Summer Travel Tips for Small Pets
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

Rabbit in a travel cageMost small pets do not enjoy travel, and in most cases, keeping them at home with a pet sitter would be the least stressful for them. There are times however, when you may need or want to take them with you. Here are a few tips on making it easier for your pet and you.
  • Before you go, have reservations. If you need to arrange overnight accommodations, make sure the pet-only rooms are also non-smoking rooms.

  • Schedule a health exam and check regulations. Remember, if you are traveling interstate, you will probably need a health certificate signed by your veterinarian within ten days prior to your departure. Even if you are traveling in-state, have your veterinarian give your pet a health check. If traveling by air, be sure to contact your airlines to determine if they have any restrictions.

  • Pack everything you and your small pet will need. Bring all you will need for your pet during the trip and at your destination.
    • Cages and restraint - Your pet's regular cage is likely to be too large for the back seat of your car. Instead, for car travel we recommend a travel cage designed to fasten securely with a seat belt, and hold up to jostling on the highway. Do NOT place the cage in the front seat since in the event an air bag would inflate, it could cause injury to the pet. Covering the cage may help prevent motion sickness. When it comes to cage furnishings, you will not want to fill the travel cage with toys or swinging objects that could cause injury during a sudden stop. Because of their compact size, travel cages are not recommended for daily use on extended trips. You will need room in your car to pack your pet's regular cage, or at the minimum, an exercise pen.

      Never travel with a pet loose in your car or in the trunk; and, because small pets can expire quickly in high heat, they should NEVER be left in your car unattended.

    • 3 Ways To Provide Safe Water:
      1. Carry a portable water filter. Water filters can get rid of heavy metals and other elements boiling does not address.

      2. Boil water from home and store it in air-tight bottles.

      3. Use commercial bottled water (remember to get your small pet used to the taste of commercial water before your trip).
      Food and water - Just before and during the trip you will not want to overfeed your pet. On arrival, you will need a good supply of his regular diet. Because you probably will not want to invest the time to shop for pet food, be sure to pack plenty. Also, bring bottled water you can trust your small pet will enjoy.
    • Do not be lax and feed your small pet the wrong foods just because you are "on vacation." Now more than ever, your pet needs his regular daily food to be the main portion of his diet. Remember that foods full of fats and sugars - such as fast foods - are unhealthy for your small friend. Proper nutrition is also important for managing stress in your pet. Suddenly changing food, especially during the stress of travel, could cause severe digestive problems. If you are going to give some treats, introduce them to your pet several days prior to the trip to acclimate his digestive system.

    • To help keep your car seat and the cage dry, try using a water bottle instead of a water cup. Make sure your pet knows how to use a water bottle before starting on your trip. Remember that if you are traveling to an area where it is unsafe for you to drink the water, your pet should not drink it either.

    • Tips For Carrying Foods
      On The Go:
      • Use a cooler with plenty of ice for fresh foods.

      • Store foods in non-breakable jars, such as plastic containers or tight closing plastic bags.
      Some other helpful food-related hints include:
      • Food cups should be deep and secured to the cage or crate.
      • Provide one dish for his regular diet (pellets/seeds) and one for any fresh vegetables you may give. Provide plenty of hay at all times for those small pets who require it in their diet.
      • Remember that small pets crave routine, even on the go. The closer you can stick to your usual feeding schedule, the better. For instance, feed breakfast before starting out, and provide dinner when you stop for the night. Many small pets will not eat inside a moving vehicle, and are more apt to eat when they are settled and not stressed.
    • Cleaning supplies - Hygiene never takes a holiday, and keeping your pet's cage clean during the increased stress of travel is vitally important. To clean or touch up the cage, pack the necessary cleaning supplies such as:

      • Paper towels and/or cage wipes
      • Cleaning cloths
      • Pet-safe disinfectant
      • Scrub brush and/or old toothbrush
      • Clean litter and bedding

      While cleaning the cage, carefully monitor the amount of food that was eaten and the color, quantity, and consistency of the droppings. Changes in any of these could signal a potential problem.

    • First aid kit - You will want to include a small first aid kit for traveling to handle any minor emergencies that may occur; see our article, Making a First Aid Kit for Your Small Pet. It is also a good idea to have the name and phone number of a veterinarian located at your destination, and even along the way.

  • Guinea Pig taking a walkKeep to the routine. The key to successful travel is minimizing the changes in your small pet's routine. Here are some important to-dos before and during your trip:
    • Pre-trip - Keep your pet's normal play, feeding, rest, and hygiene schedule. If you will be using a new travel cage, familiarize your pet with it in advance by taking local trips. Make sure your pet knows how to drink from a water bottle.

    • En route - Like you, your pet needs a rest stop every few hours. During breaks, in addition to food and water, be sure to provide your small pet with a few minutes of personal attention. Observe your pet's mood. Feed your pet lightly before and during the trip, and minimize the confusing visual stimulus by keeping his cage covered. Be sure your small pet has the necessary dark and quiet area for plenty of sleep.

    • At your destination - Because of their compact size, travel cages are not recommended for daily use on an extended trip. Upon arrival, transfer your pet to his regular cage, and/or allow him to be out in an exercise pen. Position the cage and pen in a quiet location, away from any windows. Spend time with your pet. Keep attention from friends, family, and others under control. And continue your effort to maintain a normal pet maintenance schedule. Again, be sure your pet's sleep schedule is not disrupted.
A stress-free trip takes planning. Plan the basics, like food and water, and there will be less for you to think about and more time to enjoy travel with your small pet. The planning and preparation on your part can make the trip fun and very worthwhile.
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