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How to Sedate a Cat for Travel

How to Sedate a Cat for Travel

Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian

Traveling long distances with your cat can be stressful for both you and your furry friend. Whether you’re commuting via car, plane, or just walking to your veterinary appointment, there are many ways to help make the trip easier for you and your cat.

What Should I Use to Transport My Cat?

It’s important to make sure your pet is safely secured in a cat carrier when you’re traveling.

There are many different types of carriers on the market and they all serve the same purpose. Soft zipper carriers are a good option for shorter distances, or trips where you can monitor your cat.

Fabric carriers feature lightweight designs, making them easier to carry. Most will also have convertible straps, which allow you to use the carrier like a shoulder bag.

Hard plastic carriers and crates are a great option for longer distances, especially when the trip involves boarding an airplane. These carriers keep your cat protected during lengthy travels as they’re designed to be heavy-duty and durable. They also tend to be roomier to accommodate food, water bowls, and toys.

It’s always best to transport your cat with a carrier. It can make the entire travel experience easier and it’ll prevent the cat from escaping or getting injured.

What Are Some Signs that My Cat is Stressed During Travel?

Stressed or nervous cats will demonstrate noticeable behavioral changes. Cats will often exhibit rapid breathing and panting if they’re uncomfortable. Other signs of cat distress include breathing with their mouth open and panting similar to a dog, increased vocalization, dilated pupils, pacing, vomiting, and urinating.

These common clinical signs should be watched for whenever you’re transporting a cat. If you notice any of the listed stress signals, it might be worth speaking with a virtual vet about a mild sedative or other products to calm your cat. This will make the trip easier and more comfortable for both you and your cat.

What Can I do to Help with My Cat’s Stress During Travel?

There are many different cat options available to help ease the stresses of travel. In many cases, a sedative is used prior to travel to help calm and ease the anxiety most cats feel whenever they’re outside of familiar surroundings.

Most sedatives are administered orally. There are some common over-the-counter options a virtual veterinarian could advise you on. However, if these aren’t strong enough, a veterinarian may prescribe other prescription sedative options.

Prescription Sedatives

Prescription sedatives tend to have a stronger effect, which is why they’re usually only recommended under certain circumstances for healthy cats.

It’s recommended that cat parents try a practice dose of sedatives on their cat before their trip. This will allow the cat parent to monitor how the cat reacts to the sedative in a safe and controlled environment.

In most cases, the cat parent should administer the sedative at least 1.5-to-two hours before embarking on the trip. A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can also help you understand the pros and cons of various sedative options in your cat.

If you’re planning to travel for several hours, it’s worth noting that some sedatives last longer than others. Therefore, it may be a better option to use a longer-lasting prescription sedative than one of the shorter-acting medications.

It’s also important to discuss possible side effects of different sedatives.

Supplement Options

There are some supplements on the market that have calming effects on cats. Certain sprays are available that mimic feline pheromones, which can help relax nervous and anxious felines. These sprays can be applied to the inside of carriers and blankets to help calm your kitty during travel.

striped tabby cat laying in a car carrier

How do I Give My Cat a Sedative?

In most cases, travel-friendly sedatives are given orally. These medications are generally administered 1.5-to-two hours prior to travel and given with food.

There are alternative methods you can try if your cat is a picky eater. Pill pockets, hollow treats that have a spot to put a pill in their center, are handy. They disguise the pill in a tasty treat and help entice your cat to eat the medication.

Alternatively, you can try tucking the pill into a bit of canned food, cream cheese, or a small piece of tuna. If your cat still refuses to take the medication, it may be worth looking into a pill gun. This is a simple tool that help you administer a pill into a cat’s mouth.

There are also different formulations for sedatives available for cats who are difficult to medicate. Ask your Hello Ralphie veterinarian about liquid and tablet medications to see what options are appropriate. Some cats that are a little harder to medicate may do better with a liquid instead of a tablet or capsule.

Final Words

Always do your research before you travel with your cat.

Make sure you study which requirements are necessary for your cat if you’re leaving the country. 

Some countries require cat owners to have special paper work signed by a veterinarian before they travel, as well as proof of deworming, vaccinations, and external parasite prevention. It’s also handy to make sure you have enough sedative medication for the trip home.

If you’re planning a trip in the near future, a Hello Ralphie veterinarian can give you advice and tips about safe travel and discuss a personalized travel plan. Always ask your virtual veterinarian about safety, efficacy, and proper dosing prior to giving any oral medication.

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