How to Transport a Rabbit

Three Parts:Choosing and Preparing a Proper CarrierTraveling with Your RabbitSettling In at the New Location

In general, rabbits don’t like to travel far out of range of their home. So before discussing how to transport them, please consider the reasons for traveling with them. Most rabbits are fine with one- or two-day trips, but longer periods away from home are stressful for them. Taking your rabbit to the vet or bringing him to a rabbit show are fine. Or if you are moving to a new home, obviously he’ll need to travel with you. But bringing him on vacation or travelling around town with him the way you would with a dog are both examples of activities considered to be inappropriate for a rabbit.[1] If you need to travel with your rabbit for a specific reason, there are some things to consider for a safe and (mostly) stress-free transport.

Part 1
Choosing and Preparing a Proper Carrier

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    Obtain a carrier specifically for rabbits. Rabbit travel cages should be rigid, non-collapsible, well-ventilated, and secure to ensure that the rabbit cannot chew through or escape them. Your cage should also have a top opening option to allow nervous rabbits to be removed easily.
    • Cardboard boxes are not appropriate because they can be chewed through and become unsafe if the rabbit urinates or if it rains.
    • Travel cages for rabbits are available at pet stores and online.[2]
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    Choose the right size carrier. The carrier should be smaller than the bunny’s normal cage but large enough for all the rabbits being transported to enter easily, lie comfortably in any direction, and turn around unimpeded. More than one rabbit can be transported in one cage, but you will want to be sure the cage is big enough for all of them to be comfortable.
    • The cage should also be small enough to provide feelings of security and to prevent the rabbit from getting slammed into the wall during movement. You’ll also want to have a partially covered section in it to recreate the safety of a small burrow. If the cage comes partially covered, be sure there is adequate ventilation.[3]
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    Line the floor of the carrier with a grippy, odor absorbing material. You want to make sure your rabbit doesn’t slide around, especially if the bottom of the carrier is not wire. Even if it is wire, that can be uncomfortable for the rabbit to lie on for more than a couple of hours.
    • Puppy training pads work pretty well for lining the bottom of a bunny travel cage. These are available at pet stores.
    • You can also line the bottom with newsprint or a towel and then add pine shavings or a litter for odor absorption. Many people going this route use a rabbit litter, or for less expensive options, bird litter or pine cat litter.[4]
      • Or you can have a towel at the bottom, with a puppy training pad on top, and a small towel or blanket to snuggle up in and to prevent the rabbit from sliding.
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    Add hay and a secured water bottle. Most rabbits won’t eat much during travel due to increased stress, but hay is a nice snack to include just in case. Don’t put a regular food dish in the carrier, because it could injure the bunny during movement. Most travel size water bottles for rabbits (available at pet stores) are 4-6 ounces, and can be easily attached to the side of the cage with spring clips.
    • Allow your bunny time to get used to drinking water from the travel water bottle before travel, and be sure to use water from home as much as possible during the trip. Rabbits can be fussy about changing water sources, and you want to avoid having him get dehydrated especially if the travel time will be longer than a few hours.[5]
    • If your rabbit refuses to drink water from the bottle while traveling, if someone is in the back seat with the rabbit, have them safely take the rabbit out and put some of the water on their hand and have the rabbit lap it.
    • Some rabbits wont eat hay on the drive either. If this is the case, provide a piece of celery or carrot.
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    Allow your bunny to explore the carrier before traveling. Don’t push the bunny into the carrier because this will cause him to associate stress and fear with the carrier. Leave the door of the carrier open and entice him to go in there with snacks. Let him just be in there for a while with the door open, so he can come and go as he pleases. It’s best to start doing this a day or two before the actual travel date, so he gets used to the carrier and isn’t afraid of it.[6]

