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Life changes often bring about a lot of stress, including having to move. Discover how to keep things easy when moving with your ferrets.
by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Volume 2, Number 5
September / October 1999
These articles and images are copyrighted and may not be reprinted, re-used, reposted, copied, or otherwise distributed without permission from the author and publisher.

You should not rely on the veterinary advice or information provided on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any specific situation. Always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical condition or treatment of your own pet or animal.

* Health Certificate
* Inoculation records
* Rabies tags
* State Entry Permit (if needed)
* Copy of medical records (have the originals sent to your new vet)
* Photos and descriptions of each ferret for identification purposes
* List of ferret-friendly vets or emergency clinics en route and/or at final destination
* Map with pet-friendly lodgings marked on it
* Small litter pan (some people just line the cage with newspapers or disposable diapers)
* Non-drip water bottle
* Water catch tray
* Food dish
* Blankets, towels, sleep sacks
* Identification and destination information on the carrier
* Feeding and care instructions on the carrier
* Tie wraps, clips, or bungee cords for securing loose contents or doors
* Litter
* Bottled water
* Ferret food
* Favorite toys
* Paper towels
* Small bowls/dishes
* Harness and leash for each ferret, with ID tags
* Frozen water bottles or ice packs
* newspapers
* Any medications your ferrets take
* Odor neutralizer or deodorizer for car or motel rooms
*Trash bags
* Ferret First Aid Kit (below)
* Ferret First Aid Book
* Gauze bandage rolls
* Scissors
* Eye dropper
* Cotton swabs
* Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
* Antibacterial ointment such as Neosporin
* Betadine or Nolvasan disinfectant
* Vaseline
* Eyewash (.9-.2% boric acid)
* Styptic pencil
* Kaopectate
* Karo syrup or honey
* Rectal thermometer
* Chemical ice pack
* Towels and washcloths



Moving! A word that brings a combination of dread and excitement for most people. For many people, major life changes require us to gather all our belongings (ferrets included) and move either across town or across the country. A change in jobs for me meant a trip from Texas to Florida. I had made numerous cross-country trips with my ferrets in the past, both by car and by air, but this time I would be transporting one dozen ferrets! I hope you can learn about moving ferrets, both from my most recent trip, as well as from mistakes I made on previous moves. Planning ahead can make a difference, and this planning may require a lot of research.
As soon as you know which state you are moving to, contact the State Veterinarian. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), assigns an APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) veterinarian to each state who is responsible for the rules governing transportation of animals in and out of that state   You should also get in touch with state contacts for each veterinary medical association. These veterinarians can tell you exactly what your ferret needs to enter that state; typically proof of rabies (and possibly canine distemper) vaccines and a health certificate. Some states require a permit to enter the state; this permit must also be issued by a licensed veterinarian. You only need to contact the state of your final destination; the states that you are traveling through en route to your new home don’t have jurisdiction over health papers (although you may be stopped at a border to show them). The exceptions are California and Hawaii, where ferrets are currently illegal statewide.
In my case, I got on the USDA/APHIS State Veterinarian web site (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/oa/vsoffice2.html) which lists phone numbers for each state veterinarian. I expected to call and get further contact information, such as a street address, e-mail address, or fax number. Instead, the Florida State veterinarian answered his own phone and immediately gave me the information I needed about transporting ferrets into the state of Florida. I was told I needed proof of rabies vaccine, including brand name and lot numbers, and a health certificate no more than 30 days old.
I also found that the web site for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a listing of each state AVMA veterinarian, along with addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses (http://www.avma.org/care4pets/othrstlo.htm). When I emailed the Florida AVMA site, I received a response that my health certificate should be no older than 14 days, which contradicted what the USDA State Veterinarian had told me. I decided to be safe and get a certificate within 14 days. For airline travel or other states, health certificates may need to be less than ten days old.
Most states have a ferret association or club that you should contact and get up-to-date information about the legality of ferrets. Even though ferrets might be legal statewide where you are going to move, each city, township, or incorporated municipality can have their own set of rules regarding ferrets. In areas outside city limites, the County Animal Control has jurisdiction. Contact the animal control office for any location you are planning to move to. Do not rely on a telephone conversation; instead ask for a copy of the animal control code to be sent or faxed to you. There may be a copying and postage fee you have to pay. If you have access to a fax machine, the animal control officer may fax you the ferret-relevant pages for free.
