Do Rabbits Blink Their Eyes?

Have you ever wondered why your rabbit’s eyes seem to be constantly open? Unlike humans who sleep with eyes shut tight, rabbits have some intriguing differences when it comes to eye closure and blinking. Get ready to hop down the rabbit hole to discover why rabbits blink, how their eyelids function, and the mysteries behind their sleep habits. From prolapsed third eyelids to glaucoma risks, we’ll uncover reasons your bunny may keep their eyes closed and when to seek veterinary care. You’ll even learn why those half-open eyes during sleep aren’t as peaceful as they appear. So get ready to have your assumptions challenged as we open up the inner workings of the rabbit eye and the surprising science behind it!

Do Rabbits Have Eyelids?

Yes, rabbits do have eyelids just like humans and many other mammals. A rabbit's eyelids consist of an upper and lower eyelid that protect the eye and help keep it moisturized. When rabbits blink, they close their upper and lower lids over their eyes.

Rabbit eyelids contain muscles that allow them to open and close their eyes. There is also a membrane called the conjunctiva that covers the inner surface of the eyelids and contains blood vessels and nerves. The conjunctiva helps lubricate the eye when the rabbit blinks.

In addition to eyelids, rabbits also have whiskers around their eyes that provide sensory information and protect their eyes from debris. Their whiskers can detect when something is near the eye and cause the rabbit to blink reflexively. This is an important protective mechanism.

While blinking, rabbit eyelids distribute tears across the surface of the eyes to keep them moist. Tears contain antibacterial and antiviral properties to keep the eyes clean and healthy. Rabbits produce tears at a slower rate compared to humans, so their blinking helps spread tears efficiently.

One unique aspect of a rabbit's eyelids is the presence of a third eyelid. Unlike humans that just have an upper and lower lid, rabbits have a third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane. This additional membrane can be seen tucked away in the inner corner of a rabbit's eye when not in use.

So in summary, yes rabbits do have functioning eyelids including an upper lid, lower lid, and third lid. Their eyelids protect the eyes, provide moisture through blinking, and allow rabbits to clean their eyes. Blinking is an important mechanism for rabbit eye health.

Rabbit Third Eyelid Problems

While the third eyelid serves important functions for rabbits, there are some potential problems that can develop:

Prolapse of the Third Eyelid

One issue that can occur is prolapse of the third eyelid. This is when the third eyelid pops out and gets stuck in that position covering part of the eye. It often results from irritation, inflammation, eye injury, or illness. Prolapse can be uncomfortable and cause vision impairment for the rabbit if not treated.

Treatment typically involves applying medication to reduce swelling and inflammation. This allows the third eyelid to return to its normal position. If it stays prolapsed, then surgery may be required. Keeping the eye lubricated is also important.

Overgrown Third Eyelid

Sometimes the third eyelid can become overgrown with tissue. When this occurs, it appears thicker and more visible in the corner of the eye. It can start to cover more of the eye than normal.

Trimming the excess tissue surgically can help resolve overgrown third eyelid. Appropriate analgesia and antibiotics are given to prevent pain and infection.


Cysts can occasionally form on the third eyelid. They often look like small fluid-filled or solid lumps. If the cysts grow large enough, they may irritate the eye or impair vision. Surgical removal is typically the recommended treatment.

Overall, addressing any third eyelid abnormalities promptly can prevent more serious issues and discomfort for rabbits. Monitoring the third eyelid and being aware of potential problems allows rabbit owners to get veterinary help when needed. With proper care, most third eyelid issues can be managed.

Do Rabbits Blink?

Yes, rabbits do blink just like humans and most other mammals. Blinking is an automatic motion powered by muscles around the eyeball. It functions to help spread tears across the cornea to maintain moisture and clear away debris.

Rabbits may blink more frequently when their eyes are irritated by dust or air drafts. The extra blinking helps protect the eye by increasing tear distribution. They may also blink more as a sign of contentment when being petted or bonding with owners.

When rabbits sleep, their blinking rate decreases but their eyes can remain open. However, rabbits may fully close both their upper and lower lids for extended periods while sleeping or resting.

Some key facts about rabbit blinking include:

  • Rabbits blink approximately 15 times per minute on average. Their blinking rate is a bit slower compared to the average person at 15-20 blinks per minute.

  • Both eyes normally blink simultaneously just like humans. However, if one eye is injured or irritated, the blinking may become more unilateral.

  • The nictitating membrane (third eyelid) also periodically moves across the eye from the inner corner to help spread tears and clean the cornea.

  • Blinking helps replenish the tear film coating the eye which prevents the eye from drying out.

  • More frequent blinking may be a sign of discomfort or illness if the eyes appear irritated. Excess tearing can also signal a problem.

  • Rabbit kits tend to have a higher blinking rate as their eyes continue developing after birth. The blinking helps their vision mature.

