A pet rabbit was unconscious for days and his parent thought he was hibernating. Not knowing that the bunny was suffering from heat stroke! An illness that comatose rabbits. She would have lost her bunny’s life if her friend didn’t insist they take him to the clinic for medical attention. She was lucky the situation didn’t get out of medical control!
Every year in the clinic, I treat cases of comatose rabbits. Who are suffering serious health problems. But their owners ignored the signs and presumed that they were hibernating. Wrong assumption! If your rabbit sleeps for more than 24 hours at a time, then danger is looming ahead. No matter the weather condition—cold winter or hot summer. Your rabbit is sick and needs medical attention immediately.
“So, do rabbits hibernate?” You may ask again. In this article, you will discover all you need to know about rabbit hibernation. And its adaptation behaviors to harsh weather conditions.
What You Need To Know About Hibernation
Hibernation is a survival mechanism used by different animals like squirrels, turtles, and bears. To escape harm in harsh weather conditions. Contrary to popular opinion, hibernation and sleep are not the same. Hibernation is a state of complete inactivity. The body functions shut down, unlike sleep!
During hibernation, animals go into a deep sleep-like condition and become fully inactive. The heartbeats, breathing processes, and body temperature drops drastically. The body’s functions slow down or stop entirely. Animals hibernate in various ways. Some hide under rocks or fallen leaves. While others burrow into the ground or enclose in their shells.
Animals hibernate mostly in winter and summer seasons when there is intense cold or hotness that can harm them. They hibernate in hot summer to avoid the fierce heat and drought. The slowed body metabolism during summer is called Aestivation. Others hibernate during winter to shield themselves from the harsh winter, escape food scarcity and preserve their energy.
Do Rabbits Hibernate?
Most people wonder where rabbits disappear during winter and guess that they are hibernating. Rabbits do not hibernate. Their bodies have natural mechanisms that help them adapt to harsh weather conditions. They continuously hunt for food even in winter to survive.
Most of the rabbits do not survive the extreme winter conditions because of food scarcity and exposure to wetness. However, there are many ways they adapt and survive. Even in the hot summer!
During hibernation, an animal’s temperature, heartbeat, and breathing drop or even shut down. And their body metabolism slows down. Rabbits do not need to undergo these. They have to retain their body temperature. A rabbit’s normal temperature is 380 centigrade to 450 centigrade. Anything below this range can have a fatal effect on them.
Rabbits don’t need to go through any downshift in body metabolism, especially in their digestive tract! Their digestive system has to function steadily to keep them healthy. And avoid health problems like gastrointestinal stasis!
How Rabbits Survive In The Winter
More than 50% of wild rabbits die in the extremely cold winter due to food scarcity and increased predation. Survival is difficult for them in the cold weather! However, their body is naturally built to withstand the harsh cold.
The fat layers in their body tissues help them stay for some days without food. They also change their feeding habits and eat any available food in their habitat. Since fresh vegetables and grasses are scarce, they resort to eating the bark of trees, fallen plant seeds, and leaves. Anything in their habitat! They can even enter any nearby garden in search of food.
Rabbits also make tunnels underground and build nests from grass, twigs, and stray. They create different holes that connect and lead to their nest. This is to enable them to escape from predators and hide in their burrows. The nest covers their body and keeps them warm.
They live together in groups in their burrows. They cleave together to get warmth in winter. And develop a thick fur coating in winter that keeps them warm. Their body temperature is also regulated by their ears.
Rabbits have adipose tissues. Otherwise called brown and white fats, found in their body organs. Scientific research has proven that brown fat generates heat to warm up a rabbit. While white fat stores energy that helps them to move. And keep their organs functioning, even in the cold!
How Much Cold Can Rabbits Tolerate?
Rabbits can tolerate extremely low temperatures, even below 400 Fahrenheit. But they need to be protected from chilly wind and wetness in their habitat. These two factors can drastically lower their body temperature. And cause harm to them!
Do Rabbits Store Food For Winter?
Rabbits eat fresh vegetables and grasses, which rot easily. So, they can’t store food for unfavorable seasons like squirrels and their mammals. They often hunt for food even in winter to survive. They can also resort to eating the straw they gathered for warmth in their burrows.
Rabbits also eat their poop if food is scarce. This helps them to absorb the nutrients that were not broken down initially. And keep their digestive tract functioning. This is called Coprophagy!
Do Rabbits Sleep More During The Winter?
Rabbits can sleep for 8 hours per day. But during the winter, they tend to be more sluggish and sleep more. During sleep, instead of stretching itself or laying on its side, a rabbit will curl up to keep itself warm. Wild rabbits can sleep throughout the day, most of the time. This is because predators are very active during the day.
How Wild Rabbits Obtain Water In The Winter?
During winter, water becomes very cold or even frozen at about 320 Fahrenheit. Rabbits don’t need much water for their survival. They get enough water from the foods they eat in winter. Taking in even a little amount of water is enough to hydrate a rabbit.
Tree vegetations, shrubs, or root crops have some amount of water they provide in a rabbit’s body when ingested. If water is not frozen, streams, puddles, and plant dews can be sources of water for rabbits.
Do Rabbits Migrate?
