Traveling with a rabbit
Traveling with a rabbit is definitely no small task. Quite a bit of preparation and consideration is needed, especially if you do not have rabbit supplies at the destination.
Travel by car
A rabbit can travel quite comfortably in a car, but you will need to work a little bit to keep them happy and cool.
With a carrier
By far the easiest way to travel in a car with your rabbit is with an animal carrier. An animal carrier sized for multiple cats or a small dog will work best, although extremely large and small rabbits will require different sizes. You can choose to fit a small litter box inside and either secure a bottle or water crock to the door. If a litter box will not fit, you may instead cover the entire bottom with litter, a towel, or other material to soak up urine.
A 19" carrier is appropriate for smaller (2-3 lb) pairs or a single medium-sized rabbit. A 24" carrier is a comfortable ride for medium-sized (~5 lb) pairs or a single large (7+ lb) rabbits. Make sure that your rabbit has enough room to sit upright and stretch out.
Some examples of great two-door carriers:
- 19" Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel
- 24" Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel
- 23" Petmate Two Door Deluxe
- 23" Marchioro Clipper Aran 2 Pet Carrier
Most carriers have a metal grate style door which is simple to hang a water bottle on. Do not buy a carrier with a plastic grate door. Given enough time, a bunny will easily chew through the door and escape.
One of the nice things about a carrier is that it is dark and cave-like (for a bunny sense of security) and usually has adequate holes in the side for airflow. You will want to place a towel, blanket, or multiple t-shirts on the bottom to prevent sliding, use as padding, or soak up urine if you do not have a litter box in it. You can change the towel at pit stops if the rabbit soils it.
Some considerations in choosing a proper carrier include the following:
- Ventilation: It is important to have adequate ventilation in the carrier because rabbits can easily overheat in a warm environment.
- Ease to clean: Your rabbit will most likely potty in the carrier, so you will want a carrier than can easily be taken apart and wiped down. Plastic carriers are much easier to clean than soft fabric ones.
- Ease of access: You will need to be able to easily get the rabbit in and out of the carrier. As a result, you may wish to invest in a carrier that you can take the top off and lift him out through. A side door is useful to get the rabbit to hop in on his own.
- Sturdiness: Carriers need to be made of a material that is chew-proof such as wire and hard plastic. You would not want your rabbit to escape. Carriers should also be sturdy and securely latched to not fall apart in the midst of transporting.
- Carrying handle/strap: The handle should be securely attached and able to handle your rabbit's weight. Check to see that all hinges are robust. You may wish to invest in a carrier with a strap to help with extra weight if you have multiple rabbits or a large bunny.
- Size: Choose a carrier so that your rabbit(s) have enough room to stretch out and sit upright comfortably but not enough room to slide around in the case you brake suddenly. You can fit more than one rabbit in a carrier but make sure that it is comfortable for both of them.
Either a small rabbit cage or the common cat/dog plastic carrier would fit these criteria as a suitable travel carrier.
Some carrier types we do not generally recommend for one reason or the other are the following:
- Wire pet carrier: While these carriers are chew-proof, rabbits may get their legs stuck in the holes, and the open sides may make them feel unsecure. If you use one of these, cover the bottom with a solid surface like a plastic sheet or a towel, and lightly cover the carrier with a bed sheet while continuing to give sufficient ventilation.
- Soft fabric carrier: These carriers are easy to store because they fold but are only suitable for extremely short trips. Rabbits can easily chew through the material and escape if they set their mind to it. However, these can be used if you don't want to advertise the fact that you have a pet and hidden as a gym bag. Throw a towel over it, and no one will know what is underneath it.
- Wicker pet basket: Similar to the soft fabric carrier, rabbits can easily chew through the side in minutes.
- Cardboard carrier: Like the most of other unsuitable materials, these can be easily chewed through in minutes. Additionally, you will need to make sure they get adequate ventilation through holes punched in the side. These are also not easy to clean if the rabbit soils the bottom.
