Crepuscular, a word is drawn from the Latin word for “twilight,” is a term for animals that are active primarily at dawn and dusk. There’s a very smart reason for picking these dimly lit in-between hours to be active.
Crepuscular Critters are Avoiding Predators
Many predators are most active at the peak hours of daylight and darkness, so animals like rabbits which are a prey species for countless carnivores, are active during twilight hours when predators are already tired from a night of hunting or are just waking up.
Plus, it’s tough to see during these hours, a fact that gives prey species an added edge in hiding from or escaping predators. In hot areas, there’s another reason for crepuscular activity: it allows animals to be active when the temperature is most reasonable.
Desert animals can escape the heat of midday and the chill of midnight by being active at dawn and dusk instead. And some species may shift from being nocturnal or diurnal to being crepuscular due to environmental factors such as competition with other species, for example, some owl species may be crepuscular to avoid competition with other raptor species or disturbance from human activity.
Crepuscular activity is further broken down into matutinal animals, which are most active in the morning, and vespertine animals, which are most active at dusk.
Other Animals that are Crepuscular
The rabbits are great examples of a crepuscular animal, as are deer, some bat species, bears, skunks, bobcats, possums, and many, many more species. To a certain extent, domestic rabbits follow this pattern too.
Their natural body clock means that they are most active mornings and evenings and this is part of the reason why they make such great house pets – they sleep all day when you are at work and are ready for fun when you are around.
A Typical Rabbit Day
Rabbits usually wake up with the dawn and stay active until about mid-morning. They spend this time eating, grooming, digging, foraging, and playing. They may investigate a new toy or digging box, follow you around to see what you are doing or race around burning off energy.
Around mid to late morning, they will retire to their den or sleeping area and settle down. They may emerge at times to use the litter tray or eat some hay but may often just sleep for hours, sometimes stretched out on their side but often just in a ‘loaf’ i.e. paws tucked in, ears back, eyes half-closed.
In the early evening, they emerge to visit the litter tray, groom themselves thoroughly and start foraging for food.
Evenings tend to be their most sociable, relaxed time – when they are most receptive to strokes and cuddles and many house rabbits settle down and ‘watch’ TV with their owners.
This period of activity may continue quite late into the night, even after you have gone to bed, but rabbits usually get a good few hours’ sleep while you are in bed and are always ready and waiting for their breakfast in the morning.
Rabbits like to adhere to strict mealtimes. Hay should always be freely available but it is a good idea to get into the habit of feeding your rabbit once in the morning and once in the evening, during their active times.
They quickly become attuned to their feeding times and will remind you if you are behind schedule by circling your feet, standing up on their back legs and begging or even nipping your feet gently. Wherever possible, it is best to respect this natural daily routine and avoid disturbing your rabbit during its sleeping times.
Rabbits can learn to sleep through a certain amount of everyday noise but don’t try to cuddle them in their den or get them out for a play – the result is likely to be a grumpy rabbit who is then less willing to socialize with you during its naturally active times.
Rabbits Sleep Schedule
So, now you know that rabbits are crepuscular. However, keep in mind that not all rabbits have the same schedule. That being said, the usual sleeping schedule of rabbits can be a bit hectic for owners:
- Sunrise – Your furry friend should keep up with the dawn. Rabbits are commonly full of energy at dawn. They may run around their enclosure, dig around, play, or groom themselves. Of course, they will also have a good appetite at this time of day.
- Morning – By morning, your rabbit should be tired and ready for its nap. Some rabbits may come out for a snack but they will typically continue to enjoy their sleep well into the afternoon.
- Afternoon – Afternoon is perhaps the prime sleeping time for rabbits. They may be taking a nap in the morning, but they will sleep firmly in the afternoon.
- Sundown – Once they get well-rested from all the sleep, rabbits once again become fairly active at dusk. Just like they did at dawn, they will eat plenty, groom themselves some more and play.
- Evening – In the evening, most rabbits will still be awake and active. Evenings are also the best time to let your rabbit out of the enclosure and let it get some exercise.
- Night – Your bunny will probably stay awake longer then you do. Rabbits don’t usually go to sleep before midnight. Some rabbits may even stay up later than that. However, once they go to sleep, they will sleep tight until dawn, when they will wake up and repeat their daily routine.
Can You Change Your Rabbits Sleeping Schedule?
Rabbits are naturally inclined to sleep during the day and late-night and to be awake at dawn and dusk. This is a part of their DNA, brought on by years of evolutions. So, changing their sleeping schedule is not really possible.
You may be able to achieve some success by changing your rabbits feeding time, or you can try to change their flight schedule to make it coincide with human day and night schedule. However, these tactics rarely bring success and when they do, it’s unclear whether they can have some health consequences on your rabbit.
After all, multiple studies have shown that working night shifts is bad for the health of humans,. Changing your rabbit’s sleep schedule may have the same effect.
