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11 Important Things to Know About Cat Sedation for Travel

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We often come across cats that do not enjoy travel. These cats get stressed and like to stick to their routine. They do not like change and love to stay on their home turf. These are several things to know about cat sedation for travel.

There are also many cats who have no problem traveling and are easy and fun as your travel companion. But if you have a cat who gets anxious and stressed during travel, your cat needs more care. A viable option is cat sedation.

You can make the road trip less scary for your cat, and you and your cat will have a better trip. Many cats prefer to hide in dark, confined places whenever they are scared, and these places make them feel safe.

By placing a dark piece of cloth on the carrier, you can help the cat feel safe and hidden. Only use a thin cloth because the cat’s respiratory rate will skyrocket when she is nervous or scared. Try taking your cat for a short ride in the car to get her to accept the new space.

Reward the cat once you reach home.


The purpose of the practice is to get your cat to associate being inside a car with something other than a visit to the vet. Only plan long car rides with cats when your feline friend is ready.

This might not work well with all cats, and if you notice that the cat is anxious and stressed after several car rides, you can only travel by considering sedation.

Sleeping pills, diphenhydramine, and benzodiazepines are a few things you can use for cat sedation for travel. Visiting the vet before you administer your cat any sedatives is recommended. If not administered properly, they can cause serious problems.

Let’s get into various ways to calm your cat for travel.

8 ways to calm your cat for travel

Sleeping pills

Relaxivet Calming Pheromone Spray Product

There are sleeping pills for cats, and vets often use them before surgery. The medicine to calm cats for travel has a soothing effect on the cat.

You can purchase the pills on Amazon and in a pet store. Purchasing the pills alone is not recommended due to the possible negative side effects.

Use a prescription before you buy them because choosing random pills online can worsen the cat’s traveling sickness.

Do not give your cat sleeping pills for humans

Many might say that using sleeping pills for humans on the cat is fine, but it is not. Even a small dosage can harm the cat and sometimes become lethal. All cats have a different sleeping cycle than humans; giving them human sleeping pills can disturb their natural sleeping cycle.

When traveling with your cat, sleeping pills should be the last resort. If you need them, please consult the vet before buying any pills.

Veterinarians prescribe safe pills, so you do not need to worry about the negative side effects. It is recommended to use sleeping pills only when there is no other way to calm your cat.

Types of cat sedatives

It is important to know what cat sedatives are before you use them. Cat sedation for travel can help your cat sleep or remain calm during a long flight or car ride. It is an effective way to keep the cat calm when traveling.

Many sedatives are specially designed for cats, while others contain certain ingredients in anti-anxiety medicines for humans. Speak to your vet before sedating your cat for travel.

Mentioned below are different types of sedatives for cats.


Benzodiazepines pills in RX prescription drug bottle
luchschenF / Adobe Stock

Used for humans and animals as sedatives, benzodiazepines are a different class of drugs. They can also be used as anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant medication.

When this drug is used on your cat, it will increase the release and facilitation of neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid activity. It will keep your kitty relaxed and a slightly sleepy cat.

Check with the vet before you use the drug on the cat. You cannot use this medication if your cat has liver or kidney disease. It is only available by prescription and can have side effects like vomiting, nausea, aggression, dry mouth, or agitation.

Be sure to test this method to reduce your cats’ travel anxiety in advance and discuss it with your veterinarian. Otherwise, consider the natural remedies and alternative methods below.


Diphenhydramine pill bottle
luchschenF / Shutterstock

This is an over-the-counter drug with the main ingredient as Benadryl, which helps in cat sedation for travel. The dosage is very low than that administered to humans. It is often recommended for cats that suffer from travel anxiety.

Diphenhydramine will relax the cat and can also treat motion sickness in cats. Pet owners should consult a veterinarian about the dosage and how to administer it best.

A cat sleeping, cat sedation for travel

Cats that suffer from high blood pressure or glaucoma or have prostate problems and difficulty urinating should be given this drug. If the vet approves of this drug for your cat, it is best to start 24 hours before the trip for the drug to take effect.


