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Ah, travelling with rabbits.
I don’t actually mind travelling with rabbits but oh my GOD make sure the cage is secure before you set off. You don’t want to reach your destination four hours later and discover a new nest has been bunstructed in the bowels of your rear seat.
When we had to take our VERY aggressive rabbit to the vet 8 miles away (we actually had to switch vet branches because the treatment rooms at our usual one were a bit small for a very big, very angry rabbit) I was really nervous.
Not only about her potentially biting a vet but about escaping the cage.
She actually did chew the cage, but didn’t get out. She didn’t bite the vet either, who was a very small, very young woman, that had Izzy pinned to the floor, wrapped in a bunny burrito and nails clipped in 30 seconds. Izzy wasn’t even mad, she was just a bit dazed from how quickly it happened. She didn’t growl once!
Do Rabbits like to travel?
Look, I’m sure there are rabbits out there that love the car, but I’ve never had one that did. Most of my rabbits are 100% apathetic to car journeys.
They’re not like dogs, which have three modes (oh, and Bailey).
Mode 1 – I LOVE THE CAR
Mode 2 – I HATE THE CAR. I HAVE VOMITED.
Mode 3 – the car is fine. I lie down, perhaps I snooze. Then we’re somewhere different. Hopefully, a walk, hopefully not the vet. Then we go home.
And then there’s Bailey.
I’ve mentioned before that my boyfriend and I walk dogs at our local shelter. Most of the dogs are fine in the car – we’ve had a few that really weren’t keen, and a few that were hanging their heads out of the window, clearly loving life. 90% of them just go to sleep, because kennels are a stressful environement.
AND THEN THERE WAS BAILEY.
Bailey actually had ‘no cars’ on his adoption form (he has a great new home now). They told us he hates the car, and will bark the whole time.
Turns out this wasn’t true. Bailey doesn’t mind the car, but he LOVES barking in the car. Not normal barking, but this loud, yet strangely shrill bark that goes right through you.
If he hadn’t been such a dream to a walk, we wouldn’t have done it. Eight miles of having someone scream in your ear is not fun.
At least you’re highly HIGHLY unlikely to get a rabbit that barks in the car
Please if any of you that have a rabbit that LOVES the car, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about it.
But most rabbits are just a bit confused about being in a moving vehicle. Some will be scared. But most honestly don’t seem to be that bothered.
How long can my rabbit stay in the car for?
There are people that travel full time in RVs that have house (RV?) rabbits, so the actual time spent on the road doesn’t really matter.
Of course, if you’re putting your rabbit in a tiny travel cage, you want them in and out as quickly as possible.
I wouldn’t do any journey that wasn’t strictly necessary BUT if you need to go on a road trip with your rabbit, as long as they have a good, safe, carrier.
If you’re prepared to stop regularly and ensure they have everything they need, I don’t think there’s a max time you can be on the road with a rabbit fot.
What’s the best carry case for a rabbit travelling a short distance?
I would always recommend a hard case over a soft case, because it will give more protection in the event of a car accident.
Oh, and they’ll chew through a soft one in, depending on the rabbit, minutes.
However, if you have a big rabbit, this isn’t always an option.
We currently have a soft-sided carrier, because our old one (a traditional plastic cat carrier) was far too small to fit our old Frnech lop in, and we couldn’t get anything suitable that she’d fiit into.
One option would be to get a metal dog crate instead, but there have been instances where rabbits have gotten their heads stuck in the bars. I do have the bright idea of putting my existing carrier in our dog crate, to make it more secure in the event of an accident.
Something like this might be better, but since I have a dog crate and a carrier, I may as well make use of them.
You could also line the inside of the dog crate with a fine mesh so your pet couldn’t get their head stuck (btw, I know it’s unlikely to happen, but it could, so I just wanted to make you aware). We had to do that with our dog crate when it was a temporary duckling habitat (I take in a lot of waifs and strays) and she walked straight out between bars as if they weren’t even there.
When it comes to picking a size of carrier, bigger doesn’t mean better. We needed a big crate because Isobel was enormous, but you want one that’s comfortable for your rabbit to turn around in lay down in, but not that much bigger. They want to be pretty stable and not sliding around too much when the car is moving.
