The answer to whether you should cover your rabbit’s cage at night is more complex than a simple yes or no.
While it’s understandable that rabbit owners might want to reduce stimuli to calm their rabbit down at night, it’s not always advisable. There are occasions when it’s appropriate to cover your rabbit’s cage, but you shouldn’t do it all the time.
Rabbits are social animals and like interacting with other rabbits. They’re also crepuscular creatures and need between 8 to 11 hours of sleep. That means they’re in a playful mood during the night, much to the chagrin of their owners. Rabbits also like being able to see what’s around them. This means you’ll have a wide-awake, curious rabbit in the night.
There are a few reasons why it might not be ideal to cover your rabbit’s cage at night:
- Rabbits don’t have night vision (not being able to see can make them anxious).
- Your rabbit may become bored (with nothing to look at).
- They’ll be be unable to sense potential danger (an intrinsic survival technique that wild rabbits rely on. They can become anxious).
- Ventilation will be limited (your rabbit can get too hot, especially in the summer).
These are a few instances where it’s appropriate to cover your rabbit’s cage with a blanket:
- If your rabbit is outdoors and needs added protection (a cover can insulate them and create an extra barrier between predators).
- When they’re ready for sleep, but not for the whole night (to help them nap by creating a temporary dark, cozy nest for them).
- When you’re ready for sleep too (this means they won’t be missing out on any socializing from you).
- After they’re calm and ready to wind down (if they’re relaxed, a cover makes the cage a little cozier).
Before deciding when it may be appropriate to cover your rabbit’s cage, you should understand why. To do so, you must have the facts on how rabbit sleep works, what your rabbit’s needs are, and what their behavior is like.
Scroll on to find out more!
Rabbit Sleep Basics
Rabbits’ biological mechanisms allow them to adapt to versatile sleep patterns. Because in the wild they must always be aware of predators, it’s not always obvious when they are truly asleep. These animals are even capable of sleeping with their eyes open thanks to their third eyelid.
The translucent membrane (third eyelid) also acts as a protective barrier to keep out debris. It also plays a crucial role in helping light enter the eye, sending signals to the brain. If a predator comes near a rabbit, its brain receives a warning signal even while asleep. This enables it to run from danger if need be.
The safer a rabbit feels in its environment, the longer it will sleep. Even if your rabbit sleeps closer to 11 hours, its sleep will be broken up into a series of naps. Most pet rabbits feel safe at home and can thus take longer nap periods from time to time.
A rabbit’s sleep positions will range from sprawled out to flopping on their side to a curled-up loaf position. Their level of trust and relaxation directly affect how they sleep:
- The Sprawl: When rabbits lie on their stomachs and stretch out their legs and tail. You may find them with their head and ears up or down. The sprawled position is common when your rabbit feels safe and trusts you or whoever is in the room.
- The Loaf: This refers to a rabbit’s tucking all four paws underneath, so its body resembles a bread loaf. It allows them to remain ready to quickly jump up or run if they need to.
- Flopping: If your rabbit sleeps on its side with its paws pointing down, this is the flopping position. It is a compliment as this is a vulnerable position and requires absolute trust. However, it may look odd or disturbing because rabbits quickly change from standing to flopping down on their side as if collapsing.
Rabbits are most comfortable in temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They will change their sleep position depending on whether they need to cool down or get warmer.
If the place they sleep is enclosed and protected from the elements, rabbits can sleep comfortably in slightly cooler conditions. In your home, a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees is fine.
Lack of humidity is also crucial for rabbits. As long as their surroundings are dry, clean, and have proper ventilation, they will be comfortable.
The Importance of Light
Natural light (including UV rays from the sun) is essential for your rabbit’s health. Research suggests that rabbits can develop dental and bone issues when they receive inadequate sunlight. That’s because not getting enough UV rays can lead to rabbits poorly synthesizing vitamin D.
In addition, light is crucial to regulating your rabbit’s circadian rhythms. It’s necessary for rabbits to receive exposure to both dark and light on a daily basis. Their ability to sleep with closed eyes helps in part to control light exposure and ensure their body clock remains in tune. Covering their cage can affect the light and disrupt their body clock.
Your Rabbit’s Social Behavior
Rabbits are a social species. You should keep two rabbits together if you’re able to because they prefer living in groups – as your rabbit requires companionship. As a rabbit owner, part of your job is to make sure you or other pets keep them company.
Another thing to be aware of as a rabbit owner is to provide ample entertainment or stimuli. Rabbits are naturally curious and like to play. Providing them with toys or engaging activities is crucial for their behavioral health.