Without a carrier
If you cannot afford or do not want to buy an animal carrier you can also make do with other containers. Of course, this is much less secure and safe for your rabbit than a carrier made for travel purposes. Use this alternative at your own risk.
One option is to use a cardboard box. First lay a towel or blanket on the bottom so your rabbit will not slide around. Place your rabbit's litterbox and foodbowl inside, and punch a hole in the side for a water bottle. You can hang the water bottle by simply punching holes in the cardboard to run a piece of wire around (be careful to eliminate sharp ends that your rabbit might injure itself on). It will make for a less-messy ride (and car) if you situate the water bottle such that the drinking tube is above where you've placed the litter box. You can also use a water bowl, but it tends to spill and then make a mess of the cardboard.
You can either punch holes in the side for airflow and close the top or, if you have a very bold bunny, just leave the top fully or half open. It is vital that you punch enough holes for adequate airflow especially in warm weather as rabbits will easily overheat. You will also need to be careful that your rabbit does not chew his way through the cardboard and escape. Be warned that these cardboard boxes will generally be unable to reused in the case that the rabbit soils it, which is not uncommon.
Another option with a similar setup is a plastic laundry basket with holes in the side. These will provide enough ventilation in the case of warm weather, and you can cover it with a sheet or other light material to discourage an escape by jumping. This is a better alternative as the plastic is much sturdier than cardboard and cannot be easily chewed through.
Some completely unacceptable ways to travel with your bunny are free-roaming or on a halter and leash. It is important to secure your rabbit in the case of sudden starts and stops. A halter and leash do not provide enough security in the case of an accident.
There are two things that are good to keep in mind when traveling with your rabbit in the car. One is the rabbit's stress level, and the other is the temperature inside the car.
The car is an unfamiliar environment for a bunny and is filled with strange noises and weird smells. The rabbit has no idea why all of a sudden he has been taken out of his normal environment and subjected to a moving vehicle.
Give your rabbit a cave- and den-like setting if possible. Generally pairs of rabbits do very well in the car because they have another bunny to cuddle with and take comfort in. Try to drive such that you minimize the jostling of the bunny if you can - no sudden stops, jerky acceleration, or sudden lane changes. Keep the volume on the radio moderate, and the windows mostly closed.
When placing the bunny carrier in the car, make sure that it is secure and as level as possible. The floor behind the passenger seat is the best location and also prevents the entire carrier from sliding. If you place the rabbit on the seat, you can place the seat belt through the handle to secure it in place. Pull the seat belt to the end to lock the seat belt length.
Be conscious of the temperature in the car. Rabbits can be sensitive to temperature, so if you are traveling in the summer, keep that A/C on, and in the winter, keep the heat running. It might be a good idea to turn the car on 15 minutes before you head out so it can either heat up or cool down before you bring the rabbits on board.
For carriers with a slippery plastic bottom, place a small rubber mat for grip and overlay with pee pads, towels, shirts, or bedding to soak up any urine during the trip.
Make sure that your rabbit has access to food (hay, vegetables, pellets) and water for the duration of the car ride if the trip is over an hour. Shorter trips do not require food or water. Another option is to keep cold wet vegetables with the bunnies. Any crocks or food and water containers should be secured to the sides of the cage to prevent movement. Check up on your bunnies every time you pull over to make sure they are not overheating and to swap out their towels and bedding if it has been soiled.
See the articles below for more information on car travel with rabbits.
Below are links to anecdotes of people who have traveled with rabbits by car.
Travel by airplane
Although a less common method of travel, rabbits can be transported across the country by air. Many airlines do not allow rabbits to fly in the cabin and classify them as rodents (incorrectly) or livestock.
It is not recommended to fly a rabbit in the cargo hold if alternatives are available because it is far safer for you to be able to keep an eye on him than unattended in another part of the plane. However, many rabbits have traveled safely in live cargo, as it is often temperature and pressure-controlled like the cabin. Going through a professional animal transportation agency will also help insure a quality of care as they will have agents to oversee every part of the process.
