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In this article, Zodiac goes on a trip to St. George Island in Florida. Learn how to plan for a traveling vacation with your ferret from Zodiac the ferret and her human Mom.

by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
Volume 6, Number 5
September/October, 2003
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 (within 14 days for crossing state lines)
• Rabies tags
• A “ferret passport” with photos and descriptions of each ferret for identification purposes, inoculation records, and any other medical information
• List of ferret-friendly vets or emergency clinics en route and/or at final destination
• Map with pet-friendly lodgings marked on it

Carrier (Marked LIVE ANIMAL)

• 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 and cloth towels
• Small bowls/dishes
• Harness and leash for each ferret, with ID tags
• Frozen water bottles or ice packs
• Any medications your ferrets take
• Odor neutralizer or deodorizer for car or motel rooms
• Trash bags
• Duct tape and wire screen (for ferret proofing at destination)
• Flashlight (for checking carriers at night)
• Ferret First Aid Kit

Hi! My name is Zodiac, and I am a sable-mitt ferret who lives with my Mom and Dad (the humans) and a ton of other ferrets. I am so excited because Mom just said that we are taking a vacation and I get to go along! Ohboyoboyoboy!!!  Wait a minute --- I’ll only go on a vacation if we are NOT taking an airthing! No more airthings for me. Ever. Never Ever.

Hi, this is Erika, who is Zodiac’s human Mom. I’d like to share our ferret traveling experiences so you can learn how to best plan a trip with your ferret. I’ll share some stories of airline travel (including the reason Zodiac won’t fly), and then we’ll move onto our car trip to St. George Island.

Air Ferrets

During the 1980s, I used to fly everywhere with my ferrets – I even asked if Critter could get frequent flier miles! However, it has become increasingly difficult to fly with ferrets. Currently, only Delta allows a ferret in the cabin with you ($75 each way per ferret, with restrictions). Alaska Air, Midwest, and Airtran will fly with a ferret in the cargo hold for a similar fee under some circumstances (highly dependent on weather conditions and other animals present). American, Continental, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Air prohibit ferrets on their planes. Amtrak rail and Greyhound buses also prohibit pets.

If you must fly with your ferret, you must also plan in advance. Airlines limit the number of pets allowed per flight, so you need to make your pet reservations early. You will also need to provide complete health papers from your veterinarian, including vaccination information, usually within 10-14 days of your flight. Of course, if ferrets are not permitted in the city or state in which you are deplaning, you cannot bring your ferret.

After years of flying with ferrets, I have decided that driving is an easier option! I first used to fly with my ferrets as checked baggage (although you pay the same pet ticket fee for this). In one instance, my ferrets were not hand-carried to the baggage claim, but came bouncing down the conveyer belt with the other suitcases. The carrier flipped over several times before crash-landing. My ferrets were shaken and stirred, but not harmed. The last time I flew my ferrets as baggage, I watched in horror out the gate window as my ferret kennels were nicely hand carried onto the runway, and then left on the hot tarmac instead of being placed in the airconditioned cargo hold. Polite requests to the gate assistants deteriorated to firm demands and then finally screaming at the top of my lungs that the airline was killing my pets before my ferrets were taken off the runway (after baking for 15 minutes in the summer sun).

After these miserable experiences, I decided my ferrets would only accompany me in the cabin. This plan led to new challenges. First, many airlines restrict you to a single pet, which makes it difficult when you have multiple ferrets. Second, you have to get your kennel through security. I wasn’t too fond of the idea of having Critter x-rayed, so I asked if I could remove Critter and just send the carrier though the machine without her. The security personnel refused, citing a rule that pets must remain in their carrier. I then asked for the kennel to be hand checked. So Critter bypassed the x-ray machine, but the checker promptly opened the carrier for inspection, and out came Critter, bouncing like a maniac and delighted at all the new people to play with! The baggage inspector shrieked at the top of her lungs, which prompted Critter to bounce even higher. The rest of Chicago’s O’Hare airport was reduced to stunned silence.

