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How to transport a rabbit without stressing it, time period for settling in at home, changing a rabbit's diet...

When you go to pick up your new rabbit, you can either invest in a carrier (around £20 to £30) or use a large, sturdy cardboard box and cut some airholes in the top.  Line the carrier or box with a blanket or towel, or a thick layer of hay, so that your rabbit doesn't slide around.

In the car, place the carrier on the floor or on a seat with a seatbelt around it.  Try to drive smoothly and don't play loud music which will stress the rabbit.

When you get home, put your rabbit in its cage or hutch or, if it is to be a house rabbit, confine it in one small room with a litter tray and a box which it can hide in.  Make sure you have provided it with water and hay.  Give the rabbit at least an hour to recover from the journey before offering some tempting food such as carrot or apple.  Don't be worried if your rabbit doesn't eat straight away but if it still hasn't eaten after 6 to 8 hours, contact your vet immediately.

Dietary changes

Whenever possible, try to continue the diet that your rabbit was on in its previous home and always give your rabbit unlimited access to hay and fresh water.  If you want to switch to a different dry food or introduce new vegetables, do this gradually over a period of two to three weeks to allow your rabbit's stomach time to adjust.  Check your rabbit's droppings frequently - if they are very small or very soft, it may be wise to consult your vet as this may be indicative of an underlying problem.

Settling in period

It will take your rabbit some days to feel properly at home and in that time don't expect it to be overly friendly.  Let it find its feet and gain some confidence.  Make sure that it is eating and watch carefully for any signs of illness.  In its own time, your rabbit will start to approach you and investigate its surroundings out of curiosity - it is better to wait for the rabbit to initiate this than to force it yourself.

The speed with which your rabbit will settle in and gain confidence depends on its basic personality, what age it is, whether it is neutered/spayed and how comfortable in general it feels in your home.  A pair of bonded rabbits will draw confidence from each other and therefore tend to settle in quicker.  Remember that this is a very stressful experience for a rabbit and be patient.  Some rabbits take weeks or even months to properly settle in.

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