Caring for your rabbit whilst you're on holiday
Rabbits need lots of space, they are sensitive little pets and they need to feel safe, so it’s unlikely they will be travelling with you.
When rabbits come to join your family, all your care and attention is rewarded when you get to know them and find out what huge personalities they have. But what happens when you want to go on holiday? Rabbits need lots of space, they are sensitive little pets and they need to feel safe, so it’s unlikely they will be travelling with you.
You’ll want to know your rabbits are in good hands while your away. Your options are either to have someone come to care for them in their own home, or to take them to a rabbit-boarding facility. So, how do you find a good rabbit carer, what should you look for, and what preparations do you need to make?
Home care for rabbits
You could ask a friend, neighbour or relative to stay at your home and pet-sit for you or, if they live locally, they could pop in several times a day to check on your rabbits, feed and water them and keep them clean. If you don’t have anyone who can help, you could look for a professional pet-sitter. The advantage to this is that your rabbits’ carer should be experienced in looking after rabbits. Some pet-sitters may even have veterinary nursing qualifications.
Many pet-sitters have an online presence, and you should be able to read reviews from previous customers. Otherwise, word of mouth is often a good way to locate trustworthy pet carers.
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If you feel happier for your rabbits to go to stay in a rabbit hotel or boarding facility, these are another great option. An online search should provide you with a number of potential rabbit carers. Some of these also board and care for other small pets, including guinea pigs, hamsters and rats.
Do your research, read customer reviews and, if you think you may have found a suitable carer, arrange to visit them so you can see where your rabbits would be staying and meet the people looking after them.
Questions to ask a rabbit boarder
Just because your rabbits will only be staying for a short time, it doesn’t mean that their requirements for space (including vertical space), safe hiding places, shade and protection from the weather are any less than they normally are. The Rabbit Welfare Association recommends that pairs of rabbits (rabbits should never live alone) have constant access to an area of at least 3 m x 2 m, with a vertical height of at least 1 m, so they can run and display normal behaviour.
The accommodation must be proofed against rabbits digging under or chewing through boundary fences, and from predators watching or accessing the rabbits.
If your rabbits normally live in your home, find out what provision the boarding facility can provide for house rabbits.
It’s important that the person looking after your rabbits is experienced in doing so and knows how to recognise if a rabbit is behaving anxiously or unwell. Find out also how many pets would be under their care while your rabbits may be visiting.
Some serious, often fatal, infectious diseases can be passed between rabbits, even if they don’t have direct contact with each other. Myxomatosis and two types of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (also called viral haemorrhagic disease, RHD, VHD and RVHD) can be transmitted via insect bites, body fluids and droplets in the air, for instance, from sneezing. It’s vital your rabbits are vaccinated regularly against these diseases, as wild rabbits often carry them and insects can transmit the infections over long distances. If a rabbit boarder is happy to allow unvaccinated rabbits to visit, choose a different provider.
Your vet will advise you which vaccinations to administer to your rabbits, and when, but it’s also worth knowing that rabbits sometimes feel under the weather following vaccination. So, if you’re planning to board them, have their vaccinations completed at least three weeks before the date of their stay, to allow immunity to develop adequately and to give any mild adverse effects time to settle.
Rabbits are sensitive to changes in diet. Even a sudden change in the type of hay they’re fed could affect the bacteria living in their gut. Add to this the stress that a change of surroundings (even in an optimal boarding environment) can cause, and it’s easy to see how a rabbit could struggle while away from home. A good rabbit-boarder will be happy for you to bring along everything your rabbits normally eat at home, other than their daily fresh food, of course.
If your rabbits will be receiving medication during their stay, check that the carers are happy and able to administer this.
If the rabbit boarder isn’t close to your own veterinary clinic, check what plans are in place if a visiting rabbit should become unwell. Most Vets4Pets clinics have extensive rabbit experience, but not all vets are used to treating rabbits, so it’s useful to know what arrangements are in place between the boarder and a vet.
Preparing to leave your rabbits
Before you head off on holiday, a few preparations can make for peace of mind while you’re away.
Write down clearly for whomever is caring for your rabbits exactly what you normally feed them. Give quantities and timing as accurately as possible. Make sure you’ve bought enough supplies to see your rabbits through to your return home. Fresh food will probably need to be bought during your absence, so be clear about what your rabbits are used to and ask your carer not to vary from this.
If your rabbits are being looked after at home, try to arrange for their carer to come and meet them before you go away. You can show how your rabbits typically behave and give an idea of what’s normal for them.
Make sure your rabbits’ microchip details are up to date on the database holding their information, just in case one should escape while you’re away. You will have been given some microchipping documentation, either when you first obtained your rabbit or if you had them microchipped afterwards. It’s a great idea to have microchips implanted if it hasn’t already been done.
If you can’t find the documentation, your vet team will be able to give you the number from their own records and you can find out which database holds your details here.
For a stay with a rabbit boarder, you’ll need to ensure your rabbits’ vaccinations are up to date and that their cards have been completed. If you need a replacement, ask your vet in plenty of time!
Invest in a sturdy carrier for your rabbits. If your rabbits are bonded, it’s best for them to travel together in the same carrier for their journey to the boarding facility, or if either of them needs to visit the vet. Rabbits are strong chewers, so make sure the carrier is chew-proof and suitable for rabbits. You can find out more about travelling with your rabbits here.