• On the Road with Rats

    Posted on July 16, 2015 by in Traveling with rats

     

    Ever have trouble finding a pet sitter for your rats? And, even if you do find one, how can you be sure they’re knowledgeable enough?  Well, why not take your rats on the road with you and completely avoid the need for a pet sitter? Afterall, our ratties enjoy exploring, too!

    Whether your destination is a resort or business conference, here are tips for traveling with your rats:

    This bag is ideal for covert rat transport

    This “Stealth Bag” is ideal for covert rat transport

    Plan Ahead – Before You Leave

    • Find veterinarians in the area where you’ll be traveling. Here are some directories to help you find your destination’s local vets who are experienced with rats.
    • Have your rats’ medical records emailed to you. That way, if they do need to see a vet while you’re out of town, you’ll have them handy.
    • Get your rats used to being inside both a small and a large cat carrier. Also get them acclimated with their “stealth bag”. (For details see packing list below.)
    • Practice driving your rats in your car by taking short trips while they’re inside the small cat carrier. (See safe driving tips below.)
    • Make sure you have all of the supplies needed to pack for your trip.

    Packing List:

    • Two hard-plastic cat carriers (one small and one large). The large cat carrier will be used inside your hotel room. The small carrier is for use in your car. Attach necessary hardware so your rats’ water bottles clip to the outside of the cat carrier doors. Have both carriers all set up with bedding, a box, nesting material and a litter box area before you leave on your trip.
    • Large Duffel or Laundry Bag – To cover up the bigger cat carrier while bringing it into your hotel room
    • A “Stealth Bag” so no one can guess you have rats inside it.
    • Food – Lab blocks, Green Mush and  grain mix. Use a cooler in your car for taking along some organic fruits and vegetables or just buy them when you arrive. (You can also share your meals with your rats while traveling….so plan on eating healthfully!)

      Small cat carrier set up for travel

      Small cat carrier set up for travel

    • Food dishes
    • Water bowl – To use in the hotel room when they’re outside the carrier.
    • Water bottles – Bring at least two in case one of them breaks or malfunctions.
    • Water – Pack bottled water for easy refills while in the car and while staying in the hotel. I use distilled water for my rats.
    • Any medications your rats are currently taking or might need if they get sick (such as an unmixed bottle of amoxicillin). If any of your rats are currently on meds and they need to be refrigerated, bring a cooler for the car. Beware of the mini-fridges in the hotel room. Sometimes they are set too cold which can freeze and ruin medications. Test your hotel mini-fridge out on your first night by placing a cup of water inside and see if it turns to ice. The results of this test will show you whether or not you need to adjust the temperature. While performing this test, place your rats’ medications in a hotel ice bucket with just enough ice to keep them cool overnight. (You don’t want the water from the melted ice to seep into your medication bottles!)
    • Bedding for the cat carriers. Fleece blankets and t-shirts are perfect to use as bedding.
    • Paper towels to use as your rats’ bathroom areas as well as for cleaning.
    • Plain newsprint to shred and use for nesting.
    • Small cardboard boxes (for nesting inside the carriers).

    Safe Driving with Your Rats

    Picnic on a hotel bathroom floor

    Picnic on a hotel bathroom floor

    Place your rats inside the small cat carrier on the passenger seat or on a back seat. Use the seat belt to secure the carrier. If using the passenger seat, face the front door of the carrier toward you so you and your rats can see one other during the drive.

    While driving, remove the water bottle from the cat carrier. If left attached, the bottle will leak while being jostled about on the road.

    Take frequent breaks from driving. During each pit stop:

    • Reattach water bottle to carrier so your rats can drink if thirsty
    • Remove any feces, replace soiled paper towels, cloth or anything else that’s gotten dirty inside the carrier.
    • If it’s a hot, sunny day, bring your rats inside with you using your stealth carrier when you stop to use the restroom. Never, ever leave your rats in your car in the sun.
    • Even in cooler weather, always park in the shade and leave the windows cracked (unless it’s extremely cold outside).

    Foolproof Method for Sneaking Your Rats into a Hotel

    twyla on pipes

    Bathroom sink pipes are fun for climbing

    When bringing your rats inside the hotel, use a side or back entrance if there is one. Avoid areas where hotel staff are stationed. If you need to carry things up to your room in stages, bring in your large cat carrier inside the laundry or duffel bag first. Your second trip can be with your rats inside their “stealth bag”. Even better, if the hotel has one of those carts on wheels for transporting lots of luggage at once, stack it up with all your supplies and bags and haul it all in at once. Just make sure everything is covered and well-disguised when you’re wheeling it in on the rack.

