Rabbits are vulnerable, so it naturally follows that they must remain alert and aware of what is going on around them. But what about staring? Why would a rabbit stare at their owners? Knowing full well how confusing this can be to understand and get used to, I decided to spend some time researching the reasons behind this behavior and what it can mean. I will be sharing with you my findings here today.
So, in answer to your question, why does my rabbit stare at me? Rabbits can stare at their owners for many reasons. However, most of the time it is out of fear, curiosity or as an attempt to communicate with you. There is always a reason behind this behavior, unless they are asleep. Rabbits do posses unique eyelids which can mean they sleep with their eyes open.
Many animals are curious, especially when they have wild instincts yet live in captivity.
If your rabbit stares at you, you must be willing to understand that they are often unsure of their surroundings, and keeping themselves safe is of utmost priority.
If you have recently adopted your rabbit, chances are they want to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings and owners. They want to be confident that they can trust you.
Nevertheless, staring is entirely normal, and rabbits are known to watch everything with beady-eyed curiosity.
There are other reasons your bunny stares, and we will discuss those in more detail.
To gain a better insight into why your bunny is staring at you, you must learn to understand their accompanying body language. This will tell you a lot about how they are feeling.
For example, gazing is not a behavior; it’s a symptom and possibly your pet’s way of communicating with you.
Let us now take a closer look at staring in rabbits, along with the most common reasons. You’ll learn how to identify the different types of stare and what you can do if you believe it is becoming excessive or does not alleviate over time.
Rabbits And Staring
Rabbits are social creatures that relish company, especially those of their own kind.
These small mammals often hang out together, groom each other, and gaze at each other; sometimes, they’ll enjoy chatting.
So much so that if you’re watching the TV, your rabbit is likely to sit and watch along with you.
Being stared at can be a little unnerving, even if it is your bunny that you know and are used to.
If a rabbit is staring, they are paying attention, which is a good thing in many ways.
If you have recently adopted your rabbit, and they stares at you, give them time to familiarize themselves with their new home and build trust in you as their new carer.
Rabbits are, without a doubt, prey animals. In the wild, they are hunted continuously – this is hardwired into their DNA.
Rabbits are brilliant and express themselves in subtle ways.
You must get to know the root of their staring, if it’s fear-based, you must give your pet time to adjust. Otherwise, if they stare at you, it could be for more positive reasons.
Reasons A Rabbit May Stare
As mentioned previously, it’s always best to observe your rabbit’s body language as this will reveal a lot about why they stare.
There are many reasons why your rabbit stares, let’s discuss some of the most common ones:
If your rabbit is new, they are likely staring at you to determine whether you’re a threat or not. They will study your every move, in preparation to flee.
Rabbits are used to looking at each other in the wild to warn of a predator nearby. Bunnies certainly know their place in the food chain.
Their Senses Are Tingling
Rabbits have keen senses and can smell or hear something in the distance – they are watching you to see your reaction. They will also attempt to gauge what it could be, from your own response.
When rabbits get hungry, they want a snack. Staring is often the first sign of begging. Your bunny is simply begging you for food.
If you have a happy bunny, they are likely to stare at you out of relaxed contentment. This is a good kind of staring and shows they are learning to recognize you.
When a rabbit wants to be groomed, he will stare at his buddies, until someone grooms them
Staring is one way for a rabbit to attempt to understand what their owner is doing, especially if you are engaged in a new activity.
Understanding Staring In Rabbits
To have a better understanding of staring in rabbits, you must observe the body language that accompanies it. Otherwise its impossible to know exactly how to appropriately respond.
Staring is not a behavior in itself; it’s a sign of what your rabbit is feeling.
You must observe your rabbit’s body cues to understand what thy are communicating to you. The position of your rabbit’s ears will often reveal the meaning behind the stares. Look out for the following cues:
- Your rabbit is lying down and staring at you; this means they’re feeling relaxed.
- Your rabbit is staring at you with his ears pointed upwards, and his nose is twitching, this means something has piqued their interest.
- Your rabbit is standing on their hind legs and stares at you; they want your attention; they may even be hungry and want food.
- If your rabbit stomps their foot while they stares at you, this means that they re unhappy by something that you are doing.
At first it may be difficult to identify some of these. But in time, you will soon learn to recognize your rabbits behaviors and when they are most likely to do them.
Are They Actually Sleeping?
One thing to consider is the possibility that your rabbit is not actually staring. They could in fact be sleeping. This is most often to occur during the day.
Rabbits have unique and interesting eyelids; with a third transparent sheath (known as the Nictitating Membrane) that is sometimes drawn across the eyes.
Its common in many mammals, including cats, and its there to protect and moisturize the eyes and help maintain vision at all times.
Its in many ways their first line of defense when it comes to survival against predators. Something that would be very common and likely in the wild.
Its a survival mechanism that is there to help them while they sleep during their normal daylight hours.
