Turning rabbit on their back

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katiecrna

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I've read that this is mean and Terrible to do, and then I see others do it. I placed my bunny on her back today in my lap so I could cut her back nails because I wasn't able to do it any other way and I get so guilty about it. What's your view on doing this?
 

Thumperina

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The vet told me its OK as long as you know what you are doing.
The main concern, I think, is that some buns would try to reverse back to normal, and there is a risk they can hurt their spine if they have to turn too sharp or something else goes wrong.
There is no harm for them in this position but some rabbits just don't like to be put on their back (I assume in the nature they don't lie in this position, except for maybe nursing from a mom)

I think the measure of how comfortable a rabbit feels on its back depends on how well they are accustomed to being put on their back.
 

Aki

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No rabbits aren't ever in this position in their natural state - if a baby tried to nurse on his back he would drown himself (animals always stay on their paws to drink). The only time it happens is when they are thrown on their back by a predator and are seconds away from being eaten, which is why their system shut down. I don't think it's something you should do 'for fun' as a lot of people do because it comes with a lot of stress - the rabbit automatically think he's gonna die which isn't a nice feeling. But there are some situations when it's unavoidable (it doesn't work on my rabbits at all so I don't use it - a very experienced rabbit vet even tried and got his hands teared to shreds ^^). I had a rabbit who was scared of highs and couldn't stand being lifted of the ground but I still had to do it when I had to treat him for something. It's unpleasant for the rabbit or for you but well, you gotta do what you gotta do right ^^.
 

majorv

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Kits do nurse on their back as Mom stands over them. Putting a rabbit on its back is not necessarily 'trancing' them. Our rabbits had to get used to being on their back so we could cut nails and evaluate them as a show rabbit. They also were put in this position when being judged. It's important to know how to put them on their back while making them feel secure, so they don't think they'll fall.
 

Preitler

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Turning them on their back is not trancing. They are not chicken, and even with chickens cou need to to some more than that.
I do it for sexing, and as a way to carry them when they are grumpy and would struggle, bite and fight in other positions. They are not tranced, they just can get no foothold and their body is well secured from struggling.

There is nothing that indicates to me that this position is more stressful than other ways, or having them struggling and biting, in the contrary, they know and accept that I have the upper hand now. It's the safest way for both of us. They are not less alert, or hypnotised, or whatever, they are just on their back and are being carried, it's rather rare that they are happy about that anyway.

All my about 100 kits nursed on their backs, none drowned. Some up to 16 weeks (hillarious sight), so also even almost adults can drink on their backs. And some rabbits do flop on their backs when relaxed. And rabbits are not stupid, they are not thinking you're a predator about to kill it, well, not if it's your rabbit and when it's used to be handled. But that's true for any way to pick up a rabbit.

But as it is, all rabbits are different, and some seem to have triggers that set of stress or even panic. Everyone knows his rabbits best. Also, they need to learn being handled that way, the first times many are surprised and struggle if you let them, but like with many new and somewhat unsettling things, start with short periods, low to the ground (in case it's better to let go) and a little treat afterward.

And it's more to it than just putting them on their back, think in advance where to put which hand, and maybe practice with a stuffed toy, the cat, or a mellow slob.
I carry them with my left, hand on their butt, with my other arm on their belly and hand on their breast, a finger toward each shoulder. Do not bend your face down, that hind legs of a 9lbs rabbit have quite some reach and incredible force.

All that said, I don't do it for fun, it's a last resort, none of my rabbits really like being picked up and handled much anyway. But rabbits are different, when one enjoys a noserub while on it's back, why not.
 
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thumpingBerry

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If you are talking about trancing, I agree that can be considered mean, but as others have said, if it is the only way you can do it, then you have to do it.

Putting them on their back (without trancing) is a totally different story. Many people (including me) trim their rabbit's nails while they are on their back, and some rabbits NEED to learn that is ok to be on their back (such as angoras, as you have to comb/brush/blow the fur on the belly). The trick is to be firm and get them to accept it without struggling.
 

mark

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I have often wondered about this topic - glad that we are not alone in having a rabbit who hates being on his back! We won't try again unless it is absolutely necessary for some reason.

Thanks for the post and the comments!
 

RavenousDragon

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We do our very best to get ours used to it- but right now only my female is (and she barely seems to notice she's on her back- she's either eating a treat we shoved in her face or looking for the next treat :D ) but my male is terrified of being on his back and will NOT sit still (we mostly do this for nail trims and scent gland inspections, so it's not often or anything). Thankfully he doesn't trance either or we might try something different.
 

Andrea123

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I have put mine on its back almost always. She seems to love it! She feels very relaxed and safe. She knows we love her and we give her little facial rubs from her cheeks down to the tips of her ears. I swear if she had her way she wouldn't leave . That being said, she has let us know when she has had enough as she will slowly move over to her side and front. I am trying to get her use to lying on my legs now so that I can help to groom her properly. She seems not to mind it.
 

Blue eyes

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She feels very relaxed and safe. .
That's what I used to think with my first rabbit. Then I took a read at the link (in my post above) along with the other links within that article.

It is true that the muscles totally relax and that what made me think my rabbit was so enjoying that. But then I saw what tonic immobility truly is and the stress that is actually happening.

I'd suggest you take a read of that article and then decide for yourself.
 

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