On the Road
By educating small-pet owners about the joys of traveling with their pets, retailers can encourage the sale of travel products.
Not all pet owners know that many small animals travel quite well, thus they are missing out on some fun adventures. Retailers are in the best position to inform customers of this fact, and also offer them products that will make the travel experience easier and more comfortable for both the owners and pets.
There are basically two types of travel excursions. First is the short trip, such as to the pet shop or park. Second is a trip that will be overnight or longer. The longer the trip, the more supplies a pet owner needs to bring along.
For a short trip that will only last a few hours, small pets can be transported in a carrier. A carrier only needs to be large enough to give the pet—or pets—room to move around a little and turn around comfortably. The smaller the carrier, the more convenient it will be for the owner to take it along. Many lightweight carriers are made with a plastic bottom and wire top. A carrier can also be made of fabric, like a purse. Most small animals appreciate a soft pad in the carrier to make the ride more comfortable. The space occupied by the pad should be taken into consideration when buying a carrier, so the pet still has enough room to turn around comfortably.
For a short trip lasting less than an hour, small pets don’t need access to food or water. For a slightly longer trip, instead of a water bottle, a pet that can eat fruit or veggies can be given a piece of apple, banana, raw potato or celery in the carrier as a source of food and moisture.
For a longer trip, a larger, more substantial cage is called for. When choosing a long-term travel cage, you want to give the pet as much room as possible, but this must be balanced with how easily it can be carried, and how well it will fit in the car or other form of transportation. A travel cage that is too big can be awkward and make traveling with a pet more of a problem than a joy. A travel cage should have a place where the pet can hide and feel safe. It is also good to have blanket to put over the cage for warmth, shade or privacy.
A travel cage will need to be cleaned more frequently than the pet’s cage at home. Retailers can carry small packages of litter and bedding products that will be convenient for pet owners to take along on a trip.
An appropriately sized exercise wheel can provide pets accustomed to the wheel with an opportunity to stretch their legs. A collapsible playpen can also be valuable when traveling. Some playpens come with a plastic tarp bottom, which will protect the floor of a hotel room. A playpen can even be set up in a park or at the beach to give pets a fun, new experience.
While traveling on longer trips, pet owners should offer animals water during breaks. A dish or water bottle with ball bearings in the sipper tube should not be kept in or on the cage when on the move, as water will get the bedding wet. The only water bottles that can always be kept on the habitat during the trip are those with a lever mechanism that must be pushed aside by the animal to release the water. The best food dishes for traveling are those that attach to the side of the cage to prevent them from sliding around or being tipped over when the cage moves.
While carriers and water bottles are obvious necessities, retailers should also consider explaining the benefits of harnesses and leashes. Pet owners who are going to take their animals out of the carrier or travel cage during a trip should fit their pet with a secure harness and leash. No matter how much a pet loves its owner, a sudden unexpected loud noise or other disturbance can be frightening enough to trigger an animal’s flight instinct. A pet wearing a harness and leash will be less likely to be lost.
Some pets can get so used to their harness that they will be happy to wear them for extended periods. Others might try to chew off the harness, and so they shouldn’t wear it while in the carrier or travel cage. In any event, an animal shouldn’t wear a harness unless it will be supervised by the owner to prevent accidents, such as the harness getting caught on the cage.
Lastly, retailers should consider running specials on travel accessories during peak travel times, or even offering a travel package including all the special items needed for travel with a small pet. Coupons for these products can also be included in starter kits, and given out when customers purchase small animal food or bedding.
Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.