When you wake up, they’re staring at you. Every move you make, they’re staring at you with those big, beady eyes. It can be a little unsettling (or adorable if you’re like me). There are many possible reasons that rabbits stare at their people, but usually, it is all about food. It also seems like they’re staring sometimes when really they aren’t paying any attention to you.
Most of the time when a rabbit stares directly at you it’s because your rabbit knows it’s time to eat and you’re going to feed them, but they also stare for attention. It can also appear that your rabbit is staring when they are relaxing or on the alert for some other potential threat.
First, I’ll go over the most common reasons rabbits stare at people. In the next section, I’ll explain some of the ways that rabbits look like they are constantly watching you when they’re just relaxing (or even sleeping).
Why your rabbit is staring at you
Rabbits do stare at their people sometimes, and usually, it’s a sign that they want food or attention. Even when your rabbit isn’t asking for either of those, it’s not creepy behavior at all. Your rabbit probably just wants to know where you are so they can keep you company throughout the day.
One way to know if your rabbit is staring at you or not is by looking at their nose and ears. Oftentimes rabbit ears will be pointed in the direction that they are paying attention to. So if one of the ears is tilted toward you, your rabbit might be staring at you, but if they’re tilted in a different direction, the rabbit is likely paying attention to something else.
Rabbits also have a blind spot right in front of their nose and typically tilt their head slightly to one side or the other. If your rabbit’s nose is pointed directly toward you, they are probably looking at something near you, but not you specifically.
1. Your rabbit is expecting food
By far, the most common reason rabbits stare at people is to beg for food. There’s the obvious stare-and-beg when your rabbit comes up to your feet and stands on their hind legs looking for treats. However, it can also be a lot more subtle than that.
For example, my rabbits always stare at me when I get up in the morning. This is because they know that I always feed them soon after I get up. So even though they are not directly begging me for food, they’re staring at me in anticipation of the breakfast they know is coming their way.
It’s very common to see your rabbit staring at you when mealtime is approaching since rabbits have a pretty good sense of routine and time of day. You may also find that if you usually feed your rabbit or give them treats in a particular spot, your rabbit stares at you when you go there, wondering if they are about to get a yummy treat.
2. They want your attention
Rabbits will also stare at you when they want some attention from you. A common pattern that I’ve seen in rabbits is when they thump their strong hind legs and then stare at you in expectation. If this behavior is not accompanied by signs of fear or aggression, it usually means your rabbit wants you to come and pet them or pay attention to them. It’s kind of like a little kid having a temper tantrum because their parents aren’t playing with them.
If the rabbit who thumps and stares is inside a cage or enclosure, it can also mean they want to get out. If you find your rabbit staring at you a lot from inside their enclosure, it may mean that they need more time out and about so they don’t get cramped and lonely.
- Learn more about exercise requirements for pet rabbits
3. Your rabbit wants to be aware of what you’re doing
Sometimes your rabbit wants to know where you are in the house and what you’re doing. They might follow you around from room to room and seem like they’re watching your every move. This is because rabbits are quite social and they like to be around other people.
Even if they don’t need active attention right now, your rabbit will likely watch you as you get up and move around the room. Then they’ll follow you into the new room if they can and so they know where you are. If your rabbit can’t follow you, they might hang out by the door and watch it until you get back.
4. When they don’t want you to come any closer
Staring at people is also a way for rabbits to keep an eye on anyone that they perceive as being a threat. This is more common when you first bring your rabbit home and haven’t had a chance to gain their trust yet. Your rabbit will stare and track you around the room with their eyes because they are warily watching in case they need to run away.
Generally, this type of staring will be accompanied by other fearful behaviors. Your rabbit will have tense body language and be quick to run away. You may also notice that they hide and tend to keep their distance from you, sitting at the opposite end of the room so they can keep an eye on you while also being far away.
- Learn more about fearful behavior in rabbits
When your rabbit only looks like they’re staring at you
Sometimes your rabbit might look like they’re staring at you, but really they are staring into space or looking at something entirely different. Maybe your rabbit is sleeping, or maybe they’re on the alert for something entirely different.
