A visit to the vet or travelling on a longer journey may be stressful for your rabbit. Make sure that you are properly prepared to avoid your rabbit being frightened.
What is needed to prepare for a journey?
An indoor cage can be used as a travel pen but your rabbit may prefer to be in a more confined space when travelling which will make it feel more secure. Your rabbit could start chewing on the traditional wicker basket carriers so a plastic carrier may be a better choice. But make sure that it easy to clean, strong and allows light and good air circulation. The carriers come in a wide range of sizes. Choose a design with a top opening. It can be tricky to persuade a reluctant rabbit to leave a carrier with with only a small front opening. Rabbits may find an all-wire carrier too exposed so drape a towel over the top or place a cardboard board box inside.
Encourage your rabbit to investigate the carrier before travelling. Put in some hay, cat litter and a bowl of food or a carrot. Rabbits are curious and will love exploring the new carrier but do not force it into the carrier. Leave the carrier around for a few days so that your rabbit will become accustomed to it.
Rabbits should have access to water at all times. A bowl with a large lip which prevents spillages and clips to the bars of the carrier, may be less messy than the usual drinking bottle. However, rabbits rarely drink or eat when travelling so if spillages become a problem, just remember to offer drinks when you stop.
Where should my rabbit travel?
Entice your rabbit into the carrier with some tasty treat (if necessary) and shut the door, checking that it is firmly shut before travelling. Place in the car in a position where it is unlikely to be jolted in the event of a sudden stop – either place behind a seat or strap in using the seatbelt. If travelling by bus, sit the carrier on your knee.
Never leave your rabbit in the car for long periods – a car on a hot day quickly becomes an oven and the rabbit could easily become overheated. If you are travelling on a hot day, try to keep the carrier out of the sun (it is best to avoid travelling in daytime). A towel can be draped over the carrier and on very hot days, you can dampen the towel with cold water. Freezer-bag blocks or a plastic bottle filled with ice wrapped in a towel placed in the cage is a good idea to keep your bunny cool.
If making a long journey, make frequent stops. Refill the water bowl and let your rabbit eat and drink. However, if your rabbit is frightened, it may not be interested. When you reach your destination, open the carrier and let your bunny come out in its own time. Let the rabbit adjust to its new surroundings, put out fresh food, and perhaps a few treats. It should soon settle down and may even come to enjoy the carrier and travelling.
Contact the airline well in advance to find out their rules on transporting rabbits. Check if the rabbit can fly in the cabin with you – you will be asked to put the carrier under the seat in front of you. However, this may only be permitted on some US domestic flights and it is more likely that you will have to put your rabbit in the hold. If you are travelling abroad, check with your veterinarian well before travelling to find out what vaccinations and health certificates are needed. Rabbits are particularly prone to stress which can have dramatic effects on their health. Think carefully if it is worth taking you rabbit on a flight – the effects of air pressure changes, exhaust fumes and temperature changes in a cargo hold can make any flight risky even for a healthy rabbit.
Pet Travel Scheme
Pet rabbits from outside the UK and Ireland can now enter the UK from EU countries without undergoing 6 months’ quarantine. For more information on this visit https://www.gov.uk/bringing-food-animals-plants-into-uk/pets-and-other-animals, contact the Pet Travel Scheme helpline on 0370 241 1710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.