Moving to a new home can be pretty stressful as is. Adding a rabbit into the mix can make anyone’s head spin. How do you keep your rabbit from getting scared? And how can you safely bring your rabbit in a car? Should you have any emergency supplies with you? There’s a lot to think about when moving with a rabbit.
To avoid stressing your rabbit out while you move, you want to make sure you have a plan ready. Designate a place for your rabbit that’s away from all moving noise, so they can stay as stress-free as possible during the process. It’s also a good idea to have some emergency supplies on hand, especially if you are moving a long distance.
While it can be a little intimidating to tackle your move to a new home, there is a lot you can do to make the process successful. By keeping your rabbit out of the way and comforting them during stressful car rides, you’ll be able to get them set up in their new home in no time.
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Moving with a rabbit
I wish we could talk to our pets and let them know exactly what was happening when we move house. Instead, our rabbits all of a sudden find themselves in a new and unfamiliar place. If a rabbit gets too stressed it can actually be a little dangerous. They may become so stressed that they stop eating, which can cause some serious and immediate problems for a rabbit’s health. To prevent this, it’s important to to what we can to help our rabbit’s stay calm and comfortable during a move.
Option 1: the two-day plan
The best and most stress-free way to move your rabbit is to move them on a completely different day than when you move the majority of your household items. This will give you a chance to focus on moving your rabbit in one day. You can get them set up in the new area without the added chaos that moving day brings.
This could mean moving your rabbit the day before you move. This way they are fully set up and can start to get acclimated to their new environment. You could also choose to move your rabbit and their enclosure after you have everything else set up in the new place. This option will let you rabbit stay comfortable in a place that they recognize, even if everything else is moving around them.
Of course, this is only a best case scenario. It’s not always possible to take your move in two separate days. For example, if you’re moving a long distance it would be difficult to drive for two long trips. Similarly, you may only have a small window of time to move out of an old apartment and into a new one, giving you no choice but to make the move in one day. In these cases, you’ll need to do a lot more planning ahead to make sure you can move your rabbit and cause as little stress as possible.
Option 2: Plan ahead
If you cannot take two days to make your move, then it’s doubly important that you plan ahead. You’ll want to make sure that you know where your rabbit will located while you are moving your household items, so that you can quickly and confidently break down and set up your rabbit’s enclosure.
Moving out of your old place
If you need to make your move in one day, then you need to make sure you have a solid plan. Don’t try to wing everything last minute because you may end up causing your rabbit a significant amount of stress. The best thing to do in this scenario is to leave your rabbit’s enclosure until last. Move everything else out around your rabbit and then take care of your rabbit’s supplies.
If your rabbit’s enclosure is in the middle of everything and would get in the way if you don’t move it, then you’ll need to make a temporary set up for your rabbit. Choose a place in your home that’s farthest away from all the noise of people moving and set up an area for your rabbit. A rabbit exercise pen can come in handy here because it will be easy to set up and keep your rabbit out of the way.
Make sure your rabbit has access to their litter box, hay, and water. It’s best if you can give them someplace to hide also, in case they get scared of all the sounds. As you are moving everything, check in on your rabbit occasionally to make sure they’re doing okay, and not getting too scared or stressed. As long as you are doing your best to keep your rabbit away from all the noise, they’ll probably be doing okay since they’ll still be in a familiar place.
Getting your rabbit in the carrier
When you’re ready to leave, it will be time to get your rabbit into a carrier. It’s best if you can allow your rabbit to go into their carrier on their own. This will be less stressful at the start of the trip than picking your rabbit up and placing them in the carrier. Try to lure them in by hiding a yummy treat inside.
I also find that placing the carrier out for them to examine while you are moving everything else can be a way to help your rabbit feel more comfortable with it. They will likely go in and out of it a couple times, thinking of it like a hiding house. This will help make it more likely they’ll go in on their own without feeling intimidated.
Moving into your new home
When you are moving into your new home, you’ll basically be doing everything from moving out, except in reverse. The first thing you’ll want to do is get your rabbit set up either in a temporary spot away from all the noise or in their new permanent location.
Set up your rabbit with hay, water, and access to a litter box, and allow your rabbit to come out of the carrier in their own time. You can offer your rabbit a treat to reward them for their good behavior during the move and help them start to have a positive association with the new place. Giving your rabbit some leafy greens at this point is also a good idea. The greens will be enticing to your rabbit and encourage them to start eating. They also have a high water content and can help to keep your rabbit hydrated.
As you’re moving everything into your home you’ll want to check in on your rabbit occasionally to make sure they are doing okay. It’s good if you see your rabbit starting to eat and explore a little in their new place.
Your rabbit’s new home base
When you set up your rabbit’s enclosure in your new place, try to make it as similar to their old set up as possible. Put their food bowls in the same place, as well as the hiding house and litter box. This will help the enclosure feel familiar to your rabbit. Even though the surroundings are different, they have all of their usual items in the usual places. This will help your rabbit get used to the new place more quickly and become more confident and ready to explore their new home.
Traveling with a rabbit
Traveling in any kind of moving vehicle is a stressful and frightening sensation for most rabbits. The vibration as well as the movement of a car will cause even the bravest bunnies to huddle up scared, refusing to eat or drink anything. Knowing that this is a common problem for rabbits, we can plan ahead to try to make the trip go as smoothly as possible.
You’ll also want to make sure your rabbit’s carrier is an appropriate size for your rabbit. If the carrier is too big, then your rabbit could be injured if they hit up against the side of the enclosure when you make a sudden stop. To make sure your rabbit’s carrier is the correct size, you’ll want to make sure they can turn around inside the carrier, but doesn’t have much extra space.
