If you’re away at work all day, you may wonder what your rabbit does during that time. Or maybe you don’t have a pet rabbit yet, and you’re wondering what kind of behavior to expect. Many people mistakenly believe that rabbits are boring pets who don’t do anything but sit around. However, if you allow your rabbit to have fun and explore the world with their natural curiosity, you will see that they are very active and playful for large portions of the day.
In general, rabbits will actively play in the morning and evening by chewing, digging, and foraging. In the middle of the afternoon and night, rabbits will settle down and sleep for a combined total of 12 hours in a day.
I’ve lived with rabbits my whole life, which has given me the opportunity to observe them all day long. Most rabbits have a very similar daily routine that they follow. They also have standard activities that they participate in depending on their personality. Many rabbits will enjoy digging on everything, while others will chew and lick objects for fun.
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Rabbit natural instincts determine what they do all day
Domestic rabbits still have a lot of their wild instincts. Even though they were first domesticated hundreds of years ago, they don’t have the same extensive history with humans that other pets have, like dogs. So rabbits have still retained the central behaviors that were a part of their daily life as wild rabbits.
These behaviors include:
- Foraging for food
- Digging tunnels
- Chewing on roots and plants
- Racing around to escape predators
- Socializing with other rabbits
These natural rabbit behaviors will look a little different in pet rabbits, but they are the basis of rabbit how rabbits now that they are a part of our homes.
Because of their foraging instincts, pet rabbits are naturally curious. They love to sniff around and explore new areas. Often, you’ll notice your rabbit will explore new areas by staying on the periphery of the room. They’ll look for places they can take cover, such as under a chair or behind the sofa because this would be a much safer way to explore while foraging for food in the wild.
Rabbits also very much enjoy searching around for treats and little bites to eat. They have a lot of fun with toys that you can hide a little treat inside. Their strong sense of smell will help them locate the treat and figure out how to get it out of the toy. It’s a great form of mental enrichment for pet rabbits. (My rabbits’ favorite hidden treat toy is this food ball dispenser.)
Rabbits also have natural instincts to dig. These tend to be stronger in female rabbits, who would be the ones to dig branching tunnels for nesting with their babies. As pets, this means rabbits can be quite destructive sometimes. They will often try to dig into the corners of rooms or underneath chairs and sofas.
Since digging is such an instinctual behavior in rabbits, it’s not something that you can train a rabbit to stop doing. Instead, you’ll need to find ways to allow your rabbit to use their digging instincts without being destructive. I’ve found that cardboard boxes are often the best way to distract a rabbit since they can have a lot of fun digging into the cardboard.
Chewing is another natural instinct in rabbits that can be pretty destructive. They use their mouths and teeth to explore everything in their environment and will often lick or bite new objects they come across. Small household items, such as wires and wooden objects, are often the main targets for rabbit teeth. Learn more about how to rabbit-proof your home to keep your pet from chewing on things they shouldn’t.
Rabbits also chew on everything because it benefits their health. Rabbit teeth continuously grow (like fingernails), and rabbits need to keep them from getting too long by chewing. This means chewing on paper, cardboard, wood, sticks, hay, and more is a common pastime for rabbits. It’s an instinctual behavior that is beneficial to their dental health.
Rabbits are very active animals. Their bodies were literally built to run so that they can get away from their many predators. That need for activity does not disappear just because a rabbit is no longer in danger. To maintain their health, pet rabbits need a lot of space and time to exercise.
This is why you’ll see happy rabbits zooming in circles around the room or hopping up on chairs and platforms during playtime (cat towers are surprisingly fun toys for rabbits). It’s also why you will see rabbits pace inside their enclosure if they don’t get enough time out or make a lot of noise by rattling the bars when they are bored. Your rabbit is letting you know they need time out to exercise.
This doesn’t mean rabbits are active all day long. Rabbits are more active in the morning and evening hours, sleeping during the day and the middle of the night. They are also more like sprinters than long-distance runners. You’ll notice they are highly active for short periods of time, and then they will rest for a while before racing around again.
Rabbits are also very clean animals. Much like cats, rabbits will spend a good portion of the day self-grooming by licking themselves all over. In the wild, this would prevent disease and bugs from choosing the rabbit as a host, and it would keep the rabbit from having a strong smell, making them more difficult to track.
In our homes, this grooming just means that our rabbits are very clean animals. It also leads to some of the cutest rabbit behavior that you will see when they wash their face and ears with their paws.
Eating (and pooping)
Rabbits have a unique digestive system that depends on the constant movement of food through the rabbit. For this reason, rabbits will feel the need to eat frequently throughout the day. Having a continuous supply of hay available is the best way to meet your pet rabbit’s needs. They will be able to munch all day long without worry about overeating the calorie-dense pellets (which should be given to rabbits in moderation).
All this eating also means rabbits are constantly pooping. It’s not uncommon for rabbits to poop more than 200 times a day! But the good news is that rabbits can be litter trained just like cats, so all that poop isn’t so difficult to take care of.
Rabbits are also from a highly social species. They live with a colony of rabbits that has intricate rules and hierarchies that the rabbits have an instinctual understanding for. They enjoy the company of others and need to have socialization to remain happy.
