Your rabbit may be happier having a pet sitter at home rather than coming along for a road trip but sometimes you have no choice but to travel with your rabbit. Moving and veterinary visits (among other things) will warrant a car ride with your rabbit and since travel can be quite stressful for rabbits there are a few things you should do to make the trip more enjoyable (and to help avoid ileus).
Get a Good Carrier for Your Rabbit's Car Ride
If your rabbit cage fits in your vehicle your rabbit can travel this way but most cages take up too much room and may allow your rabbit to hurt themselves if you have to stop or turn suddenly.
Some people use small crates meant for dogs but it can be awkward to get your rabbit in and out of at front-opening cage if they won't willingly hop in it. Instead, consider getting a rabbit or cat travel carrier that opens on the top and sides. This way you can easily lift your rabbit in and out of the carrier and it is more private for your rabbit to feel secure and not open to the elements like a dog crate would be.
Get Your Rabbit Used to Their Carrier
Allow your rabbit to get used to the carrier prior to the car ride. First, allow them to explore the carrier on their own. Place it on the floor during playtime and put a few favorite treats inside on top of a towel. After a while, gently put your rabbit in the carrier for a few minutes at a time with their favorite treat or toy.
To get them adjusted to having to stay in the carrier start out by placing your rabbit in their carrier on the blanket with the treats.
Close the door securely and pick up the carrier making sure to keep it close to your body, not swinging by your side like a bucket. Walk around the house and hold the carrier on your lap for a few minutes and eventually work up to keeping your rabbit in the carrier for 30 minutes before letting them hop out on their own.
Cool the Car Before Traveling With Your Rabbit
Now that your rabbit is comfortable in their carrier you need to consider the temperature of the car before going on a real car ride. Rabbits do not tolerate temperatures over about 75 degrees Fahrenheit therefore you need to make sure they stay cool. Don't allow the carrier to sit in direct sunlight in the car, never leave your rabbit unattended in the vehicle on a warm day, and use the air conditioning but don't allow the vents to blow directly onto your rabbit's carrier. You can pre-cool the car if need be and on a really hot day (or if you do not have air conditioning) place a damp towel over the carrier along with an ice pack wrapped in a small towel inside the carrier for added cooling. Also, if it's the other extreme and really cold outside, make sure the heat vents are not blowing directly onto the carrier.
Practice Going on a Car Ride With Your Rabbit
Once your rabbit is used to their carrier and the car is a safe temperature, place the carrier on the floor of your car or buckled in to a seat. Start out taking short trips around the block and work up to longer trips of 30 minutes to an hour to acclimate your rabbit to both the carrier and the sensation of a moving vehicle.
Plan Ahead for the Car Ride With Your Rabbit
Now that your rabbit is ready to travel make sure you don't forget to pack for them. Pack extra food that your rabbit normally eats, a water bottle that can attach to the carrier, and some favorite treats. Get a health certificate from your vet if you are crossing state lines or attending a rabbit event, and consider getting your rabbit microchipped in case they get away from you. Pack some cleaning supplies like paper towels and a pet safe cleaner for any messes or spills. You can also place a blanket, trash bag, or cardboard piece over the seats in the car where the carrier will sit to protect from any stress-induced urine spraying or spills.
Place some pellets and hay in the carrier for your car ride and offer the water bottle regularly for a few minutes every hour if it isn't attached to the carrier.
If your bunny prefers, you can give him water in a dish during stops. Also when you stop, offer your bunny their favorite treats as many rabbits don't eat much due to the stress of traveling. Consider placing a puppy training pad on the bottom of the carrier for extra absorbency or if the carrier has room, a corner litter box.
If your trip is longer than a single day, pack an exercise pen to use as temporary overnight housing. Also pack a piece of cardboard or linoleum and some newspapers or heavy towels to line the pen and protect the floor from accidents and chewing. Don't forget a litter box with litter, make sure you have enough supplies to last the full duration of your trip, and only take your rabbit out of the carrier in enclosed spaces to prevent escapes. A stressed rabbit may dash away in a panic if they get out of their carrier outdoors.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT