Can rabbits actually dream?
An exciting question for you as a rabbit owner: Because when the animals twitch in their sleep or move their legs, the assumption is obvious.
But dreaming is not only reserved for humans and if rabbits can dream after all – what is going on in those cute little heads?
Here are the answers to these questions and other interesting facts.
Sleeping rhythm of rabbits
Rabbits have a different sleep rhythm than humans or other animals.
They are neither diurnal nor nocturnal, but use mainly the hours of twilight for foraging, eating and playing.
This is due to the characteristics of their predators.
While the nocturnal owl sees well only in the dark, diurnal eagles and other birds of prey pose no threat because of their vision. Thus, rabbits use the transitions between the active hours of predators for safety.
Early morning and evening twilight are therefore the most active times for your animals.
However, your daily rhythm may change the patterns somewhat.
If the lights are on for a long time in the evening or if you have a lot of time for activity and attention in the middle of the day, your rabbits will partly follow your lead.
By the way: You can also keep rabbits outside at night. Here you can find out what you need to keep in mind.
Can rabbits dream?
For a long time it was believed that only humans can dream.
Thanks to research, it became clear that at least dolphins and apes also have a dream world.
Today we know that all mammals can dream – thus also rabbits.
The decisive factor for dreaming is deep sleep. This can be given with rabbits, at noon, in the evening and at night.
So it is clear that your rabbits can also dream.
However, this raises a new question: what do animals dream about?
What do rabbits dream about?
Despite modern research possibilities and decades of investigations, humans still cannot see directly into the heads of other living beings.
So it can only be guessed and surmised based on the research what exactly is in your animals’ dreams. It is clear that they can remember events and behavior.
However, this could have been clear already without many years of research. After all, the ability to remember is the basis for imprinting and learning.
Two characteristics that rabbits very obviously have!
Memories also play a crucial role in dreams. Thus, events from the past can be better processed during sleep. It does not matter whether the event occurred several months ago or only a few hours ago.
However, the intensity can be decisive.
A fierce fight between conspecifics, a visit to the vet, or some other stressor can cause your rabbit to dream very intensely.
This doesn’t just apply to the time immediately afterwards.
Even a smell is enough to remind the animal again. For example, if you used the same disinfectant as the vet, or if your rabbit associated a certain sound with a frightening moment, this can serve as a renewed trigger.
Why do young rabbits dream more often?
This is much like humans.
Young rabbits do not have many experiences yet. Everything is new to them. Food, water, smells, interaction with conspecifics and humans or other pets, sounds and orientation are not familiar.
So they have a flood of new stimuli to process day after day. Therefore, they usually dream more often and more intensively.
The same is true for rabbits that have been deprived or come from poor housing. Since they know little, the amount of influences in a “normal” or species-appropriate environment is very large.
In short, the more new things are experienced by the rabbits and the more intense the events are, the greater the chance for dreams.
But of course, not only new experiences can trigger processing during sleep. If the animal has been frightened or if there are repeated conflicts, these factors can also play a role.
Are dreams good or bad for rabbits?
There is no blanket answer to this.
The animals can have both beautiful and confusing dreams and nightmares.
So, it is important that they lead as relaxed and safe a life as possible.
Constant stressful situations, on the other hand, should be avoided. This is because not only do these potentially create nightmares, but they can also negatively affect the immune system and other bodily functions, and shorten lifespan.
Am I allowed to wake up rabbits during a dream?
Opinions differ on this.
Some assume that interrupting a dream can be harmful. Others see no problem in it.
What is clear is that waking cannot always be avoided.
In general, however, rabbits should always be left alone during sleep. Otherwise, you could disturb their relationship with you and cause them stress.
At their retreats, it is crucial that the animals feel safe and can truly relax.
How can I tell that a rabbit is dreaming?
For dreams to occur, a deep sleep phase must be reached. For this, the animals need absolute relaxation, security and rest.
Therefore, already by the sleeping position you can estimate if there is a possibility for dreams. A sideways position, on the back or with all fours stretched out, stands for an animal that feels comfortable and can sleep deeply.
If a dream then actually takes place, this can be recognized by various movements. Among them:
- rapid eye movements under the closed eyelids
- twitching of the legs
- sniffing or twitching of the nose movements of the ears
It may seem as if your rabbit is running or exploring a new environment. However, dreams are not always accompanied by movement and therefore cannot be identified in every case.
Can I encourage pleasant dreams in my rabbit?
You can create the best conditions for pleasant dreams by keeping your rabbit in a species-appropriate environment with other rabbits, sufficient space and variety.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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