Wondering can rabbits see in the dark?
This post explores whether all those carrots help rabbits see in the dark.
Over the years, different species of animals have evolved to thrive in the wild. Some species, like humans, see well in the light but have incredibly poor night vision. Other animals, like the raccoon and opossums, have large eyes that are well-adapted to seeing at night.
Many pet owners quickly realize that their cat can see in the dark much clearer than they can. But what about rabbits? Did these furry little creatures evolve to see better in the day or night?
The simple answer to the question “can rabbits see in the dark” is no.
They can’t really see in the light either up close. Instead, their eyes have evolved over the years to thrive in dim circumstances, meaning you will want to protect them from overly bright lights. You may also want to leave a night light on for them.
Rabbits are Crepuscular
Crepuscular is a fancy word that means that rabbits like to be most active when the light is dim. This means in the wild, they are moving around at dusk and dawn. So your rabbit will be able to see decently in a dimly lit room but does not have particularly good day or night vision.
Rabbits differ from many other animals that are designed to see in muted light in that they have no tapetum. The tapetum is the structure in the eye of some animals that amplifies dim light to give them enhanced vision in the dark.
When it is completely dark, your rabbit will rely on hearing and sense of smell to figure out what is going on around them. This is how they would protect themselves in the wild if it was a moonless night.
Do Rabbits Enjoy the Dark?
When it comes to rabbit care, every owner wants to give their bunny the best possible living conditions. The ideal living conditions for your rabbit would give them dim lighting. This helps them see to the best of their ability. In many homes, when the sun has gone down and just a few lights are on, it presents the perfect environment for rabbits. This is why many rabbit owners report that their pet is most active overnight.
What Can Your Rabbit See?
Your rabbit likely has pretty poor vision. They will recognize you, but more from your shape than from specific facial features. You will want to avoid walking towards your rabbit carrying a large object. If it is large enough to alter your outline, your furry friend will not recognize you, which can be frightening for them.
There is not a lot of information about whether or not rabbits can see color. Some research has shown that they do seem to be able to distinguish certain colors. The rabbit has a retina that functions similarly similar to that of a dog’s. Their retinas have only two kinds of color sensitive cones, as opposed to the three kinds of color sensitive cones that humans have. There are also far fewer color sensitive cones in the eyes of rabbits. The best guess at this point is that they see primarily in black and white, with very few other colors in their spectrum.
The Third Eyelid
One of the most fascinating things about a rabbit’s eye is its third eyelid. It is known as a nictitating eyelid and they are found on a wide variety of animals, from mammals to amphibians to birds. The primary purpose of this third eyelid is to protect the eye from injury. This third eyelid also helps to keep the eye moist. You may have noticed that your pet rabbit only blinks about 10 times an hour.
You may see your rabbit exhibiting an odd-looking behavior called “scanning.”  When they do this, their heads drift slowly from side to side. It may be a bit frightening the first time you see it. Some people think they have lost motor control. This is a perfectly natural behavior that is no cause for alarm.
One thing that researchers have noticed about rabbits is they turn their heads and look with one eye to get a good look at something. They do not close their other eye, so they must be seeing two completely different things. Take a minute to think about that. How on earth do their brains process two completely different images at the same time? Much research is still required to figure out exactly how rabbit vision works.