Shipping Small Pets

by Joshua Paulson
Shipping Small Pets

Whether you have purchased a new animal or are moving a great distance and need to take your own pets with you, shipping animals can seem like a frightening prospect. Then again, a 5 hour car ride shortened to a 1 hour long flight will be easier on all pets, especially for rabbits and rodents. What do you need to understand before you purchase that chinchilla 5 states away?

What do you need to know?

Animals will travel by air either in the cabin with their person or in the cargo hold. If you are not going to be flying with your animals, they will be shipped as cargo. The cargo hold of airplanes that allow pets are temperature controlled and pressurized. Temperature requirements by airlines are in place because of concern for live animals when they are being loaded and unloaded from the tarmac. Animals are always the last to be loaded and the first to be unloaded. This means that there may be a period of time that your pets will be exposed to outdoor temperatures. Airlines have restrictions in place to keep traveling animal safe. Delta, for example, will not accept animals if weather temperatures at any point in the journey are below 10F or above 85F or from May 15th to September 15th.

Some airlines will not ship animals other than certain breeds of cats and dogs. Most airlines will not accept a pet that has not had a veterinary inspection. If the flight has more than one connecting flight or the travel lasts longer than 12 hours, the airline will not allow pets to be booked as cargo. Animals on flights are usually required to book 24-48 hours in advance and be dropped off 2-3 hours before flight. Make sure you can be there or make arrangements to have someone pick up your pets about two hours after the flight lands. Price is typically based on weight categories, so it’s helpful to have a lightweight, albeit sturdy carrier. For small animals, you can have multiples separated by compartment in one carrier and they will ship for the same price as long as the total weight does not exceed into the next category. You can check Pet Travel’s website to view airline policies regarding pets and price estimates. Remember to thoroughly research your airline options before making you choice.

What do you need before the drop off?

  • A certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) will be needed within ten days of the departing flight. A lot of airlines will have a veterinarian they recommend if you are not sure where to get your CVI. Many states also require any animal traveling across state lines to have a CVI, so it is a good idea to get one even if the airline does not need one.

**Important note for breeders** CVI’s cannot be completed without the name, address, and phone number of the new owner. That information will be needed at drop off as well, so have it handy.


  • An airline approved carrier or kennel. Most people shipping chinchillas or rabbits use a transport cage with modifications to make it airline approved. The animals must be able to stand and turn around comfortably and have 3 inches of clearance above their heads. There must be ventilation on all four sides of cage, a solid top and bottom of the cage. The animals must have food and water dish or bottle. The carrier itself needs to be marked live animal on the sides and top of the carrier. It is a good idea to check with your particular airline to make sure that your modified carrier cage will be accepted at drop off.

  • Confirmation and paperwork. Some airlines will have specific forms or checklists to fill out and have with you at check in. You should be able to access any checklists and other requirements via your airline’s website.

Additional Tips

Have extra food in baggies with feeding instructions with your animals. They may be taped to a kennel or thrown in the bottom of a carrier with the bedding. Paperwork, like pedigrees can be put in a protective ziplock bag and placed under the carrier as well. If you don’t have a water bottle for transport, you can freeze a bowl overnight. It will thaw throughout travel and assure access to water the entire time. Make sure your chinchilla, rabbit, or guinea pig has access to plenty of hay leading up to and including the journey. These animals are notorious for not eating or drinking during travel and since they are more susceptible to gastrointestinal stasis, it’s important for them to have something in there at least right before the flight. Guinea pigs can have a few soaked carrots thrown in to encourage eating and to give them moisture if they won’t drink. We recommend soaking leafy greens or herbs like dandelion or raspberry leaves for rabbits if you are worried about their water intake. This is too risky for chinchillas and it’s best to stick with their standard diet. Make sure to keep everything as stress free as possible for your animals leading up to a flight.


If flying really does not appeal to you as an option, transport is offered by breeders attending events. National shows or conventions have people from all over the nation attending and transport can be arranged amongst them to get an animal at least nearer to you. This requires a lot of planning and good communication amongst all parties. It is usually a longer journey, sometimes multiple days, so be prepared for a worn traveler- both human and animal! Facebook groups specific to the breed of animal you are interested in may have transport and show or meet up information. Sometimes transport can be arranged with a private shipper. At  Uship, you can post what you need transported, when, and where. Truck drivers, delivery vans, trailers, basically anyone that is traveling your way, has the room, and is up to the task can offer a price for the transport. You can pick who you are comfortable with amongst the offers and your new pet purchase will be on their way!  

Will you choose the long road, with more attention paid to your pet in transport, or sacrifice scrutiny for significantly shorter travel time? Regardless of your choice, it’s important for buyers, sellers, transporters, and airlines to do their utmost to ensure the safety of the animals in their care.

Will you choose the long road, with more attention paid to your pet in transport, or sacrifice scrutiny for significantly shorter travel time? Regardless of your choice, it’s important for buyers, sellers, transporters, and airlines to do their utmost to ensure the safety of the animals in their care.

Check Out Our Other Chinchilla Blogs!

If you're looking for other interesting articles on chinchillas, explore some of our other great articles! Chinchilla's lifespan, black chinchillas, chinchilla food, how fast can a chinchilla run, and do chinchillas need a friend?

Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team
Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.

1 comment

  • Sara

    This is one of the finest pieces of information on auto shipping and quite remarkably expressed. We, ourselves, are connected to the shipping industry and believe in value-for-money services covering all the domains of transportation, be it open, enclosed, door-to-door auto shipping services in usa.

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