How To Travel Safely In The Car With Your Rabbit

Road trip! Two of the sweetest words in the English language, right? And we’re gearing up for a really busy time of year on the road – with upcoming bunny festivals, Thanksgiving, the holidays. We might love the idea of a road trip, but what about our rabbits? They might not be such a fan of traveling now but work on it a little and you can make your next trip much less stressful – and maybe even a little fun – for your beloved friend.

Travelin' In Style: The Right Carrier

Wander down a pet store aisle of carriers sometime. Or, even just go online and browse the assortment of travel carriers. You’ll see all kinds – nylon, cloth, hard shell. Keep on walking or scrolling by the nylon and the cloth. If you think your rabbit does a number on your favorite shirt when it falls out of the laundry basket, just wait until you see her work on a cloth or a nylon carrier.

Same goes for cardboard. Let’s face it, when a rabbit sees cardboard, the first thing on her mind is “bunstruction time!” Plus, consider how soggy and putrid smelling it will become if your bun urinates. Uncomfortable and unsanitary for your rabbit and downright smelly for you.

That leaves the hard shell carrier – your safest option. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when buying a carrier:

Ventilation. The carrier must have sufficient ventilation so your rabbit always has fresh air.

Proper size. We might prefer not to be boxed in, traveling in larger vehicles with plenty of space. Not rabbits. Choose a carrier that provides just enough room for your rabbit (or rabbits, if you’ve got a bonded pair or a trio) to lie down, stand, up and turn around.

Soft bottom. Your rabbit must have a carrier with a soft bottom. If you can’t find a hard shell carrier with a soft bottom that works for your bun, don’t worry. Just add a pet bed, a blanket, or a towel to the bottom of the carrier. That way, you don’t have to worry about your little one slamming from side to side when you make quick stops or go around sharp bends.

*Note: You may want to put a non-scented puppy pad on top of the padding. If your rabbit pees, you can simply roll it up, throw it away and put another pad on top, keeping the soft bottom clean and dry.

Preparing The Carrier

Before securing your rabbit's carrier in the car,  get it ready for her. Make sure it has the soft bottom (pet bed, blanket, towel, etc.).  Help your rabbit feel more secure by using a blanket that has the scent of home on it.

​Provide your rabbit with some hay in the carrier, in case she gets hungry, but don't be surprised if she doesn't eat until you stop for a break. 

Adding a water bottle really depends on personal preference. If you opt for a water bottle, keep an eye on it so it doesn't leak, drenching your rabbit and leaving her without water. 

You can also cover the side's of the carrier to make it darker for your rabbit, which should help her feel more secure. 

Securing Your Rabbit's Carrier

Hard shell carrier with a soft bottom?

Check.

Now it’s time to secure the carrier in your vehicle. The House Rabbit Society and Medirabbit agree that placing the carrier on the front seat is your safest and the recommended option IF you can turn off the airbag on the passenger side.  

You can either put the carrier with the door facing the front of the car or with the door facing you.

Whichever way you choose, make sure the carrier is sitting FLAT. If it’s on an angle, put something underneath it until the carrier sits flat. Then secure it in with the seat belt. Make sure the seat belt tightly holds the carrier.

If you can't turn off the passenger side airbag, consider putting the carrier on the back passenger floor. Slide the front passenger seat so it sits against the carrier, securing it between the front seat and the back seat. 

***WARNING***

  • Never put the carrier on the floor in the front passenger seat. The fumes from the engine can cause your rabbit to become sick or even to die.
  • Never leave your rabbit in the car alone. The shade of a tree does little to combat the sun’s heat. Even on a 75 degree day, the temperature will hit 94 in only 10 minutes. Take a look at this chart from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

  • Always keep your vehicle cool in the summer when driving. But, whether you’re using the air or the heat, ensure the vents are facing away from your rabbit so she doesn’t overheat or get too cold.

Practice Makes Comfort

Traveling in a car can be really, really stressful for some rabbits. That’s why a lot of people take their rabbits for a ride during the bonding process. But, have hope. Some rabbits can learn to tolerate – and even enjoy – the ride with a little practice.

Start by taking your rabbit for short rides at a time to get her used to being in the car. The car rides also, at least from personal observation, show your rabbit (especially if she’s recently adopted or skittish) that she’s always coming back home.  

So, practice for your long trip. You may even end up with a car riding lovin’ rabbit like my Stormie, who used to join me on Saturday afternoon errands. She’d get her fill of looking around and sniffing the fresh air (or me getting lost) then flop over for a nap (and this from a girl who originally hated car rides. Not bad, huh?).

The Big Day

Drum roll, please! The day of your road trip has finally arrived. Your little bun’s a pro – or at least a little more comfy in the car now – and it’s time to head off to Bunfest or Grandma’s house. 

Keep these tips in mind when you're on the road:

  • Never, ever leave your rabbit alone in the car. Yes, we've already said it but it's so important to remember.

  • Stop regularly to allow your rabbit to stretch her legs, to drink water, and to eat, if she's hungry. Have fresh greens available at stops, which may entice her to eat.

  • If you're driving for more than one day, plan ahead of time where you're going to stop for the night, especially if you need a pet-friendly hotel. 

Ready? It might seem like a bit of a challenge at first, especially if your rabbit is skittish about traveling. Give it time and have patience and you'll discover that traveling with your bun can be enjoyable for both of you.

References

Medirabbit: Safe Transport by Car 

ASPCA:  Road Trip Tips

 Colorado House Rabbit Society:  Traveling With Your Rabbit

House Rabbit Society:   Vacations & Travel FAQ