    Avoiding the Maids

    One of the biggest problems of having your rats stay with you in a hotel is you can’t leave them in your room when the maids come in to clean. Luckily, you can use your “stealth bag” to take your rats out of your room with you each morning. Before leaving, hide all traces of anything related to your rats. Stash the cat carrier at the bottom of the closet. Cover the carrier with any cloth bedding you’ve brought (or with your clothes) so it just looks like a covered box. Place your suitcase on top of the carrier and pile on any other bags you have. No hotel maid would have the time (or inclination) to dig to the bottom of this stack!

    Hotel Room Play Time

    There are so many places your rats can enjoy in a hotel room. My rats have all given their highest ratings to the bed and the bathroom. However, hotel desks are fun, too!

    Create a playground on the bed using:

    • Fleece blankets to cover the bed (Fleece blankets come in handy multiple ways: as covers to disguise cat carriers, as protection for large surfaces such as a bed or bathroom floor, as well as for bedding inside the cat carriers.)
    • Cat carrier
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Paper bags
    • Stealth bag – placed on its side, ready to be explored
    • Small dish of water
    • Lab blocks
    • Shredded plain newsprint

    If your rats are fairly young and in good health, the luggage rack makes a spectacular jungle gym. Just be prepared to catch your rat or place blankets piled up below the luggage rack to prevent injury in case of a fall:

    Once you start traveling with your rats, you won’t want to stop. After getting the hang of what to pack, it’s easy and convenient to take bring them along any time you’re traveling by car.

     

     

     

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7 Responses so far.

  1. Ray says:

    Hi I’m going to be travelling by car from Rhode Island to Arizona with the rats. Were moving into our new home. We will stay at hotels some times, but I’m just wondering if you think this is a do-able journey. It may be 3-5 days depending on how fast we can get there. I’ll be getting all these supplies and your blog has helped a lot but do you have any other additional tips?

    • Hi Ray,

      Yes, I definitely think traveling by car from Rhode Island to Arizona is a do-able journey. Other than what I’ve written in the post above, I’d just say to walk-through in your mind what your particular drive with your rats will be like. Make sure to prepare as much as possible based on what you can anticipate about your trip. You also need to be flexible when anything unplanned arises.

      It’s all a matter of staying in the moment and making sure to attend to your rats’ needs—keep the travel carriers comfy, cozy and clean. Stop regularly to offer them water and to clean out any soiled areas inside their carrier. Bring plenty of their regular food so you won’t run out. Always be mindful of the temperature so your rats don’t get too hot.

      I actually think you’ll find it’s lots of fun to travel with your rats. Good luck and enjoy the traveling!

      Best Wishes to You & Your Rats,

      Jasmine | About Pet Rats

  2. Ellie says:

    Hi! Thank you for all your tips on driving with rats.

    I’m going away in my caravan for 2 weeks at the beginning of summer (probably July or early August). I’m in the UK so it’s not going to reach scorching temperatures, so I’m not too worried about that.

    I was just wondering what you thought, though.
    Our caravan has an enclosed awning with “walls”, so their cage would be out there whenever I am around. I’d keep all the doors open which keeps it super cool but not too cold or breezy, and I could always bring them in to the caravan if it gets too much.

    I was thinking I would take the boys (I have two) out with me in the day, keeping them on my shoulders with harnesses and wearing a belt that has a pouch for them to rest in. I know that it’s dangerous to leave them in the caravan when we aren’t there because it will get hot.
    However, I’m worried about days that we might go to the beach because we would be there for several hours and I don’t think rats would like the beach (!).
    I was also thinking about putting their cage in the car at night to keep them safe from predators, but was just a little worried about the car heating up as the sun rises, even though I get up fairly early at around 7am.
    Do you think it’s crazy of me to even think about doing this!? It probably is. I just don’t want to leave them for two weeks with my neighbour coming in to feed them a couple times a day. They need people 🙁

    • Hi Ellie!

      I completely understand how difficult it is to make this sort of a decision. You’re not crazy to think about traveling with your rats and you’re doing a great job of thinking through potential pitfalls. The decision can best be made by considering what you’re willing and able to do along with what you think is best for your rats.

      I used to travel with my rats by car monthly to visit family about 600 miles away. After about a year of doing this, I found that taking care of my rats while I was away felt like one thing too many. I started getting stressed over waking up earlier than everyone else so I could medicate, feed and clean up after my rats before spending time with my family. It became so I felt like I couldn’t enjoy my time away because of the weight of the responsibility of taking care of my rats. It also felt like I was struggling to balance spending enough time with my rats while also spending time with my family. From this experience, I learned I like traveling with my rats the most when I’m alone or with just one other person.

      We’re all different, though. I think it’s helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

      • Would your rats be happier staying at home or going on vacation with you?
      • What would you enjoy most? Managing the care and safety of your rats in new and different environments requires extra work combined with continual awareness and flexibility. Would this still feel like a vacation to you?

      Even though the temperatures are usually not hot during the time of year in which you’ll be traveling, there could always be a random heat (or cold) wave. If this were to happen, would you be able to change your plans so you can keep your rats within a healthy temperature range?

