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Why Does My Rabbit Dig and Scratch on My Clothes?

Nicole Cosgrove

Pet rabbits display a wide variety of strange and sometimes adorable behaviors. Behind each of these behaviors lies an evolutionary adaptation to life in the wild. Now that they’re in your home, what do these odd behaviors mean?

In this article, we’ll cover the many different reasons that a rabbit might dig and scratch on your clothes. Then, we’ll provide you with a few foolproof strategies to help stop your rabbit from digging on your clothes.


Reasons Your Rabbit Might Dig and Scratch on Your Clothes

There are many reasons your rabbit might dig and scratch on your clothes. Here are the most common reasons:

Not Spayed or Neutered

Before a rabbit is spayed or neutered, their hormones can aggravate certain behaviors. Digging and scratching is a common show of bunny aggression when they are not spayed or neutered.

Going Through Their “Terrible Teens”

In House Rabbit Handbook by Marinell Harriman, the author observes that “the stage of intense curiosity, hyperactivity, and frantic chewing and digging occurs at the height of adolescence (4-8 months).” At this time, your rabbit is akin to a moody teenager and may chew and dig at your clothes for no identifiable reason.

To File Their Nails

Rabbits need to keep their nails trimmed to avoid painful snags and tears. If you’re not trimming their nails regularly, they’ll find different ways to do so – like scratching at your clothes.

Popsugar Living Frozen Rabbit Treats
Image: Popsugar Living

Because They Want Your Attention

Sometimes your rabbit just needs more love and attention. They’ll gladly let you know this by roughing you up while you’re sitting on the couch.

You’re in Their Way

Heaven forbid you do not notice that your rabbit is trying to get through somewhere that you’re standing! If your rabbit is the impatient type, they’ll often nudge, dig, or scratch at your feet and pants to let you know you need to move.

Asserting Dominance

Un-neutered male rabbits are particularly guilty of this, especially if you also have a female rabbit in the house. They’ll dig and scratch at you to make sure everyone knows who’s boss.

Feeling Playful

Rabbit playing ball

When a rabbit feels very comfortable around you, they may lightly paw at you to start a playful back-and-forth. Highly recommended to paw right back at them.

They May Be Frustrated or Anxious

Digging and scratching are behaviors that rabbits exhibit when they’re feeling unpleasant emotions.

Angry at You for Leaving Them in a Cage

Rabbits need plenty of room to move around and exercise and will develop a foul temper if left inside of too small an enclosure for too long.

Following Their Natural Instincts

In the wild, rabbits dig burrows every spring for the birth of their children. Even spayed and neutered rabbits will exhibit this deeply embedded behavior as soon as winter’s frost disappears.

Offended by How You Smell

Most rabbits are offended by particularly strong or pungent smells, like wearing too much cologne or chopping garlic. Because they associate these smells with danger, they’ll dig and scratch at you to try and get you to move your smells away from them.

Nowhere Else to Dig

Does your rabbit have plenty of hay or some cardboard boxes to dig and scratch on? If not, they may choose you as their scratching post instead.

Ways to Stop Your Rabbit from Digging on Your Clothes

If your rabbit is being particularly aggressive, here are a few strategies to discourage them from digging and scratching at you:

1. Get Them More Toys

Keeping your rabbit occupied with plenty of things to chew on – or even just a stack of cardboard boxes – will give them plenty of better things to do than dig and scratch at you.

2. Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit

Especially if your rabbit is in their adolescent phase, having them de-sexed may be the only option that treats digging and scratching long-term.

3. Trim Their Nails More Often

If you keep your rabbit’s nails trim, they’ll feel less inclined to file them down on your clothes and skin.

4. Give Them More Hay

Hay is both a rabbit’s primary dietary requirement and their favorite bedding. If you notice your rabbit digging more in the springtime, give them plenty of hay to make a mock burrow with.

rabbits eating
Image: vampy24 from Pixabay

5. Let Out a Little Yelp

Bunnies are sensitive and intelligent, and able to tell when you’re hurt or angry. A small, high-pitched scream when they dig at you can dissuade them from continuing this behavior.

6. Try Out a Grass Rug

Woven grass mats are a versatile addition to your home, and a surefire way of giving your rabbit something to chew and scratch at instead of your clothes.

7. Bribe Them with Treats

If all else fails, distract your rabbit from beating you up by bribing them with greens or fruit in a different part of the house.


Final Thoughts on Why Rabbits Dig at Your Clothes

We may never be able to know the exact workings of a rabbit’s mind, but behaviors like digging and scratching are preventable and avoidable. Whether the cause of your rabbit’s digging and scratching has more to do with hormones, anxiety, or boredom, you can follow the steps above to train this behavior out of them. Treat your rabbit well, and they’ll show you love and affection right back!

Featured Image: Jennifer Chen on Unsplash

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.