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Fins, Feathers, and Fur at 30,000 Feet: How To Fly With An Exotic Pet (& Packing List)

Okay. We’ve all seen Tiger King, right?

The number of American households with exotic pets has been steadily increasing since the mullet-sporting, mustachioed tiger wrangler, Joe Exotic, first burst onto our screens.

The main issue with that is, not everyone understands the nuanced world of exotic pet care. This is why you probably need to take your favorite snake, lizard, rodent, or bird away with you whenever you travel.

With that in mind, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about how to fly with your exotic pet.

How to fly an exotic pet. Photo by verdian chua on Unsplash

Can You Fly With Your Exotic Pet On A Plane?

Yes, you can fly on a plane with your exotic pet. But, before you go booking a ticket, there are a lot of rules, regulations, and requirements to know about.

You will need to take into account the different rules of the airline you’re traveling with and the destination you’re headed to.

However, many of the airline rules are similar to when flying a large dog on a plane namely, you will need a carrier for your pet.

If they’re staying in the cabin with you, the carrier should be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Or, if you’re thinking of placing them in the hold, you’ll need to follow the guidance of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

How To Choose the Right Airline

Not every airline allows you to take pets on the flight with you. But several pet-friendly US airlines are more lenient when it comes to furry friends.

However, even those more accepting airlines have changeable regulations. So it’s always best to do your research before booking your seat.

In addition, the cost of flying with your exotic pet can vary from airline to airline. Although prices usually range around the $100 mark.

People sitting on a plane flight. Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

How to Prepare To Fly With Your Exotic Pet?

Traveling with an exotic pet can be an exciting adventure, but it requires careful planning and preparation to ensure the well-being of your furry/scaly/feathered friend.

Let’s explore some essential steps to take before your flight to make the journey as comfortable and stress-free as possible for your exotic pet.\

What Pets Are Allowed

A good general rule for whether or not your pet will be able to ride in the cabin with you (or on the plane at all) is size.

If you’re traveling with a bird, rabbit, hamster, lizard, snake, frog, rat, mouse, etc. (basically anything reasonably small) you should be fine to have them in a carrier under the seat in front of you.

Health Check-ups and Vaccinations

Before your flight, visit your vet for a thorough health check-up.

Exotic pets, such as reptiles, birds, or small mammals, have specific health requirements that need to be addressed before air travel.

Your vet will examine your pet, ensuring they are in good health and fit for the journey.

During the check-up, make sure to discuss any necessary vaccinations for your friend. Your vet will provide any inoculations and issue a health certificate, which you should carry with you to show the airline personnel if requested.

Hamster sitting on a white table. Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

Training Your Pet for the Travel Crate

Introducing your pet to an approved crate well in advance of your flight is vital. This helps your friend become familiar with the enclosure and reduces stress during the journey.

Start by placing the crate in an area where your pet spends most of their time.

Allow them to explore the crate at their own pace, making it a positive and comfortable space by adding their favorite bedding and toys.

Gradually acclimate your pet to the crate by allowing them short periods of time inside, gradually increasing the duration.

Reward them with treats. This positive reinforcement will help them associate the crate with positive experiences, making it easier for them to adjust during the actual travel.

Packing Essentials for Your Pet

When preparing your pet's travel essentials, it’s important to be well-prepped.

Pack enough food and water (as well as bowls) for the duration of the journey, considering any potential delays or layovers. Also, be sure to bring familiar food to avoid digestive issues.

In addition, consult your vet. This will ensure that you have an adequate supply of medicines and outline any additional medical issues that flying may exacerbate.

After food, water, and medicines you should think about any comfort items like blankets from home to help keep them calm.

But there’s still more to know about packing. So, let’s give you a complete checklist.

Woman walking with a pet in a carrier. Photo by Sam Lion:

What To Pack When Flying With Your Exotic Pet: An Essential List

You can never be sure of a completely smooth flight with your exotic pet. But this list covers everything you will want to take with you.

Exotic Pet Flight Packing List

  1. Appropriate travel container

  2. Food & water

  3. Eating & drinking bowls

  4. Essential documentation

  5. Temperature control gear (if necessary)

  6. Harnesses or restraints

  7. Comfort items (favorite toys, blankets, or bedding)

  8. Calming aids (if needed - for anxious pets consult a vet)

  9. Pet first-aid kit

  10. Waste management tools

  11. ID tags

  12. Travel-sized grooming kit

  13. Leash and collar (if necessary)

  14. Carrier liners and pads

  15. Airline requirements checklist

  16. Pet health insurance info

  17. Proper clothing (boots for cold environments & cooling pads for hot atmospheres)

  18. Vet contact info

  19. Potty training pads (for managing bathroom requirements)

  20. GPS tracker

  21. Microchip info

  22. Portable enclosure

  23. TSA-friendly treats

  24. Cleaning wipes

  25. Comforting music or sounds.

  26. Allergy medication (if necessary)

  27. Pet-safe disinfectant spray

  28. Backup leash/collar

  29. Distracting toys

Navigating The Flight

During the flight, the ideal scenario is having your scaly, feathered, or furry friend under the seat in front of you.

If you can fit them and their carrier under the seat then it’s much the same process as having a dog or cat on a flight. Make sure water is readily available to them and feed them at the same times you would normally.

However, if they’re too big and need to ride in the hold then, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. Although, you should know that the hold is a specially prepared compartment.

The area is pressurized, temperature controlled to between 50-70 degrees, and kept in darkness to help pets sleep. So they should be comfortable enough.

Now Get a Pet-Friendly Hotel For Your Post-Flight Recovery

By now you should have a decent understanding of how to fly with your exotic pet. Plus, knowledge about what to take with you and how to keep them calm.

You’re ready to take to the skies!

But when you come down, you’re going to want somewhere sympathetic and comfortable to rest your head, right?

That’s where our list of the top pet-friendly hotels in the US comes in handy.

Safe travels!


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