Keeping Cats Calm on the Go: Medications for Travel
Traveling with cats can be extremely stressful – for both you and your feline companion. The unfamiliar surroundings and motion of a car or plane can make even the most docile cat anxious.
Luckily, there are some medications available that can help keep kitty calm and relaxed while on the go.
Let’s explore two of the most common options for medicating traveling cats.
Benadryl – The Go-To for Sedation and Motion Sickness
One of the most widely used medications for calming cats during travel is diphenhydramine, more commonly known as Benadryl. Benadryl is an over-the-counter antihistamine that’s often used for allergies in both humans and pets.
For cats, it serves two main purposes:
- Sedation – The drowsy side effect of Benadryl helps relax cats during stressful situations like car rides or plane trips. It reduces anxiety and may cause sleepiness. Always consult your vet on proper dosing, but generally 2-4 mg per pound of your cat’s body weight is recommended.
- Motion Sickness Prevention – Benadryl also helps prevent nausea and dizziness from motion sickness. Cats can experience motion sickness just like people, leading to excessive drooling, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Benadryl can curb these symptoms and settle an upset stomach.
Benadryl comes in both liquid and pill form.
For fussy cats, a liquid Benadryl solution administered with a syringe allows you to easily squirt the medication into your cat’s mouth. Just be sure not to squirt down their throat.
Pills can be hidden in a treat or food. Start with a small test dose and increase slowly under veterinary guidance.
Feliway – The Stress and Anxiety Reliever
Another popular option for calming anxious cats is Feliway, a synthetic pheromone spray. Feliway mimics cats’ natural facial pheromones, which help them feel secure and peaceful.
When sprayed in the carrier, car, airplane, or other new environments, it can have an immediate soothing effect.
Some key benefits of Feliway for travel include:
- Reducing stress and fear – The pheromones help create a sense of familiarity and security for the cat. This alleviates nervousness, panting, hiding, etc.
- Minimizing anxiety and agitation – Feliway calms cats and prevents anxious behaviors like pacing, aggression, and vocalization.
- Creating a comforting setting – The pheromones provide ongoing comfort, allowing the cat to relax and get needed rest.
Feliway comes in both a spray and diffuser plug-in. For travel, the spray is most convenient.
Simply spritz it lightly around the carrier and car 15-30 minutes before departing. Reapply every few hours for continued effects.
Always follow dosage recommendations from your veterinarian. With Feliway on board, your cat can better enjoy the sights and scents of new destinations!
Alternative Calming Medications
While Benadryl and Feliway are two of the most common options, there are a few other medications that may help calm anxious cats:
- Gabapentin – This anticonvulsant sedative is sometimes prescribed by vets for extreme travel anxiety when other options haven’t worked. It can cause drowsiness.
- Catnip – The active chemical nepetalactone in catnip acts as a stimulant on some cats, inducing a temporary euphoric state. Results can be unpredictable though.
- CBD Oils – CBD derived from hemp may have calming properties, but research on proper dosing for cats is still limited. Consult your vet before using.
- Over-the-counter supplements – Products like Zylkene contain natural ingredients to reduce stress. Research effectiveness and safety.
No medication should ever be given without the guidance of your veterinarian. By exploring all your options, you can find the best fit for your individual cat’s needs and help them travel happily and healthily!
Tips for Giving Medicines Smoothly
Getting a cat to take medication can be tricky business.
Here are some tips to make medicating your feline for travel as seamless as possible:
- Disguise in food – Cats have a keen sense of smell. Mixing a pill into a spoonful of tuna, cheese, or other irresistible wet food can help mask the scent.
- Use a piller – Pill dispensers or shooters allow you to insert the pill in one end and shoot it down the cat’s throat. Quick and easy but not all cats tolerate this.
- Go with liquids – Liquid versions of medications are easier to administer. Use a syringe to squirt into the side of the mouth. Avoid squirting down the throat.
- Start low, go slow – Begin with a small trial dose and gradually increase under veterinary guidance. Monitor for side effects.
- Prevent spitting up – Ensure the cat swallows all medicine. Gently hold mouth closed and stroke throat if needed.
- Make it routine – Set up a regular schedule and location to make medicating less stressful.
- Stay calm – Cats pick up on anxiety. Move slowly and confidently. Offer treats and praise after.
Hitting the Road Stress-Free
Before any trip, have an in-depth discussion with your vet about your cat’s health history, travel plans, and medicine options. They can help tailor a specific treatment plan to your cat’s needs. By working as a team, you and your vet can ensure your cat stays healthy and has the best trip possible.
With the right medications on board, your cat will be primed for adventure and ready to take on the world with you. So don’t leave your feline friend behind – with a little planning and TLC, you can both enjoy the ride!
Questions from Cat Owners Answered
Taking a trip with your cat can raise lots of questions about keeping them calm and comfortable. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How much Benadryl can I give my cat?
Always follow your vet’s dosage recommendations, but generally 2-4 mg per pound given 2-3 times daily is safe. Give less if your cat gets very drowsy.
What’s the best way to give my cat a pill?
Hide it in a small amount of wet food, use a piller, or go with liquid forms. Never force a pill down their throat.
Is catnip effective for travel?
Results are mixed – some cats get more energetic from catnip. Use caution and monitor your cat’s response.
Can I give my cat CBD oil?
Research on CBD for cats is limited. Check with your vet before using and start with very small doses.
How often should I apply Feliway spray?
Apply Feliway pheromone spray 2-3 times a day in the carrier, car, airplane, and living spaces. Reapply every few hours for ongoing effects.
What if my cat won’t take medication?
Work with your vet to find alternatives your cat will accept more readily – a different form, adding flavor, etc. Patience and persistence are key!
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