Can I Take My Rabbit on a Road Trip Safely?
As pet parents and animal lovers, we often talk about the joys of road-tripping with cats and dogs, but what about the many other pets we call family? What if you share your heart (and home) with a rabbit?
Great news! Whether you’re planning a family vacation and want to include your bunny in the fun, or you’re moving across the country and need to figure out how to transport a rabbit to your new home, taking your furry family member on the road IS possible.
To help you plan for your next big trip, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about taking a road trip with a rabbit, including the safest way to travel with your rabbit, tips for the most enjoyable trip for both you and your rabbit, and when it’s best to leave your rabbit at home with a friend, family member, or trusted pet sitter.
Let’s get started…
Is it Stressful for Rabbits to Travel?
One of the most important questions we must ask ourselves whenever we consider travelling with a pet is whether travel will bring more stress than it’s worth. If your rabbit is going to be stressed and anxious the entire time, they won’t be able to enjoy spending this time with you.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Instead, we each need to learn to read our rabbit’s body language and recognize when they are uncomfortable in a situation.
The most common signs of stress in rabbits include:
- Ears flattened to their back
- A rigid, crouched posture
- Thumping of hind legs
- Lethargy or lower-than-normal energy levels
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite
- Change in bathroom habits
- Loudly grinding their teeth
- Wide and bulging eyes
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Making frustrated grunting noises
- Sudden, unexplained aggressive behavior
- Hiding or acting withdrawn
- Reluctance to be touched or held
- Loss of interest in their favorite activities
- Self-mutilation habits (excessive licking, biting, etc.)
For your first rabbit travel experience, start small. Introduce them first to the vehicle in your driveway, waiting to turn on the engine until they are comfortable with it off. You can then work up to a longer trip by starting with the engine going but sitting in the driveway, moving slightly up and down the driveway, and then taking a short trip around the block.
Throughout the conditioning process, pay careful attention to your rabbit. If you notice any of the above signs of stress, slow down and avoid moving on to the next step. This may mean, in time, acknowledging that your rabbit isn’t comfortable travelling despite your best efforts – and that’s okay! Many rabbits are happier relaxing at home and being spoiled by a loved one while you are on vacation.
Can Rabbits Go on Long Car Rides?
Yes! If you take the time to condition your rabbit to travel in the car comfortably and they show that they are relaxed when the vehicle is in motion, there is a good chance that they will handle a longer car ride. Of course, there are some additional considerations for a longer car ride.
First, you should pay extra attention to the area where your rabbit will spend their time. This means providing them with a carrier that allows enough room to move around slightly and stretch their legs, as well as a comfortable place to lie down.
When planning your road trip route, account for regular breaks. This is your opportunity to offer your bunny fresh water and a snack. If you litter-trained your rabbit, give them time to use the box before hitting the road again. If not, you can harness your rabbit and take them into the grass to do their business. This is also your chance to check their travel space and do necessary cleanups.
Can You Sedate a Rabbit for Travel?
While sedation may sound like the perfect solution, experts don’t recommend using sedation before a road trip with your rabbit. It may even have the opposite effect, adding to the problem.
Consider, for a moment, you have a highly anxious rabbit that has been sedated. As you’re travelling, that sedation starts to wear off. As your rabbit starts to come to, they will be in a foggy state of mind, which can cause more confusion, making them more nervous as they try to figure out what they are experiencing. Then, as their mind starts to clear up, they recognize that they are in a situation that has proven to be stressful in the past. Not only will this make the current trip more stressful, but it sets the stage for your rabbit to associate fear and anxiety with the idea of travelling in the future.
Additionally, there is the risk that sedation can have unwanted side effects, including affecting your rabbit’s ability to breathe.
If you must road trip with a rabbit that isn’t comfortable in the vehicle, such as an upcoming long-distance move, make an appointment with your veterinarian. This will allow you to express your concerns, discuss your options, and find a solution under a professional's knowledgeable care and watchful eye.
How to Travel with a Rabbit Safely: X Tips
Schedule a Vet Checkup
Before heading on any trip, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian. This is an opportunity to ensure that your rabbit is in top shape and can travel comfortably. Rabbits are masters of hiding pain and illness, making a proper checkup even more critical. If you have questions, like whether sedation is a solution for your rabbit, this is the perfect time to have that conversation.