Years later, on my final flight with a ferret, Zodiac was denied boarding at the ticket counter. In desperation, I did the unthinkable (and would never, ever do this again or recommend it to anyone). I decided to smuggle the ferret. I removed items from my carryon duffle bag to make room for a ferret, food, and water, and stuffed Zodiac down my shirt so I could make it through security without them seeing the ferret bones in the carryon bag in the x-ray machine. I made it through security, but by this time they were calling my plane, so I had no time to transfer Zodiac to the duffle bag! I boarded the plane while Zodiac ran laps around my middle, leaving a tracery of tiny toenail tracks on my stomach skin. I had a window seat, but unfortunately the aisle passenger had already been seated. How would I ever get Zodiac out of my shirt and into the duffle bag in the seat in front of me without being noticed? I cagily asked the gentleman if he would put my purse in the overhead bin for me, and while he was momentarily diverted, I yanked Zodiac from my armpit and zipped her into the duffle. Just in time, because the middle-seat passenger had arrived! 

All was quiet until the plane took off. I heard a scrabbling noise, and saw a toe, alternating with a nose, working away at the zipper of the duffle bag! I quickly leaned down and pulled some paperwork out of the outside pocket of the duffle while stuffing ferret parts back in and pulling the zipper back into place. For the next two hours, I tried to muffle the scratching and scrabbling by grading the exams I had brought with me. I have never graded so loudly in my life. I flipped pages, crumpled paper, read each answer aloud, hummed, scratched with pens, and generally rustled around. I had worked out an ingenious toe method of rezipping the duffle periodically. I didn’t dare eat or use the restroom, with visions of an escaped Zodiac gleefully racing down the aisle. My fellow passengers must have thought I was a nutcase. Zodiac finally fell asleep – right after the plane landed. I was a nervous wreck, and I’m sure the experience wasn’t very fun for Zodiac, either. To this day, I believe her antics are my punishment for taking her on that awful trip. The risks are too high for you and your ferret to make smuggling worthwhile. In fact, I will no longer fly with ferrets, even legally, after my experiences.

So Zodiac, we are taking a road trip! It’s off to St. George Island off the coast of Florida for a relaxing few days at the beach.

Daring to Drive

Hooray, Mom! No airthings for me! I get to go in the car. Now if only I can plot a way to be the driver instead of a passenger ferret stuck in that carrier! I think I am smart enough to drive, and I just had a birthday, so I should be old enough to drive, too. Maybe if I am extra attentive about stealing socks, Mom will know I am smart enough to drive.

Car travel is provides a feeling of security for me and my ferrets, and it is less expensive than flying.  As with any trip, planning ahead is important. First, I made sure our car was in top running condition. I had the car checked out mechanically (and discovered a brake problem!), performed necessary maintenance (oil change, tire rotation, radiator flush, etc.). I specifically paid attention to the airconditioning system, as ferrets are very heat sensitive. A car breakdown or airconditioning failure could be life-threatening to the ferrets!

I have also worked hard to ferret-proof all our vehicles. 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 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. It is amazing how much trouble a ferret can get into in under a minute when roaming loose in a car! Zodiac has escaped before, and has irritatingly placed herself under the brake pedal, which is quite dangerous.

Planning your route is important. Locate ferret-friendly vets along the way, in case you need emergency assistance. If you will be traveling at night, locate 24-hour emergency vet clinics on your route. When making lodging reservations, be sure to find pet-friendly lodging (See sidebar). Ask for nonsmoking rooms when making your reservations, as ferrets have sensitive lungs. 

Make sure your ferret is healthy before you take them on a trip. If you are crossing state lines with your ferret, you may need a health certificate from your veterinarian, usually dated within two weeks of your departure. As much as Zodiac could use a good dose of sedatives, do NOT ask your veterinarian for sedatives for your ferret or attempt to sedate a ferret for your trip. Most ferrets travel quite well and do not need sedatives. Even with Zodiac’s unceasing drive to get out of the carrier, I know sedatives can be extremely dangerous for a ferret to take while traveling.

