How to Solve Common Bunny Behavior Problems

Is your adorable bunny suddenly digging up your carpet, chewing through baseboards, spraying urine everywhere, or giving you the cold shoulder? Rabbit behavior problems can turn these normally sweet pets into fuzzy little demons. But don’t despair yet! Understanding the underlying causes for your rabbit’s destructive or aggressive habits is key to curbing them. With some simple solutions like providing acceptable outlets, bunny-proofing your home, positive reinforcement training, and addressing potential medical issues, you can redirect undesirable behavior into happy, healthy habits. Read on to learn precisely how to solve digging, chewing, litter box avoidance, aggression, and other common troublesome tendencies in our furry, long-eared friends.

Digging behaviors

Digging is a natural behavior for rabbits. In the wild, rabbits dig burrows to live in and to hide from predators. Domestic rabbits retain this instinctual digging behavior, which can cause problems for rabbit owners when directed at inappropriate places. Understanding why rabbits dig and implementing some simple solutions can help curb undesirable digging.

Digging the carpet

One common digging issue rabbits cause is tunneling and pulling up carpeting. Your bunny may see carpet as an inviting surface to dig into. Additionally, the texture is similar to grass and dirt which rabbits naturally burrow in.

To stop your rabbit from digging at the carpet, provide acceptable digging surfaces instead. Place a digging box with soil, shredded paper or straw in your rabbit's enclosure. You can also cover carpeted areas inside the enclosure with cardboard or purchase grass mats to overlay the carpet.

It's ideal to allow your rabbit at least an hour of supervised playtime daily in rabbit-proofed areas of your home. This gives them an outlet to run, play, and dig. Protect your home by covering carpet, wires and baseboards in that area. Providing toys, tunnels, and boxes fills their need to burrow and tunnel without destroying your home.

You can use positive reinforcement training to redirect the digging habit. When you catch them digging at the carpet, make a loud noise to interrupt the behavior. Provide a toy or tunnel for them to dig in instead and reward with a treat when they do. Be consistent, and they will learn carpet is off limits for digging.

Digging into the litter box

Some rabbits delight in excavating and scattering their litter box contents. This messy habit likely links back to their natural digging behaviors. There are several ways to tackle this issue:

  • Use a covered litter box with just enough room for your bunny to enter and exit easily. Covering the box keeps the litter contained inside.

  • Try different litters to find one your rabbit doesn't enjoy digging in. Paper-based litters or pine pellets tend to be less fun to scatter.

  • Place a flat stone or brick in the litter box. This gives them something heavy to dig under.

  • Clean the box frequently, as rabbits prefer a clean environment.

  • Add an extra empty litter box. Your rabbit may be claiming that space to dig in, keeping their main box cleaner.

  • Use positive reinforcement. Anytime you catch them using their litter box appropriately without digging, reward with a small treat.

With patience and consistency, you can convince your rabbit that inside their litter box is for doing their business only, not for digging. Redirect them to a designated digging box instead to satisfy that natural instinct.

Chewing behaviors

Rabbits have continuously growing teeth, so they need to chew often to wear them down. This natural chewing instinct can lead to damaged belongings when directed at inappropriate items. Providing acceptable chew toys and training them to avoid chewing furniture are effective ways to curb this behavior.

Chewing baseboards

Your rabbit may be drawn to gnaw on wooden baseboards because it satisfies their innate urge to chew. Baseboards also contain appealing scents.

Protect your baseboards by covering them with cardboard, plastic guards or metal sheets. You can find decorative covers to match your decor. Apply a taste deterrent spray made for cat and dog training to discourage chewing.

Provide plenty of “chew toys” like untreated wicker baskets, seagrass mats, cardboard boxes and untreated wood blocks. Rotate new items in regularly to keep them interested. This gives them acceptable outlets for their needs to chew and dig.

Use positive reinforcement like treats to reward them when they chew on their toys instead of baseboards. Say “no chew” firmly when you catch them gnawing baseboards and redirect to a designated toy. With time and consistency, they will learn where chewing is appropriate.

Chewing on furniture

Your furniture likely holds many interesting scents and textures enticing to your rabbit. But their natural chewing instinct can ruin upholstery, wood trim, and more if directed there.

Make your furniture less tempting by placing untreated wood blocks, cardboard boxes, seagrass mats or willow wreaths directly on or near your furniture. Give them acceptable, tempting things to chew instead.

Spray cotton wads soaked in unappealing scents like citrus, mint or vinegar on vulnerable furniture edges. Or apply bitter-tasting deterrent sprays designed for pet training. Reapply these frequently at first.

Use pet-safe repellent plastic coverings or double-sided tape on furniture legs and vulnerable edges. The sticky tape feels unpleasant, discouraging chewing. Cover electrical and phone cords too.

