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How to SAFELY Travel with Rats in a Car [Ultimate Guide]

Travelling with your rat in a car may seem like a daunting experience. You want to ensure that your little friend feels as comfortable and secure as possible.

For the most enjoyable, stress-free experience for you and your rat, you will need to prepare for the car journey.

Keep to the following guidelines to safely travel with a rat in a car:

  1. Use a quality, escape-proof carrier.
  2. Re-create the feeling of being in a safe nest.
  3. Get your rat familiar with its travel carrier.
  4. Do some short practise runs.
  5. Ensure the car is appropriate for your rat.
  6. Secure your rat’s carrier down.
  7. Check up on your rat often.
  8. Re-create your rat’s normal environment after the car journey.

In this article, we will discuss each of these guidelines in detail to ensure your rat is happy and safe while in the car.

Use a quality, escape-proof carrier.

Your rat’s travel carrier must be rigid, well-ventilated and secure to prevent your rattie from escaping.

Hard-sided travel carriers made from solid plastic work well are strong and sturdy. They’re also great as they provide your rat with some privacy – you want your rat to feel like they’re in a safe little burrow.

Additionally, if your rat gets stressed during the journey, then he/she may start gnawing. Plastic is much less dangerous than metal, as your rat could damage his teeth if there are sudden movements in the car. 

There is also the option of soft-sided travel carriers, which may be more comfortable if you are going on a long car journey.

Most soft-sided travel carriers come with a soft cushioned base for comfort. Additionally, if the carrier is jolted by a bump in the road, your rat won’t have a hard side to bump into.

Before purchasing, read the reviews to see if other pet owners were happy customers!

Ensure that the cage doesn’t have any gaps that your rat could squeeze through!

Avoid using cardboard as rats can easily chewed through them. They also won’t withstand any rain or urination.

For safety reasons, avoid travelling with your rat in a multi-level cage. If you were to experience any bumps in the road, then you risk your rat ranging against something, or falling from a greater height.

What size should a travel carrier be?

Your rat’s travel carrier should be smaller than it’s usual cage.

Firstly, a small cage will be lighter and easier for you to transport. Secondly, your rat will feel more safe and secure in a smaller travel cage. Having a smaller travel cage will also save your rat from potential injuries he/she could easily be thrown around in a large cage.

With that said, your rat’s travel carrier must be large enough so that he/she doesn’t feel suffocated. 

Of course, if you have more than one rat, the cage must be slightly larger to fit both of them comfortably.

Top tip – If you have a bonded pair of ratties, put them in the same travel cage. They will provide each other with comfort throughout the car trip.


Popular Travel Carrier Choices

Image

Name

Material

Dimensions

Price

Kaka mall Pet Carrier Waterproof

Soft

41.5 x 20 x 29 cm

Check Price

AmazonBasics Black Soft-Sided Pet Carrier – Small

Soft

 35 x 22 x 22 cm

Check Price

Living World Paws2Go Carrier, Blue

Hard

30.5 x 7.6 x 15.2 cm

Check Price

Preparing Your Rat’s Travel Carrier

#1 Line the bottom with a grippy, odour absorbing material.

You don’t want your rat sliding around the bottom of its carrier during the car ride. This could make him stressed, sick and may even injure your little friend. 

Puppy training pads are ideal to soak up any accidents, spillages and odour! They are available at most pet shops and are reasonable affordable. 

On the other hand, you could also line the base with some newspaper or a towel. There is also the option shredded tissue, or even rat-safe litter. 

Avoid pine, cedar, or other aromatic wood shavings as they may be harmful to ratties health.

#2 Add a blanket.

After you have lined the cage with the absorbant material of your choice, add a blanket on top. 

A blanket or towel will provide your rat with comfort, security and extra grip.

Top tip – Using your rat’s favourite blanket will make him/her feel extra secure!

#3 Partially cover the travel carrier.

You’ll want part of the cage to be covered to recreate the safety of a cosy little den.

Many travel cages already recreate this feeling with solid closed off walls, however if yours does not then you can opt for a thin, breathable blanket to place over the cage.

#4 AVOID placing bowls and water bottles in the cage.

This is for your rat’s safety.

Sudden jolts in the car will cause bowls to move around and potentially harm your rat. Additionally, jerky movements may cause water to leak out on to your rat, which could make him sick.

Instead, you should stop every couple hours to feed your rat and give it some water from a bottle.

Don’t let the water bottles sit in direct sunlight as rats don’t like hot water. You don’t want your rat to reject the water as he/she needs to stay hydrated.

Get your rat familiar with its travel carrier.

In order to minimise stress, you want your rat to feel as at home in its travel cage as possible. This way your rat won’t feel completely out of its comfort zone.

To ensure that you have adequate time get your rat used to it’s travel cage, try to purchase it weeks before your planned car journey.

a) Don’t force your rat in the cage.

You want to avoid your rat associating the travel carrier with fear and stress.

Instead, introduce the carrier during playtime, leaving the door open so your rat can enter it on its own.

b) Encourage your rat in the cage with its favourite things.

So your rat associates its new travel cage with positive, happy things, entice him into the cage with lots of his favourite treats. 

You could also pop your rat’s favourite toys in the cage so he feels more comfortable entering.

c) Pop your rat in the cage for short test runs.

