Imagine this: you’re minding your own business, reading a book or watching TV, when at the corner of your eye you catch your rabbit staring at you.
At first, you ignore him. By now, you’re used to his strange antics. But the staring goes on even after a handful of minutes have passed, and you can’t help but wonder, “Why does my rabbit stare at me?”
Rabbits stare at their owners for a number of reasons. Some might make you go, “Aww!” while others, “Wait, what?”
Stick around to learn more!
Rabbits are social creatures, which means they not only love spending time with their humans—they actually require it.
Without regular human interaction, they’d become lonely, bored, and depressed.
Interactive toys and treats can only do so much, they still need human attention to thrive—especially if they don’t have another rabbit friend to hang out with.
So if you catch your rabbit staring at you, it’s possible that he’s trying to catch your attention. He’s probably thinking, “look at me, play with me, pet me!”
Have you ever caught yourself staring at someone you love, admiring and appreciating their beauty, kindness, and charm?
Rabbits actually do the same! They’d sometimes take a moment to simply just stare at their owners out of love.
Rabbits’ perception of time is different from humans. They have short-term memory that lasts for less than five minutes, which is why punishment doesn’t work when disciplining them.
Despite this, rabbits have the capacity to retain the information they deem important for longer periods. If something—or someone—holds emotional resonance to them, they’ll remember it. This includes human owners.
Though rabbits don’t remember the specifics of what makes you so special (other than “food provider”), they still know deep in their hearts that you’re their favorite human. So if they’re feeling content, with no perceived threats, they’d be happy to pass the time just staring at you.
Just like how dogs and cats stare at you when they’re hungry, rabbits do the same thing!
Staring is actually the first stage of their “begging” phase. They’d stare at you expectantly for a few minutes as if trying to telepathically convey, “would you please give me some treats?”
If that doesn’t work, they’d sit on their hind paws or stand on their hind legs and stare dolefully into your eyes. They’d even nudge you with their nose a few times.
Even if they’ve just eaten a few hours ago, how could you ever resist those puppy dog—or rather rabbit—eyes? A piece of lettuce wouldn’t hurt, surely!
4 – He’s Sleeping
Experienced rabbit owners know that rabbits can, and often, sleep with their eyes open. They can sleep with their eyes closed too, but they only ever do so when they’re feeling safe and completely relaxed.
Don’t take it personally, it’s just instincts at play here. They learned to sleep with their eyes open as a defense mechanism to fool predators into thinking they were awake and alert to dissuade them from attacking.
So if you catch your rabbit staring at you for an inordinate amount of time, he’s probably just snoozing it away.
You’ll know your rabbit is sleeping when he’s lying on his stomach with his back legs stretched out behind him or sideways. If your rabbit tends to sleep upright, you’ll know he’s asleep when his ears are folded down on his head.
5 – He’s Relaxing
When rabbits are in relaxation mode, they’d lie down with their legs tucked under their bodies or stretched out behind them. This position is called loafing or splooting. If you’re around, they’d be more than happy to just watch you do your thing as they laze the day away.
Rabbits are curious by nature. If they notice their owners engaging in peculiar activities, curiosity would win out and they’d come over to investigate to make sense of what their owners are doing.
Like chickens and wolves, rabbits have their own form of hierarchy among males and females.
Rabbits establish dominance through elaborate behavioral cues such as chasing, mounting, grooming, bowing, and staring.
That’s right; rabbits stare at each other to establish dominance. They’d engage in a sort of staring contest until one of them submits and admits defeat.
If your rabbit is staring at you, he might be trying to assert his dominance over you. He’s probably thinking, “This is my territory. Why are you here? You better leave, or else.”
The thought of a cute, fluffy rabbit trying to establish dominance towards a human more than 10 times his size is adorable and funny, but this behavior can go out of hand if not addressed.
Rabbits establishing dominance around other rabbits is normal, but rabbits establishing dominance around humans isn’t. It could lead to undesirable behaviors such as nipping, biting, circling, kicking, and overall aggression.