Hard sided carriers are usually the better option, especially if you are going a long distance. For my 6-pound rabbit, I used this carrier meant for a small cat, and it was the perfect size. For large rabbits, you’ll probably want to go a size bigger to make sure they have enough space to turn around.
If the carrier has a slick floor, you’ll want to place a towel on the bottom to give your rabbit’s feet something to grip. It’s also a good idea to place a handful of hay into the carrier and a water bottle on the door in case your rabbit feels okay to munch or drink some.
Keeping your rabbit comfortable in the car
It is very important that you keep your rabbit feeling safe and comfortable in the car, especially if you are going a long distance. You’ll want to buckle your rabbit’s carrier into the car so that you won’t have to worry about it flying out in case of a car accident.
Keeping the temperature of the car nice and cool is vitally important. High temperatures can easily lead to heat stroke in rabbits, so you’ll want to keep the AC blowing and keeping the air cool. You can also comfort your rabbit by speaking to them calmly and playing gentle music to block out the sounds of the road. If your rabbit’s carrier has a hand hole, you can even reach in and pet them to comfort them, but avoid actually opening the carrier because you don’t want a loose rabbit in a moving car.
If you are traveling longer than an hour in the car, it is usually best to take breaks. Stop at rest areas and give your rabbit a chance to relax a little without the vibration of the car. This is also an opportunity for you to give your rabbit some fresh leafy greens and try to entice them to eat. Most rabbits will refuse to eat and drink during a car ride, so the leafy greens are more enticing and likely that your rabbit will decide to munch on them. They also have a high water content, so even if your rabbit is still refusing to drink anything, the leafy greens can help them remain hydrated.
Trains and planes
If it is at all possible, I strongly advise you to make this a road trip rather than taking a train or a plane. While cars are scary for rabbits, you still have a lot more control over the environment. You’ll be able to make sure the temperature is cool enough, and there won’t be any scary and loud noises from the other people and possibly animals that are sharing the space.
Sometimes, however, you might not have a choice. In these cases you should opt for a train or a plane service that allows you to bring your rabbit into the cabin with you. You should never check your rabbit as cargo. You’ll also want to make sure you check the rules and regulations of the train or plane service to make sure you can bring your rabbit’s essential supplies with you, such as their food, water, and leafy greens. The House Rabbit Society has some information on the few airlines that currently allow rabbits to travel in the cabin with you.
How to help rabbits adjust to a new home
Moving house can be a difficult event in a rabbit’s life. They are creatures of habit who love to have their routines and visit their regular places every day. When all of that suddenly changes, it can be pretty difficult for a rabbit to cope.
Some rabbits will be confident and willing to explore their new house right away, while others are very shy and take a while to start feeling at home again. Luckily there are some steps you can take to help your rabbit feel at home again.
Rabbits love routine. It helps their day feel safe and predictable. The best thing that you can do to help your rabbit feel more at home is to continue with all of the old routines in the new home. If there was a certain time of day you got up to feed your rabbit, make sure you stick to that schedule. Did you let your rabbit out of their enclosure to exercise and explore at specific times of day? Try to keep that same schedule going, so your rabbit will be able to take comfort in their old routines.
Spend time with your rabbit
If your rabbit knows you well, they’ll feel a lot safer and more comfortable when you are around. They’ll be more willing to come out and explore because you’re in the room with them. Whereas, if your rabbit finds themself alone in a strange place, they’ll probably be scared and more likely to keep hiding.
This means that if it’s at all possible, you should try to take a few days off from work or work from home for the few days after you move. This will ensure that you are able to spend time with your rabbit while they are initially adjusting to the new space.
It is also vitally important that you take the time to thoroughly rabbit proof the new area early on. Make sure you get any dangerous objects out of your rabbits reach and keep your rabbit away from any potential problem areas. Cover wires, block off access to baseboards, and cover up any carpeted flooring your rabbit is likely to dig into. To learn more about how to rabbit proof your home, check out my article that goes into all the little details.
What items to bring with you while you travel
While it’s always the hope that everything will go smoothly, it’s also best to plan for an emergency. Make sure you have everything you need with you in the car to take care of your rabbit in the event that the car breaks down, the moving truck doesn’t arrive at your new home, or anything else that could go wrong. That’s why it’s important to keep these supplies with you in whatever vehicle your rabbit is traveling in. The farther you have to travel, the more important it is to have these supplies available.
- Critical care with a syringe: Critical care is a powder formula that you use to force feed rabbits who aren’t eating. Usually it is used to help a rabbit recover after a surgery. In this case, you would only have to resort to feeding your rabbit critical care if they are refusing to eat on their own.
- Your rabbit’s food and hay: You’ll need to make sure you have extra food and hay with you, just in case you need to make any unexpected stops along the way.
- Yummy leafy greens: Keep some leafy greens in a cooler to help encourage your rabbit to eat during rest stops and when you get your rabbit set up at your new home.
- Water bottle and extra water for travel: You’ll want a water bottle for your rabbit’s carrier, but it’s also a good idea to bring extra water with you. The water can also be used to mix the critical care formula if that becomes necessary.
- Litter box and a big bag of litter: A litter box and some litter will be important if you have to set up your rabbit in a temporary space, such as a hotel, overnight.
- A temporary enclosure: Keep an ex-pen with you so you can set up a temporary space for your rabbit. This will also help during the move-in and move-out, and will make sure your rabbit has a safe space if the moving truck is late getting to your new home.
- Extra towels: Towels can make it easier to handle your rabbit if you need to burrito them for any reason. They can also help prevent messes, or be placed over your rabbit’s carrier to keep the sun from beating directly onto them.