Traveling with Rabbits Made Easy
Are you someone who likes to go places and experience new things? Unfortunately, your rabbits aren’t quite so adventurous! Rabbits thrive on routine and a predictable schedule, and any sort of traveling can be very stressful to them. Does this mean then, that as a rabbit owner, you’re committed to being a permanent homebody? Can you never take vacation, travel to a rabbit show, or even move to a different home and take your beloved bunnies with you? The answer is, of course not! In this article, we will prepare you for safe, low-stress travel with your bunny friends.
Generally, travel with rabbits either involves driving or flying. Both methods of transportation require careful planning and preparation well in advance of the trip in order to make it successful for your rabbits. Just like people, rabbits each have different personalities and each will react differently to changes in their environment and routines. Keep in mind though, that all rabbits are stressed to some degree by significant changes brought on by traveling, such as:
- unfamiliar surroundings
- changes in temperature
- loud noises (especially if not familiar)
- changes in feed/feeding schedule
- water that tastes differently from what they are used to
We will discuss how to minimize these stresses when traveling by car or by plane. Regardless of mode of transportation though, it is important to plan ahead to be able to monitor your rabbits regularly for signs of stress. If not properly and promptly addressed, too much stress can cause severe illness or death for rabbits. Signs of stress in your animals include:
- labored breathing
- refusing to eat and drink
- becoming withdrawn and/or aggressive
Traveling with rabbits in the car enables you to stop and check in on them frequently, even on an extended trip. When preparing for a car trip with rabbits, you must make sure you have the appropriate equipment. Arguably the most important item you will need is a suitable carrying cage for your animals. Travel carriers such as our Supreme Rabbit Carrier, or our Mini Rabbit Carrier for smaller rabbits are designed specifically to make travel with your animals convenient and easy. These carriers are made with either single, double, or triple compartments, to allow for transport of up to 3 animals in the same carrier. When deciding on a size for your carrier, keep in mind that your rabbits should be able to turn around in each compartment and stretch out comfortably. Each compartment has a handy, top-open design, allowing easy access to your rabbits. The open wire design allows for maximum ventilation, and the drop pan sits below the bottom wire of the cage, which is optimal for ideal sanitation. Drop pans can be filled with regular bedding materials, such as straw, wood shavings, or pellets. Or try using fragrance-free puppy pads to line drop pans for easy cleaning on the go! Once you have the proper traveling equipment, it is important for you to pack the supplies you will need for a successful journey.
Packing List for Car Travel:
- Enough Timothy hay for each rabbit to be free fed while traveling. Some rabbits will not eat much of their pellet feed, and having an ample supply of hay will ensure that they are grazing and minimize digestive upsets.
- Plenty of the animals’ regular pellet feed. Remember that any changes to regular feed should be done gradually, not because you were on a trip and ran out, only to find you couldn’t find what you usually buy!
- Fresh vegetables such as dark, leafy greens, carrots, or other favorites of your rabbits to offer them during stops. Most rabbits will not eat much while traveling, but these treats may encourage them to do so. Avoid fruits, as they can contribute to diarrhea in a stressed animal.
- Water from home, and an additive such as Pedialyte, to flavor the water should you run out of water from home. Some animals are very sensitive to even the slightest changes in the taste of their water, and refusal to drink for long periods of time can become a health emergency rather quickly.
- Acidophilus from the health food store, can be mixed with water if your rabbit develops diarrhea.
- First aid supplies normally kept at home: bandages, antibiotic ointment, eye wash, eye droppers, ice packs, etc. Although hopefully unnecessary, these things will become invaluable if a rabbit incurs an injury while traveling.
- Extra towels, blankets, or tarps to line your vehicle with where travel carriers will be located. Remember that if rabbits are in unfamiliar surroundings, the smells are also unfamiliar to them. If your rabbits will be traveling long distances, this may inspire some bucks to spray urine, to mark their territory!
- Water bottles that are small enough to attach to the carrier compartments. Rabbits are unlikely to drink any water while in a moving vehicle, and the vibrations from the road can make water bottles leak out their contents. Reserve full water bottles in a separate location, and offer water to your rabbits at every stop.
