Gazing is a very common behavior in rabbits that has a multitude of different meanings. But most rabbits owners don’t understand what a rabbit staring at them means in terms of body language.
Your rabbit may be asleep. Rabbits have a nictitating membrane (third eyelid) which resembles dozing with their eyes open. They also have excellent hearing, so may be listening out for danger. Your rabbit may just be trying to communicate a need for food or attention to you.
To understand why your rabbit is staring, you need to understand rabbit body language. Gazing is usually a symptom, rather than a behavior in and of itself. Body language reveals what a rabbit is staring at and why. This guide will discuss rabbit staring habits, and what they mean.
Why Does My Bunny Keep Staring at Me?
A rabbit staring at you can feel slight disconcerting. There are various explanations for rabbit gazing. These include the following:
- Threats. The rabbit is staring at you because they’re not sure if you’re a threat. They’re watching your every movement, preparing to bolt if necessary.
- Curiosity. They’re trying to understand what you’re doing. If you’re engaging in an unfamiliar activity, it will pique their interest.
- Predators. They’re watching your back. Bunnies know their place in the food chain, and look out for each other. They’ll watch to ensure a predator does not sneak up on you.
- Senses. They can hear or smell something in the distance, and are watching to see if you react.
- Grooming. Rabbits stare at each other until one starts grooming the other.
- Food. They’re hungry and want a treat. Staring is the first sign of begging in many rabbits.
- Happy. The rabbit is perfectly contented. A blissed-out bunny will stare at you while they relax.
When a rabbit stares at you, it’s vital to observe their body language. This will tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. This, in turn, will help you to understand what a rabbit finds so fascinating.
Understanding a Rabbit’s Body Language While They’re Staring
While your rabbit engages in their staring competition, look out for subtle body language cues. Rabbits reveal a great deal without saying a word.
The most significant visual cue that accompanies rabbit gazing is the position of a bunny’s ears. These are every bit as expressive as the tail of a dog or cat.
- If your rabbit lies down and stares at you, they’re feeling relaxed.
- If your rabbit stands on their hind legs and stares at you, they want your attention. This position is also linked to begging for food.
- If your rabbit stares at you with ears erect and nose twitching, something has their attention. They’re waiting to see you react too.
- If your rabbit stamps their foot while staring at you, they’re unhappy with something you’re doing. You’re likely to elicit this response if you move their belongings.
Every rabbit is different, and will behave uniquely. You’ll need to pay attention, and learn what they’re thinking. The House Rabbit Society goes into further detail on rabbit body language.
Does My Rabbit Stare Because They Love Me?
It’s possible that your rabbit is staring at you out of love. If two bonded bunnies share a space, they can pass hours gazing into each other’s eyes.
If your rabbit is in a relaxed position and staring at you, they love you. They may not even realize they’re doing so.
Sit with your rabbit and watch TV together. They won’t even notice that you’re not looking at them; they’ll experience complete contentment.
There can be a thin line between love and domination where rabbits are concerned. Unbonded rabbits are just as likely to stare at each other.
This is because the two bunnies are trying to assert who will be dominant and submissive. This established by grooming. An alpha bunny will expect a subservient rabbit to groom them.
As a result, the two rabbits will keep staring like a game of chicken. Eventually, one of them will relent and groom the other, or they’ll fight. Your rabbit may be trying the same trick with you.
How Do Rabbits Show Affection to Humans?
You’ll know if your rabbit is showing affection or authority by other behaviors. If they groom you, it’s a sign of love. This may involve very gentle nips, but licking is a real demonstration of adoration.
The way your rabbit behaves around you is also a vital sign of how they see you. A happy rabbit that loves their human will run around their feet. This may be annoying, but your pet means well.
Binkying is another vital sign of love from a rabbit. A binky is when a bunny leaps in the air, and tosses their ears. This is the rabbit showing just how content they are in your company.
Nudging you their head is a combination of dominance and affection. Your rabbit is demanding that you tickle their head, and they want it done now. However, they’re also showing that you love it when you pet them.
If your rabbit engages in these behaviors while staring at you, you can rest easy. You have bonded with your pet, and they love you to bits.
Is My Rabbit Staring at Me Because They’re Hungry?
It’s entirely possible that your bunny is staring at you because they want a snack. Rabbit gazing is often the first stage of begging.
If you’re happy to treat your rabbit, offer them a favorite food. This could be a piece of hay, or a fresh vegetable, such as celery. If our rabbit happily hops away, you have your answer.
You may decide to wait to ensure its food that your rabbit wants. This can be dangerous. Some rabbits are not renowned for their patience.
If your bunny stares more frequently and places paws on your leg, they’re begging. Some rabbits will bite and nip too, though. This is their way of saying, “excuse me, you must not have seen me.”
Is My Rabbit Staring at Me Because They Want to be Petted?
Bunnies are a very hierarchical species. If your rabbit considers themselves head of the house, they’ll expect this to be acknowledged.
It’s not just other rabbits that need to know their place, though. We know that subservient rabbits show respect by grooming their superiors. A dominant bunny will expect the same from you.
Your rabbit may stare at you for a prolonged period, waiting for you to take the hint. If you fail to do so, they’ll start using physical prompts. This will usually begin with nudging with their nose. Beyond this, biting may follow.
