After a long winter, it's hard to resist the cuteness of a bunny rabbit in spring. So, when their children beg them for a bunny, many parents give in. After all, they’re adorable and fluffy – and rabbits don't need to be walked like a dog.
But there are particular facts about rabbits – namely their sleep habits – that you may want to consider before welcoming a bunny into your home.
When Bunnies Sleep
Rabbits keep a cautious eye open for attackers – whether they are out in the wild, enclosed in a hutch, or safe in your home – because they are conditioned watch for predators. To ensure your pet bunny gets enough rest, you want to provide them with a safe and quiet environment with comfortable bedding.
Bunnies are “daytime” sleepers, sleeping for about six to eight hours each day. Much like deer, bunnies are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. (In case you didn’t know, the word "crepuscular" is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, which means “twilight”.)
Because rabbits are nocturnal, they’ll be ready for playtime at night after sleeping for pretty much most of the day. Chances are you’ll find your bunny most active around 8:00 PM. Although you may be tempted to teach your bunny to stay awake during the day and sleep at night, you'll be going against its natural instincts and could find this task a bit challenging.
If you or your children want to play with your bunny, the best time to do so is early in the morning and early in the evening, when he is alert and active.
Where Bunnies Sleep
Rabbits out in the wild create tunnels in the ground that they use for their homes. The tunnel systems they create are known as a warren, and it includes areas for the rabbit to sleep and nest. Rabbits create a several entrances to their burrow, so they can escape quickly if needed. According to the Young People's Trust for the Environment, a rabbit can create a warren that is often as deep as 9.84 feet underground.
How Bunnies Sleep
When your bunny is snoozing, he lies on his stomach with his back legs behind him stretched out or sideways. You may even see him sleep upright. If your bunny is upright and you want to know if he's sleeping, check his ears. If his ears are folded down on his head, that's a sign he's asleep.
Unique Habits of Sleeping Bunnies
Sleeping bunnies have some unique habits that you'll want to familiarize yourself with before ownership:
Sound Asleep — Or Not? Your bunny might look like he is sound asleep, but you'll notice that he's instantly awake if he's disturbed. This is because his brain continues to actively send out signals to other parts of his body, which causes heavy breathing, rapid eye movements, and instant wakefulness. At this stage of sleep, you would be dreaming. Your bunny, at this point, is having a type of "dreaming sleep."
Atonic and Myoclonic Movement – Your bunny's body will experience atonic and myoclonic movement symptoms. Sleeping bunnies appear more fluid and flexible (atonic), but will also exhibit symptoms of involuntary jerking (myoclonic movements) and rapid eye movement.
You may notice that your bunny sleeps with his eyes open. You may also see your bunny drop to the ground as if it just lost strength in its body, and lie on its side. This is his body experiencing an atonic condition. This may alarm you if you’re new to bunny ownership, but you’ll get used to it since it happens regularly.
Grinds Teeth – Another thing you might notice is your bunny grinding his teeth. When you pet his head, you might even feel his cheek and chin vibrating. This is how your bunny purrs (yes, like a cat). Don't worry; it's a good sign telling you that he's happy and content.
If you are getting a new bunny this Easter, keep in mind that sleeping bunnies don't like to be disturbed, not even for playtime. If you do, he could wake up grumpy and even try to bite you. Let him sleep and save playtime for later on in the evening or first thing in the morning.
And remember, bunnies don't eat jelly beans.