Creating better tomorrows for all pet rabbits
How to transport your rabbits safely
Although rabbits are prey animals and do not enjoy travelling in a car, there are times when we can not avoid it, such as a vet visit. Only take your rabbit on a journey that is essential.
The first thing to remember is that if your rabbit lives with another rabbit, then always take them both to the vet together. This is important because it minimises stress for the rabbit that is seeing the vet and avoids the possibility of one coming home smelling different and potentially causing a fall out. We even recommend that if one rabbit needs to be kept in, that they both are, and that the vet practice keep them within sight and smell of each other to reduce stress but be able to monitor how much they are both eating/going to the toilet.
The next thing is the carrier. Ideally, a carrier where the rabbits can hop in and out themselves, but also opens from the top so that they can easily lifted out without their legs splaying and getting caught. If you are planning a trip to the vets for vaccinations for example, then place the carrier in their area a few days before and put their favourite food or treats in there so that they get used to it and are happy being in there. Make sure there is something non-slip in the carrier, like a vet bed, a towel, or newspaper and hay. They should be able to turn around, but they do prefer to be in a small, secure space to travel so don’t use too large a carry case.
Try to keep journey times short, and choose a rabbit-savvy practice close to you. If you are going on a longer journey, make sure you make frequent stops and offer the rabbits food and water.
However, rabbits are transported, and the following points are worthwhile remembering:
- Strap the carrier safely into the vehicle and secure using a seat belt through the handle. Never put the carry case in the boot. Rabbits should always be transported so that they can face in or away from the direction of travel. Ie they shouldn’t be transported with the box side on to the direction of travel.
- Make sure the rabbits have eaten before they travel, so feed them well ahead of their journey beginning. We advise offering them their favourite herbs or greens just before you go and placing some in the carrier, too. This might help reduce the chances of a stasis. There should also be hay or grass available for them. Although it is tempting to provide a non-drip water bottle on longer journeys, if the vehicle stops suddenly there is a risk that they could be injured by the spout, with eyes being especially vulnerable. It is better to provide them with something like leafy greens to eat on the journey and make stops to offer them a drink.
- If you are moving house consider the water. Water from different areas tastes different. You don’t want your rabbits to refuse the ‘strange’ water so take some of the water from your old home with you and make a gradual change-over to the new water over a few days or weeks
- Products such as Pet Remedy and Rabbit Appeasing Pheromone (Secure Bunny or Rabbit Comfort) may be helpful. If nothing else, the former tends to mask the smell of predators and vehicles. It is helpful to drape a towel or fleece over the carrier and spray it with Pet Remedy for example.
- If you have other pets, for example, dogs, try not to transport them at the same time. Rabbits should not have a direct line of sight with predators or be able to smell or hear them.
- If they are being transported in the same vehicle, steps to remove or reduce sound, sight and smell between animals should be taken, where possible. This could include separate compartments, which may at least reduce sound (and smell), or filling the rabbits’ transport box with hay as a sound (and smell) muffling feature.
- It might be helpful to play low-level, gentle, mid-tone music. At least anthropomorphically this might help or may mask some predator noises.
- Rabbits should be protected from extremes of heat, cold, dry and damp air, and excess draughts. A well-ventilated vehicle kept at a moderate ambient temp of around 18-22C is ideal. Stressed rabbits and those with respiratory disease, in particular, should not be overheated.
- However, rabbits that are ill and unable to keep themselves warm may need supplementary heat supplied directly to them for the journey, such as a snuggle pad.