A true classic of magic is the production of a rabbit from a top hat.
More often today we see some other apparatus such as a brightly painted box from whence the rabbit will appear or even vanish. Using live animals in a show can really WOW the crowd but we must remember the little critters are far more than a magic prop.
When my family is asked if we have pets; my kids and I have the answer that takes many people by surprise, “yes we have a small zoo”. After the pause we give the run down which currently includes; a dog, a cat, a chinchilla, two rabbits and doves. The common response to this usually is, yes that is a zoo….. and doves? Explaining that we have a magic act gives reason for rabbits and doves. Now I’ve already shared with you about the birds in a previous article, but the discussion of using live animals in an act is always note worthy. Plus bunnies are a perfect topic just before Easter.
Our friend Speedy:
I can’t stress enough that animals, including those used for a performance purpose are living creatures that need attention. One of our rabbits, Speedy, was a rescue from a family that bought him as an Easter gift for the kids but quickly realized bunnies are not always easy to keep. They brought him to the my local pet shop (not even where he was purchased) and asked the owner if they would just take him in. So very sad. I received a call from the owner who knows me well and asked if I had an interest in a bunny who needed some love. Well I just couldn’t resist this adorable little guy with bug eyes, so we gave him a home. Speedy was a little skittish at first, but with some TLC we earned his trust and he has become a wonderful addition to our home.
On the stage:
Not all animals are comfortable being used in a magic trick or other public exposure, so forcing the issues will not be a pleasant outcome. Even when you have an animal that is fine with being a performer, always reassure them that they are loved and safe so that each time they are placed into their performance apparatus no stress will come to your little friend. Also make sure the animal has a secure portable cage with at least water so that their stay off stage and in travel is safe and comfortable. Our animals get petted and played with because they are also our pets and not just a performance item. Before a show we put in time working with the props so it is not a surprise to them at the live performance.
Meet and greet:
One of my favorite parts of using live animals is to allow the guests to see them up close and personal, however this is not always practical. A quick survey of the audience and surroundings will let you know if this is a calm environment which would allow guests to meet your animals after the show. Our bunny Uno would probably sit on a guests lap for the entire visit as she is quite cuddly, whereas Speedy is a bit more adventurous and would rather go exploring. Even animals can have a bad day, so make sure you are considerate of your little friends before exposing them to a bunch of eager kids. When booking a show with live animals, make sure you go over details such as having a safe area for the critters away from guests so that they do not become overwhelmed. Animals are not props and never should be treated as such, they have feelings and will most assuredly let you know when they are upset.
Caring for critters:
As mentioned earlier, rabbits are not maintenance free. They need nails trimmed, fur brushed and even the occasional bath to keep them clean, healthy and happy. Although in the photo you can see Uno is not thrilled from just having a bath but she doesn’t get stressed out either. She is more furry than Speedy and she requires a bath now and then to keep her looking her best. Keeping up a good diet and allowing some outdoor time when weather permits also is part of our rabbits care.
Having live animals in an act is really impressive to the audience, but please make sure that you are prepared to put in the work it takes to keep them healthy and happy.