Rabbits have their unique personalities; they love exploring, thumping and will do just about anything for a treat. However, not all behaviors in rabbits are so endearing. One, in particular, is when a rabbit begins to make a habit of digging at your clothes. But why do they do this, and what does it mean? Here is all you need to know.
So, why do rabbits dig at your clothes? A rabbit that is scared, frustrated, annoyed, or bored and wanting your attention may dig at your clothes. You can begin to narrow down the reason your rabbit is digging at your clothes by assessing what is happening when they dig and the urgency of their digging.
With so many potential causes, learning more about why your rabbit might be digging at your clothes can help you find ways to stop this sometimes annoying habit.
That is, of course, if you want it to stop.
Chances are, you will once you start to notice damage to your clothing.
Let us now explore the reasons behind this specific behavior and how you should appropriately respond – including what you can do to stop it going forward.
So do keep reading.
It may save a favorite top or two.
Why Is My Rabbit Digging My Clothes?
The reason rabbits dig at their owner’s clothes often has to do with the rabbit’s mental and emotional needs. If a rabbit is frightened, annoyed, frustrated, or in many cases bored, it may start to dig at your clothes.
Each of these reasons grows from different situations so let’s take a closer look.
A rabbit that is frightened will first try to run away from the source of the scare.
If the rabbit is being held or sitting on your lap, it may turn and try to dig its way down and free.
Digging also helps the rabbit to relieve stress from being scared.
Rabbits are burrowing animals and if it feels trapped in a dangerous situation may try to dig quickly down into the nearest soft material in an attempt to hide.
Oftentimes this means your clothes!
A rabbit that is annoyed or frustrated may dig at your clothes to display its displeasure.
As most rabbit owners quickly learn, rabbit nails are small but can be very sharp. A scrape of rabbit nails gets everyone’s attention rather quickly!
If you think about the last time you were very frustrated or saw a child who was, you know how tempting it can be to act out.
Often scratching is a rabbit’s way of acting out their frustration.
If you are holding a treat and not giving it to your rabbit the moment they want it.
They may dig at your clothes to let you know they are on to your game.
Desire For Attention
They may also dig at your clothes if they feel you are not giving them the desired amount of attention or if something in their living environment changes in a way they find upsetting.
This is especially true for ‘house rabbits’ that have run of large sections of an owner’s house.
My friend’s house rabbit quickly learned that if the door to their favorite room was closed, digging at my friend’s shoes would get their attention long enough to come and open the door!
Like many animals, a bored rabbit is the one most likely to pick up an undesired behavior as a way of entertaining themselves.
In the wild, animals are either eating, looking for things to eat, caring for their young, or busy preparing their home for an inevitable change of seasons.
Their days are very active when they are not asleep.
A rabbit that is kept in too small of an enclosure or left with nothing stimulating to keep itself busy may start digging to let out energy.
Rabbits are not as large as dogs, but they are very intelligent and active.
They need mental and physical stimulation to stay happy.
This doesn’t have to be anything complex; even simple playtime in a new safe area with a few toys to check out will be great.
An unhappy rabbit is one that is more likely to dig, chew, and otherwise be a bit naughty.
When determining the cause of your rabbit’s scratching, look at the things happening around it at the time.
Did something startle your rabbit? Did it experience something new and unexpected? Is it digging frantically without any clear pattern?
If so, your rabbit is likely digging from fear.
Has a favorite toy rolled to a location that is hard to reach? Are you later than normal with feeding your rabbit? Have you been ignoring your rabbit more than usual?
In that case, it may just be digging to tell you that it has wants that are waiting to be met.
If your rabbit is kept in a small enclosure, hasn’t had any toys or human interaction in some time, isn’t allowed to explore outside of its cage, or you have been gone and not able to play as much, your rabbit is likely digging out of boredom.
Should You Stop Your Rabbit Digging At Your Clothes?
If your rabbit rarely digs at your clothes and does one time for a clear reason, you may not need to take any actions to prevent the behavior. Usually, addressing whatever made your rabbit suddenly dig will be enough to prevent any more digging. If your rabbit has started to make a habit out of digging at your clothes on a regular basis, it is typically best to take steps to end the behavior.
It is important to remember that most rabbit digging behavior is an attempt at communication.
It may be about fear, irritation, boredom, or a need for attention.
If a rabbit digs at you once and has never done it before, the best thing to do is stop and consider why the digging happened suddenly.
In most cases, something frightened the rabbit.
Simply helping the rabbit calm down should be plenty of responsive action.
If your rabbit has started digging every time you hold it or that it has access to you, it may be time to correct the behavior.
If your rabbit is also digging when it is in its hutch or cage by digging at bedding or dirt, then it is definitely time to take steps to help your rabbit.
By responding with care to your rabbit’s potentially irritating digging, you are setting your rabbit up to be well cared for, the behavior to stop, and for your relationship with your rabbit to stay positive.
How To Stop Your Rabbit Digging At Your Clothes
Once you have decided to take action about your rabbit’s digging, there are a few steps to take when stopping your rabbit from digging at your clothes. Let’s look at each step.
Determine Why Your Rabbit Is Digging
As mentioned above, your rabbit could be digging for a few different reasons.
Taking the time to investigate the ‘why’ behind your rabbit’s digging will help you decide the best response to take.
Remember that some digging is normal for any rabbit.
A once or twice encounter with digging mostly just means your rabbit has a quick fix issue that needs to be met.
In this case, remove your rabbit from a scary situation, find out if your rabbit has food and water, and reassure your rabbit by talking to them calmly or petting them gently.
Get Your Rabbit Some Toys
The leading reason for continuous clothes digging by a rabbit is boredom.
A bored rabbit will look for rewarding ways to fill their time.
The soft fabric of your clothing is satisfying to dig, and if the clothes make a ripping sound, that is even more interesting!
Lucky for you, modern pet stores have many great options for rabbit toys that are engaging and easy boredom busters.
Toys that roll can be pushed or pulled, or hide and reveal treats are very popular.
This particular and affordable set from Amazon is ideal.
Get Your Rabbit Spayed or Neutered
Many people only think about spaying or neutering cats and dogs.
However, the hormones an unfixed rabbit experiences can lead to easier frustration, acting out, and sometimes possessive aggression by rabbits.
This may present as unwanted digging.
Getting your rabbit spayed or neutered helps to stabilize its hormones and is also believed to increase your rabbit’s life span.
Most small animal veterinarians can perform a rabbit spay or neuter with little pain for your pet.
Make Sure Your Rabbit Has Plenty Of Time Outside of Their Cage
Along the same lines of boredom, a rabbit isn’t designed to live in a small cage for most hours of the day.
They need exercise to help use up their natural abundance of energy.
By making a play yard or finding a room in the house, your rabbit can explore safely with supervision, and you are giving them positive options for using their energy.
Let Your Rabbit Know Scratching Hurts!
Rabbits are very intelligent, more so than they often receive credit for.
If your rabbit digs at your clothes or scratches at your skin, it is okay to let out a small verbal yelp in a high pitch.
This signals to your rabbit that they have caused you pain.
Without hitting or hurting your rabbit, move away from them and make it clear you do not enjoy their digging.
You may be surprised how well this works after one or two digging attempts.
A rabbit that digs at your clothes can be a frustrating experience.
By getting to the cause of the digging, you will be well on your way to putting an end to the behavior.
With simple changes and, if needed, a trip to the vet, you can have the days of clothes digging behind you soon.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.