One thing is sure, however – trying to change your rabbits sleeping patterns will not put it in a good mood. Don’t wake up your rabbit to try and change its sleeping schedule that way.
Rabbits are often aggressive when woken up and may even bite if you wake them up during their daytime nap. Trying to change their sleep schedule can also affect their health and introduce stress and anxiety. It is recommended that you let them sleep when they want to sleep for a happy rabbit.
Why Do Rabbits Sleep During the Day?
Rabbits are prey animals in the wild, so they need to be in a constant state of alertness. Avoiding predators is not easy, so years of evolution turned rabbits into crepuscular animals.
That means that rabbits often sleep during the midday when most predators are least likely to hunt. However, that’s not enough to make rabbits safe, which is why rabbits are capable of sleeping with their eyes open .
If your bunny sleeps with its eyes open, that’s nothing to worry about.
It is just a natural way for rabbits to stay alert to potential danger. Once your rabbit starts to feel comfortable and safe in its environment, it will be able to sleep tightly, with its eyes fully closed. Until then, be patient and make sure not to do anything that might make your rabbit feel scared to sleep with its eyes closed, like waking it up for example.
How Long Do Rabbits Sleep For?
It’s not easy to say exactly how much rabbits sleep because that depends on a few factors, especially on the rabbit’s state of mind. For example, a relaxed rabbit that feels comfortable and safe will certainly sleep more than an anxious or scared rabbit.
Basically, rabbits sleep for 6-8 hours a day. Relaxed rabbits may sleep longer than that, up to around 10 hours a day. However, rabbits are crepuscular, which as we know means that they are the most active at dusk and dawn. That’s why they often sleep in short bursts, taking regular naps instead of just sleeping for hours straight.
How long will a rabbit sleep also depend on the species? Wild rabbits have a somewhat different sleep pattern than domestic rabbits, especially during summer when it is mating season. During the mating season, rabbits tend to sleep less since they usually court their mates at night.
Where Do Rabbits Like to Sleep?
Wild rabbits prefer to sleep in burrows, Warren, and other deeply nested areas. These areas give them a necessary cover to protect them from predators and elements, especially when it’s too hot.
Domestic or pet rabbits sleep in cages or hutches, usually in an enclosed, dark area. It is important to make your rabbit’s living area as comfortable as possible to mimic the conditions from the wild. You can do this by adding extra hay and bedding.
Should Your Rabbit Sleep Outside?
Rabbits can sleep outside but you need to take the necessary precautions to ensure its safety and comfort. The first thing you need to worry about is its safety.
Rabbits are known for getting easily frightened, which in many cases can lead to death if they get too scared.
Outdoor rabbits are much more likely to die from predators, so it’s important you secure their cage and make it hard for animals to break it and kill/eat your rabbit, but more importantly, a rabbit that feels secure and safe is much happier.
If your rabbit is sleeping in its cage outside, make sure that it can’t be easily approached by predators. For example, you can keep the cage off the ground or cover it with mesh on all sides.
Some rabbit owners like to add a rug or cloth over the sides of the cage at night so the rabbits cannot see the outside in case there’s a predator around. Just the sight of predators can frighten rabbits and cause a lot of stress.
You should make sure that their doors have padlocks on as animals such as Foxes and Raccoons have been known to open the wooden doors. The cage should also be fastened to the ground to prevent any animals or the wind from knocking it over. Some cage’s roofs fold up, so it is also a good idea to add a heavyweight to the top so it cannot be opened.
Make sure that your rabbit has all the essentials at its disposal, like food and water. A litter box should also be a part of its living area. Sleeping outside during winter can be tricky because of the cold. Make sure that your rabbit has a nesting box with an entrance so it can have cover from the elements. Line its cage and nesting box with warm and soft bedding.
How Can I Help My Rabbit Get Better Sleep?
To ensure that your rabbit is getting enough quality sleep, you need to make it feel safe and comfortable. That includes a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and play, regular vet check-ups (at least once a year), and, of course, a comfortable and secure living environment.
The best way to ensure your rabbit is comfortable in its hutch or cage is to provide the appropriate bedding. You can use straws or hay since this will keep your rabbit comfortable and allow it to nibble on them as well.
Rabbit Breeder Associations
|American Breeders Association||United States||ARBA|
|House Rabbit Society||California||HRS|
|Ohio States Rabbit Breeders Association||Ohio||OSRBA|
|Livestock Conservancy||North Carolina||LC|
|Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund||United Kingdom||RWA|
|British Rabbit Council||United Kingdom||BRC|
|European Association of Rabbits....||Europe||EAP|
|Australian National Rabbit Council||Australia||ANRC|
|Australian Rabbit House Society||Australia||ARHS|
|ARBA - Rabbit Shows||United States||ARBA - Shows|