Plan Your Trip Well in Advance
Many travel lovers enjoy hopping in the car and heading out on the road with no plan, trusting that the road will take them somewhere exciting and it will all work out somehow. This is great if it’s just you and your spouse, but it doesn’t work well if your rabbit is joining in on the adventure. Instead, take the time to sit down and plan out where you are going, what breaks you will be taking, and what is waiting for you when you arrive at your destination. Take note of any small animal veterinarians along your travel route, including their location and contact information. This will make it easier to find help in an emergency.
This allows you to predict any potential setbacks or problems that you may encounter and prepare to manage those situations accordingly.
Stress is more than just an annoyance for your rabbit. High stress levels can make them physically ill by triggering conditions like GI Stasis. This condition may present as nothing more than digestive upset at first, but left untreated, it can quickly turn fatal.
Pack a Fully Stocked First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is an essential element whenever you are traveling, even if it’s just you on a solo adventure. Of course, your first aid kit isn’t going to be much good if you don’t take the time to check that it’s fully stocked before heading out on your journey. For those of us adventuring with a furry friend, this means packing some specialized items to address the unique challenges our pets may face.
Some supplies you may want to add to your first aid kit for traveling with a rabbit include:
- A few days' worth of extra food pellets
- A box of hay
- A heating pad
- Critical Care powdered formula
- Feeding syringes
- Gas drops, like simethicone
- Fresh leafy greens
- Small pet nail clippers
- Styptic powder
- Any medication your rabbit is currently taking
Keep all your first aid kit essentials in a waterproof container where you can access it quickly, for example, under the front seat of the vehicle, where you can easily grab it without moving other items out of the way.
Purchase a Pet Carrier
What is the safest way to travel with a rabbit? Unlike humans and larger dogs, you can’t secure your rabbit properly using a seatbelt. Instead, secure your rabbit safely in a travel carrier. This will prevent them from being thrown in the event of an accident. To keep the carrier from moving during travels, use the seatbelt to hold it firmly in place on the seat.
Choose a carrier that provides plenty of ventilation. If your rabbit is slightly nervous or unsure about car travel, selecting a rabbit travel carrier that allows them to see and engage with you easily can help ease their mind.
Line the Carrier with a Pee Pad
Adding a puppy pee pad to the bottom of your bunny travel carrier can make cleanup far easier if your rabbit has an accident during travel. You can use a low-cost, disposable pee pad that can be quickly disposed of wherever your travels take you or, if you’re more concerned about your impact on the environment, there are reusable pee pads that you will bring home and wash after your trip.
Include Items with Familiar Scents
Another great way to ease the anxiety your rabbit experiences during travel is to include a favorite item in their carrier. This could be a bed they often sleep in or a toy they regularly play with. Including a familiar scent in their setup will provide a relaxing and calming effect, helping them settle into their carrier with less stress.
Consider Draping a Blanket Over Your Rabbit Travel Carrier
Rabbits are naturally more comfortable in a den-like setting. You can recreate this by draping a blanket over your rabbit's carrier to darken the space and provide the feeling of being safely underground. Take it a step further by placing blankets or hay inside the carrier that your rabbit can burrow into. But pay careful attention to the ventilation, ensuring you aren’t cutting it off entirely.
Avoid Playing Loud Music
One thing often associated with a successful road trip is a killer playlist – but you must pay careful attention to the volume of your music during your travels. Loud music can contribute to your rabbit’s stress levels, worsening a difficult situation. This doesn’t mean you must avoid playing your favorite tunes. Just keep the volume down.
On the other hand, music can be used to help reduce stress. If you notice your rabbit is starting to show signs of stress and anxiety, try turning on calming music. Classical music has been found to have a calming effect on animals. You can also try playing a podcast or audiobook showcasing a calm voice.
Final Thoughts: Road Trip with a Rabbit
Traveling with a pet can be stressful, especially if it’s a pet that doesn’t usually join you for road trips and vacations. But this doesn’t mean you can’t set your rabbit up for a safe and enjoyable trip. The most important thing you can do when considering a road trip with a rabbit is to take the time to plan out the various elements of your travels well in advance, including setting up your rabbit’s travel carrier, identifying places to stop along the route, ensuring you have a list of small animal veterinarians in the event of an emergency, and more.
We can’t control everything that happens, especially when on the road or visiting somewhere new. However, we can identify potential complications or challenges and ensure that we are ready to take them in stride. This will significantly increase the chance of your trip being enjoyable for both you and your furry best friend.
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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