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You may be familiar with the rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as illustrated by John Tenniel.

The White Rabbit (Tenniel) - The Nursery Alice (1890) - BL

But my rabbit does not have a pocket watch, yet she often manages to get up on the bed minutes before the alarm goes off. The only clock in the room is a digital alarm, that it is not possible to see unless you are on the bed, so I can't see her checking it through the night without waking me up. I have heard from a few others who share a bedroom with a rabbit that it is not unusual for them to be up on the bed shortly before the alarm goes off, for some snuggles.

Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits seem to prefer something solid under them when sleeping, so they generally move to the floor for the night. Maybe once a month or so she will wake up in the middle of the night and get up on the bed, grabs a quick snuggle and back to the floor, but usually she waits until 5 to 15 minutes before the alarm goes off.

If the alarm clock was a wind up, you could make the argument that there is a sound made by the clock before the alarm goes off. But the only non-digital clock in the house is a battery clock in the kitchen (she does not have physical access to the kitchen) and it does not have an alarm.

Can Rabbits tell time? Or maybe the better question is; How do Rabbits tell time?

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    I had a rabbit as a boy that did the same thing, as reliable as a Timex. 20 minutes before someone would be in to wake me up for school to the dot, he was up on my bed, without fail. I never could figure out how he did that. – Tim Post Oct 2 '14 at 10:53
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How do Rabbits tell time?

I don't think the science is conclusive on this, although there are certainly studies being done. As one example, some scientists claim that rats can tell how much time has passed.

As I understand it, there are two main schools of thought on this subject:

  1. An animal's circadian rhythm (or other biological process) functions as an internal clock.
  2. Animals are extremely good at picking up subtle cues like the changes in breathing, body temperature, and movement that precede a human being waking up.

There's probably some truth to both, although I personally tend to lean towards the "environmental cues" camp as a practical matter.

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It has been several months since I noticed this behavior and posted the question. The following are my observations and assumptions based on those observations.

The 5 or 10 minute before the alarm behavior continued fairly dependably until there was change in people living next door, there was an earlier riser there who is now gone. I believe my rabbit (Ruby) was picking up sound cues from the neighbors. Both houses are 1950's single family, detached with brick exterior, separated by 15+ feet (so if this is the case rabbits can hear very well).

It has been a few months since the earlier riser moved from next door. Ruby still usually gets up in the morning and on the bed before the alarm goes off, but I have noticed she always eats hay before coming for her snuggles, so I suspect that without outside queues it is hunger that wakes her up in the morning. Times can vary widely.

This Tuesday morning, she came for her snuggles about 1 minute before the alarm went off, she seemed rather upset by this. The next morning she was up on the bed a full hour earlier. On most days she gets up on the bed about 10 - 20 minutes before the alarm. Sometimes I wake up while she is still eating her morning hay, when she has had her fill, she comes up on the bed.

In summary, exact time keeping is probably related to outside sounds or events beyond our ability to perceive. Approximate time keeping in rabbits is similar to ours, regular intervals of hunger, bathroom calls, and having slept x number of hours.

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This is a really good question, but I don't really think that rabbits can tell time. Rabbits get used to a routine, and they follow that routine. I get up at 5:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, and my rabbit is up banging her dish around. When I first got my rabbit, even over the weekends when I slept in she was up at 5:00 banging her dish. I believe she eventually got used to the fact that there are two days where I sleep in at least until 9. Now, Monday- Friday, she bangs her dish at 5, and Saturday and Sunday she bangs her dish at 9. I think its all just a routine for them, that they get used to, and want to follow.

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    Thanks for answering. You start out saying rabbits can not tell time, then go on to describe how your rabbit not only figures out the time, but also has a calendar so she does not disturb you until 9 on weekends. It seems from your description that she is quite until it is time for you to wake up, then her dish banging wakes her up. If she is keeping a calendar and a clock in her head, is there something she might hear that tells her what is going on, like maybe someone else in your house getting up, or a coffee pot starting? – James Jenkins Oct 3 '14 at 10:32
  • @JamesJenkins Well, I guess they can tell time because Monday-Friday the only thing that goes off is the alarm clock, but on Saturday and Sunday, I can't think of anything that really occurs. So I guess there is a way for her to somehow tell time. – IHeartBunnies Oct 3 '14 at 19:34
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Our bunny, Rocky, has made himself a very predictable morning and evening routine, unlike ourselves. We wake up, go to sleep, eat, leave the house, return to the house at varying hours. He lives with us in a loft-type house, and pretty much is free to run around as long as someone is home to watch over him. Even if he can run around free pretty much for about 6 hours in the evening, he mostly stays in his 'cage' (which is a double stage pen, giving him a good view over the loft). However we have noticed perfectly timed behaviour that happens every single evening, even though we disrupt his routines before that.

Every evening, at 10PM ±5 minutes, he will go drink from his bowl (he loves to drink big amounts in once), and right after he goes to pee on his toilet. After that he will jump on our bed to make scrapes there. He will jump around on and off the bed until one of us comes to take him to put him next to us on the sofa. From then on he will stay with us for another hour or so, getting pettings on the head, or laying in close proximity to us.

He has many more routines, but this is most noticable to us, because it is timed without us triggering any behaviour.

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