The short and long-term memory of our pets is a source of fascination. Rabbits, like most animals, enjoy routine and repetition. This suggests that a rabbit can retain information. This could also explain why your rabbit seems to recognize certain people and situations.
Rabbits have a short-term memory that lasts for less than five minutes. Despite this, rabbits retain important information for longer periods. If something holds emotional resonance for your rabbit, she’ll remember it. This includes human owners and rabbit siblings.
Also, emotional resonance can refer to a sense of safety and security. Rabbits are governed by survival instinct. If anything should place your pet’s life in danger, she’ll remember it and avoid repetition. Rabbits also remember sources of pleasure, though. This is why your pet rabbit adores repetition and routine.
Do Rabbits Have a Good Memory?
Your pet will only retain short-term memories for just over four minutes. This is why training a rabbit can be a vigorous and testing experience. Limit training to several short sessions.
A rabbit’s long-term memory is a different story. If something is important to a rabbit, it won’t be forgotten. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to bad experiences.
Sometimes, this can be an advantage. If a rabbit is injured, it’s unlikely that the inciting incident will be repeated. This can be a dangerous way to learn, though.
Rabbits also remember good experiences. If you can get your pet into a routine, you’ll be rewarded. A rabbit that knows all her needs will be met will be a happy pet. This, in turn, makes for an easier pet to care for.
How much a rabbit remembers depends on how valuable the experience was. Your pet will not necessarily recall being petted ten minutes ago, for example. That was business as usual. She’ll expect more of the same almost immediately.
What would happen if you scolded the rabbit for expecting this treatment, though? This would make a memorable negative impression. Expect your pet to sulk for some time. Make friends quickly before your bond is damaged.
What Information Does a Rabbit Commit to Memory?
Rabbits remember sights, sounds, and smells. Your pet will commit particular foods to memory, for example. She’ll then know if she enjoys the taste of carrots, but is indifferent to kale. Smells are also associated with territory and habits.
A rabbit also remembers good and bad experiences. This helps your pet manage expectations for the future. If biting a cable leads to electrocution, it won’t happen again. If binkying earns a treat, it will become a regular habit.
Another way that rabbits remember is through repetition. Your pet will lock down specific patterns in her mind. Music is a good example of this. Many rabbits enjoy music because the arrangement of different notes becomes familiar.
Counting can play a significant role in these patterns and, by extension, a rabbit’s memory. Some people say that rabbits are incapable of counting. Maybe that’s true, in the purest sense. A rabbit will not sit and use an abacus.
Rabbits can, and do, memorize patterns of numbers though. Your pet will know how many hops it takes to cover ground. If an alarm sounds three times to denote food, rabbits grow excited on the third chime.
This can be a great way to train your pet. Rabbits are not famed for their patience. By coaching your pet to react at a particular point, you’ll all experience less frustration.
Do Rabbits Remember Their Siblings?
It can sometimes be confusing to watch rabbit siblings. Despite being from the same litter, some rabbits attempt to mate with a sibling. This is one of the quirks of rabbithood. Familial bonds do not stifle Their drive to reproduce.
In fact, it’s bonds that are all important to rabbits. If two rabbits are to share a hutch, they must become bonded. This is an easier process with siblings. The rabbits will already have a base understanding of each other.
Rabbits primarily recognize each other by scent. This means that, if two rabbits are raised together, these smells will be familiar. Once the rabbits are spayed or neutered, the mounting should stop. The siblings will then fall into an easy union.
Maintaining a sibling bond, rather than introducing strangers, is a great way to keep rabbits. The rabbits will be the same age and likely have a similar temperament. Every rabbit is different, but there will be comparisons.
Where you may encounter an issue is if one rabbit’s scent changes. Let’s imagine she visits the vet. She’ll return with a new aroma, which makes your other pet suspicious. In some cases, the rabbits won’t even recognize each other anymore.
This is less likely in sibling rabbits. They will have experienced enough to cut through such superficial changes. Always be prepared for this eventuality, though. Your rabbits will need to be re-bonded if they forget each other.
