Veterinary and welfare charities have raised concerns over recent news coverage of “rabbit whisperer” Cliff Penrose, claiming his techniques could fail to adequately address behavioural problems and encourage owners to mishandle their rabbits, causing more stress.

Veterinary and welfare charities have raised concerns over recent news coverage of “rabbit whisperer” Cliff Penrose, claiming his techniques could fail to adequately address behavioural problems and encourage owners to mishandle their rabbits, causing more stress.
 
Rabbit whispering could fail to adequately address behavioural problems and encourage owners to mishandle their rabbits, causing more stressMr Penrose appeared in a number of national newspapers last week alongside images of a rabbit in a seemingly trance-like state, which he had “hypnotised” using a special technique that involved massaging parts of its body. He claims the technique can cure them of behavioural problems.
 
However, veterinary and welfare groups (including PDSA and the Rabbit Welfare Association) claim that this “dead faint” state is a natural response employed by a prey animal in order to survive an attack by a predator. In fact, it has been claimed that, while the animal may appear relaxed, its heart rate will be significantly raised and it will be wide awake and scared.
 
Leading animal behaviourist Anne McBride said: “Rabbits use this ‘dead faint’ state to give the appearance of being dead, catching their predator off guard and maximising chances of an escape. As movement increases the chance of a predator attack, immobility reduces the danger.”
 
Sean Wensley, senior veterinary surgeon at PDSA, said: “Despite being the UK’s third most popular pet, rabbits are largely misunderstood and this adds to the misconceptions. Rabbits need to be handled correctly – if they are aggressive, the underlying cause for this aggression needs to be determined and addressed using appropriate methods. We know that hundreds of thousands of pet rabbits live unhappy lives, and misconceptions abound; we should re-evaluate the ways in which we have traditionally looked after them.”
 
Some vets, however, disagree with the concerns and frequently use Mr Penrose’s services to make rabbit examinations easier.
 
Vet Fiona Rawlings, from Rock View Veterinary Surgery in Cornwall, told The Sun newspaper: “The theory that they go into this trance-like state as a defence against predators is totally inaccurate.”

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