Travel is an important necessity for small mammal pets, including rabbits and guinea pigs. At minimum, your furry friends need an annual visit to the veterinarian for a checkup. But traveling doesn’t come naturally to our precious pets. Walking or running they understand, but being placed in a small carrier and moved via car, plane, or other transport is completely abnormal and might frighten them.
Decide whether the benefits of the travel outweigh the risks to your pet. Yes, pets need to visit the veterinarian, but does your rabbit or guinea pig really need to accompany you on a weekend get-away, or is leaving them home and having a friend, relative, or pet sitter check on them better for your pet?
Sometimes travel is a must, but how do you minimize any stress to your rabbit or guinea pig? Following are some guidelines to help. In addition to these, consult your pet’s veterinarian and always use common sense.
Tips For All Travel With Small Mammals
1. Get A Pet Carrier: Any travel with your rabbit or guinea pig involves a pet carrier. Your little pal needs his or her own space to rest that protects both your pet and the vehicle. The carrier must be large enough to let your pet lie down and turn around, but no larger. This is one time when bigger is not better. The pet carrier must also be chew-proof, have plenty of ventilation, and allow easy access to your pet. If your travel includes public transport, such as planes, trains, or buses, make sure that pets are allowed. Find out from the plane, train, or bus company whether the pet carrier must meet certain requirements.
Get your pet acclimated to the pet carrier before you ever use it for travel. Place it in your home with the door open and put a treat inside. Leave it out for a few hours or even a day. This encourages your rabbits or guinea pigs to explore the carrier on their own, and the treat associates it with good things. Allow this pet carrier exploration a few times a year so your pets don’t associate it only with traveling.
2. Plan Ahead: When you prepare for a trip, you plan your route, travel time, necessary clothing and accessories, emergency arrangements, and more. Make similar plans for your pet, as even short trips require some planning.
For a short trip to the veterinarian, consider what might happen if your car breaks down or if you get stranded for a few hours. Your rabbit or guinea pig needs water and food, a cool environment, and a chance for exercise if the delays lasts a long time. If you’re traveling during warm weather, bring along frozen bottles of water kept in a cooler. If you get stranded and don’t have access to air conditioning, you can place a frozen bottle in your pet’s carrier so he or she has something cool to snuggle against.
For longer trips, bring along plenty of food and water from your home so that your pet won’t have to adjust to any new food or water while already enduring the stress of traveling. Bring your pet’s usual water bottle, water bowl, and food bowl. Also bring some of your pet’s toys, litter and litter box, bedding, and an exercise pen to serve as his or her home away from home. If your rabbits or guinea pigs take any medications, be sure to have enough on hand for the whole trip. Are special grooming tools needed? Bring those, too!
Stay at pet-friendly hotels or motels, or be sure that friends or relatives you might stay with are aware that you’re bringing your pets. Avoid setting up your pet’s exercise pen on carpeted areas that can’t be easily cleaned if there’s a potty accident. Clean up after your pet. Never leave behind a mess.
If you plan to cross state lines or enter other countries, research what health certificates or other documents you might need. The USDA website links to requirements for taking pets to another country, bringing them in from another country, and moving pets from state to state.
Providing water during travel is challenging. Water bottles might drip and water bowls might spill. For short trips, include a favorite piece of fruit or vegetable to provide some water. Bring a bowl or bottle along with your pet’s usual water as backup in case your trip unexpectedly takes longer. If this happens, stop and take a water break. Longer trips require regular water breaks.
3. Honor The Buddy System: If your rabbit or guinea pig is bonded to another, consider taking both on the trip. This is especially important for trips to the veterinarian. Even if only one pet is sick, bring along the buddy so they give each other support.
4. Avoid Sedation: For long trips, you might think that sedating your pet helps minimize his or her emotional stress. Actually, this might do more harm than good, because sedation might affect your pet’s ability to breathe. Check with your veterinarian for the specific needs of your pet.
Car Travel With Rabbits And Guinea Pigs
For travel in your car, secure the pet carrier on the floor of the back seat, face it sideways, and block any direct sun from reaching it. Being on the floor between seats secures the carrier. If it doesn’t fit there, be sure to strap the carrier securely on the seat. Facing sideways prevents your pet from being thrown too far inside the carrier if you make a sudden stop; there is less room side to side than front to back in a carrier. Direct sunlight can quickly overheat your pet, even if you have the air conditioner running.
Before taking a long car trip, try short car trips to see how your pet reacts. For long car trips, always schedule in regular food and water breaks.
Plane Travel With Rabbits And Guinea Pigs
Most airlines have restrictions on pet travel, and not all airlines classify rabbits or guinea pigs as pets. Some allow a limited number of pets in the cabin, some only ship pets as cargo, and some don’t fly pets at all. If pets are flown as cargo, try not to fly during warm months or limit travel to nighttime. This minimizes the chance that your pet might be on the tarmac in hot weather during loading. It’s also best to get a direct flight so your pet won’t need to be loaded into one or more other planes.
Before making any air travel plans for your rabbits or guinea pigs, research the requirements of your chosen airline. The airline website is a good place to start, such as these for Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United. Call to confirm that information on the website is current.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association created an airline reference guide. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers tips about traveling with pets. The Federal Aviation Administration has a few tips and links to more information. For travel to other countries, it’s always good to check with its embassy or consulate to ask about pet travel policies. U.S. Embassy.gov provides an alphabetical list. Websites for the country you plan to visit might also have information, such as these for Canada and the United Kingdom. It’s always best to call and confirm anything you read on the internet.
Another option for air travel with pets is animal transport companies. Some organizations that help you locate shippers include the Animal Transportation Association and the International Pet And Transport Association. Once you find a shipper, use your usual caution as a consumer by checking reviews, the Better Business Bureau, and any other resources before hiring.
Other Travel With Rabbits And Guinea Pigs
For travel on other modes of transport, including trains, buses, subways, and ferries, the first rule is always to check whether your species of pet is permitted to travel. If so, what rules need to be followed? For instance, Amtrak’s website discusses pet travel, which seems to be limited to dogs and cats weighing 20 pounds or less.
If travel is permitted, follow the rules of the transportation company and use many of the guidelines for car travel to keep your rabbits or guinea pigs safe.