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Do Rabbits Blink? (Eyesight, Eye Problems, and Treatments)

Many rabbit owners are not sure whether their furry friends can blink. This is not a surprise since rabbits don’t often close their eyes, so it’s only natural to wonder about it.

Do rabbits blink? Rabbits blink 10 to 12 times an hour to keep their eyes lubricated and to get rid of dust and debris that may have got into their eyes.

Rabbits also have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane.

Their third eyelid (nictitating membrane) allows them to keep their eyes open longer than humans and blink just 10-12 times an hour.

This article will discuss how and when rabbits blink and other interesting facts about rabbits and their eyes.

READ MORE: Do Male Rabbits Smell More Than Females?

a rabbit eye is blinking, do rabbits blink

Rabbits blink [1], but you may not be able to catch them since they do it so rarely.

That’s why many people wonder whether they can blink at all.

When rabbits blink, they usually have some debris in their eyes because weather conditions are dry, and they need to keep their eyes lubricated.

Rabbits have a third eyelid that never closes fully [3], which is why they can sleep with their eyes open and stay alert even when they blink.

This is important for rabbits because they are low on the food chain in nature and have many predators.

Rabbits blink approximately 10-12 times per hour, but they can blink even less if they feel scared or threatened.

However, when they blink, they do it as fast as humans. This is slower than some other animals, like guinea pigs, so the third eyelid is even more critical in keeping them away from predators.

Pet rabbits are likely to blink more often than wild rabbits because they usually feel safer and more comfortable in their predator-free environment.

However, if your rabbit is blinking too often, it can be a sign of some eye problem, like an eye infection.

Rabbits have a well-developed oculomotor system, which is why they can also blink with just one of their eyes.

While they won’t wink at you intentionally, they may close one eye if something is bothering just one of their eyes. They will keep their other eyes open in this case to stay alert.

READ MORE: What Sounds Do Rabbits Make?

Do Rabbits Have Eyelids?

a pair of rabbit is sleeping

Yes, rabbits have eyelids. They have three eyelids instead of two like most mammals.

The third eyelid, also commonly called haw, is most widely found in reptiles and birds.

However, some other mammals also have it, like dogs, cats, camels, etc.

The scientific term for this third eyelid is a nictating membrane, and it doesn’t fully close. It closes only partially when the rabbit is asleep. Otherwise, it only moves a bit past the rabbit’s cornea.

The primary purpose of this third eyelid is to float across the eye’s surface to lubricate it and to protect the rabbit’s cornea from water, wind, sand, and other elements.

Humans and other mammals lubricate their eyes by blinking only. Rabbits don’t have to blink as often as humans, thanks to the third eyelid.

Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Yes, rabbits often sleep with their eyes open [2]. That’s why many owners are not sure when their pet rabbits are asleep and may think that they don’t sleep much.

However, rabbits sleep at least 6-8 hours a day, but they may even sleep more if they feel entirely comfortable in your home.

a rabbit sleeping with eyes open

Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, thanks to their third eyelid.

This eyelid never fully closes, allowing rabbits to stay alert even when they sleep.

This is important for rabbits in the wild because it is a mechanism that helps them be aware of any predators.

It can also give the predators an illusion that they are awake, which may sometimes deter predators from attacking them.

The third eyelid keeps their eyes lubricated while they sleep, so they don’t need to close their eyes. However, if a rabbit is entirely comfortable and safe in its environment, it may sleep with its eyes closed.

It may take time for your pet rabbit to reach this stage, so don’t worry if you see your rabbit sleeping with its eyes open.

Some owners may find it hard to recognize when their rabbits are sleeping if they sleep with their eyes open. However, you can rest assured that your rabbit is sleeping if it twitches and wiggles its nose.

Rabbits are often hyperaware when they sleep. That’s why they usually sleep in short bursts and wake up quickly.

Do Rabbits Have Good Eyesight?

a rabbit with good eye sight

Rabbits are prey animals, which means they rely on their eyesight and other senses to keep them away from predators.

