Baton Rouge, LA
Traveling With Bunnyby Wendy Lincoln
Each bunny is different when it comes to traveling - some are seemingly stress-free while others scamper away at the sight of a carrier. I hope these tips will make you and your bunny's travels easier.
Some bunnies prefer to ride in smaller areas, like a plastic dog carrier, to feel hidden while others take advantage of a roomier small cage. I don't recommend cloth carriers as they can chew through them or can leak when it comes to urine or water. For flooring, towels or blankets must be folded thickly as they tend to bunch up as they attempt to burrow, or it will often slide right along with the bunny on a sharp turn. Using a stiff rug (particularly one with a rubber backing for traction) or a pet bed that holds its shape well works much better. The pet beds are generally more absorbent when it comes to liquids as well, meaning a more comfy ride for bunny. On longer rides, some of our volunteers have had great success with adding a small plastic tote (meant for shoes, usually found at the dollar store for $1-2) as a litterbox for small-medium rabbits as it fits in most large pet carriers.
You'll want to get your bunny used to the pet carrier before the trip so it's a familiar and comfortable place. Place the carrier with the door propped open in your rabbit's area so the bunny can get familiar with it on their own terms. Hopefully they will begin to use it as a cozy spot to snuggle and they will come to identify it as a safe haven rather than something that is going to whisk them away. You can also offer treats or veggies in the carrier to encourage your bunny to enter and to associate it with positive things. Once familiar, you can also try short trips around the block or around town to see how things go while it's easier to check up on your bunny and to stop and rearrange things if needed.
For water, I personally dislike water bottles on the carrier door during the trip as it vibrates and leaks almost incessantly. Instead I offer veggies with a high water content (and often soak them in water the night before) such as celery, bell pepper, and lettuce to keep their hydration levels up. Be cautious if you don't give veggies regularly. I would bring a bottle and a bowl (as rabbits can drink more from a bowl) and offer it at all stops along the way and overnight. Some will drink right away while others take a minute to get curious once the vehicle has stopped and the vibration of the motor & roadway has subsided. The veggies will also give them something besides the hay to nibble on as they ride as nervous ones may be more inclined to eat flavorful veggies over their regular hay.
When it comes to packing, create a travel bag for your bunny to keep in the vehicle in addition to all of the things you will use overnight or at your destination. Bring along a water bottle with water from home, a bowl, extra veggies, a little hay & food, and an additional bed/flooring and litter in case it gets wet or used well halfway through the trip. Pack it where you can get to it easily, that way you don't have to unpack an entire box to get to more hay or supplies. It is also a good idea to pack a gallon of water that you normally give (whether it's tap water or bottled water) along with your regular supplies, as sometimes the new water tastes different and they are less inclined to drink the water from the tap at your new place. Having water from home will prevent GI stasis if they don't want to drink, and after they are more settled you can start mixing in the new water. Your bunny may be too stressed to eat or drink, so the best way to be prepared besides minimizing stress is to have Critical Care and syringes on hand. Dr. Leslie Pence of West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic says "The issues I usually see are GI stasis related to stress or diet change, etc. I would recommend every person traveling to ask their vet for a bag of Critical Care and start it if your rabbit doesn't eat or poop for more than 12 hours, and to also start if the poop changes shape or texture, as this may be a sign GI issues are just starting."
The size of the carrier and vehicle will determine the best placement. Usually I recommend that they ride in the backseat where air circulation is good, but not with an air-conditioner vent blowing right at them on full blast. If you use a regular cage, you may want to have a make-shift sun shade, whether on the window or over the top of the cage. You'll also want to make sure it's as level as possible. This can be done by rolling up a towel (or even dirty clothes that you don't have time to wash!) and put them under the cage to balance it out up against the back of the seat. Positioning the carrier sideways vs front to back will help in 3 ways - a long cage or crate won't tilt when the bunny hops from one side to another, it allows you to buckle the carrier in, and if you were to brake suddenly or get rear-ended, the bunny won't have as far to go from front to back which will lessen the potential for injury.
The trip itself will likely be easier than all of the packing & prep work. Plan to stop every 2-4 hours to give bunny a 5-15 min break and give the opportunity to drink some water. Keep an eye out for any drooling (indicative of nausea) or panting (possible overheating). Have a safe trip!
Are you evacuating or planning for a hurricane? Check out this link - http://www.rabbitnetwork.org/articles/evacplan.shtml.