Have Ferret, Will Travel

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Suitable transportation and a firm handle on travel guidelines and restrictions enable ferret owners to travel worry free.
by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Pet Product News
Volume 53, Number 12
November 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.


When your ferret-owning customers are looking for a travel container, they may be bewildered by the variety of options, including soft bags, small wire cages or crates and plastic carriers. Help your customers make the best selection by asking them whether the trip is short or long, and whether they plan to fly or drive.


For local travel, ferrets should never roam free in a car because they can get under the brake pedal or behind the dash. Additionally, ferrets escape from cardboard boxes (or soak them with water, food and waste). For short car trips, a variety of convenient options are available. Soft-sided carrying bags are lightweight and comfortable. Additionally, there are a variety of small cages designed specifically for ferrets that fit easily in car back seats. Skip Martin of Martin’s Cages in Columbia, Pennsylvania stresses that "wire ferret cages should be nontoxic, have no burs or sharp edges, provide good ventilation, and be very secure because ferrets are great escape artists!" He also tells ferret owners to "look for cages that can collapse for storage, have a carrying handle, and a good-sized bottom pan." Jim Nannen, owner of Animal House Pet Centers in St. Petersburg, Florida, points out that "small dog crates can be used for ferrets, but only if the wire mesh is no bigger than one by two inches, or they might get out!" Finally, Madeleine Martin, owner of the Pets Choice Retail Outlet in Merrimack, New Hampshire, says, "I tell my customers to get a fully-enclosed plastic carrier for their ferrets."


Susan Berry of Prevue Pet Products of Chicago, Illinois advises that "for long car trips or if someone is moving, you’ll need larger and more durable accommodations than a small cage or carrier." Look for amenities such as multistories, ramps, and deep trays, but ones that will still fit in a back seat of a car. Airline-approved carriers are also a good alternative for ferrets. The medium- and intermediate-sized carriers can be fitted with hammocks or lofts to provide more room (and entertainment) for a travel-weary ferret.


There are three options for flying with ferrets: carryon, checked baggage, or unaccompanied cargo. As of this writing, there is only one major U.S. airline carrier that will let ferrets fly in the cabin with the owner (Delta, $60 each way). Delta requires that the kennel fits under the seat, so your customers cannot have the ferret on their lap in a soft carrying bag. Some airlines will fly ferrets as checked baggage for a fee, but most major airlines specifically prohibit ferrets in the baggage compartment (such as American, Continental, Northwest, TWA, United, and USAir). The last (and worst) alternative is to fly a ferret as unaccompanied cargo. Ferret experts don’t recommend this method because of temperature fluctuations that could put your ferret at serious risk, so tell your customers to be careful!


Jim Nannen of Animal House Pet Centers says that "you should recommend an airline-approved carrier for your customers who might fly with their ferrets." There are several models of airline approved carriers suitable for ferrets. Some fit under airplane seats, and other models for baggage checking come in small, medium and intermediate sizes. Most of these carriers have wire vent grills and doors, assemble easily, and are simple to clean. Grant Bergman, Director of Brand Marketing at Doskocil in Arlington, Texas, points out that "even though a carrier says ‘airline approved’ does not necessarily mean that the airlines will fly your ferret!" Mr. Bergman also adds that there are two types of approval for airline travel. "The United States Department of Agriculture must certify carriers as suitable for domestic airline travel, and the International Air Transport Association certification is needed for international airline travel." In any case, Madeleine Martin of the Pets Choice Retail Outlet stresses that "I always tell my customers to check with their airline! I don’t want a customer to be unhappy with me because they assumed that just because they bought an airline-approved carrier they can get a ferret on board."


Show your customers you care by offering them additional special travel tips for ferrets. First, remind people that ferrets cannot tolerate temperatures above 80 degrees F. That’s why ferret carriers should never be left in a parked car for even a few minutes, and ferrets should not be flown as cargo during the summer. Don’t place carriers near the air vents in the car or on the floorboards – buckled in the back seat is safest. Remember that ferrets love to escape from their carriers, so use extra fasteners or locks. Madeleine Martin reminds her clients "Always provide water!" And Dr. Roger Kendrick, DVM, points out that "you should never sedate a ferret for travel – it isn’t necessary and can even be dangerous." Finally, your customer needs to know about any legal or health restrictions that may exist at their final destination (see sidebar).


Your customer will need more than just a carrier or cage. No-drip water bottles can be attached to the outside of the wire portion of carriers or cages. Small crock feeding bowls or even feeders designed for parrots can be hooked onto the wire to hold food or water. Another necessary item could be a litter box. Jim Nannen of Animal House Pet Centers says, "small corner litter boxes fit into most ferret carriers, and I carry an assortment of pelleted litters." On very long trips, some ferrets get bored and dig out their litter pan contents, so Madeleine Martin of Pets Choice recommends "wee wee, or those puppy training pads for a liner." A small sleep sack or fleece snuggle blanket is also a must, as well as a hammock. One handy alternative suggested by Ann Berry of Animal House Pet Centers is a ferret bag with a shoulder strap. These fleece-lined bags can double up as a sleep sack in the cage or carrier, and then the ferret can be let out and "hand transported" in its own purse. ID tags, whether attached to the ferret’s collar or to the cage, are a safety must for mobile ferret owners. Finally, don’t forget ferret food, treats, and toys to keep the little guys happy during their trip!


By asking your ferret-owning customer a few questions, you can quickly recommend the best travel carrier and accessories. The result? A satisfied customer. Then go one step farther and point out the special travel needs of ferrets. The result? An educated and loyal customer, and lots of happy ferrets!


Ferret owners must research their final destination to see what documents need to be shown during travel.

  • Don’t travel with ferrets to California or Hawaii – ferrets are currently illegal statewide.
  • Check with the USDA/APHIS state veterinarian for requirements of health certificates, vaccination records, rabies tags, state entry permits, and so on. Get a listing of state veterinarians at or contact the American Veterinary Medical Association and talk to the state’s AVMA veterinarian.
  • Contact the animal control office of the county or city to get an official copy of the animal control code to see if there are ferret restrictions. Even for a local trip to the vet, some towns require proof of ferret rabies vaccines to be carried at all times.
  • Most airlines require a veterinary health certificate (also showing vaccinations) no more than ten days old. Call and check with your airline for exact requirement