Communications on Carriers

Oh, when will I ever learn? Mom places that carrier on the floor and I just have to explore it. And before you know it, the door is shut! Like all ferrets, I would rather be where I am not, so now I would like to get out of this carrier! I wish Mom would quit tricking me into this carrier. Remember, I can’t drive if I am stuck in this box! Let me out! Now!

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 how you will travel in the future, and the airline-approved carriers are sturdier and last longer. These are also the approved carrier for shelters if you need to evacuate with your ferret during a disaster. 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. A soft-sided carrier will not survive a car accident.

I use carriers for medium-sized dogs so I can fit multiple ferrets – these carriers can be equipped with hammocks or a lofted second floor.  Don't be tempted to transport your ferret in a cardboard box or other temporary container. Zodiac can destroy cardboard within minutes, and urine will soak through. Often these boxes are not properly ventilated. I have also spent time getting Zodiac used to her carrier so she would be ready for a long trip. She has been allowed to play and sleep in the carrier, and I use the carrier for trips to Zodiac’s veterinarian.

The Power of Packing

Wowee, Yipee! Mom is packing! That means we are going to be going soon! I love to pack, because crawling in and out of suitcases is so much fun for a ferret! I just hope this isn’t a false alarm and we are just going to the vet. Then I would feel really tricked. Say, look at all the special ice packs! Now I know we are going on a long trip – too long to stop at the vet!

Pack in advance for your ferrets (see sidebar). Another item that should be prepared in advance is ice. 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 and later provide available water. On one trip I did have an airconditioning breakdown and was grateful for the ice, and later the cold water with which to spritz down the ferrets.

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. Don’t put the carriers on the floorboards, as this area will get too hot for your ferret. If it is warmer than 80° 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.

I Can’t Wait to Get on the Road Again

Hooray, we are on our way! Now if only Mom would let me drive. Or at least let me out of this carrier! Let me out! Are we there yet? Let me out! Are we there yet? C’mon, how long could this take? This is boring. Well, if Mom won’t help me, how about Dad? Dad! Let me out! Are we there yet? What kind of a ferret vacation is this, anyway?

Most ferrets adapt to travel quite well. Zodiac, however, spends the first hour of her trip clawing at the carrier door, which is why I trim her nails before a trip. Most ferrets will simply sleep, especially if you keep the sound turned off any rear stereo speakers. Don’t 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 (another Zodiac trick). 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.

I never take Zodiac out of her carrier unless I have fit her with a harness and leash, complete with an identification tag.  At gas stations, I don’t take Zodiac out at all, because sensitive ferret lungs can get irritated by gasoline fumes and exhaust gases. At rest areas, I am careful to take Zodiac out away from other people because I don’t want her to invite unwanted attention. Traveling ferrets are often cranky ferrets, and may behave in unexpected ways, including biting. Zodiac is far more likely to chomp someone when on a trip, and because I don’t know the local ordinances controlling any particular rest area, it’s better not to invite a ferret seizure due to a bite or scratch incident. If you must bring your ferret out, don’t let strangers hold or touch your ferret. If anyone approaches Zodiac, I move her out of reach, and explain, “Sometimes she nips when she is tired from traveling.”

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. Zodiac’s Dad and I swap out ferret-sitting duties while on the road. That way I can leave John in the car with the ferrets and a running airconditioner and then switch with him for his turn out.

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. Remember that temperatures above 85°F for more than 15 minutes could cause heatstroke in your ferret, and temperatures rise very quickly inside a car.  I actually travel alone with two sets of keys, and leave the ferrets locked in the car with the engine and airconditioner running while I make a quick pitstop. I then use the extra key to let myself back in the car.


We are Finally There!

Yawn! What a boring vacation so far. At least I got some beauty rest! At this rate I should be a gorgeous knockout ferret. Hey! The car stopped moving! Dad is carrying my cage! We must be there! What is that funny smell and sound? Is that the ocean? I can’t wait to see the ocean! Let me out!

