7 Important Lessons I’ve Learned About Traveling With Ferrets

by amy brockman · 0 comments ===> Tags: ,

Picture of family loading van getting ready to travel.

The holidays are fast approaching and the kids and I are headed to grandma’s house with a car load of pets, including the ferrets, in tow. Now that winter is upon us, at least we no longer have deadly heat to think about (some of you still may) but there is still plenty of planning to do.

We’ll be gone from home ten days with almost a full day of driving both coming and going.

Over the years I’ve developed a travel routine for our family which I would like to share. I keep this list in a pocket of my suitcase so that I always know where it is and remember to look it over before leaving.

1. Choose an Appropriate Carrier

The first thing you’ll need is a good carrier.

We have three ferrets. Our travel cage is one extra large dog carrier. There is room up high to hang a hammock, with enough room below and to the back of the carrier to sit a normal size potty box. At the front of the carrier is room for food and water to connect to the wire door. It works perfect for us.

It’s important to choose a sturdy, safe carrier. Test it in your vehicle to make sure it fits. It’s a good idea to place the carrier either backwards or sideways in the vehicle. Should you need to stop fast, throwing a ferret up against the smooth plastic side of the carrier is much more gentle than into the wire grid door.

Find a way to belt the carrier into your vehicle. There are products for sale on the market to help with this such as the Pet Carrier Keeper and the Pet Auto Carrier And Kennel.

In the unfortunate event of an accident, each cage or kennel in the vehicle should be labeled to include the following:

  • name, age, microchip tag ID and description (or picture) of the animals inside.
  • paperwork and tags which provide proof of required vaccinations.
  • information about any allergies the animal may have and any medications being given along with dosage information.
  • if the animal happens to be a biter or if any other personality information is necessary.
  • directions regarding what the animal eats as well as what it should not eat.
  • include your own name, address and phone number as well the name, address and phone number of a friend or relative who can be called to take care of the animals.

You may want to place all this information in a waterproof pouch before attaching it to the carrier.

2. Get Your Ferrets Accustomed to Traveling

Our ferrets travel with us several times each year and have become fairly good travelers. If yours have never been on a road trip you may want to start now taking them on several small, local trips to get them used to the ride. Make these trips to some place fun and not the vet so the ferret doesn’t come to associate going on a trip with unpleasant experiences.

Find other ways to make traveling pleasant as well. Take along favorite toys or treats. Make stops along the way to allow the ferret to get out and explore, which they love to do.

3. Creating a Comfortable “Home”

The longer the drive, the more important it is to make the cage their “home away from home” and to make it as comfortable as possible. The following items are absolute necessities:

Ferret Litter Kit
  • Potty Box – if your cage is too small for a full size potty box, then search for a smaller plastic container which will do for short term.

  • Food Bowl – preferably either a dish which can attach to the wire of the cage, or a spill-proof bowl.

  • Water Bottle – these tend to jiggle around a lot during travel which causes them to leak. It’s a good idea to place a bowl beneath the tip of the bottle to catch drips.

  • Soft Things – include plenty of blankets, old t-shirts or rags in the cage. Not only do ferrets love having these type things to crawl under, play and hide, but it also provides extra padding just in case there should be any sudden stops, or heaven forbid, an accident.

  • Litter and litter scoop for cleaning out the litter box.

While items on the following list are not absolute necessities, they will make your life easier. If you have these items available it’s worth packing them to take along.

  • Extra blankets and hammocks in case the original set get soiled.
  • Cleaning cloths.
  • Light weight towels or cloths to use wet for wrapping around your ferret if it needs to be kept cool. Can also be used dry to add warmth if needed.
  • Toilet paper and/or paper towels for quick cleanups.
  • A box of baby wipes also to be use for quick cleanups.
  • A light weight cloth or towel, preferably something that will allow air to circulate, to cover the cage to block direct sun light coming in the car windows.
  • Spring clips to further secure cage doors.
  • A playpen. Can be set up during breaks while driving or used when you get where you’re going.
  • Leash and harness so ferrets can be taken out of their travel cage for a bit of exercise. Take the time before leaving to fit the harness on the ferret and adjust it well. The fit should be snug enough to prevent escape, not so snug as to strangle, of course. Ferrets can slip out of their halters easier than many animals. It’s worth testing at home first.