Staying on the lookout for predators is why rabbits rarely blink and sleep with their eyes open.

Rabbits have eyes located high on the sides of their faces. This, along with the shape of their skulls, allows them to have a nearly 360-degree vision. However, this doesn’t mean that they have perfect eyesight.

How Well Can Rabbits See?

As we already mentioned, rabbits have a panoramic vision [4]. This means that their vision can encompass almost 360 degrees.

Unfortunately for them, they have a tiny blind spot because they can’t see directly in front of them.

rabbit smelling flowers

While they can see a predator coming from any direction, the position of their eyes leaves them unable to see in front of their nose and under their chin.

That’s why rabbits rely on their sense of smell and their whiskers to identify objects in front of them. You may notice that your rabbit needs some time to catch up when you put a treat directly in front of it.

Rabbits are also farsighted, meaning they can see objects at long distances well. However, they don’t have an excellent vision for nearby items.

Another problem that rabbits have regarding their eyesight is depth perception. Their depth perception is practically non-existent.

Rabbits can see objects well, but they may not know how far those objects are just based on their vision. They use their other senses to determine the range of an item, like scent and hearing.

Can Rabbits See Color?

Yes, rabbits can see color, but it is believed that they are partially color-blind [5] since their eyes are only sensitive to green and blue light waves.

Mammals have two light-sensitive cells in their retinas – rods and cones. Cones have the job of detecting bright light.

They also have pigments that give mammals the ability to see different colors. On the other hand, Rods don’t have pigments and help mammals see in low or reduced light.

Mammals with more than one cone type can perceive a more significant number of colors and see them more distinctly.

For example, humans have three cones sensitive to blue, red, and green. Rabbits have two types of cones sensitive either to green or blue light, which means dichromatic vision.

Can Rabbits See in the Dark?

a pair of rabbit act blindly at night

Rabbits are crepuscular animals [5], which means they are most active at dusk and dawn.

This is why rabbits have the best vision in dim, low-light conditions.

However, they don’t have night vision and can’t see in the dark.

As we mentioned before, rabbits have more rods than cones.

This helps them see well in reduced light. However, they have no tapetum, a reflective layer in animals’ eyes that can see well in the dark.

This layer causes the eyes of nocturnal animals with good night vision to shine in the dark.

In addition to poor night vision, rabbits also have significantly reduced eyesight in very bright light conditions.

That is why rabbits sleep during the day and are most active at dusk and dawn.

How to Treat My Rabbit’s Eye Infection?

Rabbits don’t often suffer from eye problems, but they are not immune to them either. One of the most common eye problems in rabbits is an eye infection.

Bacteria or fungi can cause eye infections in rabbits, and if left untreated, they can have serious consequences.

Symptoms of Eye infections in Rabbits

The most common symptoms of eye infections in rabbits [6] include:

  • Inflammation or discharge from the eye
  • Redness of the eye
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Eye discharge
  • Constant blinking
  • Constant tearing of the eye

How to Treat it?

Treatment for eye infections in rabbits will depend on the type of infection. Bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics and topical anti-inflammatory medications.

Fungal infections are treated with antifungal medications.

While eye infections are often treated without taking a culture sample, in some cases, this may be necessary to determine the type of bacteria and decide on the best course of treatment.

If you notice any problems with your rabbit’s eyes, it is best to immediately take it to the vet.

However, you can also clean your rabbit’s eyes with a warm cloth if you see discharge and you notice that the eye is starting to shut down.

Other Eye Problems in Rabbits

Rabbits can also have other eye problems. Although the symptoms are mostly the same as eye infections, treatment for these conditions may vary.

Abscess

Rabbits can suffer from thick abscesses in their eyes. They are easily spotted and filled with sticky, creamy pus.

In most cases, swelling of the eyeball is the most noticeable symptom of this painful condition. An infected bite or scratch usually causes abscesses.

