Traveling with a rabbit

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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.

Choosing a carrier

Rabbit flopped in a travel carrier.

By far the easiest and safest way to travel with your rabbit in most situations 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.

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.

Best Carrier for a Rabbit

Most carriers have a metal grate style door which is simple to hang a water bottle on. We recommend avoiding carriers with a plastic door, as most rabbits will be able to chew out given enough time.

One of the nice features 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 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, pee pad, or other material to use as padding and soak up urine. Please make sure that the rabbit will not chew and eat the material when unsupervised. You can change the towel at pit stops if the rabbit soils it.

The report & video does not directly address rabbits, but has very useful information: "Pet owner alert: Most restraints for pets in cars fail crash tests" More information: 2015 Carrier Study Results by Center for Pet Safety

Some considerations in choosing a proper carrier include the following:[1]

  • 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 them 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 do not want your rabbit to escape while you are driving or waiting for an appointment. 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 rabbit.
  • Size: Choose a carrier so that your rabbits 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 comfortably sized for both of them.

Either a small rabbit cage or the common cat/dog plastic carrier may also 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.
    A lop rabbit that uses an old chewed-up soft carrier as a hiding house during boarding.
    A Dutch rabbit that chewed a hole in the side of his soft carrier on the short drive over to boarding.
  • 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.

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.

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.

How to Take Your Rabbit on a Car Trip
A rabbit hesitantly peering out of her carrier during her first time outdoors.

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. If you have a single rabbit, a familiar stuffed animal may make a good companion during the car ride. Please make sure the rabbit does not try to chew and eat the stuffed animal. 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.

A hard travel carrier with two bonded rabbits, leveled with a blanket underneath and securely buckled in the front seat for car travel.

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.[2] Pull the seat belt to the end to lock the seat belt length. Most seats are sloped downwards - you may need to put a towel or blanket on the seat to make it level for a carrier.

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.[2] 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.

If your trip is under 8 hours, we would suggest just driving it through without any stops unless you plan on taking a break for over an hour in the middle of the trip. Rabbits will often be under too much stress to try to eat during short 30-minute stops. If your rabbit has not eaten at a stop break for over 8 hours, it is a good idea to assist feed some food after checking they are not bloated to make sure they have something in their stomach until you stop overnight. It is also a good idea to have a rabbit-savvy veterinarian or emergency hospital prepared at your final destination in case of stasis.

See the resources below for more information on car travel with rabbits.

Experiences

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. However, many airlines do not allow rabbits to fly in the cabin and classify them as rodents (incorrectly) or livestock.

Airlines that allow rabbits in the cabin

Before booking tickets, make sure to call the airline and ask for current information on traveling with a rabbit.

Waffles & Amaretto aboard a United flight in economy plus class as this allows for a bit more leg room. Images used with direct permission from Kelsey L.

As of May 2022, a few airlines that allow rabbits in the cabin are the following:

For more airlines and complete details visit the Rabbit-friendly airlines page.

Airlines and emotional support rabbits

Some airlines that normally would not allow a rabbit to travel in the cabin or charge a pet fee may make an allowance if the rabbit has documentation as an emotional support animal (ESA) and is needed by the passenger. Check directly with the airline for their complete rules before booking tickets.

Waffles & Amaretto in economy class as emotional support rabbits on United Airlines in 2015. Select airlines may allow rabbits as ESAs, but regulations may change at any time. Please check for the latest policies before booking. Images used with direct permission from Kelsey L.

Please note that airlines are never required to accept rabbits on their flights, even if the rabbit is documented as an ESA and the airline allows other types of ESA animals such as dogs and cats.[3] Additionally, emotional support animals are an US-centric concept. Flights to and from other countries are not subject to ESA rules that may apply to the airline domestically.

General tips

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 your rabbit 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.

Fly with your pet is a Facebook group that advocates for rabbits to be allowed in the cabin when flying.

The following are some useful general links with more information about air travel.

Appropriate airline travel carriers

Be sure to check with the airline when booking your flight with your rabbit(s) to figure out what the maximum carrier size is and whether or not you can put multiple rabbits in the same carrier.

In the cabin

The following are a few carriers that can be appropriate for cabin travel and placed underneath the seat:

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: Hay and fresh greens may be prohibited if traveling internationally, or to agriculture protected areas such as Hawaiʻi

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

Main article: International Import Regulations for Pet Rabbits

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.

Experiences

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.

Here are some vlogs and videos about flying experiences:

Oreo being a good boy at the gate and on his United flight from Chicago to Colorado (in cabin) with his mom. Foxyy adds "They were great and very curious of Oreo." Images (c) & used with direct permission from Foxyy Smith.
Winifred (brown) & Wilson (black) [left] and Roberta [right] on a Frontier Airlines flight from California to Illinois. The cost was $75 per carrier and they allowed a bonded pair in one. "The bunnies have to fit and be able to comfortably turn around. Roberta is 8.7 pounds and "just fit" in her carrier." Images (c) & used with direct permission from Tommy & Jennifer
Lennon The Bunny gives a cursory overview on travelling with a rabbit.

Travel by train

Lilo did great traveling. Here she is on a train in Norway almost home. She traveled from Canada to Norway on 4 flights and a train. Cost: $125USD for United (Calgary-Chicago-Amsterdam) & 40euros ($43USD) for Finnair (Amsterdam-Helsinki-Oslo). Used with direct permission from M.Wikdahl
Sumba & Burny on a train. Used with direct permission from @bekiclaire.

Amtrak in the United States only allows cats and small dogs under their current pet policy on trips less than 7 hours.[8]

To petition Amtrak to allow rabbits in the United States and Canada, please send the suggestion to their support email.

De-stressing & calming products

The following rabbit-safe herbal products may assist in reducing anxiety in your rabbit for travel if fed beforehand:

Some people have reported improvements with homeopathic remedies for rabbits such as Pet Remedy by Unex Designs Ltd. [Buy on Chewy (US)] and Rescue Remedy Pets by Bach Flower Remedies Limited, but please note that these homeopathic products have no proven efficacy and are not intended as a medical treatment. However, these items do not appear to be harmful to give to your rabbit in limited amounts. Please consult your rabbit-savvy veterinarian for a professional opinion on these products.

Further reading

See also

References

  1. The Rabbit House, Rabbit Carriers
  2. 2.0 2.1 House Rabbit Network, Suzanne Trayhan, Choosing a Carrier for Transport
  3. U.S. Department of Transportation. (2020). Service Animals (Including Emotional Support Animals). Retrieved 10 Sep 2020 from https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/service-animals-including-emotional-support-animals
  4. Petmate. (n.d.). Petmate Traveler Underseat Carrier. Retrieved 23 Nov 2016 from http://www.petmate.com/product/Petmate-Traveler-Underseat-Carrier/21514
  5. Petmate. (n.d.). Petmate Cabin Kennel Solid Top. Retrieved 23 Nov 2016 from http://www.petmate.com/product/Petmate-Cabin-Kennel-Solid-Top/21050
  6. Away Travel. (n.d.). Away Travel The Pet Carrier. Retrieved 13 Feb 2022 from https://www.awaytravel.com/travel-bags/pet-carrier?color=coast_nylon
  7. Diggs. (n.d.). Diggs Passenger Travel Carrier. Retrieved 13 Feb 2022 from https://www.diggs.pet/products/passenger-travel-carrier/?variantId=40754762252474
  8. Amtrak. (n.d). Pets on Amtrak. Retrieved 24 Oct 2021 from https://www.amtrak.com/pets