You can avoid these behaviors by getting your rabbit spayed or neutered.
Remain calm and composed when your rabbit lashes out, and he’ll soon realize his behavior isn’t getting the intended result and he has no effect on you.
Eventually, he’ll learn that establishing dominance towards the “food giver” is counterproductive and he’ll stop the behaviors.
Since rabbits are social animals, they naturally look after and protect each other.
As their caregiver, rabbits consider you a part of their colony and are thus tasked to protect you.
A rabbit staring at you is probably doing so to keep you safe from unknown threats.
It’s sort of a “you watch my back, I watch yours” sort of scenario; you protect him by giving him food, water, and a safe place to stay—he protects you by keeping you safe from predators.
It’s not much, but it’s honest work!
When rabbits are nervous or anxious, they display fearful or stressed behaviors such as restlessness, heavy breathing, loss of interest in food, and staring warily at you and the environment around them with bulging (scared) eyes.
Anxious rabbits are unusually aggressive and difficult to handle. If left in a stressed state for extended periods, an anxious rabbit may result in destructive behaviors such as nipping/biting, digging, chewing at corners, and self-harm by pulling at their own fur.
You’ll know your rabbit is anxious when he freezes and stares as soon as he sees you or anyone else in the house. This behavior is common among newly adopted, abused, or stressed rabbits.
Potential causes of anxiety and stress in rabbits include:
- Overhandling or rough handling
- Insufficient access to water or food
- Overstimulated senses (loud music, strong perfume, sudden movements and gestures, etc.)
- Insufficient room to play
- Social stress (i.e., too many people or animals in one space)
- Lack of ventilation
- Dirty living space, water, and food
- Underlying disease or illnesses
- Sudden change in routine or environment (new rabbit, new location, new cage, etc.)
Rabbits are unable to perceive certain colors. Their color range is limited to blues and greens, making them dichromatic (two-color) creatures.
Because of this, rabbits can sometimes find it difficult to identify you when you’re wearing certain clothes. They’d stare at you and think, “You smell like my owner, but why do you look so different?”
The same situation applies when you wear a different perfume. They’d think, “You look like my owner, but you don’t smell like my owner!”
Rabbits have trust issues; it’s in their nature to be wary of anything and anyone. If you appear a little different than normal, they’d be a bit hesitant to approach you.
Hence the staring—they’re trying to make sure you’re you and not some imposter out to get them!
Have you ever heard of the “lost in thought”? Well, that might be why your rabbit is staring at you!
He might’ve gotten bored with hopping around or playing with toys and, while thinking of what to do next, he’d space out and stare at you—the only other interesting thing in the room.
Try waving a hand in front of his face so he’ll snap out of the staring. Then, try to play with him!
Rabbits don’t get annoyed often, but when they do, they make their annoyance known!
They’d stare at you with eyes full of judgment as if to say, “stop that, you’re annoying me!”
The staring is often paired with grunting noises, wagging tails, twitching noses, and thumping feet.
Like cats, rabbits hide their discomfort when they’re sick or injured. They do this for much the same reason cats do: to avoid the risk of getting targeted by predators.
With this in mind, it’s possible that your rabbit is staring at you to hide the fact that he’s sick or in pain. He’s thinking, “I’m fine. I’m great. Look away, I’m not sick.”
Unfortunately for rabbits, we know better. Keep a close eye on these symptoms:
- Dilated pupils
- Tense muscles
- Rapid noise twitching
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in bowel movement
- Teeth grinding
- Rapid or noisy breathing
- Stomach issues
- Unusual posture or positions
If you notice any of these signs, you might want to get your rabbit checked out by the vet. He might be hiding an injury or is feeling sickly.
Rabbits stare at their owners for a number of reasons. They stare because they’re curious, bored, or annoyed. They also stare when they’re hurt, hungry, or nervous. Knowing the reason behind the staring can save you from having to deal with behavioral issues and illness.