As pets, this means rabbits enjoy interacting with the people in their lives. It may take the rabbit a bit of time to warm up to people, to begin with, but once they do, rabbits will love hanging out with you and playing. Rabbits also greatly benefit from having a second rabbit as a bonded partner since this gives them a chance to socialize all day long.
What is a typical daily routine for a pet rabbit?
What does this all look like in your pet rabbit’s day-to-day life? Generally, there will be a standard routine that rabbits follow. It may differ slightly depending on the time of year and the time of day you feed your rabbit. The age of a rabbit will also affect their daily routine. Younger rabbits tend to be active for longer portions of the day, and they will be more likely to wake up in the middle of the afternoon or night.
Early morning activity
Most rabbits start their day in the early morning, around 5-6 am. Some rabbits may wake up as early as 4 am, especially during the times of the year with more daylight. This morning activity period will usually last until about 9-10 am, with some short periods of rest interspersed throughout.
Typically, the first thing the rabbit will do when they get up is eat hay and use the bathroom. Since they can’t eat and sleep simultaneously, rabbits will naturally want to eat to get their digestion moving again. The rabbit will regularly go back to the hay trough and food bowl during their morning activity session.
After eating, this is a time when rabbits will be highly active. They will race around, getting exercise. This is also a time of day for their more troublemaking behaviors. They will want to dig, chew, and play with any available toys.
If your rabbit is kept in an enclosure (as opposed to free roam), this is an excellent time of day to let them out and get some exercise. You can also spend some time interacting with your rabbit to make sure they get enough socialization.
Sleep in the afternoon
By noon, rabbits will slow down and get ready for bed. Rabbits like to sleep during the brightest parts of the day. They’re not nocturnal since they sleep at night too, but instead, they stay active mainly during the morning and evening.
Most rabbits will sleep from around 10-11 am until about 4-5 pm, getting somewhere around 6 hours of sleep in the afternoon. This will vary depending on the specific rabbit, of course, but it’s a general idea of what you should expect.
While many rabbits will sleep straight through the afternoon, it’s also not uncommon for them to occasionally get up to stretch out and eat. I find that younger rabbits, especially, have trouble sleeping for long hours and will be up for half an hour here and there during the day.
The evening will look a lot like the morning activity session. Your rabbit will get up and eat around 4-5 pm and then continue to be active until 10-11 pm, sometimes even later.
This is a great time of day for playtime and socialization. Since many people are home during this time of day, you can easily let your rabbit out to roam your home and hang out with you without worrying about the trouble they’d get into if they’re not supervised.
You can also play games with your rabbit or just let them spend time around you while watching TV in the evening. Here are some ideas for helping you bond with your rabbit so they can be like a companion animal for you.
The more your rabbit is able to explore and use their pent-up energy during this time, the more likely they are to sleep through the night. So if your rabbit likes to wake up at 3 am, try to let them out of their enclosure more during the times of day they will be more naturally active.
Sleeping through the night
Rabbits will typically sleep through the darkest parts of the night. My rabbits go to sleep after me but seem to settle down around 11 pm. Most rabbits will go to sleep between 10-12 pm. They’ll sleep until it’s time to wake up in the morning and start a new day.
Like afternoon nap time, many rabbits will periodically get up to stretch and eat in the middle of the night. While some rabbits may have some bursts of energy at night (especially young rabbits), if they are sufficiently tired out during the day, they usually don’t make too much noise at night.
Some people struggle with rabbits who make a lot of noise and wake them up in the middle of the night. In these cases, I advise trying to stick to a consistent daily routine with your rabbit. Get up at the same time every day and feed them right away. They will get used to the schedule and learn the time of day that you always wake up and feed them.
Otherwise, you want to make sure that your rabbit has plenty of time out of their enclosure to exercise every day. Aim for at least 4-5 hours of exercise time, but more is always better.
A rabbit’s routine will change depending on your activity
Just because that is the normal rabbit routine doesn’t mean it can’t change. House rabbits will always adjust their schedule depending on when they are fed and when there is more activity in the home.
For example, even though rabbits will typically sleep through the afternoon, my Elusive learned that lunchtime is a great time of day to beg for treats from me. She excitedly follows me into the kitchen to get pieces of lettuce, spinach, or arugula that I’m putting together for my own lunch. Then she will maintain activity for another hour or so before going back to sleep.
Similarly, if you stay up late at night with your rabbit, you might find that they adjust their schedule to stay up with you and get up later in the morning. This is more common if you have a consistent daily schedule, getting up at the same time every day. This way, your rabbit will know what to expect from you and naturally adjust their schedule to fit yours so they can be ready for breakfast.
Rabbits will also react to activity in the home. If you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you may find that your rabbit gets up too. They’ll also often wake up to greet you even if you come home in the middle of the afternoon.
Seasonal changes in rabbit behavior
Seasons generally don’t have drastic changes in rabbit behavior, but you might notice some slight differences in their daily routine. These are primarily changes based on the temperature and daylight, adjusting the times of day the rabbit will be most active.
When there is more daylight in the summer, rabbit activity periods will typically be a little earlier in the morning and later at night. They’ll sleep longer in the afternoon but have a shorter sleeping period in the middle of the night.
The opposite will be true in winter, where your rabbit will sleep less during the day and more at night. Rabbits also tend to prefer cooler weather. You might notice a lot more happy and energetic behaviors in your rabbit during the colder months of the year.