A rabbit is a clever animal, a master of survival which movies and books explore vividly. They are also social animals and love to play. But are pet and wild rabbits nocturnal? No, rabbits are crepuscular animals meaning they are most active in the morning and evening reducing their activity by night to avoid predators.
Read on below to find out if rabbits are indeed naturally nocturnal, and if this changes once they become pets.
Are Rabbits Nocturnal Animals?
It is difficult to judge whether a rabbit is a nocturnal or diurnal animal when kept in controlled environments such as cages, inside homes, and in labs. Research by the National Library of Medicine shows that a rabbit will adapt to any condition according to brightness. During the research, some rabbits fed, played, and groomed at night, provided there was light and noise. Other rabbits were active during the day and slept at night.
However, in the wild, rabbits follow a strict timetable. They are crepuscular animals meaning they are most active in the morning and evening when the weather is calm, the light is dim, and shadows are long to confuse birds of prey and other predators.
What Does a Rabbit’s Typical Day Look Like?
A typical rabbit day starts at sunrise. Some may wake up as early as 4 am at the height of summer when days are longer. They will take a few minutes to scan their surroundings and sniff around for danger.
After that, they will start feeding. In the wild, rabbits nibble soft, fresh grass, weeds, nuts, and tubers while watching out for potential danger.
As the sun’s intensity picks up, rabbits slow down and rest, and they will typically start sleeping around noon until evening. However, lactating does will wake up and feed their young, and males will stay active most of the day to protect their territory and fight off intruders during the mating season.
In the evening, rabbits will venture out at around 5 pm to feed. Though they will be awake, their activities will be less intensive. The time will also be spent socializing and playing.
By around 11 pm, most rabbits will be asleep. Unlike afternoon naps, evening sleep is characterized by long resting cycles.
Why Are Rabbits Inactive at Night?
Rabbits spread most of their activities over twilight hours, and this is for a couple of important reasons.
In research by the National Library of Medicine, 50% of selected predators, some of which feed on rabbits, were active at night. To avoid being eaten, rabbits will reduce their activity level at night.
Rabbits have good eyesight in the presence of light. In fact, they are long-sighted animals and can see well into the distance and scan for predators. Being twilight animals, their eyesight is also good in dim light but poor at night. This reduces their chances of spotting predators.
Should You Leave Lights on for Your Rabbit at Night?
You should never leave the lights in the rabbit’s cage on at night. If you leave the lights on, something the rabbit is not used to, it may change its sleeping patterns.
Can You Leave Rabbits Unattended Outside?
Rabbits should never be left alone at any time of the day, especially outside. Birds of prey flying above can swoop in and snatch them. Also, if a rabbit wanders off, you have very limited time to find it before predators do.
Can Rabbits Adjust Their Sleeping Cycles?
Rabbits are quick to adjust their sleeping patterns to match the home’s settings. For example, if you are used to feeding a rabbit at 8 pm, the rabbit will wait patiently. Failure to feed your rabbit at 8 pm will cause stress, and you will observe behavioral changes.
Likewise, a rabbit will adapt to your sleeping schedule. If you are used to sleeping at 11 pm, the rabbit will also go to bed at the same time because the house is silent and there is no one to play with.
Rabbits are neither nocturnal animals nor diurnal. Instead, they are crepuscular animals, meaning they are more active in the early morning and evening. They distribute their activities over twilight hours in the morning and evening. The first phase of activities starts at around 5 am and ends at noon. Between noon and 4 pm are resting hours characterized by sleep.
The uniqueness of rabbits’ behaviors allows them to evade predators and spend less energy searching for food.