When catching your rabbit chewing furniture, interrupt the behavior with a firm “no”, then redirect to a designated chew toy and reward with a treat. Be patient and consistent – with time they will learn furniture is not to be chewed.

Supervise your rabbit’s playtime and bunny-proof vulnerable areas. Keep them confined when you are away and unable to supervise. Meeting their need to chew with plenty of appropriate objects will save your belongings.

Bad litter box habits

Most rabbits can be litter trained, but sometimes they develop undesirable bathroom behaviors. Patience and investigating the underlying cause of the issue is key to re-establishing good litter box habits again.


Spraying urine outside of the litter box is an instinctual territorial marking behavior for rabbits. Though typically more prevalent in unneutered/unspayed rabbits, spraying can occur even after fixing due to hormones remaining for weeks post-surgery. Stress and reaching maturity can also trigger spraying.

If your fixed rabbit starts spraying, get them checked for a urinary tract infection which may cause discomfort and the urge to spray.

Thoroughly clean urine-sprayed areas with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate smells that attract repeat marking. Place litter boxes with soiled bedding in previously sprayed corners to redirect their scent-marking impulse.

Increase playtime outside their enclosure to boost activity and happiness. Make sure their enclosure isn’t too small, as rabbits may spray due to stress from inadequate space. Neutered males and unspayed females often benefit from a friend, as bonded pairs spray less.

Medication may be prescribed short-term if hormones are the cause. With vet monitoring for side effects, drugs can curb spraying while waiting for hormones to dissipate post-surgery. Patience and addressing underlying factors often resolves spraying issues.

Peeing on the bed/couch

Your rabbit jumping on the bed or couch to urinate is likely territorial marking of areas smelling strongly of you. They consider these prime locations to mark as their own.

Thoroughly clean soiled bedding, blankets and couch covers with an enzymatic cleaner to remove odors. Restrict access to your bed and couch whenever you are not actively supervising. Place a litter box with soiled bedding on each to redirect their urge to mark these areas.

Make sure your rabbit has enough free run playtime daily to boost activity and territory marking in appropriate places. Getting them neutered or spayed helps diminish territorial marking behaviors. With persistence redirecting this habit, your rabbit will learn where peeing is acceptable again.

Peeing next to the litter box

If your rabbit is urinating right next to or over the edges of their litter box, the cause is likely one or more of the following:

  • The box is too small for their size. Get a larger box so they can enter and turn around comfortably.

  • They don't like the litter type. Try different litters to find one they prefer.

  • The box isn't clean enough. Scoop urine and droppings at least once to twice daily.

  • They want to mark their territory. Make sure your rabbit is fixed. Clean soiled areas thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner.

  • Pain or mobility issues make it difficult to enter. Consider a lower entry box or litter box ramp.

  • The box is in the open allowing them to be startled. Try placing it in a corner or semi-enclosed area.

  • Age or health issues like arthritis or urinary tract infections cause accidents. Seek veterinary advice.

With a little patience investigating why your rabbit misses the box, you can make adjustments and get their habits back on track. Consistency is key.

Dribbling pee

Rabbits who leave a trail of small urine puddles or drips around their enclosure likely have an underlying medical issue causing incontinence or discomfort. Common causes include:

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Bladder sludge or stones

  • Kidney disease

  • Hind limb arthritis or weakness

  • Abnormal bladder anatomy (females)

  • Uterine cancer (intact older females)

  • Loss of bladder control due to age

See your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Urinary tract infections require antibiotic medication. Bladder sludge can be helped through diet adjustments and encouraging water intake. Arthritis may be managed with joint supplements.

While addressing medical issues, use absorbent puppy training pads in favored urination spots until habits improve. Thoroughly clean soiled areas to remove all odors. Restrict access if they frequently miss litter boxes. Providing easy access to boxes during recovery helps re-establish good habits.

Pooping outside the litter box

If your rabbit is selectively pooping in some spots but not others, first get them checked for underlying health issues that may cause discomfort. Urinary tract infections, arthritis, dental problems or gastrointestinal issues could contribute to litter box avoidance.

If health is ruled out, examine where they poop outside the box:

  • Piles near but not in the box typically mean it’s too small or needs to be cleaned more frequently

  • Poops in the open signify they may feel too exposed. Try a covered box or private location.

  • Piles in corners and along walls are territorial marking. Clean thoroughly and make sure they are neutered/spayed.

  • Droppings near hay rack can indicate messier eating habits. Relocate hay farther from litter boxes.

  • Bunny poops while running about are difficult to control. Supervise playtime and do a sweep afterwards.

