Can Pet Rats Fly on Planes? Which Airlines Allow It?

Can Pet Rats Fly on Planes
Can Pet Rats Fly on Planes

Maybe you’re going on an extended vacation and want to bring your pet rat with you. Or, maybe you’re delivering a rat to a friend that wanted it. People travel with dogs and cats, but do they ever travel with rats?

Unfortunately, you might have difficulty finding an airline that will allow you to travel with a rat. Airlines are tightening the rules about what kind of pets can be brought on an airplane. The best thing to do is call the airline and ask someone if you can bring your rat before you book your flight.

Continue reading to learn more about which airlines might allow rats and why airlines are getting a little more strict about furry companions on flights.

Why Can’t I Bring My Pet Rat on a Plane?

In 1996, you could take two rats with you on a plane with Delta Airlines for $50 per animal. In 2004, Delta updated their policies so rats couldn’t be brought as a carry-on; instead, they could only be checked in as baggage and be transported with the suitcases.

Now, Delta will not accept rodents as emotional support animals because they claim they cause safety and public health concerns. It’s not specifically stated on their pet information page about whether or not they will allow rats at all, so you will have to call to find out.

What changed?

In 2019, Consumer Reports published an article saying that a Delta passenger was bitten by an emotional support dog. This led to the airline creating stricter rules, and they even banned some dog breeds that have a reputation of being harmful, like pit bulls.

This wasn’t the only reason they changed their policies. Many people were taking advantage of the emotional support animal rules and claimed that their snake, pig, and even a peacock was their emotional support animal.

Animal restrictions are getting even tighter. In January 2020, The New York Times reported that the Department of Transportation is proposing to ban all emotional support animals except dogs as carry-ons. You can find this proposal here. The purpose of it is to make it more difficult to falsely claim an animal as an emotional support animal.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bring your rats, however. Each airline has its own rules. Just because you can’t claim your rat as emotional support doesn’t mean you can’t bring it at all.

Which Airlines Allow Rats?

Most of the airline websites don’t specifically state that you can’t bring a rat as carry-on or as cargo. However, most of the websites only specifically refer to cats and dogs. This creates an assumption that only cats and dogs are allowed. 

The grey area that’s created means you will have to call the airline and ask someone if you can bring your rat with you. If your rat is healthy, you have medical records of shots, and its travel cage meets the requirements they have listed for cats and dogs, you might be able to bring your rat.

List of Airlines

Here is a summary of the allowed pets that popular airlines have listed on their websites.

Air Europa

The animals allowed in the cabin include: 

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Some birds
  • Fish
  • Turtles
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea pigs
  • Small rabbits

Animals that are allowed in the cargo hold include:

  • Amphibians
  • Insects
  • Reptiles (except aquarium turtles)
  • Rodents (except those allowed in carry-on)
  • Ferrets
  • Some dogs

The maximum number of animals in one container is 3, although there are exceptions to the rule.

Alaska Air

The animals allowed in the cabin include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Household birds

The animals allowed in the cargo hold include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Household birds
  • Pot-bellied pigs
  • Some reptiles
  • Rabbits
  • Tropical fish

The website states that you might be allowed to bring other pets if they get approved.

American Airlines

You can only bring cats and dogs with you as carry-on or in the cargo hold.

Delta

You are only allowed to bring household birds, cats, and small dogs with you. They can be brought as a carry-on if they fit under the seat in front of you.

The Delta Cargo site says they allow any species of living animal except primates. Do note that you must check in your animals separately, and you’re not guaranteed to have them in the cargo of the same flight you’re on.

Frontier

Rats are never accepted on the plane along with these other animals:

  • Amphibians
  • Beavers
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Large birds
  • Reptiles
  • Rodents (mice and squirrels)
  • Spiders

Hawaiian Airlines

Only cats and dogs are permitted in the cabin. Household birds can go in the cargo hold. Other animals aren’t specifically mentioned.

Japan Airlines

Animals permitted for transport include:

  • Dogs (except French bulldogs and bulldogs)
  • Cats
  • Small birds
  • Hamsters
  • Rabbits
  • Other small animals

Goldfish, insects, and turtles are also allowed as long as they won’t bother other passengers.

Pet crates for dogs, cats, and rodents are available to rent.

JetBlue

Small dogs and cats are allowed to travel. Other animals are not mentioned.

Southwest

Only small cats and dogs that have been vaccinated are permitted to travel. 

Spirit

Only small, domesticated animals are allowed to fly. They will only allow the following:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Household birds
  • Rabbits

United

In-cabin pets that are allowed are small domesticated cats and dogs. 

PetSafe is their cargo hold system they use for animals that can’t fit under the seat in the cabin. It only mentions cats and dogs, so other animals might not be accepted.

WestJet

This airline travels to multiple international destinations and has varying rules about which pets are allowed in which countries. Dogs and cats are accepted on most international flights, but some countries will not permit them.

The website says they will allow small pets in both the cabin and cargo hold, but animals other than cats and dogs might not be allowed or will have special requirements depending on the country you are going to enter. 

Because this airline does not specifically state if they allow rats, you will need to call and ask if they will allow you to bring a rat on your flight.

Always Call When You Plan Your Trip

As you can see, many websites aren’t too clear about which pets they will or will not allow. Other airlines, like Alaska Air, might approve your pet rat if it meets their health and safety requirements.

Make sure you will be able to keep your rat in a kennel or cage that gives them plenty of room to move around freely but will be able to fit underneath the seats in the cabin if that’s how you want to travel. Be sure your rat is healthy and has the necessary vaccines. If your rat’s health and vaccines are up to date and meet all the requirements the airline has for other pets, you might have a better chance of getting your rat on the plane.

The Department of Transportation and many airlines are seeking stricter guidelines to keep each passenger safe. Unfortunately, since the rules have been abused before, they might see only allowing cats and dogs as the easiest option.

Conclusion

Airlines have become more strict about animals allowed on flights because people have abused the system, which resulted in other passengers getting injured. Many airlines might not allow your pet rat to fly, but there are some options available. Speaking to someone on the phone might be productive in getting your pet rat onto the plane.

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