So in summary, yes healthy rabbits do regularly blink their eyes as part of the normal function of protecting and lubricating the eyes. While the blinking rate is a bit slower than humans on average, it is a key mechanism for maintaining rabbit eye health. Monitoring blinking patterns can also provide insight on eye issues or general well-being.

Do Rabbits Close Their Eyes?

In addition to blinking, rabbits also close their eyes fully for extended periods of time while sleeping and resting. Eye closure serves several important functions for rabbits:

  • Protects the eyes from drying out – Rabbits produce fewer tears compared to humans. Keeping their eyes closed preserves moisture.

  • Provides rest for eye muscles – Just like any muscles, the eye muscles need periods of relaxation and recovery.

  • Blocks out stimuli – With their eyes fully closed, rabbits minimize visual stimuli allowing better sleep.

  • Facilitates REM sleep – Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is important for rabbits as it is for humans. REM sleep is associated with closing the eyes completely.

Newborn rabbits will sleep with eyes wide open as their circadian rhythms develop. But adult rabbits will fully close their eyes for nightly uninterrupted sleep sessions. Their eyes often remain closed for hours while snoozing in their enclosures.

Rabbits may also briefly close their eyes when showing pleasure and contentment as their owners pet them. The eye closure demonstrates a relaxed, peaceful state.

Signs that a rabbit is in deep sleep with eyes closed include:

  • Lying down on their sides with legs stretched out

  • Slow, steady breathing

  • No response to stimuli

Waking a sleeping rabbit with closed eyes can startle them and interrupt much needed rest. It's best to allow a slumbering bunny to wake gradually on their own.

So while rabbits don't walk around all day with closed eyes, they do fully shut their eyes for extended periods while sleeping. This gives their eyes downtime from visual stimuli and processing movement. Plus, keeping eyes closed retains moisture which is essential for rabbit eye health.

My Rabbit Will Not Open Her Eyes

If your rabbit is keeping her eyes closed and not opening them, there are some potential causes to be aware of:

  • Pain or irritation – Just like humans avoiding bright lights when headache, eye pain will cause a rabbit to keep eyes shut.

  • Infection – Conjunctivitis or other eye infections can cause swelling/discharge that prompts a rabbit to keep eyes closed.

  • Foreign object – Something trapped under the eyelid like grass seed can cause eye closure.

  • Light sensitivity – Some rabbits may be prone to photophobia and keep eyes closed in bright light.

  • Dental Problems – Tooth pain and root issues can cause eye closure due to nerve connections.

  • Facial injury – Trauma to the face, especially eye socket and nose, can result in eye closure.

  • Abscess – Abscesses or masses affecting eye region tissue can cause sufficient discomfort for a rabbit to resist opening the eyes.

  • Glaucoma – Increased eye pressure is painful and will lead to squinting and closure.

  • Blindness – If blindness develops, rabbits may keep eyes closed since vision is impaired anyway.

  • Age – Some senior rabbits may keep eyes closed more due to generalized discomfort.

If your rabbit is reluctant to open her eyes, it's important to seek veterinary attention right away. Pain relief and treatment of the underlying cause will be needed. Your vet can assess for issues like corneal ulcers, infection, or glaucoma. With prompt care, your bunny should regain her normal eye function once comfortable. Be sure to monitor appetite and behavior, keeping your rabbit's environment calm and quiet until her eyes are open again.

Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

It is true that rabbits often sleep with their eyes open, however their eyes are not fully open like when awake and alert. Rabbits exhibit a behavior called "palpebral closure" when sleeping. This means their eyelids are partially closed, cover up to 50% of the eye, and the eyes appear half-open slits.

Newborn rabbits sleep with eyes wide open as they finish developing their circadian rhythm in the first weeks after birth. But adult rabbits sleep with partially closed eyes. Here's some more information on this quirky rabbit behavior:

  • Partial eye closure retains moisture while asleep and prevents drying. Rabbits produce fewer tears than humans. Keeping eyes partially closed preserves tears.

  • Allows monitoring of surroundings – With eyes partially open, rabbits can detect threats and movements nearby while snoozing. This functions as protection.

  • Reduces visual stimuli – Keeping eyes only partly open cuts down on visual input that may disrupt sleep.

  • Eyes sometimes fully close during REM sleep when muscle tone relaxes. But non-REM sleep involves palpebral eye closure.

  • If eyes are fully open or mostly closed during sleep, it can signal a health problem worth having a veterinarian evaluate.

  • Discharge or crusting around the eyes while sleeping can indicate infection.

While sleeping with eyes partially open may seem odd to humans, it is natural rabbit behavior. Their eyelids partially cover the eyes to retain moisture while still allowing a degree of environmental awareness. However, healthy rabbits will fully close both eyes during long bouts of deep REM sleep. Monitoring your rabbit's sleep habits can provide insight on their well-being.


Leave a Comment