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July 27, 2006 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Help me help my rabbits cope with a long car drive.

My partner and I have two rabbits, Bob and Doug, both adult males. We're driving from Kentucky to New Hampshire over a period of several days, starting this weekend.

When we drove from Tennessee to Kentucky a month ago (about a four-hour drive), we put both rabbits in their respective pet carriers with some bedding, their food bowls and their water, wedged one in a space between boxes and held the other on my lap. The one on my lap (Bob) spent the whole ride freaking out, alternately cowering in a corner or standing inside his food bowl, breathing heavily, with the whites of his eyes showing the whole time. He seemed somewhat comforted by me talking to him, but not a lot, and as we're driving in two separate cars I won't be able to pay as much attention to him because I'll have to keep my eyes on the road. Doug, as far as I can tell, spent the whole ride scrunched up against the back of the carrier. Both of them took about a day to calm down afterwards.

About two years ago, we drove Doug (Bob was acquired later) down to TN from Canada (a three-day drive). He was about five months old at that point. We think it damaged him for life - before the drive, he was bold and inquisitive and affectionate, and since, he's been very cautious and grouchy, and no longer seems to enjoy being petted or played with. He also got neutered at about the same time and presumably went through bunny puberty, so the change in personality might be due to other things, but... we're worried this trip will cause similar psychological damage to the normal, affectionate bunny, and make the grouchy one worse.

I've thought of a few things we can do - dope them up on something, and/or put them in the same cage for mutual comfort. The former sounds like a great idea if we can find some Bunny Prozac, but I don't have any idea what to give them and don't have a vet. The latter - well, on the few occasions when we let them out together, Bob tries to hump Doug, who takes exception and fights back, and then one of them gets hurt. But, putting rabbits together in a car is supposed to be a great way to get them to bond, and we can rig one of their cages with a divider (the wall of the other cage) so they can lean against each other but can't actually fight.

Are either of those good ideas? How can we make the drive easier on them?
posted by joannemerriam to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
One of my cats hyperventilates in the car on long trips. For our twice-yearly drive from NY to NH she now gets clonazepammed.

I know you mentioned that you don't have a vet--are you sure you can't find a vet to go to just for this one need? They shouldn't have any problem prescribing something pretty quickly.

If you do end up doping them, I think that dividing them is still a good idea--I've seen that cats can "overpower" the drugging if they get cranky with each other and end up too adrenalized (or something) from fighting.

Best of luck! I know traveling with pets can be heart-wrenching when they're having a terrible time and there's nothing you can do.
posted by bcwinters at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2006

Sometimes if desperate ( for example, kitty is injured and freaking out and the vet won't open for another hour), I'll slip the kitty half a benadryl in a blob of butter to knock him out. I'm sure that someone posting after this will articulate why this is a terrible idea.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2006

We've travelled from Montreal to Boston (return) with our rabbit and didn't seem to bother her. She was in her own cage and seemed very curious about the scenery. On the other hand, I would think that covering the carrier might provide a feeling of safety and help them calm down.
posted by bluefrog at 8:11 AM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: Scary times are vitally important to rabbits. Err.... well... what you do with rabbits during scary times is important. One of the methods of bonding rabbits includes packing the two rabbits in a pet carrier and walking around with them... they forget about any hostility towards the other rabbit and end up being comforted by the contact.

My SigO and I drove from South Dakota to Seattle with a rabbit and a cat in a small pickup. The rabbit was in one of those all metal wire cages, and the cat spent most of the time sleeping on top of the rabbit's cage. This was the first time the two had met, and while the cat isn't a cuddler, the rabbit adores the cat and loves any attention he gets from him, even when the cat stops by to sniff the cage.

So... I would recommend letting the two rabbits travel in the same cage. Rabbit's aren't clausterphobic, and as you said, they don't move much anyways when they're in that state, so cramming them into one cage shouldn't be an issue (as long as they can be friendly towards each other). I would also place them somewhere that they can smell you, and you can stick your hand down and have physical contact with them every once in a while.

Also, Target (and other department stores) have these awsome "Wire Storage Cubes" that are a "Build your own shelf" type thing. We've found that if you zip-tie them together, they become a large wire fence, great for having bunnies outside, and they fold down to nearly no space at all. We stopped every couple hours to let the cat potty (he had a box, but didn't use it), and let the bunny outside to frolic.
posted by hatsix at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: So, as suggested, I called a local vet and they have to examine the bunnies before they'll prescribe anything, which gets into an expense we didn't budget for, and they told us they don't generally recommend sedating rabbits anyway, as there are no health risks to the travel, so we're taking a pass on the sedation idea.

I think we're going to put them in a cage together with a divider and see what happens.

Any suggestions or anecdotes about how that generally goes would be great.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: While this might not be the best time to start bonding Bob and Doug (great names!), a car ride works wonders for reluctant buns. I would recommend getting a large carrier and partitioning it over drugging them. Buns rely upon their alertness for survival, and sometimes being drugged can prove more traumatizing than the event you're trying to shield them from.

If Bob and Doug currently have separate living arrangements, swap their bedding. If that goes well and no one has a heart attack, tomorrow you should be able to swap their litterboxes. This will probably cause more consternation, and your walls and carpets will appreciate your presence. Once their smells are nicely mixed, put the bedding and boxes back in the proper cages. Hopefully by Saturday they'll be grudgingly used to smelling the other and the scariness of the car ride will be more important than proving themselves the dominant bun.

Bring one of their smaller carriers and an oven mitt just in case, though. (The oven mitt is to protect your hand in case you need to separate lunging buns. We have a chronically grouchy bun who'll lunge if you look at her funny. Oven mitts are a necessity.)

It's a good idea to give them a break every two hours or so, more often if they're really freaked out. (This is a no-brainer, really.) Pull over, but don't move the carrier. Open the windows so they can smell outside. Eventually they'll forget they were scared (microscopic attention span) and start sniffing away.

Good luck!
posted by hercatalyst at 9:25 AM on July 27, 2006

The wire storage cubes are generally in the home improvement section and NOT in the storage section. (Go figure.) Hatsix and I have about seven boxes of them by now. They're ridiculously convenient for bun companion humans. :)
posted by hercatalyst at 9:30 AM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: swap their bedding

I took this advice, and Bob has spent the entire hour since just sniffing his bedding. Doug has spent the hour glaring at me in miniature disapproval.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:48 AM on July 27, 2006

Since they're two males, they may have a very hard time bonding, and I wouldn't even attempt it if either still have their man-pride. But making sure they know each other's scents and used to it will help immensely when you do pack them away (even if they don't "bond", I'd still recommend packing them together... even if you pack them into the car in two carriers, and move them into one as you start driving... They'll forget their differences as soon as they're scared.)

But yes, having a pair of bonded rabbits is well worth the effort... we still have two pans, but gone are the guilt pangs for leaving them alone when we leave very early in the morning and get back late at nite.
posted by hatsix at 8:13 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: In case anybody comes upon this later, putting the two of them in a cage together, with a divider, worked well. I put them in the passenger seat so they could see me and I could pet them. Doug drooled a little the first day (I don't know if it was from stress or heat since it was about 100 F outside and my car's air conditioning is a bit weak), but otherwise they were fine. They appear to be getting along roughly as well as they always have.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:07 PM on September 2, 2006

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