As a pet owner, do you find yourself looking at your pet rabbit, and all of a sudden, they jump out looking scared? Often, when they are placed in a dark corner, they tend to clump up as if a predator is cornering them ready to pounce on them. In this article, we discuss why this happens and determine whether rabbits are truly scared of the dark.
A Rabbit’s Natural Reaction
Before we get to discussing the reasons behind this dilemma, you will need to understand first how rabbits live in their natural habitat. Rabbits have been domesticated for several centuries now and are produced as livestock for their meat. This means that they are often sheltered away from their usual predators and are locked up in a cage.
However, this does not mean that their natural instinct to run away and hide when they perceive danger is lost. These animals still have that defense mechanism to remove themselves from a stressful situation.
In their natural habitat, rabbits are crepuscular animals. This means they often go out and herd at a time when lights are dim. Rabbits begin to graze during dusk or dawn, where they can easily hide from predators in the dim or dark shadows but still have visibility to see their food and where to go. This is also the time when rabbits have the clearest and strongest in dim lighting.
These animals are known to know their way around in gloomy conditions than humans. On average, your pet rabbit should be awake hours before you do, and by that time, they will be up and running. They will then sleep during the day away from the sun and wake up at dusk to begin grazing again for food.
In a much darker situation, rabbits rely on other senses, such as their whiskers to judge the distance between them and the objects in front. They also rely on their keen sense of hearing using the large ears and sense of smell. These natural instincts help them survive and stay safe at night time when it is dark.
To answer the question, the darkness in itself does not scare a rabbit. They will not be able to see through the darkness, unlike nocturnal animals who rely on night vision, but their eyes are very much well-oriented to dim lighting. What scares rabbits is not darkness itself but what goes on in the dark that they have little information about.
Just like humans who are totally blind in the dark, if we hear something from the corner of our homes, especially in the dark, we are often spooked out. The same goes for rabbits; however, they can determine a bit more information using their other senses and can make a run for it to hide and protect themselves.
Such perception for us humans often lead that rabbits are scared of the dark when, in fact, they are just scared of the noise, sudden movement, or unseen things that happen in the dark. If they are left alone in the dark without any sudden stimulus, rabbits will do fine by themselves. Rabbits are well-versed with the dark as they tend to dig large holes in the wild and create an underground system where they sleep and breed.
How to Avoid Spooking Your Rabbits
There are certain ways for pet owners to avoid spooking their rabbits by keeping them busy with toys or food. Rabbits are particularly curious creatures, and they can spend several hours trying to find a distinct smell of food. With their heightened sense of smell, rabbits will be occupied trying to sniff and locate the rabbit food.
Another good way to keep your rabbits from getting spooked is to give them toys to entertain themselves. Rabbit toys will satisfy their instincts to graze for food and their innate curious nature. Additionally, chew toys are great for their dental health as well as it aids in cleaning their teeth and better their digestion.
If you want to avoid spooking your pet rabbits in the dark, you can always place a light bulb near their hutch. Do note that the lighting will need to be as dim as possible to mimic the twilight environment where they thrive. Additionally, excessive light has been known to cause an increased level in stress, retinal damage in the eyes, and the increased potential to have fertility issues in female rabbits
What to Do When Placing Your Rabbits in a Hutch
As a pet owner, you might also be tempted to keep the rabbits in close proximity and clump them all together in a hutch; however, leaving it open or exposed at night will only trigger stress. Make sure to cover the hutch at night for reasons like the following:
- If you have a cat or you live near the wilderness, chances are, predators are bound to sniff out the rabbits at night and may attack them inside their hutch. It is always best to cover them at night to protect them from other animals. This will also avoid stressing them out by keeping their sights away from the outside environment.
- Since rabbits are generally curious creatures, putting a cover over their hutch will also shut down their curiosity and focus on sleeping or grazing instead.
- Covering the hutch also protects them from harsh outdoor conditions such as the cold, especially during colder months or during a storm where lightning flashes can scare them.
You can use a blanket or thick tarpaulin to cover the entirety of the hutch. Make sure to remove the cover in the morning and let them loose. Doing so lets you avoid heating the hutch and may end up causing stress and dehydration to the rabbits.
Keeping your rabbits’ stress-free can lead to a prosperous life for your pets. However, highly-stressed rabbits often develop health-related concerns. These are the signs that your rabbits are experiencing high levels of stress.
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive grooming
- Head bobbing
- Lack of interest in food
- Hair pulling, bald patches, thinning coat
- Thumping in the ground
- Bulging eyes
These signs can easily be addressed by removing your rabbit from the stressful situation or simply keep them from any stressful stimuli such as sudden movements in the dark. A stressed-out rabbit can be detrimental to the group and can result in health conditions to develop.
Are rabbits really scared of the dark?
As explained above, rabbits are not scared of the dark, but instead, they are scared of what is happening in the dark that they are not able to see. It is in their nature to be run as they are prey animals. They are often hunted by large predators over thousands of years and have developed a defense mechanism to run or jump whenever they feel they are threatened. Humans only tend to think that the rabbits in this situation experience fright; however, that is not always the case.
To prevent this from happening to your pet rabbits, here’s what you can do based on the discussion above:
- Keep them busy by feeding them or let them play with toys.
- Put them in a hutch at night and cover it. Remember to remove the cover in the morning.
- You can also put a dim light near their area but avoid intense lighting.
- Keep them away from any sudden stimulus or simply avoid surprising them.