The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Rabbits make wonderful pets, but sometimes their behavior makes people wonder if they can see. Sometimes they jump when they notice something right in front of them, even though it’s been there for a while.
Rabbits are not blind, but they see the world differently from people. Their eyes are set on the sides of their heads, which gives them good peripheral vision to see objects around them at a distance but makes it more difficult to see up close.
Rabbits are prey, and it is important for them to see predators before they get too close. They have clear vision to see objects that are far away, which gives them time to hide.
Are Rabbits Born Blind?
When rabbits, or kits as they are called, are born, their eyes are sealed shut and it takes anywhere from ten days to three weeks for them to open. It is important to let the eyes open on their own because forcing them open can permanently damage their eyes and make them blind
When baby rabbits are born, they are blind and deaf, and they need their mother to care for them. Once they reach the age where their eyes open, they slowly develop their vision.
This is why baby rabbits stay in the nest for up to eight weeks. Once their eyes open, they can’t see very far away.
They begin by seeing their siblings and their mother, and you will know that their sight is developing as they become more adventurous and begin to stray further away from the nest. Once their vision is developed, they will leave the nest and be ready to go out on their own.
There are some baby rabbits that are born blind or deaf, and you will notice this as they develop. Their behavior will be different from other rabbits.
First, they won’t react to movements that are around them. If they are deaf, they won’t react to noises either, and they will have trouble finding their mother to feed.
Can Rabbits See in the Dark?
Rabbits can see in the dark. They are crepuscular, which means that they are an animal that is most alert at dawn and dusk when there is low lighting.
Rabbits are always in danger from predators, and dusk and dawn are safer times for them to find food and water. They will often be foraging for fresh greens before the sun comes up.
Their vision is ideal for low light settings, but they can see in darkness as well. Rabbits’ eyes adjust to the light around them, and in complete darkness, they can get around.
Can Rabbits See Color?
Rabbits do see some color, but not the way people do. Their eyes are designed to have what is called two-color vision, which is different from people, who have three-color vision.
Rabbits are unable to perceive red and green colors, and different shades of orange, yellow, and green all appear yellow to them.
However, rabbits’ eyes are designed to keep them safe, so not seeing color helps danger to stand out. It is much more important for them to see in low light settings than for them to see greens or reds, as they are constantly avoiding predators.
How Rabbits See the World
Rabbits’ vision is designed to help them survive. In fact, most animals are the way that they are for this very reason, and predators and prey see the world differently as they have different priorities and needs.
Rabbits are prey for many different predators, including coyotes, foxes, hawks, racoons, and more. They need to be able to see predators at a distance so that they can scurry off to a safe hiding spot.
Their eyes are lateral, which means that they are located on the sides of their heads, as is the case for many different prey animals. This placement gives them a wide field of view for objects that are off in the distance.
Rabbits can see motion in front of them, to the sides, and behind them; they have 360-degree vision. Their vision isn’t so great up close, and they actually have a blind spot directly in front of their heads.
The reality is that they don’t need to see predators that are that close to them because they have little chance to escape them. They need to see off in the distance so that they have time to get to safety.
How Do Rabbits’ Eyes Work?
Because rabbits have their eyes positioned laterally on the sides of their heads, they have a 360-degree field of vision. They have one blind spot in the front center for objects close up.
They can see some colors, but objects appear in shades of blue and yellow. In spite of this, they can see more clearly at further distances than people and they notice movement at these distances right away.
Rabbits are nearly eight times more sensitive to light than people are, and they don’t need much light to see clearly. This is beneficial because they are most active at dawn and dusk, and it helps them stay safe from predators.
Are Rabbits Nocturnal?
Many people wonder if rabbits are nocturnal since they can see in the dark, but they are not. Rabbits are considered crepuscular, which means that they are most active at dawn and dusk.
The middle of the day in bright light is dangerous for rabbits, so they often stay hidden away. The night is also dangerous, as many of their predators are nocturnal, so they stay safe during this time as well.
Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk, so their vision is designed to be best during this time of the day. Although they can see at other times, they rarely venture out.
Should You Leave a Light on at Night for Pet Rabbits?
Pet rabbits have many of the same characteristics as their wild relatives. They may not need to protect themselves from predators, but they will still have the same kind of vision and they will view your other pets as predators most of the time.
Sometimes pet rabbits are known to be more active during the night. They may feel safer at this time because there is less activity in the home.
You can leave a dim light on for them to ensure that they can see around them, but if your rabbit sleeps at night, you should leave the room dark so that it will get the deep rest that it needs.
