If you’ve ever had to travel with your cat – even to the vet – you know how much of an ordeal it can be. But before you resort to medicine to calm cats for travel, there are other things you can try to keep your cat calm in the car. However, since you’re here, I’ll assume you’ve done that already. The next step is to look into how to sedate a cat for travel.
As with most things, picking the best sedative for your kitty specifically isn’t an exact science. It may take some trial and error. Especially if your cat really hates car rides.
The first thing you need to think about is how difficult your cat is. If she’s constantly crying, panting or hyperventilating, then you probably need a pretty strong dose. After you’ve chosen what you think will work best for your feline consult your vet before the first test. They may have a different solution or prescribe a sedative that isn’t over the counter.
Medicine to Calm Cats for Travel
Cat sleeping pills and sedatives should only be used as a last resort. Sedation is fine every once in a while, but it should not be a regular thing. Just like humans, cats will suffer from excess. Be it food, medicine or even milk- too much is too much. If you often travel with your cat long distance, keeping her aware is the best way to treat her anxiety. It will be a struggle at first; but eventually she’ll become desensitized and even bored of travel.
We’re going to be looking at both natural and synthetic sedatives. The effectiveness of each will vary slightly from cat to cat, but most should work as advertised. Pick which one seems best for your feline friend.
That’s right. Hops will help soothe your cat’s nerves and make her feel warm and fuzzy inside. Similar to the effect lager has on you after a hard day’s work. But that doesn’t mean you can go dumping a forty into your cat’s water fountain! If you this route make sure to use the dried flowers as they’re more effective and better for her liver.
“Uh, I’m pretty sure catnip as the OPPOSITE effect I’m looking for.”
Quite right. That’s the point! The best way to go about cat sedation for travel is the natural way. Break out the catnip and drive your cat crazy. After she’s bounced off the wall for 10 or 15 minutes she’ll be ready for a nap. That’s when you grab your cat carrier and gently lay her inside. Your cat will be so exhausted that she’ll hardly notice.
Ever have chamomile tea? Well as it turns out, chamomile can have a nice calming effect on cats. Studies show that it effects the same part of the nervous system and brain as anti- anxiety drugs. The same rule as the hops applies here though; don’t pour hot tea into your cat’s water bowl.
Make the tea as you usually would and let it cool. Once at a nice room temperature use a syringe and inject it directly into your cat’s mouth. Failing that, adding the chamomile to her wet food will do just fine.
Valerian is a natural herb similar to catnip. The effects mimic catnip with the added bonus of your cat being more likely to fall asleep after bouncing off the walls. This herb is actually sometimes prescribed to humans as well to treat insomnia. So if you have difficulty sleeping than try it out on yourself and see how it goes.
Benadryl is a medicine that is used to treat irritation, pain and allergies/ allergic reactions in humans. It comes over the counter in both liquid and pill form. In addition to treating insomnia, Benadryl can help to alleviate the nausea that’s caused by motion sickness.
As it turns out, you can also use Benadryl as a calming aid for cats. Not only that, it can help with cat allergies, bug bites, colds and reactions to vaccines. But that’s another topic, so we’ll stick to using the drug for cat sedation.
Benadryl works wonders for keeping your cat calm in the car. The tricky part is getting the dose right. It’s best to start slow; you can always give your cat more if need be. As always, talk to your vet before you use it.
Bach Rescue Remedy
Bach Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic spray that works instantly. It’s so safe that anyone can use it; the elderly, pregnant women, children, plants and of course pets! There are even some celebrities that swear by it.
If you need results now this cat spray is your best bet. A spritz or three should really work wonders for your anxious cat.
Calming Collars/ Pheromone Sprays
Cat parents have had mixed results with using pheromones as calming agent. For some cats it works wonders while others are seemingly unaffected. However, if the previously mentioned medicines haven’t calmed your cat down then it’s worth a shot.
What are cat pheromones? Well, cat pheromones basically mimic the pheromones that a mother cat will release to calm down her kittens. They are designed to help a cat deal with stressful situations in a very natural way. Pheromones are pretty fast- acting too. You should start to see effects within the first 15 minutes and last up to 6 hours.
A calming collar works by slowly releasing these pheromones over a period of up to 30 days. So if you’re having other problems at home- biting, scratching, destructive behavior- you can leave the collar on once you’ve returned from your trip. There are no long- term side effects either so you won’t have to worry about that. I recommend you try out the SENTRY Calming Collar for Cats if you’re interesting in going this route.
Natural pheromone sprays work much the same way. Five to ten clicks on the spray bottle should be all you need to start seeing results. For cats with sensitive skin, the spray is better than the collar. Try out Relaxivet’s Calming Spray for Cats and see how it works for you.
If your cat has extreme anxiety in car then it might be time to turn to prescription drugs. Of course your vet will have to do a diagnosis and prescribe something, but we’ll briefly go over the different types of drugs.
There are three main medicines used to calm cats for travel: Gabapentin, trazadone and acepromazine. Each one has a long history of use on both humans and animals and works in different ways. Usually your vet will try gabapentin and/ or trazadone first. Both have been shown to be very safe and effective options for sedation. Your vet may want to experiment with one or both simultaneously to see what has the best effects. Both are administered orally with a 5-30 mg capsule.
Conversely, acepromazine is administered as an injection. If your cat has heart disease, kidney disease, liver failure, trauma, or is very ill then this isn’t the drug to use. Make sure your vet has the full medical history of your feline so that they can make an informed decision.
Keep your cat from jumping or running and use cat-friendly practices and low-stress handling techniques while using these therapies. Ask you vet if you need a quick refresher of what those techniques are.
There you have it. Those are all the natural and synthetic medicines you can use to calm your cat while traveling. Regardless of the sedative you choose, follow the instructions closely. As I said before, this may take some trial and error to find the sedative/ dose best suited for your anxious cat. I would start with the natural solutions like pheromone sprays and go from there. I’ve included the video below in case you don’t know how to give liquid medication to a cat.
Now that you know how to sedate a cat for travel, I’d like to reiterate that sedation should be used as a last resort. Short practice runs in the car will help your kitty get used to the motion and foreign sights and smells. Start with a quick trip around the neighborhood and build up to a longer trip to the store. Cats adjust slowly, so you have to practice patience. Good luck!