If you’ve ever watched or played with a rabbit, you probably realize that they seem to love laying on their back. They get still and sometimes fall asleep.
Did you know that rabbits actually don’t enjoy being on their back, and it can be dangerous? Make sure you do it properly; otherwise, it can hurt your furry friend.
Rabbits don’t enjoy being on their back; it’s dangerous for them and scares them. Laying a rabbit on its back is called “trancing.” Let’s look at trancing, why it seems like rabbits enjoy it, and find out how to do it safely.
What is Trancing
Tonic immobility, or trancing, is a chemical response in the rabbit’s brain. From evolution, this is kind of like the “play dead” maneuver.
If you’ve ever held a rabbit on their back and pet them, you’ll probably notice they don’t move, they get relaxed, and sometimes they’ll even fall asleep. Compared to their normal behavior, it probably seems like trancing your rabbit calms them down.
Believe it or not, it does the opposite.
Why do Rabbits Get Tranced
There’s a lot of science behind why this happens in rabbits. The quick answer is that it’s a part of their evolution.
When a predator would flip them on their back, it usually meant that the rabbit was about to be a snack. When we trance our rabbits, their brain goes into the same state.
There are two schools of thought on why this happens, though.
One side believes that it is a possum-like response. Perhaps rabbits that played dead in the past had a better chance of surviving due to the predator leaving them alone. We see this a lot in the animal kingdom.
Another side thinks that it’s more like a fainting goat. When these goats get stressed or scared, they’ll freeze and typically fall over. When a rabbit gets tranced, their body does go into shock. Their heartbeat elevates, blood pressure rises, and their brain starts shooting out stress chemicals. So, trancing could be a result of the rabbit being paralyzed with fear.
Regardless of why they get tranced, it’s been proven that it stresses them out a lot. Rabbits may choose to lay on their back on their own, but that’s different. When we place a rabbit on their back, it may seem like they’re relaxed, but it scares the daylights out of them. They get paralyzed with fear or play dead, hoping that they’ll be turned right-side up.
Should you Ever Lay Your Rabbit on Their Back?
So we know that trancing is bad, but you can’t help but wonder if there’s ever a scenario where you should lay them on their back?
Yes, there are situations where trancing your rabbit makes sense.
One scenario is when the vet is looking at your rabbit. There’s been a lot of testing to see how conscious your pet is during this hypnotic state. Some vets may rule out anesthesia for being too dangerous to use on your rabbit. Instead, they could trance your rabbit and do whatever needs to be done.
Another scenario is if your rabbit is getting out of control, and they need to be subdued without permanently hurting them. Trancing is an option, but it has to be done carefully, and only when the rabbit’s traditional training won’t work.
At the end of the day, you should avoid laying your rabbit on their back in most situations.
Why Shouldn’t You Lay Your Rabbit on Their Back?
Some owners find it enjoyable to put their rabbit on its back. Other people use it as a trick to groom their pet or make it stop misbehaving. Every time you trance your rabbit, you are taking a big risk.
The first risk is the emotional toll you’re taking on your pet. To them, it’s a near-death experience every time they’re tranced. Imagine a human who goes through all of these near-death experiences just for someone else’s amusement or convenience.
Additionally, if your rabbit is the runt, a rescue, or has health conditions, putting them on their back can kill them. When a rabbit is tranced, their heart starts beating incredibly fast. If your rabbit’s heart isn’t strong enough, this could lead to heart failure and death of your pet.
So what happens if the rabbit accidentally trances themselves?
What if My Rabbit Trances Themselves?
Another logical question. First off, don’t panic. Your rabbit might have jumped weird, fallen, or gotten scared, and it leads to them trancing themselves.
In this case, you should gently scoop them up and flip them over slowly while holding them close to the ground. Some rabbits might resort to jumping out of your arms the second that they’re turned upright, so make sure you aren’t holding them too high above the ground.
If they’re still in a state of shock, you should spend some time and comfort them by slowly petting them until they’re back to normal. This is a scary experience for your pet, and they might need some love afterward.