Chlorpheniramine in bottle
kittisak / Adobe Stock

Chlorpheniramine is an over-the-counter and oral medication used for colds and allergies in humans. It also helps prevent symptoms of allergy in cats. It has a side effect of drowsiness which makes it ideal for sedating the car for the duration of the trip.

The medicine does not require a prescription, but it is recommended to consult a vet before administering it. The most common dosage is 1 to 2 milligrams every 8 to 12 hours.

It may take a couple of hours for the drug to take effect. Hence plan the trip accordingly. The medicine is available in pill and liquid form.


Pills and a dusty jar with the inscription - Gabapentin
Dzmitry / Adobe Stock

An inexpensive drug, Gabapentin was developed to cure seizures in humans, and it also helps treat neuropathic pain in dogs, cats, and humans. The good thing about this cat sedative is that it does not have a very strong taste, and the cat might not realize she is taking any medication.

It is best to administer it two to 2 hours before the trip; the dosage will vary from cat to cat. There is a powerful effect of sedation, and holds up to 8 hours. Watch out for any side effects, including vomiting, vomiting ataxia, and a rise in salivation.


Clonidine Drug In Prescription Medication
luchschenF / Adobe Stock

Clonidine is a sedative that is used as a muscle relaxant and for pain relief in cats and dogs. It stimulates the alpha adrenoreceptors in the brain and impacts the blood vessels, nervous system, blood pressure, and heart rate.

You can only buy the drug by prescription for cat sedation for travel, and it has a mild effect, so you do not need to worry about the cat being completely out of herself. It will take up to 3 hours for the drug to take effect.

See Related: Best Travel Trailers for Couples


White pills
James Yarema / Unsplash

Serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors often cure anxiety disorders in dogs and cats. Trazodone is one such drug, and it has been used to sedate cats before veterinary exams.

You MUST consult with the vet before using the drug on your cat. The drug is fairly safe, but if the cat has a heart condition, it can lead to cardiac arrest. It will take effect quickly, and the dosage depends on the cat’s weight. It takes up to 12 hours for the drug to dissipate.

Other alternatives to sleeping pills for cats

Woman giving blue pill to a cute cat
New Africa / Adobe Stock

Cat sedation for travel should be the last resort. It only makes sense to use sedatives if the cat suffers from high travel sickness or anxiety.

You can also consider fewer synthetic options, like using pet calming collars. They release natural cat hormones to make the cat feel relaxed and safe. Alternatively, you can use herbs that have a calming effect. Let us go over both options in detail. 

See Related: Road Trips in America

Calming collars

Wustentre Calming Collar 3 set

Designed for cats that tend to be anxious, scared, or stressed in situations like traveling, the calming collars are easy and convenient to use. It is an innovative solution that helps modify stress-related behavior in cats through good behavior pheromone technology.

With this technology, the collar emits a pheromone that a mother cat produces to calm and reassure her kittens. The collar also has ingredients like chamomile and lavender that provide a soothing fragrance and helps the cat deal with fearful situations.

Using the collars when traveling with cats long distances via car is best. To use the collar, you need to place it around the cat’s neck and adjust it to fit the neck comfortably. You need to leave about 2 to 3 inches for adjustment. Once the collar is placed, you need to cut off the excess portion of the collar.

You will notice that white powder is released from the collar. It is this powder that will activate and free the pheromones. Wash your hands after placing the collar around the cat’s neck.

You need to remove the calming collar before you bathe or shampoo the cat, and if you want to apply it again, seal the collar in a plastic bag to prolong the effect.

If you notice that the cat behaves strangely after wearing the collar, remove it immediately to avoid any negative effects. Each cat may respond differently to this method to reduce anxiety.

See Related: 13 Reasons Why Traveling is Important

Calming herbs

Yeowww! Cat Catnip Product

If you do not want to use any medication on your cat, consider using calming herbs and flower essences as cat sedatives. You can use herbs like catnip that give an energy boost to the cat.

Give her catnip fifteen minutes before you hit the road, and once she is done running around, she will remain calm throughout the journey. It is a natural cat sedative for travel.

Chamomile also has a calming effect on the cat. The cat should be exposed to dried flowers. It has substances that act on the same brain area as an anti-anxiety drug and will help reduce travel anxiety.

An ideal way to administer the herbs is by putting them in the tube collar. The cat will benefit from the relaxing properties of the herbs and will not over-ingest them. You can also use a cat tranquilizer for this purpose.

Things to Know When Traveling with Pets

Cat sitting in the suitcase or bag and waiting for a trip. Travel with pets concept
Monika Wisniewska / Adobe Stock

These tips for traveling with pets are helpful for most cats and, generally, pets. Most pet owners know their animals better than anyone else, so use your best judgment as well as consult one of the many veterinarians in your local area before traveling.

  1. Make sure your cat is comfortable with traveling before you take them on a longer trip. If your cat is used to car rides, it will likely feel comfortable in a new environment.
  2. Talk to your veterinarian about sedating your cat for travel. If your cat becomes agitated or stressed during travel, it can be dangerous for them and other passengers.
  3. Choose the right sedative for your cat. There are many different types of sedatives available, so be sure to ask your veterinarian which one would be best for your pet.
  4. Follow the dosage instructions carefully. Over-sedating your cat can have dangerous consequences, so it is important to administer the medication correctly.
  5. Make sure your cat has access to food and water while sedated. They may not be able to eat or drink independently, so it is important to provide them with sustenance.
  6. Keep an eye on your cat’s respiration. If they are having trouble breathing, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
  7. Be prepared for accidents. Sedated cats may lose control of their bladder or bowels, so it is important to have something absorbent handy in case of an accident.
  8. Do not leave your sedated cat unattended. It is important to monitor them if they need assistance or have a medical emergency.
  9. When the sedative wears off, your cat may be disoriented. It is important to let them adjust to their surroundings before handling or moving them too much.
  10. Do not give your cat any other medications without consulting your veterinarian first. Some drugs can interact dangerously with sedatives.
  11. Be sure to have your cat’s medical records handy in an emergency. It is important to have all their information readily available in case they need medical attention while traveling.

How can I minimize the risks associated with sedating my cat?

There are a few things you can do to help minimize the risks associated with giving your kitty sedatives:

  • Make sure only to give your cat the recommended dosage of medication. Giving too much can be dangerous.
  • Do not give your cat sedatives if they are pregnant or nursing.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about any other health conditions your kitty may have that could be affected by sedation during your trip.

Consider Leaving Your Pet(s) Behind

Domestic Cat Staring Out of the Window

If your cat does not like traveling, it is best to let her stay home. This depends a lot on your situation. However, if you must take your cat, consult the vet to calm a cat in the car. If you know that your cat has mild anxiety, a light dose of a natural sedative can help make your trip easier.

There are different alternatives, and it is up to you to decide which option is the best for your cat. Remember to place some familiar items in the car while traveling to make the journey comfortable for your companion. You can put a blanket with your scent and some of her favorite toys.

Talk to her calmly and let her smell you by placing your hand in the carrier. Be around the cat during the first trip, and if you notice any change in the behavior or health, you need to contact the vet immediately.

Do not use herbs or any cat sedative for travel without making a veterinary appointment. Cat sedation for travel is not an ideal option if you travel frequently. You need to look for ways to get your cat used to traveling by taking her for short trips.

If your cat gets very stressed and does not enjoy sitting in the carrier, you might have to look for ways to leave your cat behind. It might not sound like a good idea, but it could be best for the cat.


How do I know if my cat needs to be sedated for travel?

This question has no definitive answer, as every cat will react differently to new environments and experiences. However, if your cat becomes very anxious or stressed in new situations, sedation may be necessary to make travel less stressful for you and your feline friend.

What are the risks associated with sedating my cat for travel?

As with any medication, there are always potential risks associated with giving your cat sedatives. Some of the most common side effects include drowsiness, disorientation, and loss of appetite.

More serious reactions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing can occur in rare cases. It is important to speak with your veterinarian about the potential risks before giving your cat any medication.

What type of sedative should I use to reduce my cat’s anxiety?

Sedatives come in a variety of forms. Therefore, it’s vital to consult your veterinarian about the various types. There are many different varieties of sedatives on the market, so choose carefully.

How do I administer the sedative to my cat?

The method of administration will depend on the type of sedative you are using. Some sedatives can be given orally, while others must be injected. Following your veterinarian’s instructions when administering medication to your cat is important.

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