Do Rabbits Remember Their Mothers?
Rabbits have a slightly more complicated relationship with mothers than siblings. While a rabbit will usually bond with a sibling, the same cannot be said for her mother. This is because rabbits are not traditionally maternal animals.
While a female rabbit is pregnant, she will be driven to nest. Once the babies arrive, she will not be attentive. In fact, your rabbit may eat her own young. This should only happen once, suggesting it was sparked by confusion.
If left alive, a mother rabbit will not completely neglect her young. Unlike many animals parents, she will not sit with them. She’ll likely stay on the other side of the hutch. It will look like she’s deliberately avoiding her babies.
This is an instinct handed down from wild rabbits. A wild rabbit will hide her nest and stay away. This is so that any predators will chase her, and not her babies. She’ll return at the end of each day and feed her young.
Baby rabbits require milk from their mother once a day. The whole process takes less than five minutes before all the babies are full. The mother rabbit will then walk away again. As you can imagine, this doesn’t leave much time to bond.
A baby rabbit cannot be separated from her mother for six weeks. This is how long it takes to wean. When she reaches adulthood, these connections will be forgotten. Mother/child relationships are not critical to rabbits.
Do Rabbits Remember Their Deceased Friends?
This is where a rabbit’s memory comes into its own. Rabbits will definitely remember, and mourn, the loss of a companion. Sad but true – some rabbits die of a broken heart after losing a bonded mate.
If your pet’s companion simply ups and vanishes, it will be worse for her. Your rabbit will fret and worry. She’ll look high and low, searching for any sign. She’ll also worry if they could be next to disappear.
This means that it’s best to allow a rabbit to see the body of a deceased friend. It will not traumatize your pet. She may even binky around the corpse. Consider this the equivalent of a wake. Your pet is giving her friend a send-off.
Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends. Your rabbit may become extremely withdrawn and depressed in the days that follow. Alternatively, your pet may become destructive and seek attention.
Rabbits, like humans, grieve in different ways. You’ll need to show plenty of patience and affection. Your rabbit is unlikely ever to forget a dearly departed companion. This can have an impact on any willingness to accept a new hutch mate.
Eventually, a rabbit that lost a friend or sibling may bond with another. Never force this, though. Some rabbits cannot get past the loss of a familiar friend. Their memory will live on.
Do Rabbits Remember Their Human Owners?
A study in the journal Comparative Medicine reveals that rabbits can tell humans apart. As part of an experiment, several rabbits were tested for their response to owners and unfamiliar humans. Owners always fared better.
What is not certain is just how the rabbits tell us apart. It’s most likely related to scent. Rabbits also detect human moods through our faces, though.
If you are smiling, your pet will know it. What’s more, she’ll respond accordingly. Your rabbit will know this is an excellent time to ask for grooming or treats. Rabbits are master manipulators.
If you scowl, your rabbit understands this too. Don’t be surprised if she stays out of the way if you’re in a bad mood. Your rabbit will also be confused by a resting, ‘neutral’ expression. She wants a reaction to gauge, one way or another.
Once a rabbit learns their meaning, your facial expressions will be committed to memory. This means that yes, rabbits remember their owners. If rehomed, a rabbit may be confused and disoriented by new owners for a while.
As rabbits enjoy routine, a rehomed rabbit will also miss a former owner. The expressions and reactions of a previous human will be comforting. Being forced to learn new emotional reactions can be exhausting.
Also, trust does not come automatically to a rabbit. Once your pet learns that she can trust you, she’ll also love you. Pat yourself on the back if you’ve earned a rabbit’s affection. It is not handed over freely or easily.
Do Rabbits Remember Places?
As prey animals, rabbits are driven by survival instincts. All rabbits are sure to learn about their surroundings. Your pet will be no exception to this. She’ll explore every inch of your home and yard.
