Traveling with your Ferret
Traveling with your furry ferret friends can be an enjoyable experience if you do some careful planning and take a few precautions before you set out on your journey. As much as we love our pets, not everyone feels the same and in the case of ferrets, some people (uneducated on the sweet nature of these critters) can be downright unpleasant about having them around. In addition, ferrets are still illegal in many areas of the country. Therefore I would like to cover some of the basics of traveling with a ferret to get you off on the right foot (or should I say paw?).
Mode of Travel
Probably the best way to travel with your pet is in your own car. In this way you can control the important things such as when to stop for eating, playing and resting and you can control the temperature that your pet is exposed to.
If you do not have access to a car or have to travel a long distance you can choose from trains, buses and planes. I made some calls regarding what public modes of transportation would allow ferrets on board, and I received a definite NO to any pets from the suburban train and bus companies. Only seeing-eye dogs were allowed. This may differ in other areas of the country, but call first before making those reservations.
Airplanes are the most commonly used methods of long distance travel, so I checked on some airlines to see which ones would accept ferrets on in the cabin. To say the least I was very disappointed that the list was so small. Out of nine major airlines only TWO (Delta and America West) allowed ferrets inside the cabin with the passenger. To their credit they were very cheerful about the prospect of having these critters on board and I commended them on their open policy. They charge a $50 to $60 one way for pets riding inside the cabin regardless of the destination. Two airlines (ValuJet and Southwest) do not allow any pets ANYWHERE on the plane other than seeing-eye dogs. The rest of the airlines allow only dogs, cats and small birds in the passenger area but allow ferrets in the cargo area. These airlines included American, Continental, Northwest, TransWorld and United. They said there would be no exceptions to having ferrets in the cabin. As an amusing aside, American Airlines also allows pot-bellied pigs IN THE CABIN, but not ferrets. Since ferrets only weigh about 1 to 3 pounds and are very quiet and pot-bellied pigs weigh from 40-100 lbs and are very loud....it makes sense to you doesn't it?? (Will wonders never cease!)
I was assured that the cargo area of the planes that allowed pets are pressurized and heated, but obviously, the optimal choice is to have your pet with you in the cabin if at all possible. Airlines will not take pets into the hold area if the outside temperature is either extremely hot or cold because the pet may have to sit in a carrier outside the plane while waiting to be loaded. This could affect whether your pet can travel with you at all times on your trip. If the ferret is going in the cabin, the outside temperature is not a problem. All airlines require a health certificate
from a veterinarian issued no more than 10 days before the flight.
If you do take your ferret on public transportation, please DO NOT remove it from its carrier while on board unless there is an emergency. Your pet will likely be frightened by the new experience and you greatly increase the chances of an escape or a bite to an unsuspecting passenger.
Where to Stay
The first thing to consider when planning where you are going to stay along your trip is to make sure that ferrets are LEGAL there. Currently ferrets are legal in the all, but two states. But remember, that even within ferret-friendly states, ferrets may be illegal in certain cities. I just had a client relate a harrowing experience she had with her ferrets in Dallas, Texas (a ferret legal state) where ferrets are illegal. Fortunately her ferrets were not confiscated and she got away with only a visit from the local law enforcement agent to her hotel room and a several hundred dollar fine. Therefore it may be necessary to call local animal control
officials in your destination city to make sure all is well before making your plans.
Obviously you need to call ahead and make sure that the hotel, motel or camp ground (or relatives' house) allows pets. Many people attempt to sneak their pets into overnight facilities without asking permission. If you get caught doing this, there may be a hefty fine as well as the possibility of confiscation of your pets if you are in a ferret restricted area. Carefully weight these serious consequences when contemplating your trip.
What to Bring
I highly recommend that anyone traveling with their ferret bring a copy of their pet's medical records. This can be extremely helpful to a veterinarian who may have to treat your ferret in an emergency. The VACCINATION RECORDS are particularly useful and should be carried on your person at all times on a trip. If your pet bites someone, it will be necessary to show proof of rabies vaccination. (It goes without saying your pet should be up to date on vaccinations PRIOR to going on the trip).
This may be required in some areas you are staying. Have a health exam done a few days before your trip and carry your certificate with you. This certificate also serves as proof of ownership.
Microchip number or certificate
I recommend that if you travel with your pet you should get it microchipped and carry the registration number with you. A great number of veterinarians in the country as well as animal shelters and animal control agencies have scanners to read microchips and if your pet is lost it can be more readily returned to you if it has a permanent form of identification. Contact your veterinarian for more information on the simple microchipping procedure.
Make sure you have an adequate supply of any medications that your ferret is currently taking. For medications that the pet is always on, it is wise to bring more than will be needed on the trip in case some of it is spilled or damaged. If you need to get a prescription refilled on the trip, having the medical records handy or a prescription request from your veterinarian will save valuable time. You might consider making up a first aid kit for your pet in case of an emergency on the way. You can include hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds (and it helps to slow bleeding), styptic powder in the case of a torn nail, small gauze pads and one inch adhesive tape to cover a wound, Karo syrup or honey in case of a hypoglycemic attack, a jar of strained meat baby food and a packet of powdered Gatorade (which you can reconstitute) if you have to syringe feed your pet and feeding syringes (usually ranging in size from 3 cc to 35 cc).
The carrier that the pet will travel in should have a door that securely locks, have no escape routes, be of a solid material that the pet can't chew through, be well ventilated, be large enough to allow the pet to go to the bathroom in a corner (it helps to use a small plastic box with litter material in it) and not soil itself when sleeping and have a solid floor. Cat-sized plastic carriers work well. Provide sleeping material such as a sleep sack, towels or blankets and bring plenty of extras as these materials are likely to get soiled at some point during the trip. Put several layers of absorbent paper on the bottom of the cage to keep it dry. Do not attach water bottles or bowls while the cage is in motion as the water can spill and lead to a wet, cold environment. If you need to provide food in the cage due to the length of time between pit stops, use dry food in a small lightweight plastic container attached firmly to the side of the cage. Heavy bowls can shift and cause injury to your pet. The carrier can be a safe friendly home to your ferret and he or she should be kept in it at all times when unattended.
Food and water
Bring plenty of food along and protect it from extremes in heat as this may alter its nutritional value. Water can be provided in a bottle or bowl at the time of rest stops. If the weather is very hot, you can even provide ice chips in the water to cool your pet.
I do not recommend the use of tranquilizers when traveling with ferrets. They dull the senses and ferret may become lethargic making it difficult to determine if there is any other problem going on (like heat stroke). Ferrets adapt to travel very well without adding a foreign chemical to their body. The hum of the car or plane motor tends to put them to sleep after a while. In addition, many older ferrets have a variety of medical problems and tranquilizers may interfere with these conditions. If your ferret seems very frightened by traveling in the car, you might consider taking it for short rides at home and building up its tolerance to travel before embarking on a long trip. This may especially be true if the only trips your ferret has taken in the car are to the veterinarian, where the experience may have been less than pleasant!