When I got my first pet rabbit, I worried a lot about Ms. Fluffles and if she’d be okay staying in my living room that is quite dark (thank you, blackout curtains).
Would my rabbit be able to see in the dark?
Should I put a nightlight on or open the curtains fully during the day so light can enter the room?
Rabbits can see in the dark, but they can’t see in complete darkness.
Rabbits are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. As such, their eyesight is the most acute in low-light conditions.
The Eyesight of a Rabbit: How Well Can a Rabbit See?
Rabbits have two eyes, just like we humans do. However, a rabbit’s eyes are located laterally: high on the side of its head.
This allows rabbits to have almost 360-degree vision. Rabbits are far-sighted too. They can also detect movement fast.
This wide-field vision helps rabbits survive in the wild. It helps them to be vigilant and spot threats from all angles. Plus, it helps them take action to stay safe.
They can either run away or thumb loudly to warn the predator that the rabbit has spotted it.
Thumping also warns their underground warren (family) that danger is nearby.
The only blind spot a rabbit has is located below its nose or right in front of it. This blind spot is there because the rabbit’s eyesight doesn’t overlap.
The Anatomy of a Rabbit’s Eye
Like human eyes, a rabbit’s eye has two different types of photoreceptor cells. These are rods and cones.
The cones help us see colors. Cones also help us see detailed images in high resolution.
People have three cones, which is why we can see the three primary colors of blue, yellow, and red.
A rabbit’s eye only has two cones, so they see mainly in a spectrum of blue and green.
They can also see yellow to an extent, and the rest of the colors they see as shades of gray. As such, rabbits are partially colorblind because they can’t see red well.
The rods in our eyes help us see different levels or shades of light. Rabbits have more rods in their eyes than humans do.
The extra rods give rabbits greater vision in dim light, like during dusk and dawn.
In fact, a rabbit’s eyes are up to 8 times more sensitive to light when compared to human eyes. But the extra rods mean that rabbits can’t see very well in bright light conditions.
Rabbit Eyesight in Near Dark Conditions
Rabbits’ ability to see better and clearly during near dark conditions or when the light is dim helps them survive.
This makes perfect sense since rabbits are crepuscular animals. These animals are more active during the early morning and evening when the light is dim.
During dusk and dawn is when wild rabbits forage for food, socialize, and clean their underground burrows.
Being crepuscular further helps rabbits survive since it rules out the nighttime (nocturnal) and daytime (diurnal) predators that feast on rabbits.
However, that isn’t to say these predators and rabbits can’t cross paths or that rabbits are now safe.
It simply lessens the chances of a nocturnal and diurnal predator finding a rabbit for its next meal.
The chances of rabbits then running across other crepuscular predators is high. These crepuscular rabbit predators include foxes, ocelots, jaguars, bobcats, possums, and spotted hyenas.
Rabbit Eyesight in Complete Darkness
Unlike most mammals, a rabbit’s eyes are more similar in comparison to a human’s eyes during nighttime.
Complete darkness will blind a person and a rabbit. The reason is that rabbits don’t need to see in pure darkness.
Just like our eyes, the eyes of rabbits don’t have a tapetum lucidum, which is a tissue layer located behind the retina. The purpose of the tapetum lucidum is to reflect light.
This is what allows nocturnal animals to hunt at night.
However, just like you are able to make out objects in your house during nighttime, so a rabbit’s eyes can adjust to the light (or lack thereof) that is available.
The difference is that what a rabbit sees during nighttime will be grainy.
Lighting and Domesticated Rabbits
Knowing that rabbits are crepuscular animals, you may wonder about the lighting conditions if you keep your rabbit inside or outside.
Pet Rabbits and Lighting in Your Home
If your pet rabbit stays indoors, then you may be wondering if you should cover the cage at night or during the day.
You may also be unsure about turning on a nightlight for your rabbit.
Rabbits aren’t inherently afraid of the dark. Whether you have a dim light on for your rabbit during the night all depends on your rabbit’s habits.
If your bunny is somewhat active during the night, you can leave a nightlight or dim light on. This may comfort your rabbit as they move around in their cage.
Also, be sure to leave toys in the cage and an unlimited supply of hay and water so your bunny can chew away and play.
You may, however, want to ensure there is some dark space for your bunny into which it can crawl, hide, and sleep.
This could be a cardboard box that is turned upside down with an entry so your rabbit can get in and out of the box easily.
Alternatively, you can cover a part of the rabbit’s cage with a tarp when outside or a towel when inside. This will provide some darkness for your rabbit when they want to sleep.
In the wild, rabbits spend a lot of time in their burrows. These underground tunnels are dark, so this is where rabbits may feel the safest.
Pet Rabbits and Lighting Outside
If you keep your rabbit outside, they’ll live in their hutch, which is most likely made of a sturdy wood that is predator-proof.
There will also be a rabbit run which your rabbits will use for eating time, playtime, and even exercise time.
The wooden hutch should have a roof and walls. This will be sufficiently dark so your rabbit can sleep when it wants to.
When positioning the hutch outside, keep it out of direct sunlight.
Some FAQs about Rabbit Eyesight in the Dark
Is it okay for rabbits to be in the dark?
You can leave your pet rabbit in its cage or hutch at night.
In the wild, rabbits spend most of the daylight hours resting in their underground burrows with their warren (family).
However, since rabbits can easily feel stressed, ensure there is no excessive light or darkness where your rabbit lives.
Should I leave a light on for my rabbit at night?
There is no need to leave a light or nightlight on for your rabbit during the night.
Ensure that natural light enters the room you keep your pet rabbit in so your bunny can benefit from natural light and dark patterns (daylight vs nighttime) during the day.
If you keep your rabbit in a basement, for example, then you can switch on a dim light to replicate daylight.
Do rabbits recognize their owner?
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits know their owners after a period.
A pet rabbit recognizes its owner by sight and sound. Your rabbit may even come to you when you call it.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits Seeing in the Dark
Knowing and understanding how well your pet rabbit sees helps you better meet its needs.
If you hear your rabbit is active during the night, then switch on a low light so your bunny can see.
But ensure your rabbit has a safe and dark space it can retreat to when it wants to rest and sleep.
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