Rabbit Behavioral Problems: Digging

Companion Animals June 09, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Introduction

A rabbit habit that can quickly become a problem is digging. Rabbits that are kept indoors still have the instinct to dig, even if that means tearing up the carpet. Owners can take a few simple steps to prevent rabbits from damaging the flooring of a home.

rabbit and boy 3

Predisposing Factors

In the wild, rabbits create dens by excavating dirt and rocks. This behavior is based on the fact that rabbits are trying to provide shelter for themselves. Domestic rabbits still have the instinct to dig to create a safe environment. This natural behavior becomes a problem when pet rabbits are brought indoors. Rabbits will quickly take advantage of any area that welcomes digging, such as the boundary between the sofa and the floor. Loose carpet corners and closed doorways are other perfect digging locations.

Does have greater tendencies to do this than bucks. This is mainly due to nesting tendencies of does. One may want to consider this fact when selecting the gender of a house rabbit.

Prevention

The best way to avoid the negative effects of rabbit digging is to protect your home from the behavior before damage occurs. Owners should also consider providing an acceptable digging location for their rabbits.

Rabbit owners should avoid using strong perfumes or chemicals to deter rabbits from digging. Such perfumes can cause respiratory problems in rabbits and may also cause allergic reactions to humans who come into contact with the chemicals by sitting on the furniture. In addition, products that are formulated to keep dogs and cats off furniture do not typically work on rabbits.

The following tips will help you rabbit-proof your home:

  • Flooring: Carefully check all of the corners in the room where your rabbit will be allowed to roam. Corners that are slightly loose will still be tempting for rabbits. You may place heavy furniture on any loose corners to prevent a rabbit from accessing the flooring. You may also purchase thick plastic to cover carpet and rugs. Rug protectors that are sold at many office stores are great protection from rabbit digging.
  • Furniture: If the furniture in your home is close to the floor, your rabbit may begin to tear at the furniture. To prevent this from occurring, cover all furniture with a thick cloth that will not allow the rabbit access.
  • Alternatives: Provide your rabbit with a box filled with sand or soil that will allow approved digging. Your rabbit will begin to associate the box with proper digging behavior and may stop searching for additional locations throughout the house.

By following these steps, you will be able to prevent rabbit digging from decreasing the value of your home and ensure a peaceful relationship between you and your rabbit.

Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, Ph.D. & Amanda Young - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.