American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Winter 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales magazine.

Shipping Rodents

By Nichole Royer

* No rats or mice can be shipped through the mail or UPS.

* Shipping is done via the airlines.

* Most airlines will not allow rats or mice to be brought on the plane

* Rats and mice must travel in cargo.

* Shipping is very expensive, so shipping a couple of pet rats or mice to someone is really out of the question.

* Shipping is very time consuming to coordinate.

I have had several requests from people who live in other parts of the country and other parts of the world that would like to get rats or mice. There probably are others out there wondering about this as well.

Most of us in California are more than happy to bring animals to people when we take car trips. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. We all have the critters at home and, as I’m sure everyone is aware, it can be a nightmare to arrange for their care when you go on vacation. Most of the time we do not drive if we are going to travel, but instead fly. The airlines will not allow rats or mice to be brought on the plane like you would a cat or a small dog. All rats and mice must travel in cargo, and must be packaged and paid for just as they would if you were shipping them.

Shipping Conditions

More and more we are getting questions on shipping. Many of us in California will ship, however, only on certain conditions.

  1. The person we are shipping to must be a member of AFRMA.
  2. The person must get a full box of rats/mice. If they don’t, it’s not worth our time or their money, and the animals just don’t travel well.
  3. The person must send all money before the animals can be shipped.

The Nitty Gritty

A full box consists of something like 8–12 rats and 12–20 mice (depending on size, age, and sex). In many cases, rats and mice can be shipped in the same box (the box is divided). Cost is usually about $10–$20+ per mouse, and $20–$40+ per rat.

The actual shipping box* costs $35, and the vet check that’s required is another $25–$40.

To The Airport

Shipping is done via the airlines. No rats or mice can be shipped through the mail. The animals are delivered to the airport on this end and you pick them up at the airport on your end. Typically, the shipping charge runs about $150–$250 per box in the US. Shipping out of the country often requires additional paperwork (which has to be handled from the purchaser’s end) but doesn’t always cost more.

Most of the time the person who coordinates the shipment will ask for a little additional money to cover their phone calls, driving, and time put into shipping. I would hazard a guess that it takes about 40 hours of work on this end to put a shipment together.

Expensive Proposition

Needless to say, this is quite expensive. Shipping a couple pet rats or mice to someone is really out of the question. Most of the time when we ship, it is not to a single person. Instead, it is to a group of fanciers who have gotten together to get a shipment. When you split the cost between a number of people who each then get a pair (or whatever the arrangement), then the cost is a lot more reasonable.

When we have enough time, most of the California breeders will plan litters around shipments so that the people we are shipping to get what they want. Needless to say, this whole thing can be rather a project to coordinate. *

See Shipping Notes for more info.
See also the article “Shipping To & Fro”

Update 2014:

Breeders have reported United Airlines now has a PetSafe® Shipping program for around $75–$90 for less than 10 pounds.

Update 2015:

AFRMA recently had an opportunity to use the HydroGel™ hydration packs by Clear H2O and while the rats did not appear to try them out, instead eating the carrots provided, they provided assurance that the animals would have a moisture source if needed. We recommend this product for those shipping or traveling long distances with rats or mice.

We also used the United PetSafe® Shipping program and had very positive results.

We used one of the Horizon (was Sage) Animal Shipping Containers along with one of the Taconic Transit Cages to split up the male and female rats and were able to tape the boxes together as one unit since there was only 1 spot available on the flight. The Sage container has small clear windows on the top where you can see the animals inside after packing them up along with a door in the lid where you can open the box without having to take off the entire top.

One important note on health certificates: while United does not require health certificates to ship rats and mice, if anything happens to the animals, you must have one to get a refund.

Another article you can read on shipping is, Shipping Rats by Meghan Rabon, Paper Heart Rattery, Hope, NJ. She points out about not overcrowding the boxes and shipments can possibly be done in the summer but only during the evening/night hours when it is cool. (archived page)

Taconic had a Taconic Transit Cage Density chart that gives you an idea of how many animals to pack comfortably into one of their shipping boxes (archived page; the current page only lists how many mice per box).

Update 2017:

United PetSafe® Shipping no longer allows cardboard shipping boxes for rodent air shipments.

*The shipping boxes we have used in the past are from: Cold Spring Products, Inc. RR1 Box 467, Cold Spring Road, Stanfordville, NY 12581 (800) 848-8231. We get the full box with dividers and Transit (water) Kits.

An alternate is the Taconic Transit Cage™ which is a plastic shipping box.

Jackson Labs has plastic mouse shipping containers.

Chang Bioscience has a plastic lab animal shipping box in 2 sizes. New!

Labodia, based in Switzerland, has several types of animal shipping containers (cardboard and plastic) and Necta Hydration Gel. New!

Animal Care Systems in Colorado has Ground Transport Boxes for Rodents (Not suitable for air travel). New!

Alternatives to water:

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Updated June 9, 2023