Rabbits are one of the most common pets found in animal shelters. It’s not because they aren’t cute, cuddly, and fun—it’s because most people simply don’t know how to take care of them as they mature.
So, when the rabbit starts to grow, change, and develop new habits (such as biting and chewing), instead of learning how to manage the new behavior, most people just give their rabbit up for adoption, and that’s just unfortunate.
It’s a simple reality that rabbits bite and chew, but figuring out why they do this can help you help them. So, without further ado, here’s why rabbits bite your clothes.
Why Do Rabbits Bite Your Clothes?
It’s common for rabbits to bite and chew at your clothes—or at your skin—and there’s a long list of potential reasons why.
1 – Rabbits Are Natural Chewers
If you notice your rabbit chewing or biting on your clothes, there’s no reason to be alarmed. There’s not always an underlying reason for this behavior, as rabbits dig and chew continuously when they are in their natural habitat.
It’s important to understand that rabbits are natural chewers. Unlike humans, rabbits’ teeth continue to grow—up to four or five inches per year! That means they need to stay busy chewing to keep their teeth from becoming too long inside their mouth. If they don’t have an adequate supply of things to chew, they might resort to biting or chewing on you or your clothes.
2 – Your Rabbit Is Bored
Another common reason rabbits chew and bite at your clothes is boredom. Rabbits are social animals. They do love their alone time, but if they get too much of it, they get bored. If you keep your rabbit in a small cage or playpen most of the time, there’s a good chance that it’ll become disinterested in its environment, and it will turn to chewing and gnawing at your clothes as a way of changing things up from the monotony of staying in its cage.
3 – You’re in Their Way
While rabbits are playful and fun, they won’t hesitate to let you know if you’re in their way. Rabbits have a mind of their own and can be impatient just like humans, so they may just be trying to get you to move.
4 – They Just Want to Play
The first time you bring your rabbit home can be one of the best days ever. It’s easy to sit and play for hours with your new pet rabbit, but you need to be aware that this will set the tone for all future playtimes.
So, if you haven’t been as playful lately, your rabbit might just be trying to recreate that initial playtime you shared together, which is romantic, but annoying at the same time. Try to be understanding of your furry friend.
5 – It’s Attempting to Assert Dominance
If your rabbit is male and not neutered, it may simply be attempting to assert dominance over you. Having female rabbits can exacerbate the issue as well, as the male rabbit will feel the need to let everyone know who the alpha male is.
Biting and scratching as a means of asserting dominance will be more pronounced in younger adolescent male rabbits, so it’s important to have them neutered if you don’t intend to allow them to breed.
6 – Your Rabbit Is Hormonal
Rabbits are cuddly and playful when they’re babies, but once they reach three to four months, they can become temperamental. This age is the height of hyperactivity, chewing, digging, and aggression. As we just mentioned, you may notice that males show more dominant behavior, and females may become more territorial in and around their cage.
You should respect their space and remind them that you’re not a threat by giving them treats and toys. Another option is to have them spayed or neutered, which most often results in calming their behavior.
7 – They’re Being Affectionate
As pet owners, we all have a responsibility to care for our furry friends by feeding, cleaning, and ensuring their health and safety. It’s not uncommon for our pets to recognize this to some degree and show appreciation for it.
Every animal has its own way of showing affection—dogs wag their tails, cats purr and rub against you, and rabbits sometimes nibble and dig. Little harmless bites from your rabbit are possibly just a way for it to show its affection toward you.
8 – They’re Looking for Attention
If you don’t spend a lot of time at home, there’s a good chance your rabbit feels neglected. Leaving your rabbit in a cage all day is bad for its mental health, as rabbits need to feel free to exercise whenever they need to.
While they need to feel free to exercise, they also need a certain amount of love and attention from you, their caretaker. Don’t be surprised if they come to you, biting and chewing at your clothes. It’s not always an annoying rabbit-powertrip—this may just be their way of asking you for some affection.
9 – They’re Frightened
Rabbits are small creatures with a very delicate sense of hearing. They have big ears for a reason! In the wild, rabbits use their extreme sense of hearing to detect and avoid predators. So, whether it’s a thunderstorm outside, fireworks, or any number of other loud, potentially frightening noises, your rabbit hears it much louder than you do.
If a rabbit is afraid, its natural instinct is to run and hide. This is why you might notice your rabbit attempting to dig (or bite) at your clothes. It’s just trying to get to safety.
10 – It’s Grooming
All rabbits go through a period of time when they shed lots of fur. During this shedding season, you’ll begin to notice large balls of fur on the floor throughout the house, and especially in their cage. You might even notice loose balls of fur still attached to your rabbit.
In the wild, rabbits help each other shed this fur by rubbing and nipping against one another. In the same way, when your rabbit gently bites or nips at your clothes, it’s trying to include you in its own ritual of shedding and grooming.
11 – They’re Trying to File Their Nails
Rabbits in the wild typically care for their nails unintentionally through digging in the ground and running. When they’re isolated in a cage indoors, rabbits don’t have the chance to naturally trim or file their nails, so as they grow longer, they can cause discomfort or pain for the rabbit.
