Should You Give Your Cat a Sedative for Traveling? Here's What You Need to Know
Not all cats are thrilled to travel, in fact, many aren't. But at one time or another, your cat may need to face her fear and buckle up for a car ride or other means of travel, especially if you're moving. The good news is that she doesn't have to face this fear alone. If your cat shows signs of travel anxiety or fear after adequate training, she might benefit from a cat sedative for travel.
Are Sedatives Safe for Cats?
If your cat has a moderate to severe fear of travel that she can't seem to shake, it might be time to help her find relief with cat sedatives. While no medication is 100 percent safe for cats, only your veterinarian can determine if your cat is healthy enough for sedatives, says Katherine Pankratz DVM, DACVB, a certified veterinary behaviorist at Animal Behavioral Clinic in Portland, Ore. The benefits of a calm kitty may outweigh the risks, but Pankratz notes that sedatives could impact your cat's blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate depending on her health and the type of travel.
Every kitty is different, so ask your veterinarian to recommend not just the best sedative for cats, but the best option for your cat—you may be surprised to learn your kitty doesn't require medication at all.
Should You Give Your Cat a Sedative for Traveling?
Not quite ready to try cat sedatives for travel? Shelley Knudsen, DVM at All Feline Hospital in Lincoln, Neb. recommends these non-medication routes you and your kitty can try first:
These anti-anxiety over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, in addition to desensitization and counterconditioning training, may do just the trick for more enjoyable travels with your cat.
"Sedation is only one piece of the preparation for travel," Pankratz says. "It is very important to help prepare your cat for travel by training their comfort with travel itself." If your kitty still shows signs of stress after positive reinforcement and OTC calming aids, ask your vet if sedatives are right for her.
Cat Sedatives vs. Anti-Anxiety Medication for Travel
Cat sedatives work by coaxing your kitty into a state of sleep to keep her calm for long periods of travel—a useful tool for moderate to severe cases of fear of travel. Unlike anti-anxiety medications, sedatives don't target the negative, fear-inducing emotions your kitty experiences. While anti-anxiety medications may have a sedating component, they can be a useful coping tool for cats with little to moderate anxiety.
Talk with your vet about your specific pet so you can work together to find a treatment to help give your cat relief.
How to Sedate Your Cat for Travel Safely
Non-medicated calming aids such as pheromones are a-okay to purchase as an over the counter product and use at home. But if your finicky feline requires a medicated sedative, you should always consult your vet for safe dosing and administering.
Cat Sedation Side Effects: How Your Kitty's Behavior Might Be Affected Temporarily
Depending on the medication and dose as prescribed by your vet, your cat's behavior could range from Zen and sleepy to very groggy with difficulties walking. "Talk to your vet about the expectations and potential side effects of sedating medication. Sometimes, it is advised to perform a trial dose of the medication ahead of time to assess your cat's response prior to its need." Pankratz says.
For lighter doses of sedation, Pankratz says you can expect your kitty to return to normal behavior in about five hours or so. Stronger doses and medications could take up to a day to fully wear off. While your kitty slowly becomes more aware of her surroundings, and she gets her cat-like reflexes back, Pankratz recommends keeping her in a safe space. While a familiar space is best, surrounding her with familiar objects such as her favorite blanket can also provide comfort.