Your rabbit will memorize how many hops the yard consists of. She knows how long it will take to flee if required. She will remember where shade can be found on a hot day. Most importantly, she’ll memorize where to find food and water.
Rabbits rarely leave the confines of the yard. This means that your rabbit will not necessarily know her way home if she escapes. Thankfully, her nose will likely guide her. Your rabbit will sniff out familiar terrain.
Your pet will remember her hutch. She will quickly become familiar with it. You need this to be a good thing. If your pet fears or dislikes her hutch, she’ll be reluctant to return to it.
This can be problematic. Is there a spot in your house where you cannot reach your pet? If so, expect her to hide there at bedtime. If you cannot catch your rabbit, you cannot lock her in her hutch. She’ll quickly learn and remember this.
Avoid this issue by setting up your rabbit’s hutch appropriately. If your pet has positive memories of her hutch, she’ll be happy there. Keep your rabbit’s impressive memory in mind when providing entertainment, though.
Rabbits are always looking for new experiences. Stuck with the same toys and games, your pet will grow bored. This is the one exception to a rabbit’s love of repetition. Vary the contents of her hutch as often as you can.
Do Rabbits Remember Their Names?
Your pet will remember the name that’s been assigned to her. However, the rabbit could also learn a new name if rehomed.
Imagine that you have named your rabbit Tinkerbelle. Whenever your call Tinkerbelle’s name, she’ll react in some way. She may approach you. Alternatively, she may listen then go back to her business and ignore you.
Now imagine that Tinkerbelle was rehomed. The rabbit’s new family decides that the name Snowball suits her better. Tinkerbelle will ignore the name Snowball at first, but eventually, she’ll start to respond.
This all comes down to the patterns that we have previously discussed. The rabbit is not memorizing her name, whether that’s Tinkerbelle or Snowball. She’s memorizing the pattern of syllables.
Repeat, “Tin-ker-belle” enough times and your rabbit will pick up on it. She’ll recognize the hard T and K sounds, and the rounded Ls at the end.
“Snow-Ball” has a different sound and emphasis, so your rabbit will not respond initially. Again, repetition is vital. The rabbit will learn to pay attention to two syllables, starting with a hard, “Sn-“ sound.
It’s not only names that rabbits can remember, either. Animal Behavior discusses some of the vocal commands you can use in training. Turn these to your advantage and communicate with your pet.
I Accidentally Hurt My Rabbit and Now She Hates Me
If you and your rabbit experience a mishap, trust can be hard to regain. A rabbit’s memory is like a steel trap where bad experiences are concerned.
This is mainly because rabbits understand their place in the food chain. Rabbits are a prey species, and know it. Your pet will be ever vigilant, checking for danger. You may not notice it, but this doesn’t mean it is not happening.
If you accidentally hurt your rabbit, apologize immediately. Remember, rabbits remember bad experiences but have poor short-term memories. You need to link the accident and the apology together in your pet’s mind.
The most effective way to apologize to a rabbit is by offering a sweet treat. The fastest way to a rabbit’s heart is through her stomach, after all. Offer a raisin, or something of equivalent value. Follow up with a lengthy grooming and petting session.
Your apology may be ignored for a while. The Language of Lagomorphs explains how to tell if your rabbit is still mad at you. Your rabbit may not let you off the hook without some serious groveling.
You’ll have to be patient in such an instance. Rabbits can hold a grudge and sulk for hours, or even days. If you have forged an appropriate bond, your pet will eventually forgive you. If this is early in your relationship, it will take longer.
The nature of your relationship may change in the aftermath. Let’s imagine that you accidentally dropped your pet. Most rabbits do not like handling anyway. After this, expect the activity to be strictly off-limits. Your rabbit remembers.
Rabbit memory is a fascinating thing. Your pet will struggle to recall minor details after a few minutes. Significant life events are branded into a rabbit’s brain, though. Your pet will never forget a cause of substantial pleasure or pain.
If something matters, a rabbit will remember it. This could be considered a blessing and a curse for owners. On the one hand, your pet will never forget your face. This ensures that you’ll always get a happy greeting.