Instinctively, rabbits attempt to resolve the issue by scratching and digging at the nearest thing. If you’ve trimmed your rabbit’s nails before, it might just bite at you to try to let you know that you need to trim its nails again.
12 – You Smell Too Strong
Sometimes, a strong scent can come across as threatening to a rabbit, and it may growl, bite, or scratch in self-defense. Some examples of strong and potentially threatening scents include cologne or fresh, chopped garlic.
These scents aren’t just frightening or threatening to the rabbit—some smells (particularly from essential oils) can actually be toxic for them. These scents include peppermint, cinnamon, citrus, clove, eucalyptus, and more.
13 – There’s No Bond Between You
Dogs are some of the most confident and outgoing pets in the world, making them friendly with just about anyone (assuming they’re not traumatized), but rabbits aren’t so trusting. If your rabbit is an adopted adult, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to earn its trust.
Before you’ve earned your rabbit’s trust, it’s very likely that it’ll continue to bite when it feels threatened or uncomfortable. It’s simply showing you its boundaries.
14 – They’ve Suffered an Abusive Past
When it comes to adopting, you never know what you’re going to get. You might adopt a rabbit that came from a loving home, or you could adopt a rabbit that was abused.
Trauma doesn’t just go away, so don’t be discouraged if you notice aggressive or defensive behavior such as biting and growling.
How to Get Your Rabbit to Stop Biting
No matter what the reason for their biting is, there’s almost always a solution. Give one or all of these solutions a try, and we’re sure that your furry friend will bite less.
What Not to Do
Never Hit Them
Hitting an animal is always abusive. They don’t understand how things work in the same way humans do, so how can you expect physical punishment to come across as anything other than abuse?
Hitting your rabbit only creates fear and encourages more defensive behavior toward you. Your rabbit will likely end up biting more just to get you to stop hitting, so it’s best to not start—not to mention the trauma it can cause.
Never Yell at Them
Don’t yell at your rabbit. As we already mentioned, rabbits have incredibly sensitive hearing, so there’s no need to yell. Loud and sudden sounds can induce a fear response, causing them to associate the fear with you. This is not conducive to fostering a lasting and healthy relationship, so don’t yell.
They won’t understand why you’re yelling, and they won’t know to stop because of your yelling, so it’s literally only wasting your energy to do so, as well as harming your rabbit.
What to Do Instead
Get Them More Toys
If you’ve had your rabbit for a while but haven’t spent much time or energy with it, there’s a good chance it feels neglected. Instead of blaming your rabbit for being spoiled or attention-hungry, show your rabbit that you love it by getting it more toys.
This will keep your rabbit occupied and entertained throughout the day—even if it has to stay stuck in a cage while you’re out.
Get Them Spayed or Neutered
As we already mentioned, hormones can definitely play a role in how your rabbit behaves around you and others. Male rabbits might become overly aggressive as they attempt to assert dominance, so neutering them may help to correct this hormonal imbalance and calm their behavior.
Female rabbits might get aggressively territorial over their living area as they go through their third and fourth months of life, but spaying them can also help to ease tension between you.
Trim Their Nails More Often
If your rabbit is digging and gnawing at you or your clothes a lot, there’s a good chance that it needs its nails trimmed. Make it a priority to trim your rabbit’s nails on a regular basis. Keeping its nails at a consistent length will help keep your rabbit happy and pain-free.
Provide More Hay
In the same way more toys will help, giving your rabbit more hay to chew on and play in will help reduce biting, as there’s less chance for your rabbit to get bored or feel neglected. Having more hay also gives your rabbit a chance to create its own burrow, allowing it to feel like safety is always nearby.
Let Out a Cry
Training your rabbit not to bite might just be the answer you’re looking for. Letting out a little yelp, or feigning pain can help deter your rabbit from biting in the future, as it’ll associate your pain with its biting.
Stomping your foot or clapping your hands is also a good way to get your rabbit’s attention, giving you a chance to redirect its behavior accordingly.
Get Them a Grass Rug
Grass rugs are an inexpensive alternative to trimming your rabbit’s nails more regularly. Your rabbit will be able to scratch, bite, and rub against the feeling of real grass—instead of you and your clothes.
Build Their Trust
Building trust between you and your rabbit is ultimately the best solution to all of your rabbit problems. To begin building trust, you need to remember to always speak gently to them. Rabbits have extremely sensitive hearing, and can also sense how we’re feeling—including anger, which can come across as threatening to them.
Instead of using punishment as a training tool, always reinforce good behavior with small treats such as carrots and herbs, which are always appreciated.
Let your rabbit come to you. Rabbits are social animals, but they also love their alone time. Don’t intrude on their space. When they’re ready for playtime and love, they’ll come to you. Try laying down on the floor in a room with your rabbit, and just be patient. Before long, they’ll be exploring the room and jumping around having a good time!
Rabbits make great pets, but you need to know how to speak their language. If you follow these tips, we’re sure you’re going to have a long and loving relationship with your rabbit!