Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Old-fashioned books, old-fashioned rabbit keepers and occasionally even old-fashioned ‘experts’ sometimes recommend trancing a rabbit. You may even find YouTube videos recommending it. Ignore them. A rabbit in a trance is in a state of tonic immobility. This is what Darwin called “the death feint”, freezing and playing dead, the last desperate gamble of a terrified animal trying to escape a predator. Don’t be tempted to make your rabbit do this.

The rabbit looks as if it’s just hypnotised to us but the rabbit shows signs of extreme stress throughout (McBride et al., 2007). It is stiff and immobile with terror. Your rabbit may never come out of the trance. I know of one rabbit that died during trancing. It’s dangerous. Normally a rabbit that has been tranced stays in extreme terror for quarter of an hour after it is no longer immobile (McBride 014)

Instead of trancing, if you need to keep your rabbit still, lean him up against your arm.


McBride, A, Day, S., McAdie, T., Meredith, A., Barley J., Hickman J. & Lawes, L. (2007), ’Hypnosis: A State of Fear or Pleasure?’, Proceedings of the CABTSG Study Day 2007, 38-40.

McBride, A., (2014), ‘Rabbit Behaviour – welfare and handling in a clinical environment,’ BVBA rabbit in clinic webinar, 5 August 2014.

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