The downside of this is that you must stay in your rabbit’s good graces. Causing offense may put you in her bad books for a long time.
5 thoughts on “Do Rabbits Remember (Siblings, Owners, Places, and Names)?”
My Japanese wife and I were both living in the UK in 2019, and we had a couple of house rabbits. Due to how things had changed in the UK we both made the decision to move to Japan. Airlines wouldn’t let you bring rabbits with you, only small cats and dogs. We also didn’t want to subject them to the stress of it. My wife wanted them donated to some rabbit sanctuary but didn’t want to be there as she did it, so it was left for me to do as she flew back home in early August. I knew she’s end up missing them after a few weeks so kept them with me as I was sorting out the house, intending to rejoin her after Christmas at home with my family. As predicted she was heart-broken and was looking into ways of getting them over to Japan. We ended up paying a lot of money for a service used by zoos around the world that specialise in moving animals, and in early 2020 they flew together in a single large hutch to Japan, with vets checking them over at each stop along the way. The more nervous of the two bunnies seemed completely unfazed by the entire ordeal, and as they were being forklifted into the area my wife could see them for the first time, she was just munching on hay and sniffing at the holes in the hutch (the bunny, not my wife). As airport import staff tried to reach in to get them out to log them, they both punched and boxed at them. My wife, who’d they’d not seen in over 6 months at this point offered to help, and as soon as they saw her they immediately slow blinked in acknowledgement and let her put her hands in to pick them up. Zero hesitation. Nerves instantly settled.
These animals genuinely do remember and form significant bonds with people. We were both expecting them to have forgotten her and needing to get used to her again.
Due to the world situation and inability to sort out my own Visa during it, I’ve not been able to see my wife or my bunnies for much longer now, but I get dozens of pictures of them daily. When I can finally be reunited it will be a real test of their memories. If they instantly accept me (which they don’t do with new people) I will be blown away.
Hi Scott, can you please send me info on this special service used by zoo’s as I am having the same issue with my bunnies which I would like to move to Singapore from Indonesia.
Two abandoned rabbits showed up last October In Anchorage Alaska where I live.
They moved in to under a shed in the back of the property of 2.5 acres.
I fed them through the winter with Timothy hay, pellets, fresh veggies with occasional sunflower seeds and apple treats.
The winter was unusually harsh with some 20 below temperatures with lots of snow.
I dug a path from the gate of fenced back yard to the shed.
So they could hop around on the path surrounded with 3 ft snow banks.
The male disappeared in early spring.
The female was obviously waiting and looking for him.
Then she disappeared too.
Four days later she was right in front of me when I opened the front door to get a mail.
She sat and looked at me for a few seconds, then hopped to the back of the property.
I cut a hole on the fence.
And she moved into the fenced area (about half an acre.)
She was hungry and dirty.
Seemed depressed and hardly ate pellets.
A month later after reading many rabbit sites, I adopted a young male rabbit.
Put him in a large dog crate, covered with tarp for a roof, in the middle of the yard under an apple tree where the female rabbit, (I named her Bella) likes to hang around.
Bella immediately went to the crate, after lots of sniffing, she laid down next to the cage.
There she stayed almost all day and night.
Bella became very friendly as if it was totally different rabbit.
She bumped her nose to my hand, rubbed her chin on my boots.
I neutered and spayed both.
Then got a playpen to hook to the cage.
I let the male, Oliver to come out in the day time to play in the playpen.
Bella stayed right next to the pen, sometimes both running around though divided by the playpen.
It took many short cessions of get together to finally got them bonded.
After almost two months later both are running free in the fenced area.
There is an old pet pig house in the fenced area.
They claimed the house and enjoying grazing dandelions and clovers.
I never knew the joy and the peace of having rabbits.
What a beautiful story …those rabbits were blessed when they chose you 😊🙏
Such a wonderful story. We have bunnies that found us in Wasilla, AK. We love them.