      You mentioned you’d have them out with you during the day and that they’d be wearing harnesses while riding on your shoulders. Keep in mind that rats can slip out of harnesses. Birds of prey are probably unlikely to swoop down and pluck a rat off of your shoulder, but it still could conceivably happen. Also, if you let your rats run around on the ground or even on a picnic table while harnessed, a raptor or cat could attack. I’d rather see you keep your rats in a small carrier or travel bag than exposed to the danger of being outdoors for any great length of time.

      I’ve camped with my rats on several occasions. They slept in a small cage inside my tent. The last time I went camping with them, there was an animal sniffing around outside the tent during the night. I didn’t put two and two together until the next morning when I realized the animal probably smelled my rats!

      Regarding being at the beach, my main concern would be whether or not there’s shade available. Also, if you plan on going in the water, will there be someone available to monitor your rats and make sure they’re safe while you’re away from them?

      If you decide you do want to take your rats with you on your trip, you’re definitely on the right track with thinking ahead about possible scenarios and how you can best prepare. Be ready to adjust your plans depending upon the weather and circumstances. It really is fun to travel with rats as long as you don’t mind being flexible. It also helps when everyone with you is supportive of your taking the time out to care for them.

      If you decide you wouldn’t be able to relax and really feel like you’re on vacation if you take your rats, you have several options. The following questions will help you feel better and more at peace if you decide to leave your rats at home:

      • Could you have your neighbor spend about an hour each day playing with your rats while they’re outside of their cage?
      • Can your neighbor pretty much duplicate the routine you normally have with your rats?
      • Can your neighbor (or a friend) stay in your home with your rats while you’re away?
      • How about having someone take your rats to their house? That way your rats will be with humans more often than just a couple of visits a day.
      • Can you have a friend stay in your home with your rats?

      Even if you do end up leaving your rats with a pet sitter, you could arrange to do facetime with your rats every couple of days. You can also ask your rat sitter to text you a daily photo.

      I hope you find at least some of these ideas helpful. You sound like a wonderful rat parent and I really appreciate your asking your question.

      Best Wishes to You & Your Rats,

      Jasmine | About Pet Rats

  3. Suzanne Dean says:

    Okay this was a very interesting read. I really never would have thought; 1. Rats could be so affection and interesting and 2. Traveling with them, so much easier than dogs or cats.

    Do you ever travel with them on a plane and if so do they get to travel under your seat like a small cat would be able to? I can’t imagine such small creatures to have to go under the plane.

    • Thanks for your comment, Suzanne!

      I have not attempted to fly on a plane with any of my pet rats. From what I’ve seen, most airlines only allow cats and small dogs in the cabin of a plane. Many also allow various types of pets to travel as “cargo” in the area of the plane also reserved for luggage. I haven’t run across any airlines who allow pet rats to travel in the cabin and I would not personally choose to have a pet travel as “cargo”.

      There was recently a somewhat scandalous story about a flight attendant who was accused of bringing her pet rat on board a plane. She denied the claim, however, and has consequently sued the airline. I enjoyed this article in particular since it closed with Michael Jackson’s music video “Ben”.

      I ran across a post one person wrote about how to smuggle a hamster on board a plane. While I admire his “can do” attitude, I don’t think I’d want to risk being discovered as having a pet that isn’t allowed on board.

      For those who feel comfortable having your dogs and/or cats travel as cargo, there’s now a GPS tracking device available when flying Delta Airlines cargo. I am definitely not endorsing that any pets fly as “cargo”, but for those who are interested, the device offers the following features:

      Temperature monitoring, light detection, humidity readings and real-time location tracking. Data is recorded before,during and after flight. Information is transmitted every 15 minutes, except when the flight is in the air and can be accessed through a device id accessible at deltacargo.com. Cost is $50.00 one way.

      For anyone interested in more air travel information, especially for cats and dogs, this pet travel blog seems to have it covered. They also have an excellent, world-wide, pet travel forum.

      Since May of 2005 the US Department of Transportation has required most U.S. airlines that operate scheduled passenger flights file monthly reports on pets that died or were lost or injured during transport. Here are the report of deaths, injuries and losses of pets traveling by plane from May 2005 – August 2015.

      Although I realize there are times when flying is the only way to get to certain destinations, I choose to only travel with my rats by car.

      Thanks again for your excellent question, Suzanne.

      Best Wishes,

      Jasmine | About Pet Rats

    • Suzanne Dean says:

      Thanks so much for your reply. I have a large dog and have similar feelings. If I have to fly somewhere, she unfortunately must remain home. I will not allow her to travel as “cargo” she’s not cargo she family. Pets have died in the cargo areas. I loved the article you mentioned here. That was very interesting.

      Thanks again for answering my questions.
      Suzanne