Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by Rei Garnet
Rabbits can and will sleep with their eyes open when they’re not completely comfortable with their current environment. This is due to the fact that wild rabbits have to be aware of their surroundings all of the time to not get eaten.
This means being aware while they’re trying to rest. So if your rabbit is sleeping with its eyes closed and in a completely relaxed position, then pat yourself on the back. Your rabbit completely trusts you and their current environment (your home).
Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail why rabbits sleep with their eyes open:
Reasons why rabbits sleep with their eyes open.
We, rabbit owners, often wonder why our rabbits seem to be resting with their eyes open.
Here are the different reasons why rabbits sleep with their eyes open:
Your rabbit is in a new environment.
Rabbits are creatures of habit. They often stay at the same place and hate it when they are moved to a new location.
The reason is that, in the wild, it means they have to use up energy checking the new place for potential dangers.
The same instinct applies to pet rabbits when moved to a new environment. Ever notice the first time you bring your rabbit home, they stay in the corner with their eyes open? Or when you move apartments?
Rabbits in a new environment often stay at the corner with their eyes fully opened, their nose twitching fast, and a cautious body language.
Some would even act out aggressively, while some rabbits would stop eating when moved to a new environment. Make sure that you let your rabbit feel safe by providing treats and letting them explore the new place.
Your rabbit doesn’t trust you yet.
Whenever you bring home a new rabbit, you should expect for a few weeks or months that your rabbits won’t trust you. Rabbits have trust issues. It’s not their fault though, nature made them that way.
Otherwise, rabbits wouldn’t survive due to the threat they face in the wild.
You will notice that your new rabbit will often stare at you and your movements. They would even rest in the corner while looking at you.
This means that your rabbit hasn’t trusted you yet, and you need to step up your game and give your rabbits some treats and pet them. Don’t rush them though; the “bonding process” usually takes weeks, depending on your rabbit’s personality.
The important thing to remember is to never rush your rabbit to play to gain their trust. This would only prolong the process..
Your rabbit is cautious of your other pets.
If you have other pets like cats and dogs around the house, your rabbits would need time to adjust to that. For the time being, don’t let your rabbits out of their hutch, but bring your other pets close to it.
This would make it so that your rabbits would feel comfortable with your pet’s smell over time. You should also make sure that your other pet is well trained to not harm your rabbits.
Your rabbit might be sick or in pain.
If any of the things I mentioned above are cleared and your rabbit still sleeps with its eyes open, then you should consider bringing your rabbit to a veterinarian.
Rabbits that are in pain will often change their behavior. But, a rabbit that’s sick would usually be accompanied by multiple symptoms like:
- Appetite changes
- Diarrhea or any changes to their stool
- A sudden change in behavior
- Changes in their fur
- Respiratory changes
If you notice any of these signs, then consider bringing your rabbits to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Do all rabbit breeds sleep with their eyes open?
Rabbits’ sleeping with their eyes open is not really a matter of breed but of how safe they feel in their current environment. But yes, all rabbit breeds are capable of sleeping while their eyes are open due to the fact that all of them have the same third eyelid.
This third eyelid is a clear eyelid that protects their eyes from the elements. This, in turn, allows them to rest while scanning their surroundings for potential dangers.
How to tell if your rabbit is asleep?
You can tell if your rabbit is sleeping by looking at its nose and body language. Rabbit’s nose would always wiggle when they’re awake.
This is because the rabbit’s nose is the most potent instinct that protects them from danger. Rabbits’ noses are capable of detecting predators before they even spot them.
If your rabbit is in a relaxed position and its nose starts to slow down, it means that your rabbit is fully relaxed and is ready to fall asleep or is already asleep.
What does it mean when your rabbit sleeps with its eyes closed?
When your rabbit sleeps with its eyes completely closed and with a completely relaxed body language, then congratulate yourself because your rabbit fully trusts you.
It also means that your rabbit is now comfortable in your new home.
Rabbits sleeping with their eyes open is completely normal. Rabbits have a natural instinct to be alert at all times, even when resting.
Rabbits also have a third eyelid, which allows them to simultaneously scan their environment for potential danger while resting.
You can tell that your rabbit is sleeping if its body is completely relaxed or when its nose is not wiggling.
Cite this article:
Sources and further reading
- Patry, Karen, et al. The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey Publishing, 2014.
- 13 Things You May Not Know About Rabbits
- What does my rabbit’s behaviour mean?