If the case you have is too big (ours is if we’re one taking one bun out) we pack it with towels. If we’re just taking Daisy to the vet, I put her in a box in the crate because she’s so small (Netherland Dwarf) and doesn’t move around much.
How to go on a long car journey with a rabbit
This is a best case scenario, where you can prepare for your bunny’s journey. In my experience, a lot of long journeys with rabbits occur when I’ve found them on the side of the road and have to make do with a cardboard box.
In short, if you can prepare your rabbit, great, but if you have to just get in a go, we can only ask that you do your best.
Car journeys are always going to be scary for an animal that is naturally timid, but in my experience the motion of the car seems to calm them down, so they panic like they might at, say, the first time they experience the oven being on (one of my rabbits was practically catatonic and needed a lot of calming around the oven).
Allow them to explore their carry case
Since they’ll be in the carry case, getting them used to the carry case will help them feel a lot safer, and I have a great method for getting them used to it.
To begin with, put the box in their pen/area with them. Leave it for an hour or so. Then put some greens or pellets in. Let them eat and explore.
Repeat this a few times over the course of a couple of weeks. After they’re happy hopping in and out, close the door on them for a minute or two, and them let them out and give them a treat. Repeat this a couple of time and then start picking the box up with them in it and ealking around with it, then put it down and let them out.
It’s important that they learn that being in the box is a good thing that results in treats, not a bad thing that results in a trip to the vets every time.
If you’re short on space, you can even use their carrier as their safe space in their run.
Get them used to shorter journeys
I don’t think it’s worth going to the trouble of doing journeys for the sake of it unless you know your rabbit hates the car and you have to go on a long journey.
If you are in the situation that you have get your rabbit to be happier in the car, try to find someone to drive you round whilst you sit in the back with your bunny and talk to them/feed them dandelion leaves through the bars.
Make sure they have protection from the sun
We all know how hot cars can get. Rabbits are just as susceptible to heat stroke as dogs, so get shades for the windows if you’re going to be travelling on a hot day. Failing that, pin a sheet over the travel case.
Stop frequently so that they can eat and drink
The hardest thing about travelling with rabbits is getting them access to water. If anyone knows of a spill-resistant travel bowl, I’d love to hear about such a magical thing.
You COULD give them a bottle but I’d worry about the slamming into it if the car turns or stops sharply, and pokes them.
Let me know how you give water to rabbits on long car journeys. I’ve never done a long enough journey to have to really worry about it, but if I did, I’d just stop every hour or so and offer them water from a bowl.
In terms of food, I’d just stuff some hay in with them, and mix in a few pellets and greens. Not only will they enjoy it, but it’ll give them something to take their mind off the horrors of the car.
What about a litter tray?
I’d recommend going down the puppy pad route, unless you think your rabbit would rip them up, in which case I’d go with newspaper, which isn’t ideal, but is better than nothing. I think bedding would just make a mess, so I’d put a blanket on the bottom over a newspaper/puppy pad, and that’d soak up the majority of the pee.
How to make car journeys less stressful for rabbits
- Talk to them so they know that you’re there
- Don’t blast the radio (though a bit of quiet music/radio might help calm them)
- Add treats to hay
- Stop every so often to give them water
- Give them a dark place to hide (a blanket over one end of the case works a treat)
- Don’t go on unnecessary journeys
- Get them used to the travel case before embarking on a long journey
- Make sure there’s a breeze on hot days – good ventilation is a must
Can rabbits get car sick?
Rabbits physically can’t throw up and it’s suggested that they can’t get car sick, but that doesn’t mean they won’t feel queasy on a car journey.
So whilst you won’t need to worry about vomit on the back seat, you need do everything you can to make sure your rabbit is comfortable.
Keep the car cool (too cold is far better than too hot, obvs within reason, but it’ll be too cold for you long before it’s too cold for a rabbit). Either run the air-con or open the windows a touch so there’s bit of air flow.
A lot of people recommend covering the whole crate with a blanket to keep your rabbit calm, but decent air flow is important.
A lot of rabbits will only go in the car to go to the vet, so they’re never going to love the car. You can teach them to love their crate though, so it’s worthwhile getting them to associate it with treats. A carrier can also double up as a little hidey spot too – a lot of them have removable doors so you can leave it open all the time.