Our trip to St. George Island was only a 7-hour drive. It would have been shorter, but we stopped every hour or so to water the ferrets, offer food, and clean carriers. When we checked into our room, the first thing we did was to immediately unload the ferret carriers and take them inside. At this point, the ferrets were just dying to get out! However, “pet friendly” lodging doesn’t imply “ferret proof” so don’t let the furballs out yet! The first thing to do is secure the bathroom. Check for any holes in the wall where pipes and plumbing go through. Check under the cabinetry to make sure ferrets can’t get between the cupboard bottoms and floor. Use your duct tape and wire screen you packed to patch anything suspicious. Then let the ferrets out in the bathroom to stretch out while you begin ferret proofing the rest of your lodgings. Worry especially about your ferret getting injured in bedsprings, escaping outdoors through ventholes. Only let your ferrets play in the room under your supervision. As soon as you need to leave, lock them back in their carriers. Be sure to clean up after your ferrets when you leave the room, and spray with room deodorizer.

As soon as we finished ferret proofing, we let Zodiac and the gang out of the bathroom. They went zooming and bouncing about, dooking like crazy! So many new places to explore and go! However, I wanted to keep them off the beach because it was late afternoon. Remember that ferrets are very sensitive to heat, and sand on the beach absorbs the sun’s heat all day. A ferret can also get sunburned badly in direct afternoon sunlight that reflects off sand and surf. Albinos and pink noses are particularly susceptible to sunburn. There were also too many people on the beach, and I didn’t want an overly-excited Zodiac out with the general public.

Good morning, Mom! It’s my favorite time of the day for ferrets – dawn. I know am a very special ferret because Mom is putting me in my best harness and attaching the leash. I think we are going to the beach to see the ocean! Wwwowww, I am just shhhhivverringg with anticipation! Look! There is the sunrise! Gee, I am standing in the world’s largest sand litterbox! I can dig! And plow! Whee, this is so fun! Let me plow all the way down to the --- ACK! Some water attacked me! No fair!

On any outdoor adventure, remember to harness up! In case of danger, you can quickly “reel” your ferret in. Outdoors, you need to be careful of dogs, birds of prey, and small children. On the beach, I kept a sharp lookout for stinging jellyfish washed up on the sand, seabirds, small crabs, and glass. I also didn’t want Zodiac to get caught by a wave, as ingesting too much saltwater can make your ferret extremely ill. Zodiac didn’t much like getting wet anyway. Overall, she preferred damp sand to dig in, but got quite nervous when the waves got higher and the seabirds began flying around. Fifteen minutes on the beach was about her limit before she got tired. I also didn’t want her to get dehydrated. The other ferrets disliked the beach and found it too scary. They much preferred to stay indoors! Make sure you know when your ferret is having fun and when they have had enough fun.

Going Home

Wow, that was great, even though I didn’t get to drive! Next time, let’s go to the mountains for hiking, or maybe even skiing! How about a swamp boat tour in the Everglades? I just know I deserve many more fun-filled ferret vacations!

We all had a great vacation, and the ferrets were quite tuckered out after several days of adventuring. They slept all the way home! All the preplanning was worth it, and we had a trouble-free trip. And although vacations are great, all of us were just as excited to get home! I hope our trip will help you plan for your ferret vacation.

Resources for Pet-Friendly Lodging
·        AAA Traveling With Your Pet by AAA (Editor) (Paperback) ISBN: 1562516620
·        Pets on the Go: The Definitive Pet Accommodation and Vacation Guide by Dawn Habgood, Robert Habgood (Paperback) ISBN: 0933603134
·        Take Your Pet Along: 1001 Places to Stay With Your Pet by Heather MacLean Walters (Paperback) ISBN: 0964891328
·        Fodor's Road Guide USA: Where to Stay With Your Pet by Andrea Arden (Introduction), Emmanuelle Morgan (Editor) (Paperback) ISBN: 0676902073
·        The Portable Petswelcome.Com: The Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Pet by Fred N. Grayson (Contributor), et al (Paperback) ISBN: 0764564269
·        Vacationing With Your Pet: Eileen's Directory of Pet-Friendly Lodging in the United States & Canada by Eileen Barish (Paperback) ISBN: 1884465153
http://petfriendly.ca/ (Canadian lodging)