Do you ever come home to your adorable pet bunny, pick it up, lay it down on its back, and pet it? Does it just lie there, blissfully, for minutes or even hours, letting you cuddle it? Yeah. Your rabbit hates you.

Certain animals are prone go into a trance. They lie on their back, they curl up their limbs, and they go still. It's called many things: tonic immobility, feigned death, hypnosis, playing possum, or trance. Some pet owners call it adorable. They notice that, when they come home they can pick up their rabbit, put it on its back, hold it for a little while, and it will go still while they pet it. This doesn't happen for all rabbits. Some just scramble off people's laps and run away. So if a rabbit stays to be petted, it must love getting cuddled like that!


(Pictured Above: Love.)

A couple of biologists decided to test that theory. They attached heart rate monitors and breathing monitors to rabbits. They measured the rabbit's blood pressure and stress hormone levels. Then they put these entranced rabbits on their backs, and monitored what happened. Their heart rate, respiration, hormones, and blood pressure went way up during just 15 minutes of so-called "trance." While it looked like calm relaxation from the outside, from the inside it was a stress response.

There are some variables to tonic immobility. Not all rabbits are prone to it, so it's understandable that pet owners would think that rabbits who do have the immobility response are staying put voluntarily. And it's not entirely useless. The researchers agreed that tonic immobility, when it can be induced, would be excellent for some procedures like claw clipping or other grooming, that might otherwise require a sedative or a struggle. Still, the rabbit doesn't actually enjoy any of this. It's just frozen up.

Top Image: Caroline E, Second Image: Popovkin, Wiki Commons

[Source: Trancing Rabbits: Relaxed Hypnosis or State of Fear?]


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