Rabbits are animals that are active during the day, and that sleep during the night. So basically, they’re not nocturnal and therefore have no need for being able to see in the dark.
In fact, rabbits aren’t used to spending time in the dark at all! In the wild, rabbits wake up early in the morning, they go about their day, and then they are back underground, ready to sleep, a bit before it gets dark. Meanwhile, pet rabbits at home pretty much will have the same schedule as you, and it will depend on when you feed them.
The fact remains that rabbits are not nocturnal in the slightest, and do not need to see in the dark. This is why it makes complete sense that they cannot see in the dark, as they do not have night vision.
Animals that do have night vision and that are nocturnal have a tapetum lucidum, which rabbits lack. So while rabbits might be able to see a little in the dark, similarly to humans, in complete darkness they will have to rely on other senses such as their hearing and their sense of smell, because their eyes will pretty much be useless.
This also means that rabbits will instinctively avoid being left out in the dark at night because they live by daylight. In fact, rabbits are pretty afraid of the dark, because it leaves them vulnerable and exposed.
It’s pretty important for rabbit owners to be aware of this because if left in the dark while in a vulnerable position, rabbits can be frightened to death. They really really really do not like the dark!
We’ll talk a bit about what you can do to make your rabbits be safe and comfortable when it gets dark in the house, but before that, we’ll go in a bit deeper about how their eyes work, and about their vision when it gets dark.
How a rabbit’s eyes work:
Okay so rabbit vision, how do their eyes work?
Well, the eyes are located on the side of their head, which allows them to have a 360-degree field of vision, something pretty standard amongst small herbivore and omnivore animals. The only blind spot that rabbits have is right below the nose, everything else they will be able to spot.
This vision is a survival mechanism typical of prey species. They have to be constantly alert and vigilant, and they need to be able to see all around them in case a predator tries to sneak up.
The eyes themselves are made up of cones and rods. The cones help determine different colors, and the rods help see different levels of light. So, humans have 3 cones that allow us to interpret the 3 primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. Rabbits, on the other hand, only have two cones, so they can only see blue and green. In a way, this makes them partially colorblind! However, rabbits have more rods than humans, which means that rabbits see better in different light conditions. For example, a rabbit’s vision is at its best during dim light, which is why they are usually most active during dawn and dusk.
How well can a rabbit see in the dark?
Rabbits are not nocturnal, and they don’t like the dark, and their vision follows suit. In nighttime conditions, rabbits can see as well as us humans, so they will be able to distinguish some shapes and shadows, but in complete darkness, they will essentially be blind.
Nocturnal animals that have night vision have a layer of tissue behind the retina of the eye, called the tapetum lucidum. Rabbits do not have this, so they do not have night vision.
Instead, rabbits thrive in dim light, making them active during dawn and dusk, which is when they go out to eat and exercise. When it becomes dark, they’re back safe and sound in their underground burrows, fast asleep until the following morning.
As rabbits are essentially blind in complete darkness, they avoid being left out in the open during nighttime, and they can become extremely scared of the dark.
How far can a rabbit see?
Rabbits are primarily far-sighted, which is part of their survival mechanism to be able to see potential threats and predators coming from afar so that they have enough time to react and get to safety.
However, this means that they lack a bit of depth perception. So in close range, rabbits can be pretty clumsy. You might notice that pet rabbits tend to knock over their bowls and other items with ease, and this is because their eyes aren’t designed to see things up close.
Instead, you might also notice that rabbits get nervous or restless when looking out the window or when they’re out in the yard. This is because they can see things going on far off in the distance that you’re not able to spot. Remember, rabbits are always instinctively alert and on the lookout for threats!
How to make your rabbit feel safe and comfortable in the dark:
Rabbits can become very scared of the dark, as they are left vulnerable and unable to see. So here are some things you can do to make your rabbit feel more at ease:
- Make sure they’re not alone. Rabbits prefer to live in groups, and if they have another rabbit with them, they will feel slightly safer.
- Provide a safe and comfortable hutch. If they have a cozy and safe space for sleeping, they will take refuge there while it is dark, and they will feel a lot better.
- Provide distractions, such as food or rabbit toys. Something to make your rabbit happy, and that distracts from a situation of potential threat.
Some people think that using a night light can help keep your rabbit safe and happy. However, we do not recommend this in the slightest. Although a night light would get rid of the darkness factor, it could end up causing additional stress and damage to your rabbit’s vision, and it could also completely disrupt their sleeping patterns.