- Extra bedding for drop pans, or fragrance free puppy pads (change pads once a day during travel)
Safety/Health Considerations for Car Travel:
- Rabbits cannot tolerate excessive heat. If your vehicle does not have air conditioning, make sure to roll down a window or two to provide adequate air flow. However, rabbits do not like drafts, so keep them out of the direct flow of air conditioning. NEVER leave rabbits in a hot car unattended.
- Keep music turned down low. The family dog may love to rock out to some classic Springsteen or Metallica tunes, but your rabbits will be terrified of the noise.
- It is a good idea to use a non-toxic, felt marker to write your phone number, or that of a trusted friend or relative in one of your rabbit’s ears, in case it were to get loose. The ink will wear off, but it gives your rabbit a temporary form of identification.
- Secure carriers so that they do not slide around during turns or sudden stops.
- If you are traveling for days on end, try to establish regular times for stops, and for offering food and water.
Before embarking on a plane trip with your rabbits, make sure that air travel is the best or only option for your situation. Air travel is incredibly stressful for rabbits, and should be avoided whenever possible. If getting to your destination is equally possible by air or car travel, you must weigh the pros and cons. For example, a trip that requires a 10-14 hour drive that can be accomplished in a non-stop, 2 ½ hour flight might be better taken in a plane. If your plane trip will require multiple stops, plane changes, layovers, etc., though, it might be better to pace yourself on the road instead. Also, keep the animal’s temperament in mind. A rabbit that is easily frightened by loud noises and commotion at home will likely not take very well to air travel.
If you do decide that air travel is the safest, most efficient way to your destination, there are some things you can do to make the trip as comfortable as possible for your rabbits. Whenever possible, shop around for an airline that will allow you to keep your rabbit in the cabin with you. Most airlines at best only allow one animal in the cabin, per passenger, per flight. If you are a single traveler bringing multiple animals, this will not be an option. If you are able to take only one rabbit with you, a carrier such as our Supreme Rabbit Carrier, or Mini Rabbit Carrier will best suit your rabbit’s needs. The top-open design allows you easy access to your rabbit, and the open design will ensure adequate ventilation during the journey.
Packing List for Air Travel:
- Pellet feed, water, extra hay, and fresh vegetable treats in your carry-on bag to offer your rabbit before departure, during layovers, and after arrival.
- First aid supplies from home (see above under Car Travel).
- Identification tag for your carrier with your name, address and phone number. (Make sure it is attached where the rabbit cannot chew on it.)
- Health certificate for your rabbit (check in advance to see if this is required by your airline).
- Extra puppy pads to line your rabbit carrier’s drop pan.
Safety/Health Considerations for Air Travel:
- Make your airline reservations well in advance, and prepare for the extra cost. Most airlines will charge a minimum of $75 to $100 to travel with your rabbit in the cabin. Checked baggage and cargo fees can be even higher.
- Find out EXACTLY what type of rabbit carriers are permitted, and the dimensions allowed.
- Take your rabbit to your veterinarian well in advance of the trip for a checkup and a health certificate (even if not required by the airline, it never hurts to have this on hand, if travel plans suddenly change).
- Prepare your rabbit for air travel by taking frequent car trips of varying lengths in the weeks leading up to the trip.
- Line your carrier with puppy pads to reduce the mess. The airline employees will very much appreciate not having to clean up stray wood shavings and hay. It will also reduce the odors created by your animals in the airplane cabin, which your fellow travelers will surely appreciate.
- As much as you may want to take out your rabbit to comfort him, do not take him out of his travel carrier mid-flight. He will be much more content to stay in his travel carrier.
- If the only choice is to check your rabbit as cargo, find out the specific travel carrier requirements for your airline.
- Airlines have regulations that require them to withhold boarding animals if the ground temperature at departure and/or the destination are too hot or cold. This could result in your animals having to take a flight apart from you. Try and arrange travel in the early morning or late evening to lessen the risk of this happening.
- Try to arrange hand delivery of your rabbits to you, instead of having them go through the conveyor belt at the baggage claim.
Above and beyond all else, imagine being in your furry friend’s position during trips. If something would make you frightened, uncomfortable, or would stress you out, it’s likely that your traveling companion would feel similarly. By having the proper equipment, making arrangements well in advance of your trip, and being prepared for the unexpected, your rabbits will be in the best of hands. By taking the necessary precautions, it is possible for you and your rabbits to have a safe and comfortable trip. Happy travels!
If you have more information or have a question, feel free to leave a comment below!
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