Are rabbits nocturnal animals? If you haven't been paying attention to your pet bunny, you may think all your cotton-tailed friend does during the day is sleep. This is something I believed for a long time before I had my own rabbits. At first, my belief came mostly from seeing hares out at night.
The truth, however, is that a rabbit is not a nocturnal animal. Rabbits are crepuscular. This means they are most active at dawn and dusk. However, many rabbits adapt somewhat to our human schedules, so you might notice them up and about during feeding time, free roam time, and when you're busy around the house.
Keep reading to learn more about pet bunnies and their nightly rabbit habits.
The answer is no, pet rabbits are NOT nocturnal (meaning active at night), but they aren’t diurnal (active during the day) either, so what are they?
Pet bunnies are something in-between called crepuscular, which means that they are very active just after sunset and before sunrise. This doesn't mean that healthy bunnies won't be active in the day or the middle of the night (I'm sure you know by now how noisy they can be when you're trying to sleep). They're just primarily active during twilight.
Rabbits (scientifically known as Lagomorphs) are prey animals. Being active early in the morning, just before sunrise, and just after sunset naturally gives them some reprieve from diurnal and nocturnal predators. The exception to this rule is cats.
Cats, being the sneaky predators they are, also like to be out and about during twilight. Their eyes are adapted to see in this kind of light, giving them a distinct advantage over many animals.
Many people who own both a pet bunny and a cat will tell you they become super playful when the sun goes down. You might also have a problem with them waking you up for playtime just as the sky lights up in the morning.
Diurnal predators, like foxes, dogs, and people, find it hard to see in low light. Nocturnal predators, like owls, find dusk and dawn too bright for their night vision to work properly, making it the safest time for our cotton-tailed friends to be out and about.
In some cases, your rabbits will decide they want to be nocturnal animals. This is not a bad thing (I'm sure your sleep-deprived brain doesn't agree). Rabbits are nocturnal only when they feel safe. Being in climate-controlled houses away from nocturnal predators means extra playtime for them.
This is another reason why many people think rabbits are primarily nocturnal animals.
Pet rabbits are very adaptable and can adjust their circadian rhythms based on outside influences. As a caring rabbit owner, this means you don’t have to adjust your daily routine to suit your animal companions. Pretty cool, right?
Despite your pet rabbit's crepuscular nature, it will adapt readily to active times and play time that suits us. Rabbits quickly learn that being active during human times means more treats and attention. They are very social, after all. That's why always having at least two rabbits at a time is recommended.
One thing to remember is that pet bunnies get bored very quickly. Having other rabbits and other animals around is a good idea if you don't want to play at midnight. Please pay close attention to your pets to ensure they get along well before you leave them alone together.
Another thing, if you don't want your pets to keep you up all night rattling their cage for free roam time and thumping in displeasure, make sure you have a large enough enclosure to accommodate running, jumping, play fighting, chasing, and unique personality expression. It's important as pet rabbit owners to allow our bunnies to express their natural behaviors and unique personalities even when safely closed up.
House rabbits, being prey animals, also rely on us to help them feel safe even though they are indoors. Fortunately, the only dangers in our homes are electric cables, dogs, and other crepuscular animals like cats and ferrets. If you own other animals like cats, dogs, and ferrets, make sure they can't get into your rabbit enclosure when you're not watching, and please hide those cables somewhere out of reach.
If you have outdoor buns or allow your pets to play outdoors, make sure you build predator-proof animal shelters. This shelter should have a hideaway and a roof to keep out predatory birds and other nasty critters.
Also, consider only taking your bunny out to play at dawn and dusk. Being crepuscular animals means this is the time they feel safest and will be most active. Just make sure to offer plenty of timothy hay and clean water since rabbits rarely stop eating.
It's common for domesticated pet companions to be active at the same intervals as their humans, even during daylight hours. Mostly, however, rabbits sleep during the day when we're at work. If you're worried, however, try to interact with your rabbit during dawn and dusk. The best time to play is usually in the evening when you are relaxed and not in a rush to get to work.
