If you own a pet rabbit, then you might have noticed that they are sleeping with their eyes open. Is this natural and is this supposed to happen? Is this something that is going to continue and just part of a rabbits natural instincts and behavior? I decided to conduct some research into the topic. I would like to present that here to you today.
So, do rabbits sleep with their eyes open? Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open. This is usually when they are on high alert or are not quite comfortable within their surroundings. It usually happens with new rabbits, or if part of their habitat changes suddenly.
Not all rabbits exhibit this behavior and some rabbits may begin to close their eyes when they sleep as they become more confident and in time.
It is important to note that this is perfectly normal behavior – even if it doesn’t quite seem like it!
Let us now take a closer look at the topic so that you can understand what it all means and if there are any things you can do to improve the health and happiness of your rabbit.
Eyes Open During Sleep?
If you look for advice on rabbit care in online forums, one of the biggest concerns for many owners is the fact that their rabbits seem to sleep with their eyes open or even partially open. Because of this, it can be difficult to tell if your rabbit is awake or sleeping.
Some owners believe that their rabbit doesn’t sleep and is always awake either playing or sitting still with open eyes. But the truth is, is that all rabbits sleep.
The tell-tale signs that your rabbit is snoozing is that they will lie on their front, or their side. Their noses will stop wriggling (some rabbits noses twitch when they are dreaming) and their breathing slows down.
Some rabbits do sleep with their eyes open. However, this is not the case for all rabbits.
The fact that some rabbits will never sleep with their eyes closed can be very disconcerting for owners of rabbits who do.
It can cause us to wonder if there is a problem or whether your rabbits eyes will suffer as a result. Thankfully, rabbits have what is known as a “third eyelid”. This is a nictitating membrane (a translucent film) that keeps their eyes moist when they blink.
So even if your rabbit does sleep with their eyes open it will not cause any long-term damage to their sight or vision or excessively dry their eyes out.
Why Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Rabbits are prey animals, which means that they are naturally on high alert even in the comfort and safety of your home.
Their instincts tell them that they are always in danger and a predator could approach them at any time.
This is a good defense mechanism for rabbits in the wild, but, if your rabbit sleeps with his eyes open in your home, chances are that they do not yet feel confident or comfortable in their surroundings. They may have even yet to develop a strong bond with you.
The advantages of a rabbit sleeping with their eyes open in the wild are two-fold:
- It gives the impression that they are awake, which is useful, as predators are more likely to attack a sleeping rabbit. Rabbits are not vigilant when they are slumbering, and once they are caught, escape is impossible.
- Light reaches the eye faster when it’s open. If an attacker approaches, the rabbit will be more aware than if he was sleeping with his eyes closed.
As mentioned previously, if your pet rabbit is not sleeping with their eyes closed, you must try to improve their environment, confidence and your bond with them to establish trust.
Hopefully, this will encourage them to feel safe, and they will sleep with their eyes closed.
The following are suggestions to help your rabbit:
- Create a comfortable environment – help your rabbit adjust to your home by providing a quiet, warm, and comfortable space for them. Keep the cage in a room away from any commotion and noises that are sure to make them feel unsafe, but you should still be able to engage with them daily.
- Provide sufficient space for your rabbit to play – playtime is the best exercise your rabbit can get, and they need the room to be able to do so. A tight space would only increase his sense of danger. For this reason, be sure that you invest in a sufficiently large cage, and consider getting a playpen (like this highly rated and cost-effective one from Amazon). This will enable them to run around, stretch their legs freely and eliminate prolonged stress.
- Feed your rabbit a healthy, wholesome diet – this is basic common sense, they need a diet that consists of mostly hay, with some veggies, greens, and fruits. Opt for rabbit food that is high in fiber and nutritionally balanced like this Supreme Science brand.
- Ensure that your rabbit has daily access to fresh, clean drinking water.
- Provide your rabbit with lots of toys – this will encourage their curiosity and enrich playtime. It will enable them to burn off excess energy and they also need them to chew and promote healthy teeth.
- Be patient with your bunny – they needs time to adjust to you and their new surroundings. If they make strange sounds, or shiver when you pick them up, put them down gently. Chat with them in soft-spoken ways. Learn how to hold your bunny properly, be gentle, but firm and support their back and hindquarters. Let them come to you, and learn to adjust to their schedule and preferences.
How Many Hours A Day Do Rabbits Sleep?
A healthy and stress-free rabbit will sleep on average 6-8 hours a day. Some rabbits will even sleep up to 12 hours a day.
If a rabbit is very stressed the amount of time can be a lot less. A stressed bunny will frequently wake up in the expectation of a predator or in order to react to chaotic circumstances.
Your bunny must be in a calm environment to get proper sleep.
Do Rabbits Sleep At Night?
Many people think that rabbits are nocturnal because they have observed them sleeping in the daytime, but this is not true.
Yes, rabbits snooze a lot during the day, but they are not awake all night long and asleep during the day.
Rabbits are crepuscular – this is a Latin word that means twilight; rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn. This behavior is rooted in ancestral origins, it’s part of their instinct to flee at the first sign of trouble, and it ties in with keeping their eyes open during sleep.
Rabbits, much like humans, require 8 hours of rest in 24 hours, but because they are such light sleepers, the slightest noise can wake them from slumber.
It’s phenomenal that even though rabbits have been domesticated for years, they still display the same instincts as their wild counterparts.
There’s not much that you can do as the owner to discourage this behavior, but you can make sure that they get the best sleep possible.
Keep your rabbit indoors at night to ensure your pet is warm and safe. If you have children or other pets in your home, make sure that they don’t have access to your bunny unless they are supervised by a grown-up.
Make sure that your rabbit has toys to chew on, this should help to reduce stress and restlessness (this natural organic toy is a huge hit on Amazon).
Rabbits like environments that resemble their natural habitat, a large box filled with soft bedding will do quite well to replicate your rabbit’s natural sleeping environment.
Rabbits do better in environments that are in the range of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If your home is warm and humid, you could introduce a fan into the room where your rabbit sleeps, or turn on the air-conditioning.
If its too cold, then equally you can look to turn up the radiators, or introduce a product like the Snugglesafe into their habitat.
The perks of these are that they are easy to warm up, via the microwave, and your rabbit can get on or off it whenever they need to warm up or cool down.
Whether it’s a short nap or good sleep, your bunny needs a safe, dark place to sleep.
You can make them feel safe by making sure that they are not exposed to the elements and out of harm’s way.
Rabbits are interesting pets with their own unique quirks and behaviors. Their sleep is just one example of this.
The truth is, some rabbits sleep with their eyes open whereas others do not.
If you find that your rabbit does have their eyes open while they sleep, this is not an issue and will not harm their health nor prevent them from getting an adequate amount of rest.
However, it can indicate that they are not entirely comfortable in their environment. Thankfully there are many things that you can do to help improve their situation.
By making a few subtle changes and giving it time, you may notice that they begin to close their eyes, just like other rabbit owners report.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.