Moving can be an adventure all its own, but for your pets, it can be a traumatizing experience if not done correctly. After all, they have gotten used to where they have been living for months or years, and the process of relocation can be a stressful one. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.
Pet rabbits are soft, sweet and sensitive. They also like the security of their home. If you will be relocating them, it’s important to Travel Safely With Your Pet and that these fragile animals feel calm and safe while moving. Our pets are like members of our own family, so we should plan accordingly for their best interest leading up to, during, and after the upcoming move.
- Visit your vet for a medical check-up ensuring your pet rabbit is healthy and able to travel. Obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). Many states do not have specific regulations for rabbits, however, some do and it’s best to be prepared should you be requested to produce this documentation.
- There is always the chance that your pet could be injured at some point during the move. Having an emergency first aid kit on hand is always a good idea. You can research and purchase from Bunny Approved.
Choosing a carrier
- Make sure you have a suitable carrier specifically for rabbits. It should be solid and sturdy, well ventilated, and secure. Rabbits have a reputation to chew, so something strong will guarantee they cannot escape. You will want your transportation cage to have an opening on the top for easy access, should you need to remove the rabbit for any reason.
If you’re considering using a cardboard box, it's not advised, as rabbit’s like to chew. They can also become wet very easily, creating an unsafe carrier.
- Having the right size carrier is vital to the wellbeing of your pet rabbit. You will want to create a secure environment. If you have more than 1 rabbit, they can travel together in the same cage, as long as the cage is large enough for all to be comfortable. Each rabbit should be able to lie down easily.
Have the carrier available prior to moving day so your rabbit can get used to it. Leave the door open so that he can explore. If needed, place some snacks and toys inside the carrier, this may tempt him in.
Preparing the carrier
- Covering the bottom of the cage with an absorbing material will stop your rabbit from sliding around the carrier. It will also provide comfort for when the rabbit wants to lie down. Using a towel, newspaper or puppy training pads are options. For odor absorption, you may want to add pine shavings or a rabbit litter.
- You will want your rabbit to stay hydrated throughout the duration of the journey. Attaching a water bottle to the carrier is advised. Hay is a good snack for rabbits when traveling. Your rabbit may not want to eat while being transported. If this is the case, have someone sit with the rabbit to assist them and offer them an alternative such as carrots, celery and leafy greens.
If your rabbit is not drinking water from the bottle, someone should sit in the back and carefully take the rabbit out of the carrier and assist him with drinking cool water from the hand. It is very important that rabbits stay hydrated, as they are sensitive to heat.
Getting Your Rabbit in The Carrier
Ideally, you want your rabbit to go into the carrier on his own, as this will be a much less stressful beginning of your journey than if you were forced to work him in there against his wishes. A treat inside the carrier is perfect for luring them in and keeping them occupied while you close and secure the carrier. You may also consider leaving the carrier out and open for the rabbit to explore on his own. Doing so will make him far less apprehensive when it is time to go in.
Transporting Your Rabbit
- If you will be driving with your rabbit, the carrier should not move around. Either strap it to the seat using the seat belt or place it on the floor behind the front seats. Have the side of the cage facing the front of the car. This is a safety precaution and allows the rabbit to see out of the carrier.
- Rabbits should never be transported in a closed trunk. You can however transport them in a covered truck bed or a trailer that is well ventilated, if weather conditions allow. Make sure the rabbit’s carrier is secured.
- Ensure the temperature is cool enough for your rabbit. It should be between 40°F - 75°F. Rabbit’s sensitivity to heat must be a priority for the duration of the journey. To avoid a heat stroke, use the air conditioner, but make sure it does not blow directly on your rabbit, leave windows down if the air outside is cool enough. Travel during cooler hours of the day.
- If you will be stopping at night and needing a hotel, researching pet friendly hotels prior to the beginning of your journey will be beneficial in your planning. Online websites such as Expedia have the option to look for pet friendly hotels.
- Periodically check on your rabbit to see how they are doing. Are they drinking enough water, could they be hungry? Maybe stop and give them a little attention. Rabbits are prone to overheating, and if you are traveling in warmer weather, make sure to look out for signs of overheating. These may include:
- Hot ears
- Wet around the nose area
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Tossing head back while breathing rapidly from an open mouth
If you sense your rabbit has become overheated, do your best to get them to a cooler place out of the sun. With cool water, (not cold) dampen his ears and have them drink water.
If you choose to travel by plane with your rabbit, inquire with any airlines about their regulations for traveling with a rabbit. You will be required to obtain an airline approved carrier and label it “LIVE ANIMAL”. Your contact information and health certificates should also be attached securely to the carrier.
Allow yourself enough time to plan accordingly and ensure you are able to book flights for your desired dates. Airlines have a set number of pets allowed per flight and some airlines only move pets at certain times of the year, due to weather conditions. This is for the safety of the animals.
Arriving To The New Home
Making sure the temperature at the new environment is comfortable, along with setting up the rabbits cage or safe space, is the first thing to be done upon arrival. Place familiar objects and extra food, such s leafy greens, in the rabbit’s dwellings and maintain a calm atmosphere, allowing him to relax into the new house / surroundings and begin exploring when he feels secure enough.
Observe your rabbit after the journey. If he seems unwell, go see a vet. Some rabbits try to hide their illnesses, so keep a close eye on them. Signs to be aware of:
- Teeth grinding (especially paired with hunched posture – is a sign of pain)
- Tilted head
- Open-mouth breathing
- Blood in urine or anywhere in his cage/home
- Limping or paralysis
- Enlarged abdomen that seems painful to the touch
- Vocalizing (crying)
- Decrease in eating or drinking that lasts more than a couple of days after travel
- Drooling, slobbering, loss of chin hairs (all indicate a dental problem in a rabbit)
- Discharge from nose, sneezing or coughing, difficulty breathing (indicate a respiratory infection)
- Change in stool (diarrhea or decreased stools)
- Hair loss, itchiness, flaking skin, or lumps on the skin
- Biting, growling, or attacking (indicates substantial pain in a usually gentle animal)
During this time of transition, supply your soft, sweet and sensitive rabbit with lots of love and affection,
which will make him feel welcome in his new home. You’ll then able to start Unpacking Your Home After The Move.