Cats are known for having their own unique personalities. And as we know with all animals, travel can sometimes bring cats stress and anxiety giving them a personality we’d hate to see. Plus, as a cat owner who might be traveling along with your favorite feline, the last thing YOU need is added stress.
Signs Your Cat Might Be Stressed During Travel
As most cat owners can attest to, you probably know your cat’s personality like the back of your hand. So when there’s a sign that your cat might be stressed because of travel, it’s pretty obvious. Cats will often increase their breathing and begin panting when stressed. Other common signs that your cat might be stressed include salivating, crying, pacing, vomiting, and urinating uncontrollably. When traveling and transporting your cat, you should be aware of these immediate signs or other unusual behavior.
Can I Sedate My Cat for Travel?
Cat sedation or tranquilization is very common when traveling. In most cases, stress is relieved not just for the cat, but for you as well – and maybe even those in your travel party or nearby passengers on that plane or train!
Most cat sedatives can be given orally, and are sometimes added to food to make them easier to ingest.
Prescription Cat Sedatives
We recommend testing over-the-counter sedatives first before moving to prescription sedatives. In the event that a prescription sedative is needed, note that they will likely be stronger than supplements. Only purchase prescription sedatives from a licensed pharmacy ONLY after receiving the prescription from a licensed veterinarian. A veterinarian will ensure that your cat is healthy enough for a prescription sedative.
While each prescription sedative will likely have specific dosing instructions, it’s common to administer prescription cat sedatives 1-2 hours prior to traveling. Also, it’s best to discuss the length of your trip with your vet so they understand how much sedation your cat will need. Some sedatives will last longer than others and some sedatives will have a mild effect to simply “take the edge off”.
Acepromazine causes sedation and some anxiety relief. It may be given as an injection in the veterinary clinic, or acepromazine pills may be sent home.
Acepromazine is often used as a cat sedative for travel, or given 30-60 minutes prior to a veterinary visit. Since the medication causes low blood pressure, it’s not an ideal choice for cats with heart disease or cats who are ill.
Gabapentin is a medication that can be used for several purposes, including seizure control, anxiety relief, sedation, and pain management. It’s a common cat sedative for grooming, travel, vet visits, and other short-term events. Gabapentin is generally considered safe in healthy pets, with minimal side effects. It’s often used in combination with other medications in pets who need a stronger sedative effect.
Trazodone offers both sedative effects and anxiety relief. This makes it a good choice for many situations, including grooming, vet visits, travel, storms, or fireworks. Trazodone must be used with caution in pets with certain conditions such as a heart problem, and it must not be combined with certain other types of anxiety medications (SSRIs). But overall, it’s a safe and popular choice.
This medication can help cats with anxiety during short-term stressful events like fireworks and storms. Alprazolam may also be used for grooming, vet visits, etc. Since it doesn’t have a strong sedative effect, it’s often combined with sedatives for an anxiety-relieving boost. In some pets (especially younger animals), alprazolam can cause excitement rather than tranquilization.
Cat Sedative Supplements and Over-The-Counter Medicines
As an alternative to prescription sedatives, supplements are widely available. Some examples of cat sedative supplements include drops of L-theanine, Zylkene, and other calming formulas; pheromone sprays for crates and blankets; herbal treatments; catnip, and more.
Are Cat Sedatives Safe for Cats When Traveling?
Cat sedatives are generally safe. If you are purchasing sedation supplements, be sure to purchase them from a reputable company. Look for seals of approval or sedatives that offer mostly natural ingredients.
If you’ve received a sedative from your cat’s vet, they likely reviewed your cat’s medical history or performed a wellness check before prescribing the medication. In general, prescription cat sedatives are safe but as with any drug, there can be adverse reactions.
How Long Can a Cat Be Sedated When Traveling?
You’ll find that based on how you choose to sedate your cat for travel the effects will vary. Sedation supplements will likely have short-term effects, while prescription sedation medicine will have longer, more drastic effects on your cat.
Depending on your cat’s disposition when traveling and what type of sedation therapy you go with will be the determining factor in deciding how long the cat can be sedated.
Cats can be sedated for 1-2 hours, while longer prescription sedatives can put a cat out for up to a full day.
Be sure to check with your cat’s vet if you need to sedate your cat for longer periods of time. The vet will ensure the proper dosage based on the length of travel, your cat’s anxiety levels, and overall health.
Can I Give My Cat Benedryl When Traveling?
Benedryl is technically not a sedative. Benedryl is an antihistamine that is commonly prescribed to relieve allergy symptoms and sedation is only a side effect of this medicine.
Benedryl is relatively safe for cats and a good option as an over-the-counter medicine. However, just like any medicine you give your cat, it’s sometimes helpful to try it out first in small doses in a controlled environment. For example, before traveling, you might want to give your furry friend a drop or two and see how they react and how long the effects last. From there, you’ll be able to determine if you need to dial the Benedryl dosage up or down.