Where Exactly Is the Rabbit’s Blind Spot?
Rabbits have a blind spot close to the front of their faces. It is under their chins and in front of their noses, so the blind spot is about ten degrees in the front.
When rabbits want to see something or determine how far away it is, they use parallax to do it. This is similar to what birds do, and it involves moving their head up and down while looking at the object in the distance.
They instinctively know that objects that are closer will move more during this scan, while those further away will not move much. A rabbit’s vision is more two-dimensional than three-dimensional.
For example, if the rabbit sees a fox in the distance, it is hard for it to know whether it is 100 yards away or ten. For them, it is as if they are looking at a two-dimensional image.
For this reason, rabbits have a keen sense of smell and taste. This is why you can place a treat in a rabbit’s blind spot, and it will be able to find it to eat it.
Rabbits may not be able to see the treat, but they have whiskers to let them know when something is there, and then they smell it to make sure it is safe.
Can Pet Rabbits See Their Owners?
Rabbits don’t see as well at closer distances, so even though they can see their owners, it is grainy and lower quality than what people experience. People have more cones than rods, which allows them to see more clearly, but rabbits have more rods, which allows them to see better in the dark.
Although they can see their owners, the image is a lower resolution. Your rabbit may not recognize you when you are wearing a hat or carrying something because they don’t see the details the way people do.
They see shapes, and carrying these other items can change your shape. Pet rabbits can see their owners, but not clearly, and they identify them by sound and scent more than by vision.
Why Do Some Rabbits Have Red Eyes?
There are a lot of rabbits that have red eyes, and this is caused by a gene for albinism. This gene was intentionally bred into rabbits to produce rabbits that are white in color.
Rabbits that have the albino gene have no pigmentation anywhere in their bodies, which changes the color of the eye to red. The red color that you see is the blood from the back of the eyes reflecting to the front.
These rabbits are very sensitive to the sun, and it can damage their eyes. If you have an albino rabbit, it is important to protect them from direct sunlight.
Why Do Rabbits Have a Third Eyelid?
Another unique feature for the eyes of rabbits is that they have a third eyelid, which is called a nictitating membrane. This membrane keeps their eyes clean at all times so that they can see predators as they approach.
In fact, this membrane allows rabbits to sleep with their eyes open. They blink between ten and twelve times each hour, but the third eyelid never blinks.
How to Know If Your Pet Rabbit Is Blind
You already know that your rabbit has blind spots and doesn’t see clearly up close, but there are some rabbits that are blind in one or both eyes. If you are concerned about this, there are signs that you can look for.
- It acts frightened and unsure of surroundings
- It bumps into things
- Its eyes appear red
- It seems more nervous
- It is startled by sounds that are normal
- It has a delayed reaction to things placed in front of it
- Its eyes appear cloudy
- Its pupils are dilated
Common Eye Problems for Pet Rabbits
When you have a pet rabbit, you need to be on the lookout for common eye problems, as they can lead to blindness. Rabbits have large eyes that are open most of the time, so it is easy for them to get objects stuck inside, and they can suffer from injuries and diseases.
One of the most common eye problems that rabbits get is called conjunctivitis. It can happen without any cause, and the eye appears weepy and has a crusty substance around it.
This can happen if your rabbit’s cage is dirty, and it is caused by inflammation around the eyes. Your rabbit may start rubbing its eyes with its front feet, and you may notice it watering.
You treat conjunctivitis with antibiotics that you can get from your vet. You should contact them right away if you notice an eye problem so that it doesn’t develop into anything else.
Another common eye problem is ulcers, which come from the cornea suffering damage from fighting, bedding, or more. You will notice your rabbit rubbing its eye and keeping it shut.
You may need a topical antibiotic for this problem, so you should consult the vet.
Inflammation of the cornea is called keratitis, and it can be caused by an injury or if the rabbit gets something in its eye. You will notice that the eye has tears, and it may be red.
You may need antibiotics for this as well.
If you see thick pus coming from the eye, your rabbit could have an abscess. This is usually caused by an infection around the periorbital region, and you will want to get some antibiotics from your vet.
Finally, your rabbit may get something in its eye, such as bedding, food, or a bug. They have large eyes that are open most of the time, so this can happen pretty easily.
In this case, you can use a saline solution to rinse the eye, but if you aren’t comfortable with it, you can take your rabbit to the vet.
Rabbits are not blind, but they can’t see when they are born. They see the world differently from people because they are prey rather than predators.