Sentient Rabbits



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Related Links:
Sentience in Farm Animals  Animal Sentience Stories

To add interest I have interspersed this commentary with thought provoking quotations from philosophers, ethicists, scientists and other notable thinkers both past and present.

The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.

Hippocrates (?460 BC - ?377 BC)


This is an article in the section concerning sentience in animals, sentient rabbits. Most of us who own, I prefer the term guardian rather than owner, a pet or pets, again I prefer the term companion animal, know don't we that the animal we care for is a sentient being, a creature with his or her own personality likes and dislikes, a thinking feeling being.


This the first article of a series which will eventually include other pets will focus on information, stories and antidotes regarding the sentience of rabbits. More information will be included when it becomes available. If you have any stories about sentience in rabbits please consider writing about your experience with your rabbit or rabbits known to you or any other related information which may help to establish the fact that rabbits are sentient creatures, intelligent and self aware.

It is likely that the majority of people, pet owners or not, accept without question that cats and dogs are sentient beings but this may not always be the case when we consider the UK's third most popular pet, the rabbit. Considered no more by many people than a cute ball of fluff, rabbits are not regarded in the same way as your cat or dog, at least not to those who have never got to know a rabbit. I hope this series of articles, which are really more a compilation of information and anecdotes concerning sentience in rabbits, will help those of you who do not see rabbits in this way to change your mind and think differently about this much misunderstood animal.


Firstly what is sentience


An artist's take on sentience


A sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter
John Webster, Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol


Sentience is the capacity to feel both physically and emotionally. Rabbits like all mammals and indeed all living creatures feel pain and suffer when injured. In addition they can feel emotional pain and distress, for instance they mourn and feel a sense of loss, for example a bonded partner. When he or she dies the remaining rabbit may become depressed, stop eating, look for their missing companion and may even die a short while later. Rabbits just like cats and dogs show affection not only to their bonded partner or other companion rabbits but also to their carers and other humans and indeed animals of other species.


Here is what Colleen McDuling, B.Sc(Med.Hons), MSc(Med.Sc.), Animal Behaviourist says about rabbit sentience and also sentience in rats in her article Rodents and Rabbits in Research which challenges the misguided justification for experimenting on these and other animals used for research.


...rabbits and rodents are sentient beings. This means that they have the capacity to feel. They are capable of feeling pain and suffering. In addition, they can feel mourning and loss. When a few of them have formed a close bond, when one of that small group dies or is taken away, there are clear signs of depression amongst those who remain. They don’t eat, lie listlessly, and sniff around for the deceased one. All of these animals, rodents and rabbits, are capable of showing affection to other members of the group, and to human beings as well.

Altruism is the capacity to show compassion, and science has revealed that this is the case. Most stories are anecdotal, however this compassionate behaviour has been seen over and over again.

Rabbits assist other species. It has been well documented that rabbits will try and assist an injured bird.

Rodents and rabbits are highly intelligent. They have a large capacity for learning, and are capable of complex problem solving. They have a high need for mental stimulation, and do not like to be neglected or left in barren living quarters.

"The similarities – these animals are emotionally and behaviourally so like us that they deserve to be left alone in peace!"

The article is well worth reading as it supports the need to end animal experimentation which not only harms animals of course but is also ineffective and even unsafe science.

"The differences – we have seen that biologically they are vastly different form us which leaves us with the conclusion that to use them is research represents extremely unsafe and bad science.

In this 21st Century, we should aim primarily to make this a better world for all concerned by the application of sound science, with compassion."

Continue Reading:

Rabbits are intelligent animals and need mental stimulation, one reason why no rabbit should be kept on his or her own or left in a cramped hutch neglected at the bottom of someone's garden!

The reason I think that rabbits are neglected is simply that people do not understand the complex needs of these enigmatic animals. Though it has to be said that surely most people with any intelligence themselves must realise that no animal thrives in isolation confined in a cage/hutch.

Lets look at a few of the characteristics of sentience and see
how they present in rabbits. Click the links below to access each aspect of sentience. 


General intelligence

















Emotion in rabbits



Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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