Travelling with cats is easy because cat carriers are widely available and work well. Dogs, too, are generally pretty easy to travel with.
But if you’re looking to bring a reptile home from a pet shop or from the vets things can be a little more challenging.
The purpose of this article is therefore to discuss some of the major factors you should consider when transporting reptiles or amphibians to ensure not only that your life is as easy as possible but even more importantly that your pet is kept safe and secure at all times.
Many of us keep reptiles and amphibians in “naturalistic” vivariums complete with waterfalls, logs, tree bark and so on. During travel these can represent dangers as they may move or fall, causing danger to your pet. For this reason rather than transporting your pet in it’s normal cage, a better idea is generally to transfer your pet into another container that contains little or nothing.
While this may initially seem boring or unkind, it is recommended because it significantly reduces the chances of any tank décor causing injury to your pet, as well as making it easier to keep an eye on your pet while travelling.
As with many animals such as aquarium fish and birds, it has been shown time and again that reptiles are calmer when kept dark. As an example, when zoos transport powerful reptiles like crocodilians or large pythons, they often use a tea towel or similar piece of fabric to shade it’s eyes and help to reduce stress and movement.
However the same basic principle can be applied to any reptile. Most snakes are transported in breathable bags such as those made from cotton or nylon, however when you buy a lizard, tortoise or frog for example these may well be presented to you in a clear plastic container, where stress can occur.
In these cases it is generally a good idea to place the container into a brown paper bag or wrap it gently in a towel to help keep the animal relaxed and prevent it from getting spooked as you move about close-by.
Ventilation is essential for reptiles and without this over-heating can occur, especially on hot summer days. So firstly try to avoid placing reptiles or amphibians into plastic carrier bags and secondly on warm days aim to keep the car windows open to facilitate some air movement.
As cold blooded animals, temperature is of particular importance to reptiles and amphibians and they can react far swifter to extremes in temperature. This means that you should keep the container shaded in the summer months and ensure windows are open. If possible long car journeys should be avoided altogether.
In cold weather try to keep windows closed and consider gently turning on car heating or wrapping the container in a blanket to keep your pet warm.
However while most reptiles require artificial heating in their cages, for short journeys there’s generally no need to worry about a slight drop in temperature. Certainly try to avoid carrying a reptile through extreme weather like snow or direct summer sunshine but a temperature that is comfortable for you will be acceptable for a reptile or amphibian for a period of time.
Cooler temperatures will also make your pet less active, and therefore not only less likely to get stressed but also easier to handle at the other end. However if you’re concerned that the temperature will drop too far, be aware that heat pads are available which one can warm in the microwave. These will then produce additional heat for a few hours afterwards so these can be handy if you need to transport a reptile on a cold winters day.
For most reptiles, humidity isn’t of major importance for short periods of time. However most amphibians require a moist environment at all times if they are to remain healthy. Whilst this is unlikely to be a problem in colder weather, it’s something that should be taken into consideration if travelling in warmer weather.
Try spraying the inside of the container with declorinated water before leaving and keep an eye on it at regular intervals during the journey. If necessary, add extra water to keep your pet safe if plenty is seen to be evaporating.
Travelling with reptiles and amphibians really needn’t be difficult if you apply some common-sense and consider the needs of your pet. By following these simple rules you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that your pet arrives at it’s destination in top condition; something that surely must be of the utmost importance to caring exotic pet owners.
Image c/o B Smith