Rabbits dig in their cage out of instinct as well as to benefit their health. This is part of their nature as a prey animal. If done in inappropriate places, the behavior can be redirected.
Why Would a Rabbit Dig in Their Cage? Rabbits Dig in Their Cage Because it is Part of Their Nature. In the Wild, Rabbits Burrow Underground to Create Nests, or Even Entire Communities. As a Prey Animal, Rabbits Must be Creative with Where they Keep Their Habitats. Digging is Also Pleasurable, Both Physically and Psychologically for a Rabbit. There Are Many Ways a Rabbit Keeps Itself Physically Active for Enjoyment, and Health Reasons. Digging is One of Those Methods. Although Digging is A Significant Part of a Rabbit’s Genetic Makeup, Sometimes This is Done in Inappropriate Places in the Home. Redirection can be Done to Ensure it Stays in the Cage.
A certain amount of digging, along with chewing, running, and jumping, is necessary for a rabbit for daily exercise. If a rabbit does not get enough daily exercise, they will be at risk for heart disease, sore hock (uncomfortable condition on the underside of the feet of rabbits), or pododermatitis (urine scalding from lack of grooming), as well as other uncomfortable or dangerous health conditions. Not only is digging a source of physical activity for your pet, but this serves as a way to keep nails trimmed down.
Rabbits cannot be declawed without causing an immense amount of pain and discomfort in your rabbit, which can be considered inhumane. Some countries will not even allow this procedure due to the discomfort it causes your pet. Since rabbits do not have retractable claws, they use their claws for traction. When their claws are removed, they have less traction, which may result in splay leg (musculoskeletal condition in which the rabbit lacks the ability to use one or more of their limbs). Also, the rabbit will need to walk on their feet which had the claws taken out post-surgery, which is incredibly painful for them since they walk mostly on claws rather than a pad.
Keeping nails trimmed is vital through digging so a rabbit can walk comfortably on their feet. If the nails are not trimmed down through digging, this may also cause discomfort and difficulty walking. Digging is an essential part of the health of your rabbit.
Rabbits also dig out of their natural desire to create a habitat. Since rabbits are prey animals, they have been known to create burrows underground as a means to hide from predators in the wild. Rabbits have even created entire underground communities to hide from predators. Although this is more of a necessity for a wild rabbit than a domestic rabbit, the instinct is existent in both animals. You may notice your pet digging and attempting to build a habitat out of hay, or bedding. This is normal and is part of their instinct.
What else should you know about rabbits digging in their cage?
- A rabbit’s nails are always growing. This is why it is so important they have a way to trim them down.
- If you happen to find your rabbit has dug something they should not have, do not discipline after the fact because they will not remember, and this is ineffective. Only discipline if caught in the act.
- Declawing your rabbit can cause permanent damage or even disability.
What Should You Do If Your Rabbit Digs Outside of Its Cage?
Although it is A Natural Instinct for Your Rabbit to Burrow and Dig in Their Cage, and it is Vital to Their Health, This Habit Can be Damaging When Done Outside of the Cage. It is Not Uncommon for Rabbits to Take this Habit and Dig at Carpet or Furniture. If This Happens, there are Ways to Redirect the Behavior. Through Positive Reinforcement, Protecting Belongings, and Determining Your Pet’s Location Based Off of Their Digging Habits, you can Help to Create an Environment Suitable for their Digging Needs.
Since you cannot tell a rabbit directly not to dig up your carpet or dig a hole in your couch, you must combat this behavior through redirection. Once your pet starts to dig in a place that they should not, clap your hands, then remove them from the area and put them in an area where they can dig. This will help to establish a different habit in your rabbit. If your rabbit is being very stubborn, try blocking off the area they seem drawn to as you attempt to train them. Your rabbit is not being difficult on purpose, they are just digging out of habit, and need some redirection to learn where they should do that.
Positive reinforcement is important when training a rabbit as well. If a rabbit is digging in their cage, or in another spot you have designated for digging, reward them. You can either give your pet a healthy treat or reward them with praise in the form of petting or grooming. The positive reinforcement lets your pet know they are behaving correctly and encourages them to keep it up.
Rabbit-proofing the area is such an important part of creating an environment that is safe and suitable for your pet. Most rabbits dig less and less as they get older, however, as the nature of a rabbit is to dig you should be prepared for a lifetime of this habit. Rabbit-proofing will save your home from the potential destruction your rabbit may cause, as well as harm that may come to your rabbit should they dig or chew an object that could be harmful. Block off cords, plants, magazines, baskets, carpet, and furniture your rabbit may be tempted to chew or dig at. These materials may be harmful. Ideally, your rabbit will have a wide-open space in which they can reach their cage.
When trying to prevent your rabbit from digging outside of their cage, choosing the location they will be in is very important as well. If you notice your rabbit digging at carpet no matter which areas you block off, consider finding a spot without carpet. If there is a piece of furniture nearby your pet likes to dig at, consider moving the cage away so your pet is not tempted. If these are not options, setting up a barrier is recommended.
How Should You Prepare the Rabbit’s Cage for Digging?
Since it is a Rabbit’s Natural Desire to Dig, You Can Help as an Owner by Adding Toys or Materials Which Will Benefit this Habit. There are Various Mats and Boxes with Materials That Interest a Rabbit. Grass, Cardboard, or Rope are Just Some Rabbit-Friendly Materials That Will Get Your Pet Digging in a Way that Will Satisfy Their Natural Instinct and Get Them Exercising. Also, You Will Not Need to Worry About Your Pet Ruining Your Furniture or Carpet with Extra Items that Pique Their Natural Curiosity.
If you want to provide some extra options to allow your rabbit to dig aside from just digging in their cage, finding a toy that encourages this habit is one that will prove beneficial. These toys are also helpful if your pet frequently digs in areas you would not like them to. Providing a different surface or material to dig may give them the distraction they need to refrain from digging in your precious belongings. There are toys such as grass mats, digging boxes, and digging platforms available to help your pet control those urges. These provide a variety of different materials for your rabbit to dig which are safe for them.
While digging can be a loud, and destructive habit if not properly handled, digging is an important part of a rabbit’s life. If a rabbit is not able to dig, their physical health will suffer. They may suffer from adverse health effects that come with obesity due to the lack of physical activity. They may also face discomfort walking due to claws being too long. Digging is a very important part of the maintenance of a rabbit’s physical makeup.
Not only is digging important for keeping a rabbit healthy physically, but psychologically rabbits feel a need to dig. This habit helps rabbits feel safe, as they are prey animals and it is their nature to burrow and create a home underground. Your rabbit may dig in their cage out of instinct, and this is perfectly normally and a healthy behavior your rabbit should be allowed to participate in.
While digging is a healthy part of a rabbit’s health physically and psychologically, this does not mean it should be allowed if it is destructive. Digging in places such as carpet or furniture should be discouraged. If this occurs, redirection, relocating, or rabbit-proofing an area may be necessary. Rabbits are not participating in this behavior to purposely misbehave, this is their nature, and they need the help of their owner to learn the proper way to participate in their natural desire.