Rabbits sleep in a really interesting way; their eyes remain open so that they can still see and their brains can still recognize danger. This can then alert them to awaken if necessary and they need to flee.
So, this instinctual mechanism could be why they appear to be staring. If you were to move suddenly – they are likely to do so too.
What To Do If Staring Becomes Excessive
If your rabbit’s stares are becoming too intense, and you know for a fact they are not sleeping, you should acknowledge that your rabbit is not staring at you without reason.
Try to figure out what the reason might be and rectify and optimize things in their environment as necessary.
You must earn your rabbits trust, and you must proactively work to achieve this, understand it will take time.
Along with staring, an important thing to pay attention to is your rabbits vocalizations.
Rabbits have a broad range of sounds that help them express everything from happiness to loneliness to fear.
Listen to your rabbit’s vocalizations when you approach them so that you can meet each of his needs.
Some of these vocalizations include:
- Tooth clicking – this is often a sign of contentment, often rabbits make this sound when they are petted. This is a sign your rabbit likes and trusts you.
- Snorting – this is often a cry for attention or a sign of distrust. This sound might also be a sign of a respiratory infection, so you must bring your bunny to the vet to rule out any illness.
- Whimpering or squealing – this is a sign that your rabbit is in pain or that they are afraid. If your bunny makes this vocalization when you pick them up, it likely means that you are holding them wrong, or perhaps they do not trust you yet.
- Screaming – this sound indicates acute pain or fear of death. If your rabbit cries when you handle them, they might be injured, or he thinks you’re going to harm them. Whatever the case may be, you must take your rabbit to the vet.
- Grunting – this is a sign of fear or displeasure if they grunts at you. They likely feels threatened and doesn’t want to be handled.
If your rabbit makes any unpleasant vocalization, you should look to consult a vet for an examination.
If they’re not sick, they likely will have a trust issue with you. You must do everything you can to gain your bunny’s trust. This will not only help to lessen the staring but improve your bond.
We will look at a good approach below.
How To Build Trust With Your Rabbit
The first step in getting your rabbit to trust you is to create a comfortable space and environment where they can feel safe.
Rabbits need a location that is quiet and peaceful, not too bright, and the temperature must be stable – a temperature of around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is just right.
While your rabbit should have peace and quiet, they do not need complete silence with no interaction.
You must allow your rabbit to see you and other members of the household. Your rabbit needs time out of their cage to play and get familiar with their surroundings.
Your rabbit needs a proper diet and a constant supply of grass hay. They also need continuous access to clean drinking water. Toys will keep your rabbit happy and mentally stimulated.
Your rabbit needs to eventually bond with you, but you must remain patient and allow them to come to you.
You can use food to encourage your rabbit to come over to you. When your bunny is ready to be held, you can pick them up and hold them close to you.
Just never force it, be gentle, and keep it nice and calm.
How Do Rabbits Show Affection To Humans?
Staring can be one such way that a rabbit expresses affection to their owners. So it naturally follows to ask, how do we know when they are doing this?
One of the most definite signs that your rabbit is showing you affection while staring, is if they look to grooms you at the same time.
If your rabbit licks you, this is a sign of love. Your rabbit’s demeanor will reveal a lot of how he feels about you. For example, a rabbit whom adores their owner will run around their feet.
When your rabbit leaps into the air and tosses their ears, this is a sign of how happy your bunny is in your company. This is sometimes referred to as ‘binkying’.
Head bumps, when they nudge your head with theirs, is another common sign of affection.
If your rabbit displays any of these reactions in addition to staring at you, it means they love you, trust you and they want you to know!
Rabbits stare; its just something that they do. Its an instinctual behavior that has helped to keep them safe for thousands of years.
But the exact reason behind the stare, could be due to a number of reasons. Not all staring is the same and body language and behavior can go a long way to understanding what it truly means.
Just be sure to rule out sleeping – as this is a common mistake new owners make! the third eyelid can really throw us off.
If your rabbit is new, it will take time before they will feel at ease with you and their new surroundings. They stare at you because they do not yet trust you.
This is entirely normal and is no sign for concern, although it may feel a little strange at first. Owners soon find in time that staring naturally subsides and its something that will always likely occur to some extent.
Be patient and never pick your rabbit up without being sure that you have earned their trust.
Always pay attention to their body language as you can use this to gauge and leverage how they are feeling; regardless of whether staring is present.
Rabbits often stare into space when they are actively listening to something in their environment. They are alert and ready to flee in case of danger. At other times they could even be asleep. Rabbits sleep with their eyes open so it could look like they are staring into space but actually be sleeping.
Wondering why else your rabbit does other interesting things? Then my following guides may be of help!
- Why Does My Rabbit Nibble My Clothes?
- Why Does My Rabbit Run Away From Me?
- Why Does My Rabbit Follow Me?
- Why Does My Rabbit Headbutt Me?
- Why Do Rabbits Dig At Your Clothes?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.