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Can we smuggle this little guy on the plane
June 20, 2009 3:11 PM   Subscribe

My niece is coming to stay with us for several months and wants to bring her pet rat (think small, cute mouse (picture here) but friendlier). None of the airlines seem to allow rodents in the cabin. What's the best way to get her pet cross country (NC to CA)? Can she smuggle it on board in her carryon?

As far we can tell none of the airlines will allow her to bring a rodent in the cabin (even in a crate with an escape-proof cover.) As far as i know, Continental is the only one who would allow her pet in checked luggage but that doesn't seem too safe for travelling in August.

It is tempting to just smuggle the rat on board since she fits nicely in a carryon. I'm thinking maybe she could put the rat in her plastic mouseball for going through security (so they can see there is nothing hidden) and then after security, tuck the rat back into her cage and the cage in its cover. Anyone ever try this? Probability of success? Consequences? Better suggestions?
posted by metahawk to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
They're going to send all the carry on stuff through an x-ray machine... if you show them the rat in the ball, I'd assume they'd confiscate it. Or not let her bring the rat, and she'd miss her plane.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:19 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is tempting to just smuggle the rat on board since she fits nicely in a carryon.

I honestly can't believe people even consider messing with airline security in any way. They are so trigger happy and illogical that I have no idea what the consequences might be if she was caught attempting to SMUGGLE (omgterror) a known DISEASE VECTOR (omganthrax) onto a PLANE (omgwtc). Confiscate and euthanize the rat? I could see them doing that. Prevent her from flying now and maybe ever again? Why not? They've already got a List. Arrest and imprison your niece? Yup, that's possible.

She needs to find a nice, rat-friendly petsitter in her area. Hell, if she's in the RTP my wife is a Vet Tech and has very reasonable rates.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:20 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes when you choose an unusual pet, there are consequences. Not being able to travel with them, for one.
posted by smackfu at 3:49 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Practical answer: Check the Craigslist ride board for people driving from NC to CA and find one who is willing to take the rat (for a fee).
posted by telegraph at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2009


I would not try to smuggle the animal on board. Not just because of possible trouble from security, but also for the rat's safety being concealed for an entire day in various odd locations.
The best option is for her to leave the rat at home or else get driven to see you instead of flying.
posted by ishotjr at 3:59 PM on June 20, 2009


Several months away from responsibilities sounds like a wonderful opportunity for a cross-country driving trip! I'm with Rock - don't mess with the nutso security folk.
posted by fritley at 4:00 PM on June 20, 2009


Having known front line dudes who work for TSA, I do not think most really care about their work. They are just guys with crappy jobs like most of us. I doubt they'd shoot the rat on the spot and drag your niece away in chains shouting "Never Forget." That's not really how airport security works.

Most likely they'd take the rat from her, she'd miss her flight, and she'd end up paying a huge fine or even face criminal charges for attempting to smuggle a rat on a plane.

But assume she makes it through security. It's entirely unfair to the other passengers. At least one person aboard a flight won't want to be in close quarters with a rat and its poop. Maybe because they have allergies, maybe because they've paid to travel with their cat in the cabin and the hidden rat freaks the cat out. Maybe they are immunocompromised and don't want exposure to rat pee or poop.

Or maybe rats just gross them out. I do not mean to be rude but not everyone finds rats in the picture cute. What if it got loose in the cabin? What if it bit or pooped on someone? The niece would probably be liable.

Airline passengers deal with enough crap as it is without having to travel with smuggled live rodents.

I might sound insane, but I am very afraid of rats. Lots of people are. These are just some good reasons not to get on a plane with a hidden rat.

Find someone willing to rat-sit or travel by bus.
posted by vincele at 4:06 PM on June 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've done this successfully.

The key to my method was to bring it in a nice pet carrier/cage thing and to just act like everything was cool.

And then when they asked what kind of animal it was, I said that it was a baby gerbil. Gerbils are totally non-threatening despite being rodents.

The cage came on the plane and sat in my lap [except at meal time when it was under the seat in front of me].

It didn't even occur to me that it might not be allowed on the plane until I heard 'is that a RAT?' and then I had to be quick on my feet.

If I had to do it now, I'd probably drive if I could. It only really worked because the security person really didn't want it to be a non-cute animal and they took me at my word. A competent person would not have had to ask what kind of rodent it was.

So, be lucky is what I guess I'm saying. Or drive.
posted by Acari at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2009


Here is a (slightly outdated) rat-friendly airline list. If you can no longer take your ratty in cabin, many airlines allow you to freight ship the animal for an additional $200 or so. Usually the restrictions for the summer involve pugs and persian cats, not sure if rats are known for breathing problems?

