How To Sedate Your Cat For Travel: The Ultimate Guide

How To Sedate Your Cat For Travel: The Ultimate Guide

As you may know, cats absolutely hate traveling situations. Sometimes you can get it under control by training them to enjoy it but some cats cannot be conditioned to ride with you no matter what you do.

This is where you have to do the last resort thing and use sedatives. Sedatives are a type of medicine that your cat can take to help them calm down on rides with you.

A word of caution, Sedatives are a great way to calm your cat during those long rides but you should always consult your vet just in case your cat may have ill effect toward it. Veterinarians recommend that you only do this as a last resort because altering their mind with medication can be potentially harmful to them.

Signs Of A Nervous Cat

Before even giving your cat any type of medicine you should obviously check to see if they even need it in the first place. If your cat is nervous signs include:

  • Excessive meowing
  • Meowing less than usual
  • Drooling
  • Defecating or urinating in their carrier
  • Vomiting

If your cat has any of these signs and you tried to train them beforehand to like car rides and they still give you a problem you probably need to use a sedative whenever you ride with them. If you don’t get it under control it can cause other problems such as motion sickness.

How To Sedate Your Cat For Travel

Sedating your cat can be an easy experience but the directions depend on what type of sedative you are giving them. Here is how you go about sedating your cat based on each sedative.

Tablet

Raw Pill: First you need to have someone holding your cat down for you (preferably wrapped in something like a blanket so they can’t scratch you). Lift their head up and gently lift their mouth open. Once you get their mouth is open you drop the pill in and hold their mouth shut until you see them swallow it.

If you have a very aggressive cat this may be difficult to do.

Crush The Pill Into Food: Some medicine requires your cat to have an empty stomach to do this so be careful when you do this. If you decide to do this just put it in their wet food and they should take the medicine without problems. You can also put it in treats such as tuna or chicken.

Use A Pill Gun: There is a device that you can get that shoots the medication into your cats mouth making administering medicine a lot easier for you and raising your chances of them swallowing the pill as well.

They also can administer multiple pills at one time. Best of all they are extremely cheap to get (usually about 5 dollars).

Get Flavored Tablets: You can get their medicine flavored at a compound pharmacy so it will make it a lot easier for your cat to take their medicine. You can get them flavored like chicken, tuna, turkey or whatever your cat really enjoys eating.

Liquid

This is very similar to the pill method but instead you are using a syringe. Lift their head up and lift their mouth open like the pill method.  Hold their whiskers back and gently lift up their top lips. Release the medicine on the back third of their mouth and keep their mouth closed for 3 seconds.

You want to hit the back third of their mouth because if you don’t they will end of tasting it and start to foam at the mouth. Though it is normal for this foam phenomenon to happen you generally want to avoid this as it will make it harder to give them the medicine next time.

If you have a very aggressive cat some vets will do things like administering it to the side of their mouth or they will wait for the cat to hiss then shoot it down their throat. If you have a cat like this you may want to give it a try

Types Of Sedatives For Cats

Here are the main types of sedatives that you can give cats for travel situations. There are six in total that you can go with. Here you can also find more information like dosage and how long the medicine will last.

Benzodiazepine

Most people will know this medicine as Xanax. This is a medicine that is used to treat anxiety, disorders that result in anxiety (for instance thunderstorms) and phobias in cats.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 0.125 to 0.25 mg per cat as needed up to every 12 hours

Diphenhydramine

This is most commonly known as Benadryl. This is a really common way of sedating your cat and its quite easy to administer the drug.

Forms: Tablet, Liquid

Dosage: Dosage depends on your cats weight. To give you an idea:

  • 6.6 lbs/3 kg = 6 mg
  • 7.7 lbs/3.5 kg = 7 mg
  • 8.8 lbs/4 kg = 8 mg
  • 9.9 lbs/4.5 kg = 9 mg
  • 11 lbs/5 kg = 10 mg
  • 12.1 lbs/5.5 kg =11 mg
  • 13.2 lbs/6 kg =12 mg

How Long It Will Last: This medicine will last about 30 minutes

Chlorpheniramine

Chlorpheniramine is a mild antihistamine used in the treatment of contact, inhaled or drug induced pet allergies and itching in dogs and cats. This is the main use of this medicine but its side effects result in drowsiness which is perfect for travel situations.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: you can give your cat 1-2mg per cat every 8-12 hours

Gabapentin

In humans this is an inexpensive medicine that was originally designed to control seizures. Its also known to control neuropathic pain in humans, dogs, and cats.

The actual use of this medicine isn’t targeted to calm anxiety in cats specifically but it is increasing becoming more popular to do so. Its also an excellent choice for very long rides.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 50-100 mg per cat or 150 mg if the cat is large

How Long It Will Last:  8 hours

Clonidine

This is a medication that is used for dogs and cats with diarrhea in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. It also can be used as a sedative for travel as well.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 0.05 milligrams for smaller cats. For bigger cats 0.1 milligrams

SARI

Or the longer way of say it “serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors” is a common sedative for treating anxiety disorders in cats and dogs. I would not use this medicine without asking a vet because though it is safe to use it can cause cardiac arrest if used improperly.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 50-100 mg

How Long It Will Last: 12 hours

Other Herbs And Natural Products That You Can Try

Medicines will work great for travel but you can also use herbs to strengthen the effects as well. here are some that I have had luck with in the past.

Catnip

We all know what catnip is and it works really great when calming your cat down. You have to however get your cat to ingest it to get the calming effects you are looking for. If your cat smells it you will get the opposite effect which is hyperactivity. 

Valerian

Valerian is another plant similar to catnip but its stronger and it lasts longer than the effects you get with catnip. This is a good alternative to catnip if your cat doesn’t have the ability to feel the effects of it.

If you get the liquid form you also want to make sure to get the glycerin base for your cat since it can be very bitter if you get the other kinds. You generally want to use this if you want it to act fast and if you are going on a short term trip.

Forms: Tablet, Liquid

Dosage:

  • Tablet: 1-2 tablets per 5kgs
  • Liquid: 1/4 tsp for small cats

Melatonin

Melatonin is the chemical that we produce from our pineal gland when we are about fall asleep and this is no exception to cats either. A sleepy cat is a good cat to travel with.

This is a really good option if you don’t want to mess with medicines, want something natural and you want the effects to last a long time.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 3 to 6 mg (thirty minutes before travel). Do not exceed 6 mg per dose.

How Long It Will Last: 8 to 12 hours

L-Theanine

This is an amino acid that is naturally found in mushrooms and green tea. It is generally used to treat separation anxiety, and anxiety in general. When taken it gives them better sleep quality and causes reduced blood pressure and heart rate, and improved cognition. This can take 50 minutes to an hour to work however.

Forms: Tablet

Dosage: 1 mg per pound twice daily

Pheromones

Pheromones sprays mimic a mother cats pheromones that cause your cat to feel relaxed. This is a type of spray that you can use anywhere that your cat is to give them a calming effect. A good place to spray it is inside of their carrier.

You generally just need to feel out the amount to spray and you should be good for pheromones.

Conclusion

Medicines work very well for calming your cat in travel situations but make sure that you ask your vet first before giving them medication as it can potentially kill them if you don’t do this.