Moving to a new home is a stressful event. Moving your pets can be even more nerve-wracking. Pet reptiles are especially sensitive due to their highly specific needs. And, reptiles need unique precautions when it comes to traveling. Thankfully, moving with your reptile doesn’t need to be a burden. With a few tips and tricks, the experience can be safe and stress-free.
Before The Move
Look into the local exotic pet laws.
Before you pack up your reptile, always research the local laws at your destination city. Different states have different laws regarding keeping exotic pets. Knowing these laws beforehand can save you a lot of hassle. For example, keeping Western Hognose snakes is legal in Texas. However, in the state of Illinois, you need a permit. Make sure to also check hotel policies on reptiles if you need to stop overnight during your travel.
Take your pet to the vet.
It is important to take your reptile to your veterinarian before you depart on your move. The vet can ensure that your pet is healthy and will respond well to traveling. Also, pick up copies of your reptile’s medical records to give to your new reptile vet. This makes things easier for the new vet’s office to create your pet’s file. It is also helpful if your pet needs to be quickly examined.
Packing Up Your Reptile
Another important aspect of traveling is to safely pack up your pet reptile. This includes having a proper pet carrier/ container. What is adequate depends on what species is going to travel with you. Snakes, lizards and turtles have different needs when it comes to traveling. One thing to keep in mind is that reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded), so they are sensitive to temperature. Keeping them at the correct temperature while traveling is tricky. Always check ahead of time how the weather is where you are traveling. Pack either heat packs and/or cold packs to keep your reptile’s temperatures stable. Latch the carrier/ container securely with latches or ties. It is also important to have your name, contact info and “Live Animal” somewhere visible on the travel carrier/ container.
Moving with snakes.
For snakes like Ball Pythons, place them in a cloth bag. Properly secure the bag; either tie the top or use a rubber band. The darkness keeps them calm. Cloth fabric is very breathable, so they have no issues with ventilation. Place the cloth bag in a cardboard or plastic box with drilled ventilation holes. Line it with some sort of foam, newspaper or paper towels to fill the empty space. This ensures that your snake is not jostled during travel.
Moving with lizards and turtles.
Unlike snakes, do not place lizards (like Bearded Dragons) and turtles (like Red-Eared Sliders) in bags. Instead, place them in a (temporary) plastic bin with drilled ventilation holes. Place towels or other soft fabrics in the bottom of the container to serve as padding and soft substrate. Securing the lid is very important. Plastic bins with lid latches are preferable, so that your reptile doesn’t escape. Lizards and turtles require enough space to move around a little (but not too much that they are harmed during travel). Never include any other objects that can move or fall over.
There are a few options for traveling with pet reptiles, Traveling by car is usually the most convenient and least stressful. It is easier to adjust temperature, making the journey comfortable for your reptile. Keep your reptile’s travel container in a quiet, well secured spot, and out of direct sunlight. While most reptiles can go a few days without eating, traveling by car also makes it easy to have emergency food and water on hand. While in the car, avoid playing loud music. Also, try to drive to your new home as quickly as possible. Definitely avoid frequent stops. A fast trip is the best choice for your pet reptile.
If your new home is far away, you may need to take your reptile on a plane. This is a different experience than traveling by car. The specific reptile packing is dependent on the species, care needs, and airline requirements. Make sure to check your airline’s policies on pets. Label the travel carrier/ container with your pet’s species, the “Live Animal” tag, any special medical needs, and optimum temperatures. Also, try to book the most direct flight to minimize your reptile’s time on the plane.
Another thing to note is that moving companies can not transport live animals. So be sure to make proper arrangements prior to moving day.
When you reach your new home, immediately set up your reptile’s new enclosure. Only then take your reptile out from the travel carrier/ container and place it in its new home. Give your reptile some time to settle in. Check on them to ensure they are acclimating. Then resume their regular care schedule.
However, be aware; some pet reptiles take longer to get over stress from traveling. They may refuse to eat for a while. This is especially true of nervous reptile species like Ball Pythons. Give them more time to settle into their new enclosure. Leave them alone for at least a week before you try to feed them again.
Home Sweet Home
Preparing to move homes with your pet reptile may appear to be a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Once you’ve figured out your plans, you’ll move happiness into your new home for both you and your pet reptile.
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Nigel Robert, Guest Contributor
Nigel is a lifelong reptile lover and wildlife consultant. He has had many pet reptile species, including Leopard Geckos and Ball Pythons. Nigel has experienced moving homes multiple times with exotic pets.
All images via Unsplash.com