But yeah, definitely don't smuggle a pet! That is asking for all kinds of trouble.
posted by shownomercy at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2009


On preview: just to emphasize, the rat will affect everyone on the plane with its recycled air and cramped space. Airfare-paying people and rat have needs. Please consider your fellow travelers whatever decision you make.
posted by vincele at 4:10 PM on June 20, 2009


These folks will move the rat for you.
posted by bigmusic at 4:13 PM on June 20, 2009


Some ideas (not considering the ethical implications. that's your call):
Can you say it's a baby chinchilla? They're not rodents.
Is there anyway that your niece has a doctor or mental health professional write her a note stating that she requires that the rat accompany her on the plane?
posted by lalalana at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2009


It's possible to mail live animals overnight through UPS. She can ship it before she leaves and you can hold on to it until she gets there.
posted by Alison at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2009


Scratch that, UPS doesn't ship mammals. There has got to be someone who ships live animals.
posted by Alison at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2009


The problem with rats on a plane is that, apparantly, if they escape they can get into compartments and chew a wire. My neighbour's plane did an emergency landing when a rat was spotted loose in the cabin. I'm not sure they'd be lenient if you tried to smuggle one on board.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:31 PM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it would be unwise to smuggle for the reasons set forth above considering the risks involved to your niece and the rat if caught.

I also think it is unfair and selfish to the fellow passengers who follow the rules for your niece to shirk these rules and smuggle a prohibited item or animal. I personally would be creeped the hell out by a rodent on the plane. But my personal disgust of all-things-rodent is irrelevant here. Rather, no one person is above the rules and your niece's individual needs do not trump the rules set for everyone. And do you really want your niece to learn that she can bend/break the rules whenever she thinks she can get away with it to accommodate her own wants and desires and everyone else be damned? Just saying.
posted by murrey at 5:44 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not allergic to rodents but I know several people who are. They love rats but being in the same room as one will make them very sick, very fast (not anaphalatic shock sick, but wheezing and itching and horrible ongoing headaches sick). No one goes onto a plane expecting to be exposed to rodents during the flight, changing that on them without letting them know (and giving them the choice) is rude, selfish and possibly even dangerous. So yeah, no smuggling please.
posted by shelleycat at 7:02 PM on June 20, 2009




She could send the rat by PetAirways.
posted by bad grammar at 7:57 PM on June 20, 2009


And then when they asked what kind of animal it was, I said that it was a baby gerbil. Gerbils are totally non-threatening despite being rodents.

This is a spectacularly bad idea for the asker of this question because gerbils are illegal in California. You're better off telling them it's a rat...

I sympathize, having had several pet rats myself, but you should be aboveboard and either find an airline that allows it or let the rat stay at home.
posted by mmoncur at 1:53 AM on June 21, 2009


I don't know if a rat can be an emotional support animal but Frontier Airlines will allow emotional support animals in the cabin but not any other pets. Maybe find an understanding counsellor / psychologist?
posted by Uncle at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2009


While rats do not have short muzzles (like the brachiocephalic breeds of dogs and cats do), they are more prone to respiratory illness than other small rodents. I'm not sure what the impact of traveling in the cargo area of a plane might be in this case.
If it were me, I would do a search for "rat rescues" and seek their advice in this situation. Believe it or not, there is literally a rescue group for just about every animal that people keep as pets. I am sure that they have dealt with the situation of moving rats across country before.
posted by gammer at 12:27 PM on June 21, 2009


I'm not allergic to rodents but I know several people who are. They love rats but being in the same room as one will make them very sick, very fast (not anaphalatic shock sick, but wheezing and itching and horrible ongoing headaches sick). No one goes onto a plane expecting to be exposed to rodents during the flight, changing that on them without letting them know (and giving them the choice) is rude, selfish and possibly even dangerous. So yeah, no smuggling please.

I'm not unsympathetic to people with pet allergies, but I don't see how rats are a special case over other pets allowed by airlines. Dogs and cats can make people very sick, and they're permitted on planes. I suppose you can say that it's known that this is a risk, but it's not commonplace enough to be something that one would expect to encounter, and of course passengers get no warning that dogs or cats will be in the cabin.

Smuggling him is just a terrible idea for all the reasons listed above -- if she loves the little guy enough to not want to be without him for a few months, significantly risking confiscation is not a good plan. There must be some reliably safe way to ship a rat as cargo, though -- laboratory rats are shipped live for biomedical research all the time.
posted by desuetude at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2009


Firstly, people with rodent allergies have often become hypersensitised so that any small exposure gives a big reaction (it's generally linked to working with them in some capacity). I've never heard of that happening for a dog or cat. Secondly, dogs and cats in the cabin are actually expected, just like I expect someone to take a bath in their perfume and I take medication as a precaution even though it's rare, so passengers can act appropriately. The reaction is bad enough that taking prophylactic allergy meds actually makes sense if there's even a small chance of exposure, but you need to know the chance is there. Rodents, however, are actively not allowed in airplanes so those with allergies won't prepare in any way. Thirdly no one is hiding their dog or cat, it's out in the open. So everyone knows what is going on and can deal appropriately.

Smuggling a highly allergenic animal, one which many many people are scared of or disgusted by, into a people-filled enclosed space where it is forbidden is selfish.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 PM on June 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


We found that Alaska/Horizon is very friendly about accepting almost any pet as checked baggage. Continental has a special cargo program called "Pet Safe" for transporting animals. I think she is going to use the Continental service. (Pet Airways might have been a good lead but they only fly to a handful of cities.)
posted by metahawk at 10:30 PM on June 23, 2009


We ended up using Continental's PetSafe cargo service. Everything worked out OK. Only odd thing was that when the rat went in for her vet check it was discovered that she was a male mouse instead of a female rat. However, regardless of gender or species, he survived his travel adventure just fine and is happily living in California.
posted by metahawk at 6:53 PM on August 12, 2009


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