Rabbits are prey animals and they are easily frightened, so must have constant access to safe hiding places. Most bunnies are not very well travelled and some may never have been to the vets in a car. Travelling can be very stressful for rabbits and therefore it is very important to make the whole experience as stress-free as possible.
Travelling to the vet
Ensure that your rabbits will not have to be transported over long distances to reach the vet. If they will have to be transported a considerable distance, consider suggesting an event or veterinary practice closer to your home. If a bunny is pregnant, advice should be sought from a vet before transporting her.
Rabbits do not tolerate heat well, so you need to ensure your vehicle is kept cool and well ventilated, using air conditioning if necessary. You should avoid travelling during the hottest parts of the day. Never leave a rabbit unattended in a vehicle.
Check your bunnies often, with regular breaks during journeys and constant access to hay and fresh clean water as they are dependent on nibbling hay. Portable, non-spill watering aides can be purchased. Rabbits should be given water in the way they are familiar with (e.g. bottle or bowl) and you should check the water supply regularly. Rabbits should never be starved before being brought to the vet (even in the case of undergoing an operation).
A bunny may urinate in the cage due to the stress of travelling, so you will need a thick towel or sheet that is absorbent to make sure it doesn’t gather on the it’s coat – only for rabbits that don’t chew, otherwise it would be safe to use a layer of newspaper or hay. Please ensure that you have familiar items in the carrier with them, such as their favourite toy and some used bedding, to provide familiar smells and reassurance.
A Rabbit Carrier should be:
- Rigid, non-collapsible, well ventilated and secure to ensure that bunnies cannot chew it or escape. (Cardboard boxes are not appropriate as they are easily chewed and can become damp and unsafe if rabbits urinate or if it rains).
- Suitable size and shape to allow all the rabbits being transported to enter easily, lie comfortably in any direction and turn around unimpeded. However, the carrier should be small enough to provide feelings of security.
- Partially covered to recreate the safety of a dark burrow, especially at night to reduce the glare of car headlights. If the carrier is partially covered, ensure there is adequate ventilation.
- A design with a top opening to allow nervous rabbits to be removed easily.
- Lined with newspaper to absorb urine and a towel or vetbed (only appropriate if you are sure the rabbits will not chew them) to provide a non-slip surface.
- Made familiar to your bunnies beforehand by leaving it in their home enclosure with the front door open to encourage them to investigate. Rabbits should never be pushed into the carrier, but enticed in with a healthy snack or some greens.
- Strapped into a vehicle with a seat belt or secured in a foot well behind a seat so the rabbits are safe and are not jolted. The carrier side should face the direction of travel so the bunnies are not thrown face on, should the vehicle have to brake suddenly.
Rabbits that live together and are friends should travel together
Apart from the reassurance of safety in numbers, this also ensures that the same scent and smells are transferred to both rabbits while out and about. Taking only one bunny can mean rejection from the companion rabbit(s) if they smell different when they return home.
If a bunny really must travel on their own, you should place familiar items in the carrier with them, such as their favourite toy and some used bedding, to provide familiar smells and reassurance.