If you must fly your rabbits as checked baggage during hot weather, arrange the flight so that they will be loaded during the coolest part of the day. Rabbits can easily overheat and suffer from heat-stroke if left on the tarmac.
Check out Rabbit-friendly airlines for more information about pet-friendly airlines. See Rabbit-Friendly Transportation Agencies if you are unable to find an airline that will allow you to transport your rabbit with you.
Traveling by air is stressful for a rabbit, and care should be taken. When possible, choose a direct flight which will not only reduce overall travel time but will also reduce pressure changes.
Here are some useful general links with more information about air travel.
- Pettravel.com, Pet Travel: Traveling by Air With Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Rats, Turtles, and Other Exotic Animals
- Dana Krempels, Ph.D., Fly with Your Companion Rabbit
- The Humane Society of the United States, Pets and Air Travel
- House Rabbit Society, Beth Woolbright, To Fly Or Not to Fly
- House Rabbit Society (Singapore), Kapil Sharma, Air Travel with Rabbits
- US Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement, Air Travel Consumer Report (look through reports for Incidents Involving the Loss, Injury or Death of Animals)
- Petfinder.com, 2011 Most Pet-Friendly North American Airlines
Packing for airplane travel
Traveling with a rabbit by air takes some more planning than an ordinary flight. An airline approved carrier should contain the following:
- Towels or puppy pee pads for accidents
- Hay, pellets, and vegetables - Note: If you travel internationally, hay and fresh greens may be prohibited.
The following should be packed in either the side pocket of the carrier if it has one or in another carry-on bag:
- Additional food
- Critical care package and feeding syringe
- Extra towels or puppy pee pads
It is also wise to check a bag with additional supplies for when you land. This bag should contain the following:
- Hay, pellets, and other non-perishable food items - Note: If you travel internationally, hay may be prohibited.
- Water bottle or bowl
- Food bowl
- Litter box and substrates
Flying internationally across countries will need a different approach than a flying domestically in a country. You will need to do research for your destination country to see what sort of paperwork, quarantine, and other import regulations you need to follow to have your rabbit safe with you. Additionally, customs will often not allow you to bring hay and fresh greens on the flight for your rabbit. See the main International Import Regulations for Pet Rabbits for some detailed country-specific information.
Some experiences of fellow rabbit owners who have transported their pets by air are listed below. See International Import Regulations for Pet Rabbits for more anecdotes.
- Baltimore House Rabbit Society, Nan Gibson, Hurdling through Space and Time with Two Pet Rabbits. Published 1999.
- Jennie Langdon, Tips on Air Travel with Rabbits. Published Mar 2003.
- Agi Kiss, An American Rabbit in Africa. Published 1999.
- Blanche Bounds, The Flying Rabbits: Air Cargo Class from Saudi Arabia to Texas. Flew 2002.
- Reddit, /r/rabbits, orchardraider, HELP: Flying from Europe to North America w/ a bunny. Discussed Oct 2012.
- Bunspace, Experiences flying in cargo hold. Discussed Aug 2010.
Here are some vlogs and videos about flying experiences:
- Youtube, jessicayschu
- Traveling with bunny - My Little Rabbit is eating his veggies on the plane. Posted Jul 2012.
- Traveling with bunny - The second time my little rabbit flying in the sky. Posted Sep 2012.
- Rabbitwise's Bunderground Railroad, Traveling With Rabbits
- Ontario Rabbit Education Organization, Travelling
- House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Vacations and Travel
- Colorado House Rabbit Society, Traveling With Your Rabbit
- San Diego House Rabbit Society, Will Your Rabbit Travel or Stay Home?
- House Rabbit Network, Suzanne Trayhan, Choosing a Carrier for Transport
- MediRabbit, Best type of carrier for rabbit transport
- Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, Rabbit transport without tears!