With a clean bill of health, adjust boxes and litter to best suit your rabbit’s preferences. Clean soiled areas diligently with enzymatic cleaner. Positive reinforcement training helps reaffirm good litter habits.

Aggressive behaviors

Rabbits display aggressive behaviors like biting, growling and charging for various reasons. Addressing the cause and proper training can curb these habits over time.

Nipping and biting

Nipping or biting often occurs if rabbits do not trust their owners fully. Building a bond of trust through regular positive interactions like offering treats by hand prevents bites.

Biting may also result from fear if startled or restrained improperly. Avoid looming over rabbits and handle gently, supporting their feet and hindquarters. Providing hiding places prevents frightening them.

Redirect aggressive nibbles to appropriate items like cardboard or wood blocks. Say “no bite” firmly and stop interacting if they connect with skin. Always reward affectionate licks and kisses, not even soft nips during petting. This reinforces good behavior.

Pain can cause defensive biting when picked up or handled. Arthritis, overgrown teeth, urinary issues and illness may require veterinary diagnosis. Medicating or altering handling to avoid causing discomfort resolves pain-induced biting.

Territorial biting arises from hormones, inadequate space and lack of spaying/neutering. Fixing reduces aggression substantially in cordial rabbits. Providing adequate enclosure space and supervision prevents territorial biting.

Patience, trust-building, proper handling techniques, and veterinary care curb nipping and biting long-term by addressing the underlying causes.

Biting, charging and growling

A rabbit charging, growling and trying to bite you is displaying territorial aggression. These behaviors typically stem from hormones, lack of fixing, inadequate housing space and mishandling. Patience and making some adjustments should resolve the problem.

First, schedule an appointment to get them neutered or spayed if not already done. This greatly diminishes territorial behaviors in friendly rabbits. Continue supervision diligently until hormones dissipate weeks later. Medication may temporarily help in the interim.

Assess if their enclosure provides adequate space. Extend playtime outside their enclosure daily to get energy out too. Lack of space increases stress and aggression. Provide places for them to hide and retreat when afraid.

Avoid looming over, making direct eye contact, and reaching in suddenly to pull them out. These seem threatening. Let them approach you instead during playtime and offer treats. Gain trust through kind interactions.

Use thick gloves and long sleeves when needing to move an aggressive rabbit to avoid injury. If they bite, say "no" firmly and walk away to end playtime. Only handle firmly when essential to avoid injury until the hormones resolve. Proper handling and trust-building will lead to long term improvement.

Aggression toward other rabbits

Rabbits need proper bonding time when introduced to ease aggression. Rushing the process breeds fighting. Remedies include:

  • Neuter/spay both rabbits. Intact rabbits are far more territorial.

  • Swap scents before face to face meetings by rotating occupants between locations.

  • Do intro sessions in a neutral space where neither rabbit lives. Watch for signs of aggression (charging, growling, mounting).

  • Use a divider to allow supervised, gradual contact during sessions.

  • Once bonding, adopt both rabbits out together. Bonded pairs should not be separated.

  • Consider trial separations if fighting arises later. Time apart can reset hormones and improve bonding upon reunion.

  • Provide adequate enclosure space and resources for a pair. Tensions rise when space and food is limited.

With proper introductions, neutering/spaying, and space, paired rabbits normally shift from hostility to close companions over time. Patience through the bonding process leads to congenial pairs.

Loud rabbit behaviors

Some rabbits make various loud or disruptive noises. Understanding the cause behind these habits allows you to curb them.

Constant thumping

Thumping a foot loudly and repeatedly signals fear, discontent or trying to get your attention. If thumping aims at you, your rabbit may want food, playtime or cuddles. Offer treats and affection when they thump to reinforce the behavior.

Frequent thumping without apparent cause may stem from loneliness, pain, illness or inadequate housing. Getting them a friend, bigger enclosure, vet visit or daily playtime helps diminish unnecessary stress thumping.

Provide hiding spaces and treats when startled to help timid rabbits feel more secure. Limiting loud noises reduces frightened thumping. Be patient, as bonding and training help reduce stress thumping over time.

Rattling the enclosure bars

Loudly chewing, biting and rattling enclosure bars signals boredom and desire for playtime. Make sure your rabbit gets at least one to two hours of exercise and supervised activities daily outside their enclosure.

Provide puzzle feeders, tunnels, boxes, digging areas and toys in their housing space to engage them mentally and physically. Rotate new enrichment items regularly to combat boredom. Avoid confining them too long in small cages without entertainment and activity.

Use bitter sprays on bars to deter chewing. Redirect them by saying "no chew" and placing appropriate toys in the enclosure when noticing bar chewing noises. More stimulation and playtime improves destructive rattling of bars from boredom.

Leave a Comment