Before I start sharing with you my personal but also other people’s experience regarding travel with a rabbit, I have to say – do it only if it is necessary.
Any type of traveling is very stressful for your bunny. No matter you are going to the vet or vacation or moving to another home which is miles away from the old one.
In case you are forced to take them for a trip then you have to take all the steps to properly prepare for travel,
To understand more about why rabbits should not travel ? or if they really have to go with you then how to prepare for the trip ? just keep reading.
Does Your Rabbit Really Need To Travel?
So, first of all, please ask yourself if the trip is absolutely necessary for your rabbit or he/she can stay at your home. If you are positive about the necessity to travel together with your rabbit please keep reading this article as I am going to share much useful information that could save you time and nerves.
On the other hand, if you are not so sure and you eventually decide to leave your rabbit at home while you are away, ask some of your friends or neighbors to look after your furry friend.
If you cannot find a suitable person among them, try to find professional help and hire a pet sitter to replace you for a couple of days. You can contact your vet or local House Rabbit Society. I am sure they can help you find a professional pet sitter that could take care of your pet.
Be just aware of the fact that if you are going for a long trip ( one-two months or even more) you should take your pet with you but if you are going for a few days and it’s not necessary then it is better to leave him/her at your home.
If you are going to the vet or to meet some other friends or moving to a new home with bunnies than ok, that trip proves to be reasonable. But if you are going for a vacation bear in mind that your rabbit doesn’t share the same positive feelings about going from home for a week or so.
Bunnies like their comfort zone in your home. Although you are making an extra effort by bringing all the things they might need, traveling boosts their anxiety.
Of course, there are rabbits that are very curious but yet very calm animals and like to travel. Just remember that those rabbits are the minority.
Rabbit’s Travel Basics – How To Pick Up The Right Travel Carrier?
The most important item you need when traveling with a rabbit is travel carrier or kennel.
Although you may assume this is rather simple, you just go into a pet shop, ask a kind salesman to help you find a travel carrier for your bunny. He offers you a few models, you immediately like one of them, go to the cashier, pay the stuff and that’s it. Well, it’s not that simple.
There are several thing you should think about
First of all, note that most of the travel carries that are meant to be for rabbits or small animals are too small for regular size rabbits.
Think about your rabbit’s size but also think about the number of rabbits you intend to put in the same travel carrier. If you have two or three rabbits and they are very bonded, they should travel in the same carrier. The carrier for one rabbit cannot be the same as for 2-3 rabbits.
Another thing about size – if you travel by plane, check with the airline company about the dimensions that are allowed for the rabbit’s carrier. Don’t let them kick you off the flight because you have an over-sized carrier.
Type (Material) of the Carrier
The next thing is the material that the carrier is made of. Based on my experience, this depends on which type of transportation you plan to use.
If you travel by plane I would go with soft-sided pet carrier as it is more adjustable so you will not experience any trouble placing it under the seat in front of you (of course always bear in mind allowed dimensions for pet carriers for that specific airline company)
If you travel by car then hard plastic option if far better as cloth carries are not supportive enough and will not keep your bunny safe in case of some accident or even a sharp turn. Plastic cup two doors carriers with top load ability should be a perfect choice. You can use the door on the top to pet your bunny, give him/her some veggies…
Some people decide to put rabbits in a big cardboard box. It might be the cheapest solution, especially if you already have some box at your home, but basically it is a very bad idea.
First of all, rabbits like to chew on cardboard boxes so your rabbit’s travel carrier could ”vanish” during the trip. Second of all, the pees will leak through it, leaving your bunny in the wet travel carrier, not a pleasant experience, ha?
Another bad idea is a wire cage. The worst thing in wire cages that may come with wire flooring which is terrible for rabbit’s sensitive feet. Even if it comes with a plastic bottom, it’s not a good idea as in many cases these cages are too big for safe travel.
How To Set Up A Travel Carrier If You Travel By Car?
The safest place for travel carrier is back seat although you can put a carrier on the passenger seat as well to be near you, especially if you travel alone.
However, never let your bunny roam free in the car as it is not safe for neither of you, so this option is out of the question.
Don’t buy a travel carrier for rabbits or small animals. Usually, it has very little space. You need a bigger carrier. I am sure that your bunny will spend most of the trip lying down but he needs to have enough room to stand up, to stretch, to turn around.
On the other hand, don’t take too big a carrier as this is not safe for your bunny. Imagine what could happen if you need to make a sudden stop or turn. He could be sliding around, hit the sides and end up hurt. Although rabbits have strong muscles, their bones are rather fragile. Bear in mind that it would be just enough for the rabbit to have 2 inches around him at any side.
How to properly set up the travel carrier?
At the bottom of it, put some thin, absorbent material such as a puppy pad. If you don’t prefer a puppy pad you can put some towels instead, but in that case, expect to see some wet areas. That is why I prefer a puppy pad.