Cataract

Cataract, or cloudy eye [7] in rabbits is caused by many different factors, like diet, infection, trauma, and genetics.

Cataracts are easy to notice since they come with one characteristic symptom – the opaque appearance of the lens. Surgical removal is the primary treatment option.

Glaucoma

It is usually a hereditary condition, mostly occurring in the New Zealand White rabbits. However, it can also be caused by other eye conditions, like uveitis or intraocular neoplasia.

Significant symptoms include cloudy white cornea and blindness. Treating glaucoma is often complicated and frustrating and includes topical medication and surgery.

Corneal Ulcers

Eye ulcer is a hole or other defect in the cornea. It can be a tiny spot, but it can also cover almost an entire eye.

Regardless of their size, ulcers are pretty painful. A trauma usually causes them to the rabbit’s eye that damages the cornea.

You may notice that your rabbit keeps its eye shut if it suffers from corneal ulcers, but it may also scratch its eye with its paws.

Conjunctivitis

This condition is also known as “pink eye,” It describes an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the pink flesh surrounding the rabbit’s eye.

It is often caused by unsanitary conditions, like dirty water or a bacteria-infested environment.

Here’s a video discussing common eye problems in rabbits.

How to Prevent Eye Problems

Some of these common eye problems can be prevented by good hygiene. Make sure to clean your rabbit’s living area regularly to make it as dust-free as possible.

Dust and similarly small particles are often the cause of eye problems in rabbits. You also need to ensure that your rabbit’s bedding is clean.

Check your rabbit’s eyes regularly to prevent minor issues from turning into something serious.

Call your vet as soon as you spot any changes in the appearance of your rabbit’s eyes, no matter how minor they may seem.

RELATED: How Often To Clean Rabbit Cage?

FAQs

Do rabbits eat their poop?

Yes, rabbits often eat their droppings, especially after digesting a meal. They will eat their poop and process it for the second time.
Keep in mind that poop is an essential part of a rabbit’s diet, so just let your pet do its thing.

Do rabbits groom themselves?

a rabbit doing his own grooming

Yes, rabbits groom themselves just like cats do. They lick themselves to stay clean and generally don’t need to be bathed.
Having a rabbit pet means you don’t need to spend much time grooming it.

Do rabbits have feelings for their owners?

Rabbits are very sociable, friendly, and loving pets. They need to spend time with their owner as they’ll get bored without social interaction.

Resources

  • 1. Brown KL, Woodruff-Pak DS. Eyeblink conditioning in the developing rabbit. Developmental Psychobiology [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2019 Nov 15];54:423–32. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3251633/
  • 2. Rattenborg NC, de la Iglesia HO, Kempenaers B, Lesku JA, Meerlo P, Scriba MF. Sleep research goes wild: new methods and approaches to investigate the ecology, evolution and functions of sleep. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2017;372:20160251.
  • 3. McGill University [Internet]. Office for Science and Society. 2019 [cited 2022 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/rabbits-have-hinged-skulls-and-three-eyelids
  • 4. Rabbit’s Panoramic Vision [Internet]. Awesci – Science Everyday. 2015 [cited 2022 Jan 24]. Available from: http://awesci.com/rabbits-panoramic-vision/
  • 5. Crepuscular animals [Internet]. animalia.bio. [cited 2022 Jan 24]. Available from: https://animalia.bio/crepuscular
  • 6. Eye infections in rabbits [Internet]. www.pdsa.org.uk. [cited 2022 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/eye-infections-in-rabbits
  • 7. Cloudy Eye in Rabbits [Internet]. Petmd.com. 2020. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/rabbit/conditions/eyes/c_rb_cataracts
a rabbit blinking eye, do rabbits blink

Did you ever get eye treatment for your rabbits? Let us know how the experience was!

Barry Stingmore
Barry Stingmore

Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.

Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.

Find him on FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND Linkedin
Read his latest ARTICLES.
Find more about him HERE.

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