In my first blog about flying with rats, we discussed choosing an airline and making a reservation. However, once your ticket is booked, there’s still much more to be done before embarking on your flight. Today, I’ll discuss what needs to be done to prepare your rats for traveling by air.
In order to bring your rats on an airplane, you’ll need health certificates dated within 10 days of travel. Try not to cut things too close; book the veterinary appointment to get health certificates about 5 days before your flight, so you’ve got some wiggle room if either your flight or the appointment must be changed. Expect to pay your veterinarian’s normal call fee. Some vets will also charge a fee for each certificate.
The veterinarian will check your rats’ vital signs and examine their ears, noses, mouths, and bellies. He or she will be looking for any sign of illness, from respiratory infections to ectoparasites. If your rat fails to receive a health certificate, don’t get angry; be grateful for your vet’s diagnosis. An unhealthy animal is not likely to survive a stressful form of travel without significant negative health effects.
Certificates of Acclimation
If you’ll be traveling in cold weather, you may also wish to obtain a certificate of acclimation. Most airlines won’t carry live animals when the temperature is below around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but if an acclimation certificate is present, they will transport live animals when it is as cold as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Certificate or no, you’re not likely to find an airline that will transport pets when it’s below 20.
Don’t ask your vet for a certificate of acclimation unless you are sure that your rat will not be exposed to cold for more than a few minutes. In addition, when traveling in cold weather, be sure to use a heater in each carrier, like a Snuggle Safe Heat Pad, which I used on my recent Frontier flight with four rats in cold weather.
I don’t recommend using certificates of acclimation to travel in temperatures above the airline’s standard safety threshold. Rats (except hairless rats) are more susceptible to heat than cold. Instead, book evening or night flights during the summer months, or wait to travel until fall.
Confirming Your Flight
Since most airlines rarely transport pet rats, it’s a good idea to call a few days before your scheduled departure and confirm that everything is in order for your travel. Speak with a ticketing agent at the airport you’ll be departing from, if possible. Confirm that your flight is booked, and that your rats are on the ticket.
Be sure that they are listed as rats. I have heard stories in which a well-meaning airline employee booked a flight for what she thought were cats, then when the owner arrived with rats, the owner and rats weren’t permitted to fly! Since cats travel by air frequently, spell out r-a-t-s and make sure your rats are registered as the correct species.