Any time we remove our rabbits from their home and take them to a new environment, it causes stress. The rabbit doesn’t know if the new place is safe, it doesn’t have a properly marked territory any more, and the regular routines rabbits love so much are disturbed. That being said, sometimes we have to take our rabbits with us on a trip for various reasons such as a cross-country move, a family visit, or a work event. Here are some tips to make the whole experience as smooth as possible for everyone involved. This article assumes that the rabbit is either free-range or lives in a large (not portable) cage/play-pen and roams the house frequently.
Be prepared and know that 75% of your car will be filled with stuff your rabbit needs.
Hotel or Sleepover?
In most cases we would recommend a hotel stay instead of a sleepover at a friend’s or family member’s house. A hotel room can be bunny-proof in a few short moments, which is not always possible in someone’s home. Depending on the rabbit, you might even be able to let the bun roam the room freely instead of having to build an enclosure. Should the rabbit damage something accidentally or leave a stain on the carpet, you will feel much less guilty if it happens in a hotel room (sad, but true). Also, the hotel room might be quieter and you don’t have to be concerned about other pets or small children.
Then again, your friend or family member’s house is most likely cleaner than a hotel room. Also, not every hotel will allow pets and the ones that do often charge an extra fee, which makes a hotel stay extra costly. The best solution depends on your situation and everyone’s personality. Keep in mind that even the cleanest rabbits will likely mark their new territory with poop or small amounts of urine.
If you want to stay in a hotel, you can sneak the rabbit in and face possible consequences (ha!) OR you could try websites such as priceline or expedia and search for pet friendly hotels. They usually give you the option to only show pet-friendly ones after the search results for the destination have come up. Be aware that they often don’t mention extra pet charges. It’s a good idea to call the hotel directly first and ask about their pet policy. Most of the time, there is a one-time cleaning fee that covers the whole stay. We were charged $50 extra on a recent trip.
Try to pick a room with carpet (most of them have it) if your bun hates other floors like ours do. Make sure you check the hotel room for cables and other hazards and add the “Do Not Disturb” sign to your hotel door once you are there. You don’t want people coming in and scaring the rabbit(s).
What To Bring
- Litter Box plus Bedding
- Water/Food Dish
- Food including Greens/Veggies, Hay, Treats, and Pellets (if you feed them)
- Blanket/Towel/Rug to sleep on
- Tunnel/Bridge/Cardboard Box etc. to hide in
- Emergency Kit including infant simethicone, Critical Care, (grooming) scissors, and vet contact information
- Optional: X-Pen, Baby Gates plus Zip-Ties, or other enclosure (the IRIS pet pen, for example, on amazon)
- Optional: Zip-ties (to bunny-proof a room), scissors, knife (for veggies), and wipes for various situations
To reduce stress, bring a few items along that belong to your bunny at home. This could be a favorite towel, a rug, a tunnel, or a blanket. Also, bunnies feel much safer in a new environment if they can hide/sleep underneath or inside a piece of (familiar) furniture such as a cardboard box, a bridge, or a wooden house. Having familiar items there also helps the rabbit figure out which area is theirs. This is important; a rabbit only truly feels safe in their own territory.
We recommend bringing a rug, some towels, or other kind of pad along to place on the carpet/floor. At a friend’s house it protects the floor and serves as a comfortable resting spot. In a hotel room, it also protects the rabbit from having to sit on a possibly borderline-gross hotel floor. The EZWhelp pads on amazon are washable and water-proof. They turned out to be perfect on our recent trip.
Having an emergency kit handy is a great idea! Stress can make a rabbit sick and you know they always have an emergency at 11pm on a holiday or before a long weekend… Infant simethicone can help with gas and should definitely come along! Critical Care is crucial when a rabbit refuses to eat. Also have your vet’s contact information handy and the phone number of an exotic vet at your destination.
While a trip is not the time to try out new food or change the diet, there are certain foods that can help calm your rabbit down and keep digestive issues under control despite stress if your bun is already used to them. Choose chamomile, fennel, apple, willow leaves/sticks, mint, parsley, cilantro, and other herbs over things such as banana, pumpkin, carrot, or broccoli. Always offer fresh hay in unlimited quantities, as usual.
We hope this article is helpful and if you have any other tips or ideas, please share in the comments! For safe car transportation ideas, check this article and if you’d rather leave your rabbits at home, here is another one.