Additionally, you should strive to mix up your pet rabbit’s routine. This may include:
- Offering opportunities to forage
- Allowing them into different areas
- Socializing them
- Providing fun activities
Letting rabbits have adequate changes in their environment and things to do will go a long way, especially if your rabbit is in a small cage. When rabbits get bored, they are easily stressed. Offering them room and opportunities for exercise and social engagement will help keep them happy. If you cover their cage constantly, they’ll miss out on chances to interact and see their environment.
How Should I Cover My Rabbit’s Cage at Night?
To review, covering your rabbit’s cage with a blanket may interfere with several of their needs. Also, rabbits won’t sleep through the night but spread out throughout the day. Thus, it’s best not to cover a rabbit’s cage the whole night.
However, you may cover your rabbit’s cage at other points when they’re sleeping. Remember that they take naps throughout the day, so you’ll have to monitor when they’re asleep.
Rabbits are most active during dawn and dusk. When you catch them napping, you can cover their cage with a blanket, so long as you’re careful to leave enough room for ventilation. One way you can do this is by only covering the sides.
The best way to accomplish the task of covering your rabbit’s cage is to have a wind-down routine. Preferably, offer them a meal when it’s naptime. That way, your rabbit understands what is happening and doesn’t become alarmed or frightened.
How to Keep Rabbits Quiet at Night
If your rabbit is keeping you awake, read on to find out about minimizing noise and keeping your rabbit quiet through the night without covering them up. Here are a few tips:
Chew toys are great for rabbits and will keep them busy for a while. Due to rabbits’ strict herbivore diet, their teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. Babies start with 16 teeth and will have 28 by adulthood.
Rabbits’ teeth have open roots and thus are capable of continuous growth. Each year, rabbits’ teeth grow between 3 and 5 inches. That makes having chew toys, not just a way for your rabbit to keep busy but also maintain oral health.
Chew toys for rabbits can be made of any material, but the best are wood, paper, and cardboard. Avoid any twigs from your yard as they may be contaminated with bacteria or toxins. Other materials to avoid include metal, plastic, and fabric.
Offering your rabbit quiet toys at night may seem intuitive, but it can make a big difference. Rabbits love stimulation during waking hours, so it’s imperative to offer them fun toys at night for their wakeful periods.
Your rabbit will be happily occupied while you sleep and keep noise to a minimum as long as none of the toys rattle or make sounds. As long as the toy is rabbit-friendly, you don’t need to worry about them as they play.
Everyone feels sleepy after a large meal. Reserve the heaviest meals for last so that your rabbit is busy digesting while you sleep.
Because they consume so much fiber, it takes rabbits a long time to digest their food (up to 19 hours). Feeding them when you go to bed will ensure they have a slower start to the night.
The more you play, cuddle, and provide comfort to your rabbit, the more their social needs will be satisfied. If you provide exercise and foraging activities, your rabbit will be more likely to quiet down during the night.
Because they don’t have night vision, having everything they need for stimulation in the cage should ensure they focus on calm activities during the night.
Make sure they have enough time during the day to hop around, jump, and run. A good rule of thumb is about three hours of outdoor time a day.
If you’re looking for a simple way to engage your rabbit, expose them to new environments, and bond simultaneously, take them out for a walk. Rabbits are intelligent and trainable, and you can put them in a leashed harness.
Walking your rabbit on a leash is a great way to give it plenty of exercise, much-needed sunlight, and fresh air. Be cautious about letting them eat grass that may contain pesticides or harmful fertilizers.
Rabbits will try to get your attention in several ways. If your rabbit feels you haven’t given it much attention, it may send you several body language cues:
- Pushing items toward you
- Jumping in the air
Calm cues include flopping down, positioning the ears back, and lying down with its body stretched. Understanding your rabbit’s body language makes it a lot easier for you to know what they need and when they need it.
Why Is My Rabbit Not Settling Down at Night?
If you find that your rabbit resists quiet time at night despite lots of fun and stimulation during the day and quiet cage entertainment, consider the following issues:
- The room has too much light.
- The cage isn’t comfortable.
- Your rabbit may be ill.
- Your rabbit may feel unsafe.
- The room is too noisy.
Ensure your rabbit’s cage is as comfortable as possible. Rabbits prefer a cozy, soft setting. Placing old towels or sheets on the floor of their cage is enough, but you can also consider options like hay, floor mats or carpets, and cardboard.
While light is essential for rabbits, there is also such a thing as too much. Artificial lights at night will keep your rabbit up. Additionally, rabbits’ eyes are sensitive to blue and green lights.
Keeping noise to a minimum is crucial for rabbits too. If you sleep with any humming machines or white noise, try to opt for quiet ones.
Lastly, making sure your rabbit is healthy and feels safe is essential. If you notice any aggression or lethargy, take it as a red flag. It’s also helpful to keep a journal with your pet’s habits and typical patterns so that if an issue does emerge, you can bring it up to the vet.