It can be tricky to differentiate this type of staring from the times when your rabbit is actually looking at you, but with a little close observation, you’ll be able to tell the difference.
1. Your rabbit is actually sleeping
Did you know that rabbits can sleep with their eyes open? This is because they have a transparent membrane over their eyes that helps them retain moisture. It’s also a survival trait that rabbits developed to help them detect predators and threats even when they are sleeping.
However, as rabbit caretakers, this means that it’s not always easy to tell if rabbits are sleeping. Your rabbit might be taking a snooze right in front of you without you ever knowing. So if you ever notice your rabbit is sitting or laying and looks like they’re staring at you for hours on end, it might just be that they are sleeping.
How to tell if your rabbit is sleeping?
If you want to tell if your rabbit is sleeping, the biggest giveaway is their nose. Most rabbits will stop wiggling their nose when they fall asleep. While some will still be able to maintain a very slow nose twitch, most will completely stop until the rabbit wakes up.
The rabbit’s breathing pattern also changes when they fall asleep. Rabbits tend to take slower and deeper breaths than when they are awake. If you watch their sides and belly move with their breath, you’ll start to see a difference between when your rabbit is awake and asleep.
- Learn more about the sleeping habits of pet rabbits and how to know when they are sleeping
2. Your rabbit isn’t actually looking at you
Sometimes, it’s not that your rabbit is sleeping but they are still zoning out a little. They might just be hanging out in one place and happen to be looking in your general direction, but aren’t really staring at anything. Since rabbits don’t have to blink very often, it can appear that they are staring at you.
3. Your rabbit is keeping watch for you
Sometimes your rabbit isn’t looking at you, but is instead being a lookout for you. When rabbits live in pairs, it’s common for one of them to sleep less soundly and be somewhat of a lookout for the other rabbit. Some rabbits take this instinctual guard duty to their human companions as well.
They’ll loaf, or lay down near you, but stay more or less aware while you sleep. They’ll often be facing you as they watch over you, but usually, they’re actually keeping an eye and an ear out for potential threats.
4. Your rabbit senses a threat and is on the alert
Sometimes your rabbit’s eyes will go wide and their ears will stand up straight and the rabbit will go on the alert. This rigid, tense posture is the body language that tells you that your rabbit senses a threat in the area.
Sometimes rabbits will freeze in this position for a long time since remaining motionless is a natural response that keeps them from being seen by predators. If your rabbit happens to be facing in your direction, it might look like they are staring directly at you, when really they are looking and listening for more signs of the threat.
5. They are parallaxing
Parallaxing is when a rabbit will move their head slowly from side to side to better understand the distance between objects. Since rabbits have eyes on the sides of their heads, a good portion of their field of vision is only visible with one eye. This means that in those parts of their vision, rabbits don’t have great depth perception and can have trouble accurately identifying how far away objects are.
Parallaxing helps them see how objects in the distance move in relation to each other. This lets the rabbit have a much better idea of how close those objects actually are.
This one is less likely to be mistaken for a rabbit staring at you since they do move their head a bit from side to side. It’s also less common if your rabbit has been living with you for a while because they don’t need to do this if they already know the layout of the home. But if they happen to be parallaxing in your general direction, you might think your rabbit is staring at you, when really they’re just trying to get better depth perception.
Should you stare back at your rabbit?
There is generally nothing wrong with staring back at your rabbit if you find them staring at you. Just remember if you’re trying to have a staring contest, your rabbit has the clear advantage. Their eyes don’t dry out as quickly.
However, if you have a timid or anxious rabbit, they might get uncomfortable if you stare at them for too long. It can make you seem like more of a threat. In fact, if you’re trying to gain the trust of your rabbit, one of the tactics that I advise people to do is to completely turn their back to the rabbit. When you’re not looking directly at them, shy rabbits are much more likely to come out and get curious about you because they think you can’t see them.
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- Hay: Second Cutting Timothy Hay from Small Pet Select
- Pellets: Oxbow Garden Select Food for Rabbits
- Treats: Oxbow Simple Rewards
- Toys: Small Pet Select Natural Toys
- Enclosure/cage: A rabbit exercise pen
- Rabbit carrier: SleepyPod Mobile Pet Bed