Should You Sedate Your Cat For Traveling Overland?

Cats are a breed of animal apart – yet, in many ways and when faced with certain situations, they behave much like we humans.

That’s certainly the case when the issue of cat transportation arises.

Just like us, some can get incredibly tense and nervous at the thought of a long journey, while others can seemingly take it in their stride, and treat it like one big adventure.

The key factor, it seems, is the experiences with which your cat will associate travel – and all too often, these will involve the V-E-T, in one way or another.

On the other hand, if your cat becomes a regular traveler – either with you, or using pet transportation services such as ours – and then associates the experience with something positive at the end of the journey, then you’ll far more likely be able to do positive things to help them enjoy the experience.

For instance, if they know they’re in for an enjoyable stay in their second home, where their routine won’t be too upset and they have plenty of their usual comforts – and of course, food – then getting them into a positive frame of mind will be so much easier.

But even if your cat is a nervous traveller, that’s no reason why you can’t make some adjustments to make a journey that bit less of an ordeal.

Why Might My Cat Need To Be Sedated?

This all comes down to how nervous they get at the thought of a long journey.

Unfortunately, a trip in a vehicle, no matter how experienced their pet transporter, isn’t something you can really just spring on your cat. There’s always going to be some prep needed, such as bringing out his carry pen, and filling an extra litter tray.

Of course, when they are loaded into a vehicle, no matter how comfortable their pen, they will associate that with a change of scenery and a disruption to their routine – and that’s what causes most problems.

Being such firm creatures of habit, heading off somewhere different can quite easily faze any cat.

Their pens, cages or even just the area of the car’s trunk (if it’s separated from the passenger seats by a pet guard) all represent different surroundings.

And if the only time Tibbles is loaded into the car is when he goes to the veterinarian, then that’s instantly going to put him on his guard, or worse, make his flight instinct kick in.

Cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. This might be hard for many people to believe, given that they can often seem fiercely independent creatures. But however strong their wish to be left alone much of the time, there are bound to be occasions when the effects of thousands of years of conditioning to be companions to humans kicks in – and they actually start to miss you.

Many cat carriers also restrict their occupant’s ability to see all around them. Cats, of course, are natural hunters, and their near-360 degree vision is a vital tool to help them.

So if they’re placed in a carrier which is opaque on three sides, it’s only natural that this will make them feel nervous.

The worst possible scenario is that this transmits itself to you, or the driver transporting your pet, and eventually it starts to make everyone feel on edge.

Again, Citizenshpper pet transportation is done by drivers who genuinely love animals. They hate seeing any pet in their care in any kind of discomfort. So they use every piece of equipment and method they can to make sure that your cat stays calm/

Not Just Drivers – They’re Carers Too

A sympathetic pet transporter will, of course, be well used to seeing such reactions.

If you take a look through plenty of our driver profiles, you will see that many are willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that a pet passenger is made comfortable before the start of a journey, and that they stay that way throughout their time with the animal.

Many of the pet drivers who offer their services through the Citizenshipper platform do the job they do because they love animals first and foremost. They will invest lots of time – and their own money – into making sure that the animals have a comfortable pen of an appropriate size, and are given the time to settle into it before heading out on a long journey.

Be Properly Prepped

However, faced with the possibility that an animal in your care could show some extreme reactions, it’s wise that you have a back-up plan.

And that’s likely to involve you taking a little time, just easing your pet into the idea that travel doesn’t have to be stressful, or associated with bad experiences.

And that’s where the sedatives come in.

What Does A Sedative Do?

Well, first and foremost of course, it’s designed to help them relax.

Stronger versions are commonly used to prevent them from feeling pain when a part of their body needs to be treated. But they can also help reduce their anxiety levels when they’re in unusual situations – such as facing a long car trip.

But because any sedative is a type of medication which can incur a range of responses in a cat, you should always talk to your vet for advice, rather than just go ahead and buy an off-the-shelf product.

Your vet will know your cat’s medical history, so will let you know if there are certain products, or ingredients, you should steer clear of.

The sedative may cause different degrees of reaction in your cat. Sometimes it may fall asleep right away, or it might just become more lethargic. If he doesn’t sleep, there’s no need to worry – it’s just that your cat will be more resistant to the active ingredients. The medicine will also reduce his vocalizations.

Ideally, you’re looking for a solution which makes your pet groggy and tired, but doesn’t leave them confused and disoriented. If they lose consciousness, this should happen gradually.

Like many other pet medications, sedatives come in a variety of forms. So as your veterinarian should know your cat well, they will be able to recommend which of a pill, liquid or spray is the best type for your pet.

It’s particularly important to speak with your vet if your cat is older (eight years-plus), as the advantages and disadvantages of each type of medication will be a more important consideration in this instance.

And you should never sedate a kitten before the age of six weeks, as its organs may not be strong enough to deal with the possible effects.

What Signs Should I Look For If My Cat Is Anxious?

High anxiety levels show themselves through a range of responses. These commonly include:

  • Trouble with breathing evenly
  • Excessive urinating or defecating
  • Signs that they are unsteady on their feet or other symptoms that indicate forms of motion sickness
  • Regular and distressed-sounding meowing (like you might hear if they’re shut outside and are desperate for you to let them in!)

Eventually, your cat may tire themselves out through repeated bouts of this behaviour. But if they’re going to sleep during a car journey, then it’s far better if they reach that state feeling relaxed and comfortable, rather than simply having tired themselves out through feeling stressed.

This is why, if your cat is prone to showing these symptoms when traveling, it’s a good idea to explore giving them a sedative.

When To Sedate Your Cat

You need to allow some time for any medication to take effect. So while there’s no solid rule governing when you should administer a sedative before travel, keep in mind that part of the way the medicine works is by lowering your cat’s blood pressure, and heart rate.

Doing this for too long can put them at risk of danger.

Your cat may also be disoriented and groggy when he comes round from his sedative. Be sure to leave them somewhere comfortable, quiet and not too bright to recover.

What Sedative Should I Give Them?

As there are six different types of sedative, it’s important to get advice to help you choose the right one.

Website Travelingwithyourcat.com lists the most common ones as follows:

Benzodiazepines – similar to prescription Valium, these increase levels of a substance called GABA, which helps keep your cat relaxed. Only available by prescription, these types of medicine should not be given to pregnant cats, or those suffering from liver or kidney diseases.

Diphenhydramine – commonly found in the over-the-counter medicine Benadryl, this is safe when given to cats in a much lower dosage than for humans. As well as keeping cats calm, it also lessens the chance of your kitty getting motion sickness.

Gabapentin – this is used to calm the central nervous system, and can be bought on prescription for use by cats – and humans.

These and a handful of other common cat sedatives are all given orally. Again, your vet can help advise on ways to administer them safely – but a dollop of fish paste or cat meat wrapped around the pill will usually disguise it enough for your cat to take it comfortably. It’s certainly the method your author has seen his parents use over many years with their cats!

But Remember – Cats Are Individuals

There are lots of ways in which your cat can respond to the prospect of a journey in a car, or the trip itself.

Whatever you do, you should never get angry with them for being unco-operatve. Be patient with them, and give them the time and space to recover when they’ve reached their destination.

Travel is meant to be an enjoyable experience in its own right. And the chances of a journey going smoothly are far greater if you – or your pet – are in the hands of people who genuinely care about them. It really does make all the difference.

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