The bad thing about this pad is that made of plastic so it wouldn’t be good for the rabbit to chew it. To avoid that just cover a puppy pad with a towel or fleece. As hay is very important, put it in the carrier. You can also add some chewing toy or some other toy, your bunny is especially attached to.
In case you have a larger carrier as you usually travel with 2-3 bunnies but this time you take only one ( no matter the reason ) It will be advisable to add a useful item – snug a bun (bunny bed). This thing could act like a bumper on each side of the carrier which will prevent your bunny from hurting himself in case of a sudden stop or sharp turn.
Some carriers come with a small litter box inside. That is a good option. You can just put litter and hay as you usually do when it comes to the litter boxes. If you take a carrier that doesn’t have a litter box inside, you can buy a portable litter box. Put some litter and hay in one larger plastic bag and when you stop, take out the litter box, put the bag with litter and hay in the box and let your bunny relax and do what he needs to do.
Other Tips for Car Travel With Rabbits
Bear in mind that most probably your bunny will not eat nor drink water until you are driving. That is why it is important to take breaks every two hours. The break should last at least 15 minutes. During break offer your bunny water ( you can bring a small plastic dish for this purpose), food ( pellets or fresh veggies even better) and to use a litter box ( of course if your bunny is potty trained).
Some bunnies may accept to go to the toilet on the grass but most of them find much more comfortable doing those toilet things in their litter box. The litter box is not only the place where the rabbits produce droppings but also the place where they find comfort.
Your bunny will relax a little bit on the non-moving ground so it is possible that he will accept water. For food, I am not so sure, my bunny rarely eats anything during the trip but you should always offer the food as well. Fresh veggies are a better idea than pellets as your pet will consume both nutrients and water at the same time.
As you know rabbits are scared of loud noise that is why you should turn off the radio in the car. Another option is to put some nice, calm, rather quite music. Classical music could be a good choice.
Roll-up windows to prevent outside noise which can cause discomfort to your rabbit.
Make sure the temperature in the car is just right. It shouldn’t be too cold nor too hot. In both cases use either AC to cool the air in the car or heating to warm it.
Bear in mind that rabbits cannot stand higher temperatures. If you don’t have AC in your car, provide wet towels which you will use to cover the cage.
Also if you are making a break for lunch or whatever, don’t leave your rabbit in the parked car. Rabbits can easily get heatstroke if left in the car during a sunny and warm day.
Rabbits don’t like draft either so don’t put the cage in front of AC to avoid blowing directly to your bunny.
If you want to attend your rabbit, pet him/her, give him/her some treat do pull over and park first.
Any type of travel raises anxiety in rabbits, that is why it is important to pet them, to talk to them, to comfort them.
For example, it is also a good idea to cover the top of the carrier with some blanket or fleece to reduce their stress. Any strange noise, shadow anything they see or hear can freak them out. Covering the top of the carrier you reduce the number of things they can see or hear.
If your rabbit has never traveled before ( except to the vet) and now you are planning a longer trip, start preparing your pet asap. Take him to a short ride ( cca 30 min ) then next time increase the travel time to 45 min or 1 h. Of course, your rabbit should be securely placed in his travel cage or kennel. Give him an opportunity to become familiar with the travel carrier before the actual trip.
Some rabbits are too nervous and stressed before the trip so their owners usually give them somethings to calm them a bit. For example, you can use Rescue Remedy for this purpose but be careful, there is a pet version, don’t give your Rescue Remedy for humans because it contains alcohol.
I also find that some owners are for Zen Tranquility blend. This might be solution not only before going to the trip but also before any situation that might be stressful for your pet ( nail clipping, giving meds).
It is important to consult the vet regarding this and not to sedate your rabbit. You can just use those natural tranquilizers to reduce stress.
How To Travel With Your Bunny by an Airplane?
Flying with bunny requires more preparations then car travel.
The final destination of your travel – when you start planning your trip, do think about the final destination. Does the country you go to, requires quarantine for pets or some vaccines are obligatory for rabbits in particular? For example, the US doesn’t require vaccination for rabbits but some other countries might.
Passports are usually not needed for rabbits in the USA nor in Europe, but if you go to some other continent check the local regulations there. They might be asking for your rabbit’s passport.
Do research on local rabbits rescues and reliable vets specialized for exotic animals on your final destination. It will be much easier if you have those contacts as a backup plan, just in case.
Check which airlines will allow you to bring your rabbit with you in the cabin. Don’t let them convince you to leave your rabbit in the cargo part as this is not the safest place for your bunny. He will be packed there together with other animals, possible dogs that are barking. Also, the noise would be terrible for your sensible friend. You cannot be sure if the temperature will be fine, so your rabbit could run a risk of getting heatstroke. Not a good idea at all.
When you find a suitable airline company, check their pets policy. They usually charge some fee ( 90-125$) and you will be obliged to place your rabbit’s carrier under the seat in front of you.
Under special circumstances, on fairly empty flights and if you run into some rabbit loving flight attendant, you might be allowed to take your rabbit out of the carrier and pet him in your lap. But don’t count on this, take this situation more like an exception.
