Rabbits are known both as soft, gentle pets and as garden-ruining nuisances. Depending on what viewpoint you are coming from, they are either cute or a pest.
They are small mammals often confused for rodents, but they’re lagomorphs. Lagomorphs include pika, rabbits, and hares. They look similar to rodents with their large liquid eyes, twitchy noses, and whiskers but are different species. Whether you own a rabbit or a garden, you might have some questions. Do rabbits hibernate? We’ll explore the answer and address some others common to this long-eared lagomorph.
Rabbits have strong hind legs for jumping or running, sharp talons for defense, and long front teeth that constantly grow. When kept as a pet, you have to give rabbits a lot of solid toys to chew so that their teeth don’t become overgrown. Have you ever seen a rabbit yawn? It’s absolutely terrifying.
Do Rabbits Get Cold?
Of course, like any animal, rabbits can get cold. But the real question that should be posed is: are rabbits bothered by the cold? The answer is mostly no.
Rabbits are common animals like foxes, squirrels, and raccoons, so they are prone to experiencing colder temperatures. They grow thick, insulated coats to help them handle temperatures as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
A rabbit is a burrowing animal, which means they tunnel deep into the ground and form colonies. They pile together in big warm heaps to sleep and often cuddle because they feel like it. So when a rabbit isn’t hunting for food, they are snuggling up close to their families.
Home for rabbits are across all continents, even Antarctica, and certain types do learn to survive in freezing temperatures and across the tundra. Generally speaking, rabbits still don’t want to be traversing out in the snow, they’ve just learned to do it to forage what they need to live through the winter.
Do Rabbits Hibernate?
If you pose this question to a gardener, they will have the answer for you quite easily. No, rabbits do not hibernate. They are pulling up their vegetables and other plants all year long.
In fact, you are more likely to see rabbits throughout the winter because food is harder to find. Many plants they enjoy eating, such as dandelions or other flowers, are scarce in this season. So they have to leave the comfort of their burrows to sniff out food for their families.
The term “breeding like rabbits” came about because rabbits constantly have babies. If there is one rabbit in your garden, there are many more, and they all need to eat.
Rabbits can be found foraging year-round. Hibernation occurs for many animals because their resources become scarce. When their resources become scarce, they struggle to feed themselves or their families.
When the cold hits, bears, and squirrels hibernate, which is a deep sleep. This hibernation conserves energy and means they have to eat less. We know that squirrels tend to squirrel away nuts and other food items in trees for the winter. They wake up now and again to consume this food.
Rabbits eat fresh vegetables and plants, which spoil quickly, so they can’t really stash food. They have also adjusted over the millennia to be able to hunt out and find the nutrition they need to survive the winter without hibernation.
This often entails raiding a garden, so the trope of gardeners hating rabbits exists. They have adapted in any way they can to survive the harshness of winter without needing the deep sleep.
Domesticated rabbits are different than wild rabbits, in fact they are a different species entirely. They come in more variety of colors and patterns and have a sweeter disposition, and are more likely to bond with humans.
Wild rabbits are skinnier with coarser fur and have natural instincts that domestic rabbits lack. You should never release a domestic rabbit into the wild because they would never survive, having learned none of the things they need to endure.
Domesticated rabbits can survive colder temperatures like wild rabbits, but they don’t have burrows and often don’t have large families to keep them warm. This means they shouldn’t be exposed to sudden temperature drops.
If you know that a cold snap will hit, keep your house warm and a blanket over your bunnies cage and make sure they have plenty of hay to burrow into. Better yet, make sure they have another rabbit companion to snuggle with.
Tips for Owning Rabbits as Pets
Rabbits as a pet are a lot more hard work than people tend to expect. They cannot just be left in a cage all day to munch on hay. They have to have time to explore and wreck your house. That’s just a bit of humor, but they do need to be constantly stimulated, or they can get into serious trouble.
If you have a rabbit, all cords must be hidden or kept out of a rabbit’s reach. They need a comprehensive diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and healthy pellets. A continuous supply of hay is also required.
Another fact about domestic rabbits is that they need to be spayed or neutered because otherwise, they will become more trouble than you can handle. Once fixed, they can become litter trained and no longer leave trails of droppings through your home.
Both wild and domestic, Rabbits are fascinating creatures to learn about. They do not hibernate and are almost always foraging for something to munch or help trim their teeth.
If you see wild rabbits in the winter, don’t fret, they don’t need anything from you. They are just on the hunt for their next meal and will be safe and warm soon enough.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © moosehenderson/Shutterstock.com
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