
Rabbits will love burrowing into this. But, it can get quite messy, especially if the box has no form of lid to contain the material inside.
Secondly, you can use blankets, bedding, and towels.
How Does This Work?
Some house rabbits enjoy a behavior known as bunching. This involves them ‘organizing’ materials around them until they’re just right.
They might kick them around, pull them, bite them, or push them until they’re exactly how your bunny wants them to be.
This is less messy than the first suggestion, and can keep your bunny occupied whilst satisfying their urge to dig.
However, it can lead to your stuff being a little ruined! Rabbits may scratch the material, or bite through it, even shredding it.
Is My Rabbit Trying to Hide?
It’s entirely possible that your rabbit is digging or scratching the ground because they’re trying to hide from something. After all, we know hiding from predators is one reason wild rabbits dig and burrow.
Don’t let this worry you, it doesn’t mean that your rabbit is scared of you, or trying to hide from you.
But, they may feel better if they have somewhere they can hide away by themselves and feel safe from any potential dangers.
If you want to discourage digging, you can offer your rabbit tunnels and boxes to hide in, instead.
Pop little treats or bits of food inside these hiding places to encourage your rabbit if they don’t use them straight away.
Can Digging be Dangerous?
Digging behavior in itself is not dangerous, or anything to worry about. However, there are places that can be dangerous for your rabbit to dig.
If you have an outdoor hutch or run and your rabbit is digging underneath it, they could easily escape into your garden, or somewhere out of your control.
This leaves them vulnerable to predators, or other things that could hurt them, like vehicles.
For indoor rabbits, digging around wires and other objects that can harm rabbits can be dangerous.
So, if your rabbit is digging outside, make sure you supervise them. You may need to regularly move their hutch or run if they are digging holes near the edge.
How Do I Bunny Proof My Home?
Bunny proofing a home is a good way to protect against any destructive digging. This includes digging items that could be harmful to your pet, like wires.
You can use flex tubing to cover up any exposed wires.
If your rabbit digs and scratches at your carpet, you may need to restrict their access from these places.
Or you can cover these areas with plastic guards that your bunny won’t be able to dig through.
Can I Stop My Rabbit Digging?
Digging is a natural behavior for wild and domestic rabbits. So, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to stop it.
And, as long as your rabbit isn’t putting itself in any danger or ruining your stuff, you shouldn’t worry about stopping it!
The best way to stop problematic or destructive digging is to distract your rabbit.
Offer them plenty of other opportunities for fun. Give them plenty of mentally stimulating toys, and lots of places that they can hide.
You can give them a designated digging area with lots of hay or dirt.
And, you can make sure they have supervised exercise, so they won’t feel the need to dig to stretch their muscles.
Take a look at your rabbits other behaviors to see what could be causing the digging, and use that information to stop it. If your rabbit seems to be bored, give them more toys! If they are jumpy, give them places to hide.
Why Do Rabbits Scratch the Ground? Summary
There are a number of reasons to explain why your rabbit could be scratching the ground.
Bunny digging is normally harmless, but it can be annoying for you and dangerous for our rabbits at times.
Offer your rabbit a designated digging area if you don’t want them to dig elsewhere. And, make sure they have plenty of toys on offer to stimulate them.
Where’s your rabbit’s favorite place to dig?
References and Resources
- Crowell-Davis, S. ‘Behavior Problems in Pet Rabbits’, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (2007)
- Gonzalez-Mariscal, G. & Rosenblatt, J. ‘Maternal Behavior in Rabbits: A Historical and Multidisciplinary Perspective’, Advances in the Study of Behavior (1996)
- Rooney, N. (et al), ‘The Current State of Welfare, Housing and Husbandry of the English Pet Rabbit Population’, BMC Research Notes (2014)