4. Take Your Own Food, Water, and Medications

Ferrets are notoriously picky eaters as well as drinkers. It’s not uncommon for a ferret who suddenly looses its favorite familiar meal to refuse all other food and water and need to be force fed – not something you want to deal with on vacation. Therefore, be sure to take the following:

  • Food – take plenty and take extra. You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve had bowls of food spilled out into the pee and poop and ruined, bottles of soda accidentally dumped into the bowl, etc.

  • Water – depending on how long you’ll be gone, take several large bottles of water from home. If you can’t haul enough along to last the entire trip, start mixing the water from home with the local water when you get where you’re going to slowly get the ferrets accustomed to drinking the new water.

  • Duck Soup or other special foods can be a bit tricky to take along. Duck Soup, often prepared in ice cube trays, will travel better if left in the trays. However, even if kept on ice the cubes will thaw and the food will stay edible only a couple of days.

    Depending on how long you’ll be gone you may need to consider other options such as Marshalls Ferret Uncle Jims Duk Soup Mix, which is a dry soup mix and needs no refrigeration or jars of all meat baby food such as Gerber Chicken & Chicken Gravy.

    Begin mixing this new food with their old food a week or two in advance so they become familiar with it.

  • If you have sick or elderly ferrets who require daily medications you’ll need to bring along plenty for the entire trip. Be sure to include a syringe or whatever tool you use to administer the medications. Depending on which medications is being given you may also need to plan to bring along an ice chest.

5. Plan Ahead For Medical Emergencies

There is nothing more terrifying than facing a medical emergency unprepared. Whether it’s for my human kids or the fur kids, I feel so much more at ease and able to enjoy the time away when I know I’ve taken the time to plan ahead and pack a few items that might be needed on the trip.

Now is the time to:

  • Think ahead and look for ferret familiar vets where you’re going in case they’re needed. A couple of good places to start your search is The American Ferret Association and Ferret Universe. If neither list provides someone in your area consider contacting a local ferret rescue group to ask for help.

  • You should have a ferret first aid kit. If not, pack one now and bring it along. For full details of what to include see my previous post “Packing a Ferret First Aid Kit”.

6. Know and Understand the Legality of Ferrets Along Your Route

Scary but true, there are still places in the United States where ferrets are considered to be wild animals, not pets. If you should happen to be pulled over by police while traveling through these areas there is a chance your ferrets could be taken from you and destroyed. It has happened before. Be sure you know the law in the states to which you will be traveling. California has a particularly bad reputation with regards to the legality of ferrets, but it’s not the only place which can cause you a problem. The American Ferret Association maintains a list of State and Territory Ferret Regulations which you can check before heading out on your trip.

Plan your route to avoid ferret unfriendly states or communities, but even in ferret friendly states you should be prepared to show documentation such as proof of rabies vaccination for your pets if stopped and asked. Make sure your ferrets are up to date on all required vaccines before leaving on the trip. Carry with you the stamped and signed paperwork from the vet office showing when and where the vaccine was given as well as the rabies tag which you can attach to the animal’s cage or carrier if not to their collar.

7. Further Safety Guidelines

Ferrets should be kept in the cage at all times while traveling. Ferrets allowed to roam free inside a vehicle can get into too many dangers. They can crawl up inside seats or dashboards, or up under accelerator and brake pedals causing accidents. And if there should be an accident they can be thrown from the vehicle or accidentally turned loose. A domesticated ferret running loose doesn’t survive long.

Heat is a killer to ferrets. Keep in mind that even in the winter a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping the sun’s heat and temperatures inside can climb high enough to put the heat-sensitive ferret in danger. Never leave ferrets unattended in a vehicle for any length of time.

When you get where you’re going, remember to take the time to ferret proof your temporary place or set up a playpen ferret activity and keep them safe.

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