Are you wondering, "Why do bunnies scratch the floor?"
My first rabbit almost gave me a heart attack when it started scratching the floors like crazy out of the blue.
Since then, I've learned a lot about pet rabbits and their natural behavior, so I'm here to unravel the mystery behind this action and give you a few tips on how to stop it.
Just keep reading.
- Scratching and digging is normal behavior for domestic and wild rabbits, related to their instinct to create burrows.
- Some domestic rabbits scratch the floor to attract attention, relieve boredom, or communicate a problem.
- You can stop your bunny from scratching the floors by providing a calm environment, companionship, and toys.
Why Do Rabbits Like Digging?
Before getting to why your bunny likes to scratch the floors, let's talk about whether it's normal for rabbits to dig. And to understand bunny behavior, you must know more about their wild cousins.
Wild rabbits are prey animals, which means they must escape and hide from hungry predators. They rely on digging a net of warrens underground to protect themselves.
Burrowing in the ground also ensures that the rabbit has a safe and warm space to rest without worrying about their predators and other dangers. And it's also a place to hide from cold and heat.
Moreover, female rabbits excavate burrows to create a secure nest for their babies. Baby bunnies are delicate and need all the extra protection they can get.
But do all rabbits burrow? Most rabbit species excavate burrows. Only cottontail rabbits nest in shallow depressions and don't make underground warrens.
So, it's normal for some rabbits to dig and others to have no interest in nesting underground. But why do domestic rabbits scratch floors or the bottom of their cage? Let's find the answers!
7 Reasons Why Bunnies Scratch Floors
It can be quite frustrating when your fluffy friend starts scratching the floor, and you can't figure out the issue. Is your pet mad, hungry, or sick?
You need to observe your bunny to narrow down the cause to one of these seven most common reasons why your bunny scratches the floors.
#1 Normal Digging Behavior
Domestic rabbits don't have to worry about a deadly predator sneaking up on them when they are vulnerable. And they don't need protection from the elements. But your bunnies don't know this!
According to Four Paws International, rabbits were domesticated in the 5th century. But it wasn't until the 1800s that rabbits became pets. (1)
So, bunnies still have many of their wild instincts and will scratch to make an underground nest when they don't have another suitable surface to express this natural behavior.
Rabbits are intelligent animals, and they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to thrive. When you don't provide toys and enrich their environment, bunnies scratch, dig, and chew.
More importantly, bored rabbits can also become aggressive and grow, bite, or scratch when you attempt to handle them.
That's why it's important not to ignore scratching the floors. It may be the first warning that your pet needs a richer environment and more exercise.
#3 Seeking Attention
My bunny scratches the floor around its food bowl when the bowl is almost empty to attract my attention and remind me it's time to fill it up with pellets.
Some rabbits also learn that you will come running to check on them when you hear scratching. And they do it to attract your attention because of boredom or another issue.
Humans aren't the only species that can get anxiety. Rabbits can also get anxious, especially when they live in a noisy environment or alongside cats, dogs, or other predators.
Also, bunnies don't like it when you handle them too much. And according to The Healthy Pet Club, you should never pick them from the floor since it's similar to how a prey bird snatches a rabbit. (2)
One symptom of anxiety can be excessive floor scratching. Other signs to consider are walking in circles, foot stamping, yelping, and overgrooming.
Reducing your bunny's anxiety is vital for its well-being. Anxious rabbits may react badly when you handle them and attempt to escape from their cage.
Curiosity is another reason bunnies scratch floors, carpets, and other surfaces. It's also a way for your pet to explore its surroundings, especially when you place it in an unfamiliar environment.
Fortunately, once your house rabbit satisfies its curiosity, it should stop destroying your floors and settle down.
#6 Giving Birth
Female rabbits start building a nesting area a couple of days before giving birth.
So, if you haven't provided a nesting box in the cage, your bunny may scratch the floors because it wants to make an underground burrow for its babies.
#7 Health Problems
In most cases, scratching isn't a sign of disease. However, I would mention any sudden changes in your pet's behavior to your vet to rule out an underlying medical condition.
Also, you shouldn't ignore it if your rabbit is scratching its fur. Your pet may have fleas, lice, or other skin parasites that can infest your house.
So, scratching can be a normal behavior for rabbits. But are there any dangers you should know?
Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Scratch the Floor?
There's not much danger in indoor rabbits scratching floors. One issue is that your pet may hurt its paws on the hard floors by breaking a nail. Fortunately, these injuries aren't serious.
I use cage liners to protect my floors from the sharp claws and reduce the chance of a nail injury. I recommend Luftpets' cage liners because they don't slip and are machine washable.
The other potential risk is that your fluffy bunny can dig a big enough gap to escape from its hutch and roam the rooms. That's why it's vital to rabbit-proof the house!
But can you do anything to stop this destructive behavior? Let's find out!
How to Stop Bunnies from Scratching the Floor?
Bunnies can be quite persistent when scratching floors, so it's vital to address the behavior as soon as possible to prevent it from turning into a habit. And here are my top five tips on how to do it.
#1 Provide Digging Box
As rabbit experts from SPCA say, "It is important that your rabbits have the ability to dig in order to meet their behavioural needs." (3)
Providing a digging box can save your floors and carpets from damage and make your bunny happy. And you can create one easily from cardboard! Check the video below!
#2 Get a Second Bunny
According to studies, domestic bunnies are more content and less bored when they live in pairs. In the wild, rabbits are also social animals, forming a large fluffle. (4)
So, getting a second bunny can provide mental and physical stimulation for your bored pet and reduce scratching behavior.
#3 Spend Time with Your Bunny
If you don't have the time and budget for a second bunny, it's vital to spend more time with your fluffy pet to ensure it's not lonely and bored. You can play with it, hold it in your lap, or sit next to its cage.
Here are some other ways to keep your bunny busy:
#4 Get Toys
A rich environment is key for a happy indoor rabbit. Provide plenty of suitable rabbit toys, such as tunnels, cardboard boxes, shredded paper, key rings, untreated wood logs, etc.
I also recommend getting a grass mat. It's an excellent chew toy, and it can satisfy your bunny's natural desire to dig. Grass mats also provide extra fiber in your bunny's diet.
#5 Reduce Anxiety
It doesn't take much to spook a bunny and make it anxious. You should keep the cage in a quiet and calm place where other pets can't bother the rabbit.
Also, avoid handling your rabbit too much. Some bunnies don't have a problem with human attention, but others get stressed.
Moreover, check that the hutch is large enough for your bunny. Small living space doesn't provide enough room for exercise, which will stress your rabbit.
Experts from PetMD recommend cage dimensions of 24" x 24" x 36" for small rabbit breeds and 36" x 36" x 120" for largest breeds.
1. Why do rabbits scratch the carpet?
Rabbits scratch carpets because soft surfaces trigger their natural digging instincts. Scratching carpets is also how some rabbits amuse themselves when bored.
2. Why do rabbits lick the floor before lying down?
Rabbits lick to mark their territory, explore their surroundings, or show affection. Some may also lick the floor before lying down because they like the taste.
3. Why do bunnies scratch the floor at night?
Bunnies may scratch the floor at night because they're anxious, hungry, or want attention from their owners.
Scratching is normal behavior for rabbits and not a reason for concern in healthy animals. It's a form of exercise and a way for rabbits to express their want for attention.
However, you should ensure your bunny has enough mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and anxiety. And always consult your vet if you notice any sudden changes in behavior!
What do you think about these reasons why bunnies scratch the floor? Does your pet like scratching and digging? Share your experience in the comment section.
1. How the Rabbit was Domesticated [Internet]. FOUR PAWS International - Animal Welfare Organisation. Available from: https://www.four-paws.org/our-stories/publications-guides/how-the-rabbit-was-domesticated
2. Shreeve A. Anxiety in rabbits [Internet]. The Healthy Pet Club. 2020 [cited 2023 Nov 26]. Available from: https://www.thehealthypetclub.co.uk/anxiety-in-rabbits/
3. Advice & welfare: Problem behaviour in rabbits - digging and chewing • SPCA New Zealand [Internet]. www.spca.nz. Available from: https://www.spca.nz/advice-and-welfare/article/problem-behaviour-in-rabbits-digging-and-chewing
4. Varga M. Rabbit Basic Science. Textbook of Rabbit Medicine [Internet]. 2014;3–108. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7158370/
5. Rabbit Cage Guide [Internet]. www.petmd.com. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/rabbit/rabbit-cage-guide