Rabbits are gentle and cuddly pets that can be great children companions. However, have you ever heard of a pet rabbit simply dropping dead, without warning?
Evidently, it is a common problem in the animal kingdom, and it is caused by Exertional Myopathy.
Other species are afflicted but rabbits are particularly susceptible to this condition, whereas they endure extreme stress and, quite literally, drop dead.
Worried about your rabbit scaring itself to death? Keep reading to learn more!
Can a Rabbit be Scared to Death?
Rabbits can drop dead from extreme fear of predators, a condition called Exertional Myopathy. These lagomorphs are not the only species afflicted by this condition, but it is very common for rabbits, who are common prey of many animals, including owls, foxes, snakes, and cats.
Exertional Myopathy in Rabbits
Rabbits become very frightened by predators, animals, and even sounds.
They can drop dead of fear and stress from these encounters. This is called Exertional Myopathy, and it’s more commonly happening than you can realize.
Rabbits can die immediately, seemingly from shock, or it can happen days later as a result of the toll that the encounter takes on them.
The physiological changes that occur when the rabbit is under extreme stress can cause increased blood pressure, increased respiration, spiking of blood sugar, dilation of eyes, and release of adrenaline.
This reaction causes the rabbit to go into a shock-like state, from which it may not recover. This condition also causes distress to the GI tract.
The best way to prevent this scary situation is to provide a safe, secure, and quiet habitat for pet rabbits.
Keep other animals or pets away from rabbits — leash dogs when walking in nature to prevent this from occurring in the wild.
Tips to Calm a Rabbit
When you encounter a stressed, shocked, or frightened rabbit, it is best not to intervene right away or you risk being bitten or scratched, especially when you’re trying to put them in their cage.
Plus, you do not want to subject yourself to rabies by messing around with rabbits in the wild that may be exposed to such diseases, although it is rarer for rabbits to contract rabies than other species in the same environment.
Once the rabbit is out of extreme duress, there are some things that you — or their favorite human — can do to calm a pet rabbit.
- Talk to your rabbit in a soothing and soft voice.
- Play soft, comforting music — but nothing too loud.
- Provide your pet with some sort of white noise to drown out any frightening sounds.
- Provide a dim, quiet place for the rabbit to rest that is cool and dry.
- Do not wake your rabbits when they are sleeping, if possible, as this can startle them.
- Do not poke or touch the rabbit when they are eating or drinking. Don’t try to hand-feed them.
- Not all rabbits enjoy being held or handled, so do not push it on them.
- Give them a tasty treat to calm and soothe your pet rabbit.
- A plush toy or stuffed animal can comfort a stressed rabbit or bunny. Make sure there are no features on the toy that could be a choking hazard to your pet.
- Provide your pet with a place to burrow and hide that is quiet and out of the way.
Rabbits are gentle and mellow animals that make good pets. Domesticated rabbits are often called bunnies, and the male is the buck and the female is called a doe.
After 28-35 days, the doe gives birth to baby rabbits called bunnies, but more scientifically they are called kits or kittens. There are more than 60 different kinds of rabbits in the Lagomorphs family — do not mistake a rabbit for a rodent.
Rabbits typically grow up to 20 inches long and live around 10 years in captivity. In nature, their lifespan is greatly decreased due to the predatory animals that prey on rabbits.
Because they are so preyed-upon, rabbits can be agitated and under stress in the wild — but inherently are vulnerable to fear and duress.
Rabbits are herbivores and are quite attentive to their grooming, which you can observe with rabbits kept as pets.
Frequently Asked Questions about a Rabbit being Scared to Death
Are rabbits scared of other animals?
Rabbits are fearful of other animals. When a rabbit encounters another animal- like a dog or cat- it may freeze, sitting still for quite a while. The rabbit appears to be in shock, which is a defense mechanism that rabbits employ when they sense or perceive a threat.
Are rabbits scared of loud noises?
Rabbits are very frightened and startled by loud noises or sounds. In fact, they can become so scared that they drop dead of a heart attack at a loud sound. Some rabbits may go into a state of shock from the fright- dying at a later point in time from the incident.
Which animals prey on rabbits?
Rabbits have a lot to be fearful of as they are preyed upon by a number of predators. The most common animals that prey on rabbits include owls, foxes, snakes, raccoons, badgers, cats of all kinds, and birds of prey, like hawks or falcons.
Rabbits in the wild and in captivity are susceptible to this condition where they literally drop dead from stress.
Keep pet rabbits secure and safe from fear of predators in hutches or pens that are in enclosed areas.
Talk to your trusted vet about how to prevent Exertional Myopathy — and more rabbit husbandry tips.