If your rabbit is ESA ( Emotional Support Animal ) then you will be allowed to hold your rabbit in your lap, most probably you will not pay any fee. But note that air companies could ask you to fill some forms or some report from your mental health professional that claims why you need ESA.
However, bear in mind, ESA or not, some rabbits might be too scared to come out of the travel carrier.
When you find the airline company that will allow you to travel with a pet in the cabin, ask what are the allowed dimensions of the carrier. For this reason, I suggested you have a cloth travel carrier for flying with a rabbit. Cloth carriers are more adjustable but still, it is important to follow the rules regarding dimensions to avoid being kicked out of the flight as you have a carrier that is too large.
If you carry more then one rabbit, note that airline companies usually allow carrying two rabbits in the same travel carrier.
Travel by plane means that you will be exposed to many strange noises and movements. They might not be strange to you but they are definitely very strange and rather scary to your bunny. To prepare your rabbit, before traveling by plane, take him for a car ride to get used to the movement and different sounds.
Let your bunny sniff and explore the travel carrier you plan to put him in. He will accept the trip with less anxiety if he is familiar with the travel carrier in which he feels comfortable.
No matter air company regulations require or not, you should visit your rabbit’s vet before the trip. It is advisable to check if your bunny’s heart and lungs are doing OK, that there are no respiratory issues or any other health problem.
Before the trip, you make sure your bunny uses a litter box, eats and drinks as might be too scared to do that during the flight. Check if it is ok to bring some fresh veggies with you to offer your bunny. You should also bring water and hay as well as medications if needed.
I have heard some rabbit’s owner experience that might be interesting to share here. A lady wanted to give some veggies (salad) from her meal to her rabbit but a very nice flight attendant stopped her. Why? She explained that some preservatives are used in those veggies which aren’t harmful to humans but could be for bunnies. So it is better not to share your meal with a bunny during the flight.
Be aware of the fact that you will have to take up the rabbit from the carrier in order to pass through security. Also, note that many people and a lot of noise at the airport could increase the level of stress in your rabbit. Think about natural tranquilizers to calm him/her a bit.
If you have chance, choose the aisle seat far from the engine ( to minimize the noise if possible)
It might happen that your rabbit is too hot in his /her travel carrier. If that happens you can put some water on your fingers and moisten his/her ears, which should cool him/her down.
The recovery period for a rabbit after flying could be between 24-48 h. Observe him/her closely during this period. How long the recovery will last depends on how scared your rabbit was during the flight. Some rabbits are very curios so they even like to travel by plane. Of course, their recovery lasts very short.
After you reach the final destination, it is advisable to go straight to the place where you will be staying. Avoid any pit stops, meal breaks, going to the grocery, stopping by to see some friends first etc.
What to Choose – Travel by Car or By Plane?
If you can choose, it is important to choose wisely :
- If your rabbit is a very nervous and frightened creature that freaks out when you use vacuum cleaner then travel by plane is not a good choice
- If you have to travel 10 hours by car or you can fly there in 2 hours then maybe flight is a smaller hassle for your rabbit.
- If you have to change several flights to reach the final destination, in that case even multi-day ride is better then whole day airports/ flights hassle
- Even if you have a curios/calm rabbit that enjoys in the car ride, doesn’t mean that he will enjoy flying by plane. Travel by plane could be a scary thing for your little furry friend.
What To Bring With You If Travel With a Rabbit?
It depends on how long are you going, how much space do you have in the luggage but some basic things you need to bring are :
- Food pellets
- Litter box + litter
- X- pen
- A couple of toys
- Some blanket /fleece
- Water/food bowls
- Small broom with dustpan
- Garbage bags
- Vinegar ( for cleaning and disinfection)
- Eye droppers or syringe for feeding or drinking water
- Any medications and heath certificates if needed
If you plan that your rabbit roams free in your accommodation it will be good to bring some bunny profing supplies with you such as:
- cord cable protectors
- shipping tape ( so you cover baseboards)
Staying in Hotels When Traveling With Rabbit
I strongly advise you to find pet-friendly hotels /accommodation and not to try to hide your rabbit from the staff.
It is advisable to keep your rabbit in the cage all the time except for some exercise for which you can let him/her free in the bathroom but always under your supervision.
House of Rabbits society strongly advises you to keep the sign ”Do not disturb” at all times on your door and even then it can be risky to leave your rabbit alone in the room while you are at some meeting or sightseeing.
If you are staying with your friends, check in advance if someone is allergic to rabbits and if they are OK with a rabbit living in their house for a couple of days. Make sure you bring all rabbit’s things bright clean and also clean after your rabbit regularly.
Travel with your rabbit requires some preparations and research in some cases. Just be aware of the fact that rabbits are prey animals and that everything new and strange frightens them.
There is no article nor some other’s experience that can point out all things that can happen if you travel with your rabbit. This article is just a guideline which I hope you will find very useful when doing preps for a journey with your bunny. Good luck and have a nice trip!