I could not find much online information about animal control codes for all the places in and around Tampa, Florida. The telephone and fax machine were much more useful. Each city and county had completely different ordinances! Some areas required licenses for ferrets, and others had limits on the number of pets (including ferrets) you could have in your household. A few had specific requirements regarding rabies vaccinations. Others made no mention of ferrets in their code, which is the easiest! A few incorrectly declared ferrets as "wild" animals instead of domestic pets and declared them illegal. One town incorrectly stated that domestic ferrets could not be kept because there was no approved rabies vaccine (the USDA approved IMRAB-3 for ferrets in 1991, and the AVMA set rabies quarantine guidelines similar to dogs and cats in 1998). Avoid locations where an uninformed animal control department or outdated/incorrect animal control codes could cause problems for you and your ferrets.
Plan ahead and set up your appointment with the veterinarian to get a complete physical and annual vaccinations. NEVER give your ferrets these vaccinations just a few days before departure; many vaccines take about 14 days to become effective, and your ferret may feel under the weather after getting shots. You will have to set up two appointments: one for a checkup and vaccinations, and another to get health papers right before you leave. Let your vet know you are moving so you can get any extra needed medication, copy your ferret’s medical records, and plan how to paperwork (depending on the requirements of your destination state).
At this time, you should start searching for a veterinarian at your new home in case your ferret needs medical attention when you arrive. Planning now instead of waiting for an emergency can save you and your ferret lots of stress. Your own vet might be able to give you a recommendation. Your vet also needs to plan on sending medical records to the new vet.
For general veterinary assistance, you can use VetFinder at http://www.apapets.com/vetfinder1.htm . However, ferrets often need specialized care, so finding a ferret-knowledgeable vet is important. A great resource is the STAR*Ferrets list. Send a self-addressed-stamped envelope to STAR* at P.O. Box 1832, Springfield, VA 22151-0832, and they will send you a list of ferret veterinarians, clubs, and contacts for whichever state you request. Use the clubs and individual contacts to get specific referrals for ferret veterinarians. You can also find this list at the Ferret Central website (http://www.ferretcentral.org)
Some airlines will not fly any sort of pet (America West and Southwest), and others (American and TWA) specifically prohibit ferrets on any of their planes. Use the information in the Airlines table to double-check ferret policies. Each airline generally has three options: flying in the cabin with you, flying with you but traveling in the baggage compartment, and flying as freight/cargo, unaccompanied by you. For all these alternatives, you will need an airline-approved carrier and health papers (most often dated within ten days).
The safest alternative is your ferret flying with you as carry-on baggage in the cabin, in an airline-approved carrier that will fit under the seat. You will need a ticket for your ferret ($50-$60 one way). Because only one pet is usually allowed in the cabin per flight, you must ticket your ferret early! You will also have to take your ferret carrier through security just like ordinary carry-on baggage. You can send your ferret through the system (and see your ferret in x-ray mode!), or if you are fearful of radiation exposure, ask that the carrier be hand checked with a metal detection wand. Often, however, the metal grating on the carrier will continue to cause problems. I had one security person insist that I open the carrier. When I complied, Critter came bouncing out and the security person shrieked loud enough to completely silence everyone in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The carry-on method does not work if you have more than one ferret, so this was not an option for my own move with twelve ferrets.
Your ferret can also accompany you on the same flight but fly in the checked baggage compartment. Only use this method for nonstop flights. Be sure the compartment is temperature and pressure controlled. You will also need a ticket (usually ticketed as "excess baggage") and health certificates. You may be able to fly more than one ferret in the same carrier. This method is potentially problematic during hot weather, because the carrier may wait to be loaded or unloaded outside or in a non-temperature controlled area. I once watched out the St. Louis terminal window in horror as my ferret carrier sat on the hot tarmac waiting for other luggage to be loaded. Also check to be sure that your pet carrier is hand carried from the plane to the baggage claim area. I once was shocked to see my carrier full of ferrets come bouncing up the conveyor belt, and crash over a few times as it rolled down the slide onto the baggage carousel. The ferrets were shaken up and messy, but unharmed. I decided this method was too expensive for transporting twelve ferrets.
Finally, if you are not accompanying your ferret during the flight, you may be able to fly the ferret as freight or cargo. This method is very risky during hot-weather months, and many airlines restrict pet travel during extreme weather conditions. The cargo cabins and the holding areas at the airports may not be temperature controlled, and ferrets can succumb to heatstroke in temperatures above 80 degrees within minutes. Prices for air cargo vary by the weight of the ferret and the kennel and the distance traveled. The type of health certificate required depends on the destination city and state. The heat level for a Texas to Florida transport during the summer made this option infeasible for me as well.
