Pet Travel: Traveling by Air with Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Rats, Turtles and other Exotic Animals


Pets are on the move. More than 2 million pets are transported each year in the United States, according to the US Department of Transportation. Although the majority of animals that are transported are dogs and cats, exotic animals can be transported as well. It’s important to realize that every airline sets its own regulations on what pets, breeds, and types they are willing to transport. 

For those pet owners who are traveling with an exotic pet, (not a dog or cat), it is important to consider both the regulations of your airline and your destination country. You will need a compliant airline pet carrier or crate, whether traveling in the cabin or as checked baggage or cargo. If you are traveling in the cabin, the carrier will have to fit under the seat in front of you, have adequate ventilation, have a waterproof bottom, and be secure. If your pet is traveling as checked baggage or as air cargo, you will need a crate that is in accordance with the rules of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It must be made of rigid material, securely assembled, ventilated on all four sides, have no wheels, and have a spring-lock door that your pet cannot open.

Related: Is my crate IATA-compliant?

Here are some rules for traveling by air with an exotic pet:

Traveling with Birds:

Most airlines that accept small pets in the cabin will also accept domestic birds, although finding a suitable bird carrier can be difficult. In most cases, birds must be transported as air cargo.

Traveling internationally with a bird requires research, as every country seems to have a different rule and the rules change frequently. Outbreaks of Avian Influenza has made traveling with birds more difficult. 

Traveling with Rabbits:

Your pet bunny rabbit probably won’t be accepted in the cabin of the aircraft, but put him in an IATA-compliant pet crate, and he will be able to travel as checked baggage on several airlines. With the exception of the UK, most other countries have not established any rules for rabbits. If you have a certificate of good health for your domestic rabbit you should have no trouble entering most countries. Your rabbit should be vaccinated against myxomatosis and other diseases that commonly plague rabbits. When entering the UK from outside of the EU, four months of quarantine will be required.

Traveling with Hamsters:

Likely your hamster will need to fly as air cargo. Pet import regulations for many countries do not even mention them. They fall into the same category as small mammals. Again, a current health certificate should be enough.

Traveling with Turtles:

There do not seem to be any bans on the import of turtles; however, turtle owners should always verify that their pet is not covered by CITES regulations.

Traveling with Reptiles:

The airlines will not accept them either in the cabin or as checked baggage due to temperature requirements that reptiles have. It may be possible to ship the reptile as air cargo provided it has the proper container, but each airline has different rules. Because reptiles do not carry rabies, the requirements for their import are minimal. 

Traveling with Monkeys:

The import of monkeys to any country is quite a challenge. This species is very difficult to transport as well as import to another country. 

Traveling with Rats & Mice:

No airline will allow rats and mice in the cabin of the aircraft. You can ship rats and mice as air cargo as long as they are in a proper container. The regulations for their import vary from country to country.

Traveling with Frogs:

We cannot find any regulations on the import or export of frogs. As long as they are kept in a compliant carrier, the airlines should not have a problem with them. Be sure and verify CITES requirements for your frog and have a veterinarian check your frogs prior to travel.

The important thing to remember is that each airline makes its own rules for the import of birds and exotic pets, and every country has their own rules regarding the import of various types of pets. The EU established one set of rules for all member countries except for the UK and Malta, which have more stringent requirements.

Below is a list of airlines you might want to consider next time you transport an exotic animal.

Delta: Delta is a very pet-friendly airline with a variety of options for different animals. Delta welcomes passengers to carry small dogs, cats, and household birds in cabin. Also, during fall and winter months, they will transport dogs, cats, household birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters and most reptiles, amphibians and fish as air cargo as long as the temperatures along your route do not exceed 85 degrees.. All pets must fly in an IATA-compliant crate or carrier. As a bonus, Delta will transport two pets of the same type in one kennel as long as they meet the requirements for acceptance. Delta no longer provides checked baggage service except for pets of military owners on active orders, however they do transport pets unaccompanied as air cargo. Delta only accepts pets on flights shorter than 12 hours and they limit crate height to 24″.

Frontier: Frontier is known for their pet-friendly regulations and relatively inexpensive transport fees. They allow dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters to fly in cabin (with the appropriate carrier) for $99 each way for flights within the United States. Only dogs and cats will be transported internationally.

United: United Air limits in-cabin travel to dogs and cats. They do not fly any type of pet in the cargo hold.

WestJet: WestJet Airline is one of the most exotic-pet-friendly airlines in Canada. They will transport cats, dogs, rabbits, birds (not just household) in the cabin. Chinchillas, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs can be transported as checked baggage. The only downside to WestJet is their flight selection is somewhat limited, especially in the central US. 

It is important to remember that each airline makes its own rules for traveling by air with exotic pets. On top of the airlines, every country makes their own rules regarding the various types of pets allowed to enter the country. For more information on traveling with an exotic pet, check out


Pet Travel: Traveling by Air with Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Rats, Turtles and other Exotic Animals — 483 Comments

  1. Pearl – we know of no commercial airline that will permit any kind of monkey in the cabin or as checked baggage. Your monkey must fly under the care of an agent as air cargo. Know also that it is extremely difficult to transport a monkey internationally.

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