You'll also be surprised by how schedule-orientated a pet bunny is. If you play with or feed your fluffy friend at 11 a.m. every morning, chances are that your bunny will be awake and waiting for you (quite impatiently, might I add). They love things to be very predictable. Try to do things the same way every day if possible and leave their space the same.
I've noticed my bunnies making grunting sounds at me for rearranging the cage while adding hay or cleaning up their mess. A territorial bunny can be surprisingly vocal and quite violent.
However, the best sound you'll ever hear is a rabbits purr. This sounds very similar to a cat purring but is produced by light chomping of their teeth. Just an interesting fact: a rabbit's teeth never stop growing!
If you ever stray from your normal pattern, your buns will let you know by causing a ruckus in their enclosures. This is especially true if you’re late feeding or letting them out for some fun and exercise.
If they have wooden toys or bowls in their cage, you might see them throwing these items around to get your attention. A pet bunny is great at making noise! It's super surprising for a critter that's supposed to be quiet.
Despite adapting to being diurnal animals sometimes, rabbits are crepuscular through and through.
Bunny in a box by Fren Chartres
There are quite a few critters that prefer daylight over any other time. These diurnal animals include:
Just like daytime animals, there are also quite a few that prefer nighttime. Here are a few examples:
Mother rabbits usually use the twilight hours to feed their young to prevent leading predators to the nest site. The only danger they face during this time is being followed by cats.
Unlike most animal babies, baby bunnies only need to be fed once or twice daily. This allows the mother to return to the nest when safest during the twilight hours. It's very common for female bunnies to be most active during dawn around the nest. This is because their main predators have either gone to sleep or aren't awake enough to interfere with their crepuscular activity.
Rabbits may also be active at different times, which is more common in domestic bunnies. If you have a mother pet bunny, give her lots of timothy hay, round pellets, and other treats to chomp on from the moment her eyes open. Rabbits eat almost continuously, and she'll need all the energy she can get.
Also, remove your buck (male rabbit) if you don't want a second round of babies any time soon.
If your pet bunny is potty trained, you also want to remove the nest box as soon as the babies are old enough. Potty-trained rabbits may start using the nest as a litter box if it stays in their enclosure longer than the babies need.
Consider a pet bunny or two if you want a pet but work long hours. Bunnies adapt to human schedules. This means they'll be ready to give you lots of bunny love when you get home in the evening or early morning.
If you're worried about your pet bunny getting bored while you're away, get a rabbit-safe toy or two. You can also make your own by stuffing a toilet roll with Timothy hay to entertain your pet bunny. Wooden toys that they can chew on are best, however. It helps to keep the teeth in good condition and your furniture safe.
Remember that rabbits aren't Easter gifts unless you're willing to put in the time and effort to care for them. They need their litter boxes and enclosures cleaned regularly and need quite a bit of attention. This is especially important if you have only one pet bunny.
Now that you know that rabbits are crepuscular, you're ready to go out there and prove all the non-believers wrong. The next question you might want to research is if rabbits are rodents. This is another subject many people argue over. Don't worry I've got you covered.
For the answer to that question, click here → Are Rabbits Rodents? (An Animal Identity Crisis)
When are rabbits most active in your experience? Tell me in the comments below.
Between 8 and 11 hours. Most of your fur babies' sleeping is done during midday and midnight hours, but you might see them flop at any point during the day.
Wild rabbits are also crepuscular. They will occasionally be out under the cover of darkness because they feel safer, but they are by far the most active during twilight hours in their natural habitats.
A domestic bunny will flop just about anywhere it feels safe. Wild rabbits will retire to their burrows during the times of the day when some shut-eye is required. Hares you'll find snoozing away in the middle of a thick bush or thicket that hides them from the outside world.
Offer hideaways to retreat to. If your cotton-tailed friends show signs of stress, check the environment around your cages first. Rabbits won’t nap if there’s too much noise and light or if they feel threatened. Moving your bun to a dark, quiet spot will improve their rest.
Legamorphs aren't the only critters active in half-light conditions. Here are some other species you can expect to be out and about as well: