Do Rabbits Play Dead? (When Attacked Or Scared)

Do Rabbits Play Dead?

Rabbits are very curious creatures and are capable of displaying various personalities which makes them great pets. However, the behaviors they show are very distinct from dogs or cats and one of these behaviors includes playing dead. Rabbits playing dead is when they flop on their back or side and remain motionless for a while.

Rabbits have been known to play dead as a defense mechanism to avoid danger, especially in the wild. This behavior may be frightening to owners, but it is normal in rabbits.

Besides being a rabbit’s normal behavior, they also play dead for many other reasons. In this article, we will discuss everything regarding rabbits playing dead.

Do Rabbits Play Dead?

Yes, rabbits do play dead. They play dead when they are scared or threatened.  It can also be an expression of happiness and contentment toward you, which means that your rabbit feels safe enough to let its guard down and expose its belly when it’s around you.

Meanwhile, playing dead is tactic rabbits use in making themselves less appealing and visible to predators in the wild.

This technique is efficient in environments where they can remain well-camouflaged until the danger has passed. However, playing dead isn’t a rabbit’s first defense mechanism against predators, they will prefer to run or fight back.

These little creatures can move at an speed in the presence of danger and they are also well aware of this ability, which makes them more confident in running than playing dead when preyed upon.

Domestic rabbits may play dead as a mischievous behavior as they don’t have any potential danger. They also play dead if they feel neglected by their owners. Although it is not common, It is one of their ways of asking for your attention.

They will often display this mischievous behavior when they feel bored, lonely, or stressed. Aside from playing dead, they will do other mischievous things that will get your attention and this may include biting, scratching, and thumping.

Learn about rabbits’ speed: “How fast can a rabbit run”

Why Do Rabbits Play Dead?

1. Fear

Playing dead isn’t something rabbits frequently do. So playing dead may sometimes be a sign of fright or terror. Rabbits are very skittish and the sight of predators and any unusual sound and objects can scare them.

There are a lot of things that can terrorize your rabbit, but to name a few they may include:

  • Predators – birds of prey, snakes, coyotes, and dogs.
  • loud noises – traffic noise, loud music, loud bangs, and yelling.
  • unusual sounds – loud appliances, or loud fireworks.

You should know that bunnies can also die from fear, so it is advisable to always keep your environment safe and favorable for your rabbit.

If you notice your rabbit playing dead due to fear, do not hesitate to figure out the cause and how to prevent it in case of a similar event.

2. Attention

Rabbits are social and curious creatures and they also love getting attention from their loved ones. They are very much capable of playing dead just to get your attention. It is just one of their mischievous tricks.

Rabbits will play dead for a while and when they see you have noticed them, they will be up and running as if they didn’t just almost give you a heart attack. However, it isn’t a common way for rabbits to seek attention. They would rather dig, chew on things, rattle their cage, or stomp.

3. For fun

Bounding with a rabbit requires a lot of patience and energy but once it has been developed, you will experience your rabbit’s love immensely.

Rabbits are aware that playing dead puts them in a vulnerable situation. So when they do it around you it means they are comfortable around you.

It may just be a way to fool or tease you. However, this is a general behavior, it depends particularly on the rabbit’s personality.

4. Exhaustion

Rabbits love exercising and playing around. However, they tend to burn energy fast. However, an exhausted rabbit isn’t playing dead, it is typically just too tired from burning so much energy.

An exhausted rabbit will flop on its side and remain still. This often makes them appear dead or asleep. If you notice your rabbit dropping to the ground after a heavy exercise, it is because it has become tired from maxing out its energy.

5. Deep sleep

Rabbits are often mistaken to sleep with their eyes open, but this isn’t true. When a rabbit sleeps with its eyes opened, it is only taking a short nap while observing its environment.

These little creatures are often wary of their surroundings because they are prey animals. However, a rabbit that is deep in sleep can easily be mistaken for a dead rabbit.

This is because when rabbits are in deep sleep, they become still, and their breathing becomes slow. You can learn more about rabbit sleeping habits here.

6. Defense

For rabbits, playing dead isn’t always their first choice of escape or defense. Rabbits are small creatures, but they are smart and also built for speed and agility.

In the wild, a rabbit’s instinct would tell it to run rather than play dead. This is because some predators would still feed on them whether they are dead or alive.

These predators are called scavengers and they may include foxes, coyotes, and vultures. So instead of playing dead, they would rather run, climb or dig a hole to escape any potential danger.

7. Overhandling

Your rabbit will play dead in your arms if you carry them too much. Overhandling a rabbit can cause stress and also frustrate it to the point of playing dead.

Rabbits don’t like to be picked up as the idea of not having their legs on the ground makes them feel threatened and defenseless. Some rabbits will scratch, bite and even play dead when they have been picked up.

They often do this to tell you that they don’t like it or they don’t feel safe being lifted off the ground. If this happens you may want to not pick your rabbit until it is comfortable with you.

Is Trancing A Rabbit Dangerous?

Trancing, also known as tonic immobility or hypnotizing, is a practice where rabbits are put into a state of immobility by gently restraining them on their backs. While some people may perceive it as a way to relax or handle rabbits, it is generally not recommended. Trancing can cause stress, fear, and discomfort for rabbits.

Rabbits are prey animals, and being restrained in such a vulnerable position can trigger a stress response. It can induce a state of fear or panic, and rabbits may even go into shock or become unresponsive. Trancing can also lead to physical harm, as rabbits have delicate spines, and being placed on their backs can potentially cause injury.

It is important to handle rabbits with care, respect their instincts, and provide them with a safe and stress-free environment. If you need to handle or interact with a rabbit, it’s best to do so in a way that minimizes stress and promotes their well-being. This can include using gentle and supportive methods, allowing rabbits to feel secure, and providing positive reinforcement through treats and praise.

How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Playing Dead?

Do Rabbits Play Dead?

Most times, rabbits being in deep sleep can be mistaken for them being dead or playing dead. Seeing a rabbit act dead can sometimes be confusing.

It can also be mistaken for them being dead. However, there are huge differences when a rabbit is dead, playing dead, or sleeping.

If you want to confirm whether your rabbit is playing dead or is dead, you can look out for any physical signs of life, such as body movement, breathing rate, and heartbeat rate.

Signs your rabbit may be playing dead

  •  lying motionless on the ground
  • Lack of response to any form of impulses.
  •  Slow and shallow breathing
  • The rabbit’s body appears relaxed and limp, with no signs of tension or muscle movement.

If you notice these signs, you can touch your rabbit to stop the playing. However, you should avoid touching your rabbit around its mouth. This will help to prevent any potential bite.

Do Rabbits Play Dead When Attacked?

Playing dead is a rabbit’s natural instinctual behavior used when attacked by predators, but it is only often used as a last resort. They would rather run or use their speed, strong hind legs, and sharp claws to fight these predators.

This is because they have a higher chance of survival when they run compared to playing dead. Playing dead helps to fool predators into thinking that they are dead which makes them lose interest.

However, it isn’t always a practical choice because most rabbit predators are either scavengers or are smart enough to know that the rabbit isn’t dead.

Animals like foxes, coyotes, and jackals are good examples of why these little creatures would prefer to run. Also, playing dead when attacked by predators is mostly seen in older rabbits because they are slower and less agile.

Rabbit Playing Dead

This video shows how rabbits play dead:


Do Bunnies Play Dead

While it is not common for bunnies to play dead, there have been reports of rabbits exhibiting this behavior in certain circumstances.

It is important to note that playing dead is not a natural or instinctive behavior for rabbits. If a rabbit appears to be playing dead, it could be a response to extreme stress or fear. In such cases, the rabbit may freeze and remain motionless, resembling a state of playing dead.

How Long Does A Bunny Play Dead?

Rabbits can play dead for seconds and sometimes even longer minutes. This depends on their surroundings and why they went into this position.

If your rabbit plays dead for long periods, you should figure out the reason why it is doing this and remove anything that feels threatening to your bunny. This will make the environment more friendly and favorable for your rabbit.

Do Wild Rabbits Play Dead?

No, wild rabbits do not play dead as a defense mechanism. When rabbits feel threatened, their primary instinct is to flee or hide rather than engage in behaviors such as playing dead.

Wild rabbits are generally cautious and skittish animals that rely on their speed and agility to escape from potential predators. They have evolved to be adept at evading danger rather than using tactics like playing dead.

Do Baby Bunnies Play Dead?

Baby rabbits do play dead as it is their instinct regardless of their age. Meanwhile, some rabbits learn this behavior from their parents as a means of defense when attacked by predators.

Also, when compared to older rabbits, baby rabbits get frightened easily. So they are most likely to play dead when frightened.

However, baby rabbits don’t always pretend to be dead. Instead, They may go into this position because they are having issues. So, It is advisable to pay close attention to your baby rabbit when you feel they are playing dead.


Playing dead isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it mostly indicates that your rabbit is feeling uncomfortable.

It is their instinct and they will go into this position if they feel threatened. Because rabbits cannot communicate verbally, it can be difficult to understand your rabbit.

They are also very good at hiding any internal disturbance, so it is important to develop a strong bond with your rabbit which will make understanding easier.

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