While we were visiting Suzanne last night, she showed Matt and I how to trance a rabbit. Now, I know there’s a lot of debate about whether or not its safe to trance bunnies. Many people believe its triggering some sort of prey-animal instinct to play dead in the presence of a predator and that we shouldn’t casually trigger that instinct because it could do other things to the rabbit’s physiology as well. Personally, I don’t have an opinion but it was fascinating to watch Suzanne trance the bunnies and I could see how it could make nail-trimming and other delicate grooming much easier for a rabbit’s care-giver.

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Marlo was the first rabbit Suzanne tranced last night. She showed us how she gets the rabbit’s body positioned and then rubs its chest between the front paws while stroking its head firmly.

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Moments later, Marlo was relaxed and calm, laying carefully balanced across Suzanne’s knee. I was amazed as none of my rabbits will put up with this sort of thing. I occasionally flip our bunnies on their backs and hold them firmly as a form of discipline when they have gotten done something wrong and gotten too rambunctous to discipline effectively any other way. But for me, flipping them on their backs is something that I do at the risk of my skin getting scratched up. I’ve never held a bunny on its back and had it be so calm!

After about 30 seconds, Marlo suddenly snapped out of the trance. One moment she was laying on Suzanne’s knee, zoned out and ignoring the world, and the next moment you could see the light of intelligence return to her eyes and she struggled to right herself into a sitting position. Suzanne pointed out that a quick and sudden recovery from trancing is very common and because of it, people who trance their rabbits should always maintain a solid grip on the bun so they don’t fall when they come out of the trance. When Marlo was upright again, Suzanne gave her a quick reassuring snuggle before setting her back in her cage.

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The next bunny that Suzanne tranced was Harpo. I’ve met Harpo before, he’s an active, charismatic, good-natured fellow that’s always game for a romp or a bit of company from a visiting human. It was really surprising to see him calmly laid back across Suzanne’s knee like this was the most normal thing in the world for him to do.

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Suzanne was even able to pick Harpo up and balance him in one hand while tranced. He just lay there, relaxed and peaceful, for all the world looking like he was taking a snooze in a hammock.

Suzanne didn’t keep Harpo in the air for too long because she didn’t want him to suddenly un-trance like that. If he’d come out of the trance while she had him suspended in one hand, he could have seriously injured himself in falling to the ground or in struggling with his back upnsupported. Suzanne said she doesn’t try to hold a tranced bunny with less than both hands unless she knows that particular bunny very well and knows how they will respond to trancing. The warning and precaution she gave us while she was trancing both Marlo and Harpo should be heeded by everyone who trances their buns. None of us want to injure our bunnies needlessly so the best thing to do when trancing is to always maintain a firm grasp on your rabbit’s body and keep your attention focussed for any sudden changes.

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Eventually, Suzanne gently put Harpo back into her lap and gave his head a couple reassuring scritches while he woke up again. He was so relaxed about it all that I have to wonder whether rabbits even remember what happens when they are on their backs.

All in all it was very enlightening to watch someone so practiced at trancing use this technique on two very different bunnies. I’d love to know what other people’s experiences have been with trancing and what you think this ability is really for in a wild rabbit.