If your rabbit starts to show their teeth, training may be necessary. There’s rarely any real harm is allowing a bunny to think they’re the boss. Aggression should still be nipped in the bud, though.
Is My Rabbit Not Staring but Sleeping with Their Eyes Open?
It’s possible that your rabbit isn’t staring at you at all, but sleeping. If you catch your pet watching you during this the day, this is increasingly likely.
Rabbits have a third eyelid, called a nictitating membrane, which is virtually transparent. This, like most matters about rabbits, is borne of survival.
Rabbits sleep for around eight hours a day, during daylight hours. While they’re asleep, they’re defenseless. Predators surround wild rabbits, so survival instinct is ingrained within all bunnies.
Rabbits doze with their eyes open, using the nictitating membrane to keep their eyes lubricated. This way, their brain can still receive messages. If a threat approaches, the rabbit will wake in a moment.
As a result, it may look like your rabbit is staring at you. They’ll sleep facing you, in case you do something that raises the alarm.
How Can I Tell if My Rabbit is Asleep?
As Pet Helpful explains, sleeping rabbits enter a state known as paradoxical sleep. This is the bunny equivalent of REM sleep in humans.
A sleeping rabbit will often twitch. This is because, just like humans in REM sleep, rabbits dream. This is actually a relief, as some sleeping rabbits look dead!
A dozing bunny may flop to the floor at a moment’s notice, then lie down staring. Or, as we now understand, not staring.
Some rabbits prefer to sleep in a nest, in their own private space. Others will choose to sleep next to their favorite human. This is a sign of trust. The rabbit is asking a human to watch their back while they take a nap.
Is My Rabbit Staring Because They See Something That I Can’t?
If you’re superstitious, you wonder if your rabbit sees something invisible to the human eye. A staring rabbit doesn’t mean they see a spirit sitting beside you. It’s far more likely that your rabbit can hear or smell something that you can’t.
As is fitting for animals with such distinctive ears, bunnies have excellent hearing. The hearing range of the average human is between 64-23,000 Hz. A rabbit, meanwhile, picks up sounds between 360-42,000 Hz.
This means that rabbits rely on their hearing most for survival. Your rabbit will continuously be listening out for potential dangers. They may hear noises from outside, or even within the walls of your home.
If it seems that your rabbit is staring at you, they may well be. It’s possible that they’re wondering if you hear what they hear. They’ll also be watching for your reaction to these noises, and whether they should be afraid.
Another notable feature of rabbits is their ever-twitching noses. Bunnies also have a highly evolved sense of smell. They’ll use this in the same way as their hearing.
A new smell will elicit equal sensations of caution and excitement in a rabbit. They’ll be cautious by nature, but wonder where it’s coming from. Again, they’ll stare at you to gauge your reaction.
Of course, this new smell comes from you and change of perfume or soap. Your bunny may stare until they’re confident that you’re responsible for this new scent. Most rabbits smell our distinctive skin aroma beneath such additions, though.
Is My Rabbit Staring at Me Because They Think I’m Sick?
Many people firmly believe that pets can detect sickness in humans. This is due to an animal’s enhanced sense of smell. They detect changes in pheromones, and react accordingly.
It’s possible that your rabbit is staring at you for medical reasons, but unlikely. What is possible, however, is that your pet is picking up on a change in your emotions.
If you’re feeling under the weather in any way, this will be reflected in your mood. Your rabbit, in turn, will acknowledge this. They’ll sit and stare at you, asserting what’s wrong. If you’re lucky, they’ll then try to cheer you up!
Of course, a rabbit may also stare from a safe distance. If you’re worried, a rabbit will also become cautious. They’ll keep staring, trying to assess what is causing you anxiety.
Why Does My Rabbit Watch Me Sleep?
Rabbits are social and watch out for each other. If you have bonded with your pet, they’ll keep an eye on you, too.
Once you have a personal bunny bodyguard, they’ll always check that you’re safe. Of course, in the eyes of a prey animal, sleep is the most vulnerable activity of all.
While you’re asleep, your bunny will stare at you. This is so they can warn you if something approaches. Don’t be surprised if your rabbit reacts wildly if anything happens while you sleep.
This, of course, means that a rabbit won’t think twice about disturbing your sleep. If they hear a noise that they consider dangerous, your bunny will freak out.
Don’t be cross when this happens. Your rabbit thinks that they’re saving your life. Reassure them that all is fine, and go back to bed. If it becomes a regular occurrence, you may need to engage in some sleep training.
The flipside of this is that your rabbit will expect you to return the favor. Your rabbit will want you to watch them sleep and offer similar protection. This is why a bonded rabbit will doze beside you, given a choice.
When your rabbit stares at you, try not to be perturbed. You don’t have something on your face, and they’re not passing judgment on you.
There will be a reason for your rabbit’s behavior. What’s most likely is that they want something from you. Be attentive to your pet’s needs, and meet them accordingly.
Above all, ensure that your bunny is confident and comfortable. If they’re staring in distrust, you may have more work to do to strengthen your bond.
Don’t automatically fear the worst and assume this is the case, though. Some bunnies stare as a demonstration of love!
Every rabbit is different. You’ll need to learn why your pet is staring, and act accordingly. Before you know it, you’ll understand each other’s needs.