Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

The fact that rabbits sleep with their eyes open is something that most people find hard to get used to. As a rabbit owner, you will notice a lot of things about your pets and may wonder if some of these things are normal. For instance, you may not be able to distinguish when your rabbit is sleeping from when it is not since it always seems to be awake.

This is quite normal as many times; rabbits sleep with their eyes open. They have a membrane called the nictitating membrane [1] or a third eyelid. This membrane prevents their eyes from drying out while they sleep with them open.


Why Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Some people are not aware of the fact that rabbits sleep. This might be because their pets sleep with their eyes open and may seem to be awake all the time. However, not all rabbits sleep with their eyes open.

Rabbits sleep with their eyes open as a self-defense mechanism. These animals are attuned to being alert in every situation since they are prey animals and timid ones at that. 

A rabbit sleeping with its eyes open will quickly know if a predator is approaching than if it closes its eyes. Besides, a predator will not be so keen on attacking a rabbit that seems to be awake. Therefore, this way of sleeping with the eyes open helps protect many rabbits, particularly in the wild.


How Can You Know Your Rabbit Is Sleeping If Its Eyes Are Open?

It may be difficult for you to tell when your rabbit is sleeping and when it is awake if it keeps its eyes open when it sleeps. This is because a rabbit sleeping with its eyes open may look as if it is just relaxing.

However, with the following signs, you will be able to tell which one your pet is doing.

  • Slow breathing: If your rabbit is asleep, its breathing will become very slow, much slower than usual. You will be able to confirm by going close to the animal, although you should do so gently so that you do not startle it awake.
  • Snoring: A lot of rabbits snore when they are asleep. A rabbit’s snore would sound like a rasping sound or a gentle grunt.
  • You do not notice its nose twitching: Rabbits’ noses always twitch, especially when they are awake and alert. If your rabbit’s nose is not twitching, the animal is most probably sleeping.
  • Its ears are relaxed: In conjunction with a non-twitching nose, relaxed ears in a rabbit signal that the animal is probably sleeping. Usually, when a rabbit is awake, it will hold its ears upright. However, when it falls asleep, the ears will become relaxed and will lie against the animal’s head.

How Can You Make Your Rabbit Sleep With Its Eyes Closed?

Many rabbit owners worry that their pets suffer because they do not sleep with their eyes closed. You do not need to bother too much about it, though, as it is a common trait among many rabbits.


To set your mind at rest, you can use the following tips to help your pet sleep with its eyes closed:

  • Make your rabbit feel comfortable and safe in your home: Just as it is with wild rabbits, domestic rabbits may sleep with their eyes open because they do not feel safe. This phenomenon is particularly common among rabbits who have just been introduced to a new home and yet to adjust to their new environment.

    Provide a comfortable and quiet space for your pet so that it will feel safe enough to close its eyes while sleeping. For instance, you can place its cage in a room that is devoid of noise or anything that can cause the animal fear.

  • Bond with the animal: Apart from providing a comfortable space for your rabbit, you should also bond with it. Rabbits are timid animals, and so your rabbit may be scared of you, especially if you just got it. This fear would make the animal sleep with its eyes open until it has learned to trust you.


  • Provide an enclosure with enough space for your rabbit: Rabbits need lots of space to live in or play around. A small space will give the animal a sense of danger. Therefore, you should purchase a large cage for your pet and a big run where it can exercise freely.


Rabbits sleep with their eyes open, although not all of them do this. It is common to see rabbits that do this, and so, you should not worry if you notice that your rabbit is one of them. Although sleeping with open eyes is not dangerous to a rabbit’s health, it may be a sign that the animal does not feel safe in its environment.

Once your rabbit feels safe enough in your home, it should be comfortable enough to sleep with its eyes closed. If, after improving conditions in your home to favour your rabbit, the animal still sleeps with its eyes open, you should let the animal be.


  1. Science Direct [Link]