Responsible, reputable rat breeders don’t exist in every area. Plus, families sometimes must move long distances with pets, or take lengthy vacations while bringing rats along. Traveling with rats is often necessary, but in some ways trickier than traveling with dogs or cats. I’ll explore different methods of transporting rats on Petlvr, starting with traveling by car.
Getting Ready for a Car Ride
In general, rats should be transported in a travel cage or container, rather than in their usual cages. If your vehicle goes over a bump or stops suddenly and your rats are in a multi-level cage, they could be thrown from a shelf or hammock and injured in the fall. I like to use hard-sided dog crates for transporting rats by car for a period of one day or less.
However, if your journey will last longer than a day and you have a way to adequately secure a larger cage to prevent tipping or sliding, it may be a good idea to just pack the entire cage, if it fits. Martin’s brand cages tend to fit well in larger vehicles like SUVs. A cage like a Midwest Ferret Nation, on the other hand, simply won’t fit inside most automobiles!
No matter what type of cage or crate you use to contain your rats in the car, it should be secured to prevent it from flying forward in the event of an accident. Unsecured cages or crates can become lethal projectiles dangerous both to you and your pets, should a crash occur. In some cases your car’s seatbelt can secure a cage. If not, try using bungee cords.
Caring for Rats on the Road
Rats need water available at all times. If your rats are on a diet, feed them according to their normal feeding schedule. If not, make lab blocks (I prefer Harlan Teklad) or a similar food item available free-choice while traveling. Transport stress may cause your rats to lose their appetites, so monitor them carefully to ensure that they’ve eaten, and take along some chocolate Ensure and a 1 cc syringe in case you need to get some emergency calories into a rat that refuses food. Monitor water consumption equally carefully. Dehydration can be fatal very quickly for such small animals!
Both you and your rats need adequate rest while traveling. Many motel chains accept pets. Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn are two I’ve stayed at with rats. Try to stop for at least 8 hours of sleep each night and to allow your rats to briefly play outside of their cages. Keep them on the bed, though– many older buildings have cracks into which a frightened rat could disappear!
Heat or cold are the greatest dangers (aside from a collision) to your rats when traveling by car. Try to avoid traveling with pets when the outdoor temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your air conditioner fails while on the road, your rats could suffer heat stroke before you reach a mechanic or a motel to cool off. If you must travel in hot weather, bring several frozen water bottles for emergency cooling. Avoid ice packs, since they can be deadly if chewed.
In cold weather, carry Snuggle Safe Heating Pads. These are hard plastic disks that can be heated in any microwave, and provide 12 hours of heat after each session in the microwave oven. Reheat them each time you stop somewhere with a microwave, and keep them available in case your car has heater trouble.