Rabbits do not migrate to another environment during winter or hot summer. Instead, they may move away from their burrow in search of food. You may even see them roaming your garden or backyard. Migration entails moving completely to another habitat.
Some animals migrate in search of food and better living conditions. But rabbits don’t do so. They remain in their habitat and devise means to cope with environmental changes. Using their survival instincts!
How Do Wild Rabbits Survive The Hot Summer?
Wild rabbits hide in damp burrows to cool their bodies in hot summer. They cannot tolerate extremely hot climates. They may die from overheating! Rabbits react differently to summer. But temperatures above 250 Centigrade can be risky for them.
They do not sweat to control heat just like humans. They rely on their ears and deep breathing to stay cool. The ear of a rabbit has large blood vessels. When the ears trap a cool breeze, it moves to the blood vessels to cool it. The cooled blood is then distributed through the body.
Health Problems Associated With A Rabbit’s Inability To Hibernate?
There are illnesses caused by harsh weather conditions in rabbits. Due to their inability to hibernate. Some of which are fatal! They include the following:
This is a fatal illness caused by exposing rabbits to extremely cold weather conditions. A rabbit with hypothermia has lost the ability to maintain its internal body temperature. Heat production slows down and the body temperature keeps dropping drastically. Breathing, heart-eating, and metabolic processes decline to a very low level.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothermia?
- Sickly lips and gum
- Weak and irregular heartbeat
- Slowed breathing
- Inactivity and body weakness
- Coldness of the tips of the ears and paws.
How To Treat Hypothermia In Rabbits?
- Cover your bunny with a heating pad. Let the towel be warm and not too hot in a way that can burn your rabbit.
- Fill a bottle with hot water and make your rabbit lie on it. Check the hot water and replace the water when it gets cooler. This method is faster to prepare.
- Once your rabbit’s temperature is about 350 centigrade, they are okay! You can take them to your vet for further diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
Frostbite can make a rabbit’s ear fall off in very severe cases. The ears, nose, and toes freeze and become stiff. The skin turns pale blue and blood flow drops!
How To Treat Frostbite
- Massage the rabbit’s body parts with a warm, wet towel.
- Wrap the body with a heating pad and allow his temperature to come back to
- Bring your rabbit to a clinic for further treatment.
Weak Immune System
Exposing a rabbit to harsh conditions, whether cold or hot can weaken the immune system. And make their body vulnerable to diseases that would ordinarily be fought by antibodies. In this case, keep your rabbit away from these harsh conditions. Make sure you take him to your doctor for immediate treatment and medical advice.
This happens when a rabbit becomes too hot and loses the ability to regulate its internal body temperature. This occurs during the hot summer season.
How To Care For Rabbits In Winter?
Since rabbits do not hibernate to protect themselves from harsh weather conditions, you have to care for them as their parents. Pet rabbits can withstand the cold winter like their wild fellows. But, exposure to chilly wind and wetness can lower their temperature. And cause health problems. This is why we do not advise that you keep your rabbit outdoors. The outside environment exposes them to harsh weather and predators. Take your rabbit indoors if you want their well-being.
You can care for your rabbits in winter through the following ways:
- Feed them well: rabbits tend to eat more in winter than in other seasons. To get extra fat that will keep them warm in the cold. Nonetheless, do not over-feed, as they can accumulate excess fat. That can cause obesity or being overweight!
- Allow them to exercise: do not allow your rabbit to just sit, curled up in its cage. Allow them to run and play around your house. Do not let them run outside in the cold. Just provide a free space in your house, where they can play. Without spoiling things! Exercise helps to cut down excess fat and keep your rabbit healthy.
- Bring in another rabbit: rabbits are social beings and love to stay with their pals. Having another rabbit helps them keep warm, especially when they snuggle into each other.
Perfect Hutch For Winter
We recommend any of these hutches to protect your rabbits from the cold winter. Since rabbits do not hibernate to protect themselves.
- Indoor and Outdoor Rabbit Hutch with Casters Waterproof Roof: this wooden hutch is waterproof, anti-corrosive, and ultra-durable. Its roof is created to insulate your rabbit from all kinds of harsh weather conditions. It is ample and a good shield from predators. Its components are effortlessly adjustable! The roof can be unsealed with comfort whenever you want to tidy up the inside. Its opening door slides down a slant to let your bunnies enter and exit with ease. With its firmly attached bolt, you will be confident that your little friend is closed off from predators. You can examine more details and buy it here.
- Good Life Rabbit Hutch: This is a 2-story weatherproof hutch that lets your pet move freely inside and outside. They can also abide upstairs and downstairs. It has a hinged ceiling with a waterproof layer and can be unlocked from the rear. It has a modifiable plastic tub for easy cleaning. The wood panel at its rear obstructs the rain and wind from penetrating your rabbit’s quarters. Its metal lattice and firmly set hatch keep predators away when locked up. Click to know more and buy.
Do Rabbits Hibernate – Conclusion
Rabbits do not hibernate. Naturally, they are endowed with mechanisms and survival instincts. That helps them withstand adverse weather conditions. However, rabbits can be affected by extremely harsh weather conditions. That’s why you must take care of your rabbits as a responsible parent. And protect them from harsh conditions that may harm them.