Part 2
Traveling with Your Rabbit

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    Strap the carrier into the car with a seat belt or place it securely on the floor behind a seat. You want to avoid the cage moving around. Place the side of the cage toward the front of the car, so that the bunny won’t hit his face if the car needs to brake suddenly.
    • Never place a bunny carrier in the closed-in trunk of a car. It’s too dark and scary, and he could run out of air!
    • Bunnies can ride in a covered truck bed or trailer if they are well ventilated. However, avoid this if it’s hot outside because rabbits are sensitive to heat. The rabbit carrier will need to be strapped in tightly. [7]
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    Keep the car cool at all times. Run the AC if it’s hot or even warm outside. Rabbits are more sensitive to heat than we are. Park in shaded areas when you stop and leave the windows down if it’s cool enough outside; or if it’s hot, leave the car on and the air conditioning running. You can bring two keys with you to be able to lock the doors while you’re out of the car.
    • If possible, travel during cooler parts of the day, like early in the morning or after the sun has gone down in the evening.
    • It’s not likely it will ever be too cold for a bunny in the car, unless the temperatures are below freezing outside. If it’s safe enough for you to travel, it’s safe for the bunny to stay in an unheated car.[8]
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    Bring the bunny inside with you overnight if it’s warm outside. If you’re staying in a hotel, check ahead of time to be sure that they allow rabbits in the room. If the hotel doesn’t allow it, then be sure you wait to stop until after the sun has gone down and the temperatures have dropped.
    • Lock the car doors and leave the windows down enough to provide ventilation overnight. Park in the shade so that the early morning sun doesn’t stress or overheat your bunny.[9]
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    Check on your rabbit during travel. Be sure that there is a continuous supply of water in the water bottle. When you stop, offer treats like apples or carrots. You can leave these in the carrier during travel; he may not eat them, but it’s nice to have them in there. Just remove them if they start to go bad.
    • Offer a vitamin supplement such as Vita-Stress to help with the strain of transporting your bunny.[10]
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    Look for signs of overheating. If your bunny overheats, you’ll need to immediately get him to a cooler place and be sure he’s out of the sun. Dampen his ears with cool (not cold) water to help get his temperature back down to normal. Another trick to preventing overheating in a rabbit, if he cannot be kept in air conditioning, is to keep secured soda bottles full of frozen water in the cage. Signs of overheating in a rabbit are:
    • Fast, shallow breathing
    • Hot ears
    • Listlessness
    • Wetness around the nose area
    • Tossing head back while breathing rapidly from an open mouth[11]
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    Learn airline regulations ahead of time if you are traveling by air with your rabbit. It’s possible to travel by air with a rabbit. If you absolutely need to take your rabbit on a plane, because you are moving, find out ahead of time what his experience will be like during the trip.
    • Find an airline that allows pets. A few popular ones are Delta, Continental, Frontier, United, and WestJet. Each airline has different prices and regulations regarding pets, however, so do your research.[12]
    • Get an airline approved carrier. You’ll have to conform to the guidelines of the airline regarding the type of carrier you can transport your rabbit in. Again, this will depend on the airline.
    • Check the dates. Many airlines only allow pet travel during certain months of the year, when the weather makes it safe enough for the animals to travel.
    • Use a cart for walking around the airport with the carrier. Rabbit carriers can get pretty heavy with a rabbit inside, so at the airport be sure to use a wheeled cart and secure the cage onto it to wheel it around.[13]

Part 3
Settling In at the New Location

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    Give your rabbit time. It will take your rabbit time to become accustomed to a new location, whether it’s temporary or permanent. He may not be extremely friendly or seem like himself during the adjustment period because of the stress of travel. In time, he will start investigating his surroundings out of curiosity – just be sure to let this happen on its own and don’t force him.[14]
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    Recreate his normal environment as much as possible. As soon as possible after the transport, put him back in his normal cage or set up his room like it was at home. Offer the same type of food he was eating before, and give him back some familiar toys. Spend time with him talking and petting him just like you did at home. [15]
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    Watch for signs of illness. Because travel is stressful to rabbits, you’ll want to keep an eye on his health after the transport. Because rabbits are prey animals, they tend to try to hide their illnesses and injuries. If your rabbit seems sick, you’ll need to bring him to a vet as soon as possible. Signs of illness include:
    • Teeth grinding (especially paired with hunched posture – is a sign of pain)
    • Tilted head
    • Open-mouth breathing
    • Blood in urine or anywhere in his cage/home
    • Limping or paralysis
    • Enlarged abdomen that seems painful to the touch
    • Vocalizing (crying)
    • Decrease in eating or drinking that lasts more than a couple of days after travel
    • Drooling, slobbering, loss of chin hairs (all indicate a dental problem in a rabbit)
    • Discharge from nose, sneezing or coughing, difficulty breathing (indicate a respiratory infection)
    • Change in stool (diarrhea or decreased stools)
    • Hair loss, itchiness, flaking skin, or lumps on the skin
    • Biting, growling, or attacking (indicates substantial pain in a usually gentle animal)

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