Moving with Your Rabbit

You're moving into a new house or apartment. You are excited about the change. Your rabbit, however, is a creature of habit and moving to a new home represents a complete upheaval of his world. Unlike dogs, which seemingly could care less where they are as long as their owner is with them, rabbits like to maintain the status quo. Moving to a new home, therefore, is an upsetting event.

Don't give up on your rabbit, though. Nothing would be more traumatic for him than losing not only his comfortable home, but his human caregiver as well because you took him to a shelter instead of your new home. A recent study, by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, found that moving was a major reason why pets are turned over to shelters. The tragic truth is that most shelter rabbits do not find new homes.

If your rabbit has trouble adjusting to moving to a new home, he may engage in house-soiling, excessive grooming or not grooming altogether, or destructiveness. Other symptoms of anxiety in your rabbit may include depression, loss of appetite, hiding or aggression.

If you have the opportunity, take your bunny with you to your new house before the furniture arrives. Leave his carrier open in one of the rooms so he can get into it if he chooses. Give him some treats so he associates something positive with the new environment. If he has a favorite bed, take that as well so he will recognize something familiar. Make certain doors and windows are secure so your rabbit doesn't accidentally escape – he won't know where he is.

One suggestion to help reduce anxiety is to rub a towel on your rabbit to pick up his scent and rub it on walls, corners and windowsills in the new house to transfer your rabbit's scent to his new territory.

Once you move, assign one room as your bunny's. Put him in the room with his food, water, litter box, toys and comfortable belongings. Place something with your scent such as a worn t-shirt in the room. Leave a radio turned on to a soft-music station. The room will become your rabbit's safe zone if and when he needs to get away. Once you move, you will have lots to do, unpacking and putting away your belongings, but spend time with your rabbit in his room. Have two 10 to 15 minute play sessions each day. Over the course of 2 to 3 weeks, allow your rabbit to come out of the room to explore the rest of the house. When he is finished exploring, return him to the room. When your rabbit appears comfortable in the new space, allow him free run of the house. Move his belongings to their new locations a few steps at a time so he always knows where they are.

As a safety precaution on moving day, place your rabbit in his carrier to prevent him from accidentally escaping or being accidentally stepped on by the movers. Someone carrying a 100-pound sofa is going to be more concerned about not tripping than not hurting an animal that is in the way.