Traveling Well

With just a little bit of planning, and the right travel accessories, a trip away from home can be enjoyed by small-animal owners and their pets.


When planning an out-of-town trip, most people assume their small animals must stay home. But in many cases, small animals can accompany the family on a trip, and this has benefits for both pets and owners. Pets that are strongly bonded to their humans won’t have to pine away at home. Owners avoid missing their pets while away and can continue to give their pets the care they are accustomed to. This can be particularly important for pets with special medical needs. Nothing makes a trip better than being able to cuddle with a beloved pet at the end of the day.

Pet travel can also benefit a retailer’s bottom line since customers will need special travel accessories. Consider printing out a list of accessories pet owners may need for traveling with small animals, along with safety tips. Topping the list will be a travel cage, since most everyday cages are too large to take traveling. Still, a travel cage for a small pet must be larger than a typical pet carrier since small animals are housed in it for the duration of the trip.

A travel cage should be at least twice as long as the animal’s body, to allow comfortable movement. When appropriate, including an exercise wheel in the cage will give the pet an opportunity for more exercise.  The cage also needs to be chew-proof. Even if the pet doesn’t try to chew out of its cage at home, in a strange place it may try to escape. There should also be a sunshade to protect the occupant from overheating. Even during cold weather, direct sunlight can quickly increase the temperature in a small cage.

Next, the traveler may want to buy a smaller food dish and water bottle than what they already own in order to reduce the weight of the cage. A water bottle with a ball-bearing-type sipper tube will drip when in motion, so the best type of water bottle for traveling is one with a lever-type sipper tube. A tote bag for taking along food, water and clean bedding is necessary. In fact, an insulated bag suitable for carrying fresh fruits and vegetables could be a good idea. Retailers can offer smaller packages of bedding products for traveling.

A collapsible playpen can give pets the opportunity to get out of their cages during the trip for some play and exercise. Another important accessory is a harness and leash for security when traveling with some small pets. Pets such as rabbits and ferrets should wear a harness with ID at all times when traveling. Smaller pets, such as rats, generally won’t tolerate wearing a harness when unsupervised. The harness and leash should be put on any time the pet is taken out of its travel cage. Instruct owners to be sure the harness and leash is on the pet securely before opening the door of a vehicle, hotel room, etc. Following this rule is the best way to prevent the tragedy of a lost pet.

Of course, not all trips are appropriate for small pets. For instance, Hawaii has strict quarantine regulations and does not welcome four-legged visitors. An adventure trip rafting down a river would also be the time to leave the animals behind. But small pets might be able to come along when visiting grandparents, and some destinations are more animal friendly than you might think. More hotels are accepting small pets, and travelers may be able to take pets along to a rented condo or cabin.

When driving to a vacation destination, taking small animals along is simple. Public transportation has more limitations. Trains and buses generally do not allow pets. Most airlines allow small animals in a cage small enough to fit under the seat, but the regulations vary from airline to airline. Reservations should be made early because the regulations usually allow only one animal or one cage of animals per flight. Unfortunately, most airlines do not allow rats in the cabin of the airline and require them to travel in the baggage compartment.

Travel during hot weather can be more stressful for small animals, since they do not tolerate heat well. When driving, travelers should prepare for a failure of air conditioning by bringing an insulated container of ice and water. In hot weather, pets should not be left unattended in a vehicle. Rather than eating meals in a restaurant, people traveling with pets should order their meals to go so they can stay with their furry companions.

When staying at rented accommodations with small animals, pets should be allowed out of their cage only under strict supervision to prevent damage to the room and furnishings. If not using a playpen with a soil-proof bottom, it is best to let animals out to play only in the bathroom. If animals are left alone in the room, the “Do Not Disturb” sign should be placed on the door to prevent them from being disturbed by the cleaning staff. Any mess created by the animals should be cleaned up prior to departure to leave a good impression. A bad experience with animals can cause the hotel management to change their policy and prohibit pets in the future.


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.


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