Web Site
Ferrets in Cabin under the seat
Ferrets in baggage compartment
Ferrets as unaccompanied Cargo shipment
Alaska Air
$50 1-way -only some flights
$50 1-way- only some flights
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
America West
No pets
No pets
No pets
No ferrets
No ferrets
Yes, with restrictions
$60 1-way
$50 1-way
No ferrets
$50 1-way; some flights don’t allow ferrets
No pets
No pets
No pets
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
No ferrets
Car travel is probably the best way of transporting your pet to his or her new home. It provides a feeling of security for both you and your pet, and it is less expensive. If you have decided to drive with your ferret, planning ahead is important. First, make sure your vehicle is in top running condition. Have your vehicle checked out mechanically, perform any necessary maintenance, and specifically pay attention to your cooling system. Many of us move during the summer, and ferrets are very heat sensitive. A car breakdown or airconditioning failure could be life-threatening to your ferret.
Ideally, you should take someone along who can share driving and ferret care responsibilities. This way, you never need leave your ferrets alone in the car when stopping at rest areas or for fuel.
You should also ferret-proof your vehicle. Even though ferrets should always travel in a carrier and never be allowed to roam loose in the car, an escape could happen. Block off any access to under or behind the dashboard, into seat interiors, or into the trunk. Duct tape can be used as a temporary barrier. If your ferret gets loose in the car, pull over immediately and secure your ferret back in the carrier. I once allowed Gizmo, my escape artist, wander around loose in the car a few minutes too long – the ferret managed to get under the dash, shorted out the stereo, clawed through a foam barrier, and entered the airconditioning system. Pulling over sixty seconds sooner would have saved me a lot of trouble (Gizmo, by the way, was just fine).
Planning your route is important. You might want to locate ferret-friendly vets along the way, in case you need emergency assistance. If you will be making lodging reservations, be sure to ask if the hotel or motel allows pets. The "Recommended Reading" sidebar provides information about pet-friendly lodging, but always double-check when making reservations in case pet policies have changed. Ask for nonsmoking rooms if possible. Be extremely cautious about letting ferrets loose in a hotel room. Most are not "ferret proof" and your ferret may get injured in bedsprings or get lost behind cabinetry. Your ferrets could also escape outdoors or into common walls through plumbing access holes. Be sure to clean up after your ferrets when you leave the room, and spray with room deodorizer.
After several bad experiences with rental moving vans, I will no longer move with ferrets in these vans. On four trips I have had mechanical or airconditioning failures, and heat complications endangered my ferrets’ health. Moving vans are also notoriously difficult to ferret proof.
Whether you are flying or driving, your ferret needs a good pet carrier to ride in. Make sure you purchase a carrier that meets airline shipping standards, even if you plan to drive. You never know when you might need to fly in the future, and the airline-approved carriers are sturdier and last longer. Ferrets will fit comfortably inside a pet carrier designed for cats or small dogs. A proper container should be large enough for your pet to stand up, turn around and lie down. It must have adequate cross-ventilation and a leakproof bottom. It should also have a secure lock on the door and should be able to withstand bumps, jostles and falls.
Carriers for larger dogs can fit multiple ferrets, especially if equipped with hammocks or a lofted second floor. Don’t be tempted to transport your ferret in a cardboard box or other temporary container. Ferrets can dig out of cardboard, and urine will soak through. Often these boxes are not properly ventilated. Get your ferret used to the carrier before taking a long trip. Let the ferrets play or sleep in the carrier, and use the carrier for your trips to the veterinarian.
When you are packing your household, it is best to leave ferrets in their cage or in a secure room. Although your ferrets would love to "help" you pack, they can easily get into trouble. With many helpful people going in and out of the house, your ferret might leave through an open door. Your ferret might be packed by mistake (Gizmo again!), because they love to explore boxes. Also, boxes and household belongings in unusual locations may give your ferret access to new places that are not ferret proof. For example, I once left around enough boxes around for Sweet Pea to climb up on and get to a previously ferret-proofed kitchen counter. Unfortunately, I had just pulled all my glassware out of the cabinets and onto the counter to get ready to pack. Sweet Pea had a delightful time pushing sixty-four glasses off the counter and watching them smash on the kitchen floor. Now I put my ferrets away during packing and let them out to play under close supervision when there are boxes around.
Packing is a stressful and disruptive time for both you and your ferrets. Make sure you stick to a feeding and treat schedule, and allow your ferrets plenty of attention, love, and playtime. If you are too busy, consider boarding your ferrets elsewhere until you are ready to depart.
Make your final trip to your veterinarian to get Health Certification, inoculation records, rabies tags, state entry permits, and a copy of your ferret’s medical records. Do NOT ask for sedatives for your ferret or attempt to sedate a ferret for your trip. Ferrets travel quite well (and sleep most of the time) and do not need sedatives. Sedatives can also be extremely dangerous for your ferret to take while traveling. Trim your ferret’s nails at this time.