When you feel your rat has started to be more comfortable in their new travel home, get him used to staying in there for longer periods of time with the door closed. 

Put your rat in the cage with their favourite treat or toy for a few minutes at a time. Securely close the door and gently pick the carrier up. Walk slowly around the house with the carrier so that your rat gets used to the sensation of being elevated in motion. 

Work your way up to having your rat in its travel cage for at least 30 minutes, and let him hop out on his own.

d) Time for some practise runs with your rat in the car.

Once your rat is used to being in their carrier around the house, time to introduce him to the car!

To start of with, take some short car rides around the block. Over time, work your way up to longer trips. This way, your rat can gradually get used to the sensation of being in a moving vehicle.

He will also be much less likely to get motion sickness during your longer car ride!

Preparing On The Day Of Travel.

Once your rattie is ready to travel, you need to make sure that you, and the car, are well prepared for the journey.

a) Ensure the car is an appropriate temperature.

Now that your rat is comfortable in their travel carrier, you need to make sure the temperature is okay for your rat before going on a real car ride.

You will need to ensure the car is around the same temperature as your rat’s home. 

Top tips: 

  • Cool the car before introducing your rat on a warm day. 
  • Don’t allow the carrier to sit in direct sunlight.
  • Avoid leaving your rat unattended in the car, especially on a hot day.
  • Ensure the air-con/heat vents do not blow directly onto your rat’s carrier.
  • If you don’t have air-con, place an ice pack wrapped in a hand towel inside the carrier for added cooling. You can also place a damp towel over the carrier. 

b) Pack extra food and supplies.

Make sure that you pack enough food for the journey, plus some extra in case of delays.

Additionally, you may also want to consider packing extra supplies such as towels, bedding, and blankets.

If you are going on a long journey, then you should replace your rats bedding when it becomes overly soiled.

c) Strap the rat carrier into the car with a seat belt or place it securely on the floor behind a seat.

You want to avoid the travel cage being thrown around during the car trip.

Place the cage on the passenger seat or a seat in the back of the car. Use a seatbelt to securely hold the cage in place. The seatbelt can go over hard sided carriers. Most soft-sided carriers will also have seat belt straps for attachment.

If placing the carrier in the passenger seat, place it so that the front door is facing you. This way you and your rats can see each other during the drive.

NEVER place your rat’s travel carrier in a closed off trunk. It’s a scary place for a rattie, and you don’t want your little friend to suffocate!

During The Car Journey

a) Check up on your rattie often.

On a long car journey make regular pit stops to check up on your rat, if they’re out of your view.

This will also be a good opportunity to provide your rat with some food and water.

b) Look for signs of overheating.

Rats cannot stand temperatures of over 25ºC. Being exposed to temperature higher than this can lead to potential problems including heat stroke and dehydration.

The symptoms of overheating in rats generally include lethargy, reluctance to move around, loss of interest in food, and drinking more than normal. If your rat’s ears and tail are hot to the touch or they are panting for air, they are already too hot.

Also look out for the following signs:

  • lethargy and reluctance to move
  • loss of interest in food
  • drinking more than usual
  • hot tail and ears
  • drooling or a sticky discharge from the mouth
  • holding it’s mouth open

If your rat does overheat, you’ll need to immediately take him to a cooler place, out of the sun. Dampen his ears and tail with cool (not cold) water to help bring his temperature down. You can also gently sponge your rats down with a cool, damp sponge or washcloth.

Top tip – if you are travelling on a hot day, wrap a frozen water bottle in a small towel and place it in your rats travel carrier. You can also cover the travel cage with a wet towel to help your rat stay cool.

After The Car Journey

a) Recreate your rat’s normal environment.

Once the car journey is over, put your rat back in its usual cage or recreate its usual home as much as possible.

Offer the same food and treats that he is used to, and reintroduce his favourite toys.

Give your rat lots of love and attention, just like you would at home.

b) Look out for signs of illness.

Rats that experience high levels of stress are more prone to getting sick. Therefore, you want to keep a close eye on your rat’s health after the journey too.

Look out for the following tell-tail signs of illness:

  • Sneezing, sniffling, coughing
  • Difficult breathing
  • Reddish-brown staining around the eyes and nose
  • Rough hair coat
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Head tilting
  • Hunching, avoiding contact
  • Genital symptoms may include inflammation or blood in urine

Take him to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect that he is sick.


Conclusion

Rats are prone to getting stressed whilst travelling. However, planning and preparing beforehand can mean that it’s stress-free for you and your rat.

Ensure you purchase an appropriate travel cage for your rattie weeks before your planned road trip. This way, you can spend time ensuring your rat is comfortable and calm in its travel home. Prepare the cage appropriately to avoid injury and promote feelings of security. 

Additionally, ensure that the car is rattie-safe, remaining cooler than 25ºc at all times, and strap the cage down securely.

Look out for any signs of illness during and after the trip, and take your rat to the vet if you do suspect that he is unwell.

Hope this has been helpful.

Happy and safe travels! 🙂

Related posts:

8 Easy Ways to Keep a Rat Calm While Travelling
7 Airlines That Allow Rodents on Planes [2019 Policies & Prices]

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