When I first got rabbits, I always wanted to leave a night light on for them in the room where they slept in their cage.
I worried that my rabbits would be scared of the dark, and since I was asleep at night, I wouldn’t be able to comfort them.
While in conversation with a rabbit breeder, I asked her if rabbits were indeed scared of the dark.
Her answer was thorough and very enlightening (pun intended).
Are Rabbits Scared of the Dark?
Rabbits can see as well in the dark as humans do, so they don’t fear the dark because of being blind or photosensitive.
However, rabbits are prey animals and they know that predators often hunt at night.
A rabbit will happily seek darkness in their burrow to rest and sleep, but at night when it is dark, they will be more aware of sudden movement and sounds near them.
Rabbits aren’t scared of the dark, but it does make them warier, and it’s up to you, the rabbit owner, to ensure your rabbits have a safe hutch or cage to face nighttime in.
How Do Rabbits Deal with Darkness?
Believe it or not, humans are the animals that are most often scared of the dark out of all the animal kingdoms.
Perhaps it’s because we have an overactive imagination and anticipate monsters lurking in the shadows?
Because we are afraid of the dark, we tend to think other animals should also be scared of shadows.
Yet, most animals, including rabbits, are as comfortable with the dark of night as they are in the bright light of day.
At night, rabbits are simply more alert as they are prey animals, and predators use the cover of darkness to hunt.
Rabbit Night Vision
When you can’t see well in the dark, you will naturally be more cautious, and it is the same for rabbits.
If exposed to pitch darkness, a rabbit will not be able to see as much as they rely on ambient or filtered light to see in dim lighting conditions.
While you may think it is a good idea to leave a night light on in or near your rabbit’s hutch, this may end up doing more harm than good.
If the light is inside the hutch, it may trick your rabbit into thinking it is daytime, and they won’t get the good rest they need during the night.
Rabbits need a light cycle that closely mimics natural day and night hours. Because your rabbit may get a fright when you suddenly walk up to their cage at night doesn’t mean they are scared of the dark.
Instead, your rabbit got a fright because of the sudden movement.
Other Rabbit Senses in the Dark
When rabbits are in complete darkness and there is a lack of ambient lighting, they will rely on their other senses such as smell and sound to monitor their environment.
Humans don’t have such well-developed secondary senses, and we rely mostly on sight.
Since rabbits have better hearing than humans do, they may hear sounds further away in the dark, and they may get frightened or become wary of those sounds.
In the dark, your bunny’s level of alertness will increase to compensate for the lack of vision.
This doesn’t mean they are scared of the dark though. Instead, they are wary because they instinctively know the dark can hide predators.
Rabbits Enjoy Darkness
Rabbits build their underground burrows by digging, and the tunnels and subterranean chambers are almost completely dark.
Darkness is actually soothing to a rabbit as long as the rabbit is in a safe space.
In fact, rabbits kept in an outside run will naturally choose to sleep in and lie in the darkest part of the run.
To meet your rabbit’s needs, you would have to ensure they have a darker hutch or sleep area where they can snooze safely in relative darkness.
Rabbits, Darkness, and Sleep
Unlike people, rabbits sleep throughout the day. Any time your rabbit feels the need, it will sleep.
Sometimes they will return to their nesting box or burrow to sleep, but rabbits have been known to simply flop down and sleep anywhere and at any time of the day or night.
So a pet rabbit doesn’t need darkness to sleep. However, a rabbit does need darkness for other reasons:
- Darkness helps regulate a rabbit’s hormone levels when they have 12 hours of light and 13 hours of darkness a day.
- Darkness can soothe a frightened rabbit.
- The balance between darkness and light helps your rabbit grow or shed its coat in accordance with the seasons.
Other Things Rabbits Are Scared Of
Rabbits are way more scared of other things than of darkness.
For starters, rabbits are quickly scared when they hear a loud or sudden sound, see swift and sudden movement, or if they smell a strange smell.
Since the rabbit can’t see the cause of the sound in complete darkness, it heightens their anxiety, but they aren’t scared of darkness just because it’s dark.
To keep your rabbit calm and ensure they don’t become scared, you should place your indoor rabbit cage in a quiet room where there is less noise or movement.
Covering one section of their cage can also help your rabbit to not be afraid, which indicates that rabbits actually prefer darker lighting conditions.
After all, their underground burrows are dark, so this is what rabbits see as being safe, if they are in a safe place like a burrow, hutch, or cage.
Should You Give Your Rabbit a Nightlight?
Well-meaning bunny owners often wonder if they can or should give their rabbit a nightlight to help break the darkness.
I know I tried it myself by placing a low wattage light near the cage in the study where my rabbit stays during the night, and I wasn’t sure if it was helping or not.
But after a few nights, my rabbit seemed more edgy than usual.
When rabbits are exposed to excessive light, it can influence their natural hormone cycles, their sleep cycles, and even affect their ability to see in the dark.
I have since learned that if I really want to keep a nightlight near my rabbit’s cage, it is best to deflect the light away from the cage and ensure the cage is darker than the surrounding areas.
Rabbits need very little light to be able to see quite clearly—remember they are up before the sun even rises, so they can handle half-light quite well.
Covering Your Rabbit’s Cage
Instead of lighting up your rabbit’s sleep space, you may even consider covering their cage or hutch with a sheet or thin towel.
There are several reasons why you may want to cover their cage:
- Urban areas have too much ambient light (which often flashes), and covering the cage can help regulate the cage’s ambient light so your rabbit can remain peaceful at night.
- Sudden changes of light (such as a passing car’s headlights in your neighborhood) can scare your rabbit, so a partially covered cage can help keep your rabbit calm.
- If you are quite the night animal yourself and have lights randomly on in your house, you may disturb your rabbit and they could become stressed, which is why covering the cage can help.
Some Common Questions about Rabbits and Darkness
Below are common questions bunny owners have about keeping rabbits in darkness.
Do rabbits like to be in the dark?
Rabbits are not afraid of the dark, but they are wary of sudden sounds and movement as they are prey animals and are always on alert to avoid a predator that may be lurking in the darkness.
Should I cover my rabbit’s cage at night?
Covering your rabbit’s cage at night should serve a purpose and it should be done wisely.
Never cover your rabbit’s cage with a thick blanket; instead, opt for a thin towel or a folded bedsheet as your rabbit needs to be able to breathe comfortably inside the cage.
Should I turn the light off for my rabbit at night?
Rabbits are sensitive and any abnormal changes may stress them out, which can cause them to become ill.
Having too much light exposure can stress out your rabbit.
Since rabbits are naturally crepuscular and need regulated light cycles of daylight and nighttime darkness, it is best to turn off the light in your rabbit’s room or near their cage at night.
I felt so relieved after my conversation with the rabbit breeder, and I began to make some changes in the study to ensure my rabbit had a soothing environment around their cage at night.
While you can use a nightlight for your rabbit, be sure to set it on the dimmest possible setting and face the light away from the cage.
If your rabbit is indoors and doesn’t have access to natural light, be sure to copy the crepuscular cycle by using a UVB light to stimulate your rabbit correctly. Remember, we’re scared of the dark, but our rabbits aren’t.
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