Prepare the ferret carriers with liners, litterboxes, hammocks, food bowls, water access, and so on. You may find you need a different size litterbox or a new water bottle. The standard cage water bottle will drip-drain into the carrier and is not suitable for travel. Morton-Jones makes a wonderful no-drip travel water bottle. Alternatively, put a small amount of water at the bottom of a dish or catch tray. Secure litterboxes to the floor of the carrier with double-sided tape or clips. Attach food bowls to the side of the cage. Check your carrier for loose grates, handles or fasteners and repair these if necessary.
You should also begin packing for your ferrets, including preparation of a ferret first-aid kit (see sidebar). Another item that should be prepared in advance is ice packs. One of the greatest dangers to a traveling ferret is heat. Freeze water in plastic soda bottles and wrap them in a towel. These can be used to cool down a carrier.
Be sure to pack ferret supplies where they are easily accessible. Put your carriers in the back seat of your car, and buckle them in. You can run most seatbelts through the carrier handle and then to the seatbelt buckle. This will prevent the carrier from sliding around while the car is moving or stopping suddenly. If your seatbelts don’t fit, use rope or bungee cord to securely fasten the carriers to the seat. Do not place the carriers on the floorboards, as this area will get too hot for your ferret. If it is warmer than 80 degrees F, precool your vehicle before you put the ferrets in their carriers. If the sun is shining through a window directly onto a carrier, roll up that window onto the edge of a towel and let the towel block the sunlight.
Ferrets adapt to travel quite well. Some may occasionally claw at the cage, which is why trimmed nails are important. Most will sleep, especially if you keep the sound turned off any rear stereo speakers. Do not deprive your ferret of food and water. Many pet guides advocate limited feeding and watering to dogs and cats, who could get nauseated. However, ferrets don’t seem to get motion sick very often, and their fast metabolisms require food and water more often. The problem is that if you load up their carrier with food and water, the ferrets are likely to make a big mess digging and splashing. Only put a small amount of food in the cage at a time. Offer water every hour. Clean out the litterbox or cage liner at every rest stop before odors build up or your ferret gets soiled.
Never take your ferret out of your vehicle unless the ferret is wearing a harness with a leash, and has identification information. Unless your ferret is desperately begging to be let out, don’t take them out of their carrier for exercise. At gas stations, sensitive ferret lungs can get irritated by gasoline fumes and exhaust gases. At rest areas, a ferret may invite unwanted attention from the public. Traveling ferrets are often cranky ferrets, and may behave in unexpected ways, including biting. Because you will not know the local ordinances controlling that particular rest area, it is better not to invite seizure of your ferret in a bite or scratch incident. If you must bring your ferret out, do not let strangers hold or touch your ferret.
If you are traveling alone, park your car in shady spots with the windows open enough for ventilation (but not enough for someone to grab a ferret) and in a location where you can keep an eye on the car while you use a restroom or grab some food. Minimize the amount of time you are away from your car and the time the ferret is exposed to heat. If you are traveling with a companion, leave them in the car with the ferrets and a running airconditioner and then switch with that person.
For my summer trip from Texas to Florida, we decided to drive straight through so as not to burden a hotel or motel with twelve ferrets (there is, after all, a limit to "pet-friendly!") We also wanted to do a great deal of driving at night, because stopping for food and fuel is cooler at night and therefore safer for the ferrets. Finally, we decided to take the ferrets on a trip separate from our other pets (cats and horses) and our furniture, because ferrets have their own special set of travel needs. Night driving means that you should identify emergency vet clinics along the way that operate 24 hours. You should also have a flashlight for shining into the carriers to check on your ferrets. On our trip I quickly ran out of paper towels that I used to clean litterboxes and other accidents. I also should have brought a large trash sack for soiled newspapers and other garbage.
When you arrive at your final destination, immediately unload the carriers and take your ferrets into an empty, dark and quiet room. Then begin setting up their cages (which of course have been packed to be immediately accessible). As soon as the familiar cages have been assembled and are stocked with supplies, move your ferrets from the carriers into their cages. Don’t let your ferrets run around in your new home at this time. They will be cranky, likely to use the restroom in unwanted places, and may find places that have not been ferret proofed. Like you, your ferrets need time to adjust to the new surroundings. Having a familiar cage with favorite food bowls, bedding and toys will help allow the ferret to feel at home.
As with packing, leave your ferrets in their cage in a quiet room while you are moving in and unpacking. Your ferrets will be safer and happier. As soon as you are settled, locate your new veterinarian, and also find the nearest pet supply stores. Ferret supplies can also be ordered before you leave for mail order delivery to your new home by the time you arrive so you won’t have to frantically hunt around for ferret food or Ferretone! Contact your local animal control if you need a license or permit for your ferret.
Congratulations, your moving adventure is over! Although moving can be stressful (with or without ferrets), planning ahead can greatly enhance the quality of your move. I hope my experiences and suggestions will help you with your next ferret move!