What do I mean by “exotic pets”? They’re the rodents, reptiles, ferrets, fish and birds of the pet world. Basically, they’re every other pet sold in a pet shop, but NOT a dog or a cat. I’m going to also include rabbits as pets. Exotic veterinarians and pet care manuals are divided over whether rabbits should still be labeled exotic, as their popularity as pets rise.
One option is to find a pet-sitter. You can see if your vet, family or friends can recommend one to you. Very few countries, including England, have professional pet-sitting organizations that make sure pet-sitters are competent. If you’re not absolutely sure you can trust your prospective pet-sitter, don’t take the chance. Take your pets, exotic or otherwise, with you.
This article will concentrate on traveling by car within your country’s borders. If you need to travel by public transportation, you need to check with your local bus or train company. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for example, exotic pets are allowed – as long as they are in a carrier or small cage. Big dogs, unless they are assistance dogs, are not allowed at all. My fifty-five pound dog is not allowed on any Philadelphia bus or train, yet she was fine to travel on the public transportation buses and trains in England.
If you need to travel by airplane, you must check not only with your airline, but with your destination country to see whether and how your exotic animal is allowed.
•Rabbits and Rodents: Need to travel in the back seat or on the floor in the passenger seat. DO NOT put them in the trunk – they will suffocate. Their traveling cage needs to be secure, ventilated (but not freezing) and where you or a passenger can keep an eye on them. Instead of a water bottle splashing around, give them water rich fruits or vegetables for the trip. It’s good to put a hiding place like a tube or paper towel roll in the cage if you can, just to give the critters a sense of security.
•Ferrets: The jury is still out in a lot of places as to whether ferrets are even allowed as pets, exotic or otherwise. You MUST have paperwork from your ferret’s vet listing all his or her recent shots. Otherwise, transport like a rabbit or rodent. Try not to let any strangers pet your ferret, for he could be scared and bite.
•Birds: You must plan ahead, bringing along plenty of food, water and a first aid kit. You will have to purchase a small traveling cage, but large enough for your bird to flap his or her wings. Let your bird get used to the cage before the day of the trip, to ease any stress. You will most likely have to use the seat belt or some sort of belt to keep the cage secure and safe. Many bird owners clip their birds’ wings a day or two before the trip as a safety precaution. Make sure your bird’s nails are trimmed so they can have a secure grip on his or her perch.
•Fish: ONLY move when absolutely essential, such as a house move or other disaster. You need a helper to keep the tank from tipping over or you must firmly tie it down. If possible, don’t feed the fish for two days prior to the trip. This limits the fish poo. Depending on the size of the tank and the fish, you can move them in their tank, but you may have to put large fish in a bucket or other water-tight container. If you can, change 20% of the tank water for a week prior to the move. If using a bucket, put a trash bag inside the bucket, before you add any clean tank water and fish. Use as little water as you can, but make sure the fish are covered. When you get to your new home, fill with clean water as soon as the tank is set up. This can get complicated – there are many magazines, books and websites specializing in fish care that can take care of any questions not handled here.
Have a good trip with your pets, exotic or otherwise.