Traveling With Anxious Cats

Cats are notorious for not traveling well. They tend to be creatures of habit, and they like the familiarity and safety of their home.

Consequently, traveling tends to stress them out. Given that, it is usually easier to leave the cat home with a trusted sitter or arrange to have them boarded.

Sometimes, though, that isn’t an option. If you’re moving, for example, you have to take Fluffy with you somehow, no matter how much she hates to travel.

What do you do when traveling by plane?

The PetMD website recommends keeping two cat carriers on hand: One would be used just for visits to the vet, and the other would be used for other, more enjoyable trips.

Cats, of course, understandably hate going to the vet, so using a carrier they associate with visits to the vet would only add to their distress.

Different airlines have different rules regarding cat carriers. Check with the airline to make sure your carrier meets their standards.

If the travel carrier is new, you will need to get the cat acclimated to it. Leave the carrier out with the door open, so the cat can investigate it.

Place a blanket and favorite toy in the carrier to make it more appealing to the cat. Praise the cat and give them treats when they voluntarily spend time in the carrier. Take her on car rides to places she might like.

When it’s time to put the cat in the carrier, Wikihow recommends picking up the cat and putting her in rear end first, so she won’t feel trapped or as if she’s being forced in.

If the airline permits it, you may want to get a carrier that opens from the top, for it will be a lot easier to put the cat in it.

Don’t sedate the cat. Sedatives can interfere with a cat’s breathing, and many airlines will not accept a cat that has been sedated. Pheromones like Feliway are a safer option.

Feliway is a synthetic designed to resemble the pheromones that cats produce when rubbing against people or objects.

Spraying Feliway within a carrier or crate makes the cat feel calm and in control. Rescue Remedy by Bach is a treatment that was developed over 80 years ago. Although it was originally made for humans, it also works on cats.

It contains tinctures from five different flowers that together calm humans and felines. Rescue Remedy can be added to Fluffy’s water, sprayed into her carrier, or rubbed into her fur about the muzzle.

What do you do when traveling by car?

Dr. Ruth MacPete, a veterinarian who writes for Pet Health Network, urges cat owners to keep cats in carriers during car rides. It is a lot safer for both human and feline to keep Fluffy in a carrier.

If she panics, she could easily dart under the accelerator or brake pedal and possibly cause an accident. She may also bolt as soon as you open the door.

As with air travel, the cat should feel comfortable with the carrier and not associate it with just trips to the vet. You should leave the carrier out at all times, so the cat can feel comfortable with it.

Again, if the carrier is new, you need to get Fluffy acclimated to it several weeks before the trip. If she is particularly anxious, treatments like Feliway or Rescue Remedy work just as well for car rides as they do for planes.

The Catster recommends positioning the carrier so Fluffy can see you during the drive. Gently talking to your cat during the drive can ease her stress, as can touching her.

Alternatively, putting a towel over the carrier may help the cat stay calm and prevent her from suffering motion sickness.

What do you do with a scared cat at the hotel?

Fluffy will want to hide, so the trick is to make sure she doesn’t pick someplace you can’t easily reach, like under the king-size bed. Before letting her out of the carrier, check the hotel room for such places and block them off.

Caroline Golon, who writes for the Vetstreet website, recommends keeping the cat in the bathroom during your stay.

Cats actually feel more secure in smaller spaces than in wide open areas, so you aren’t being mean. Put the litter box in the bathtub to keep it separate from the cat carrier and food dishes.

That will also make it easier to clean any spilled litter or other mess. Put the carrier in the bathroom with Fluffy so she has a familiar place in which to rest or sleep. Keeping Fluffy in the bathroom also makes it much easier to find her when it’s time to leave.

Should I talk to a vet?

Yes. Your cat’s veterinarian can advise you on how to keep Fluffy calm during the trip. They can recommend appropriate treatments.

These days, it’s becoming less and less common for cats to be sedated right before trips, but the vet can get you a sedative if they believe your cat will need it.

If your cat is on any kind of medication, the vet will know and choose a treatment that won’t cause any drug interactions.

Many authorities recommend taking the cat to the vet for a health check before a trip. Not only is it prudent to make sure Fluffy is in perfect health, but many airlines and hotels will ask for health certificates.

What is a Thundershirt?

The Thundershirt is a snug garment that swaddles the cat like a baby and presses on various pressure points. It can reduce anxiety and fear of loud noises.

The Thundershirt was originally designed for dogs and has been adapted to work for cats. It’s important to make sure the Thundershirt fits properly, for a poorly fitting Thundershirt will cause the cat discomfort.

Thundershirts for cats come in three sizes: Small for cats that weigh less than nine pounds, Medium for cats between 9 and 13 pounds, and Large for cats weighing over 13 pounds. The Thundershirt has Velcro strips that let you adjust the garment to fit perfectly.

The following video explains what a Thundershirt is and shows what it looks like.

How do you quiet a yowling or meowing cat?

Prevention is key, for the best way to keep a cat quiet is to keep her calm in the first place. That means preparing her for the journey by making sure she is comfortable in her carrier.

It also means getting a clean bill of health from the vet and stocking up on Feliway or other treatments. If you’re on a plane, you can put her carrier on your lap and talk to her.

Is it safe to sedate a cat?

Not if you’re traveling by air. Sedatives can interfere with a cat’s respiration or cause other unpredictable and dangerous effects when they’re on a plane.

Consequently, many airlines will not allow a sedated cat on the airplane.’s blog strongly recommends acclimating the cat to their carrier so they will be comfortable with it.

A cat that likes their carrier will be less nervous and may even go to sleep of their own volition. They also suggest putting something like a shirt in the carrier, so the cat will be surrounded by the reassuring scent of their owner.

If you’re traveling by land, you need to talk to your vet. Whether or not it is safe to sedate your cat will depend on a number of factors including Fluffy’s age, overall health, and if she is on any other medications.

You vet can either prescribe a suitable medication or recommend a substitute like Feliway. Your vet will also tell you how to administer the sedative, how often, and how much.

If you decide to sedate your cat, Wikihow recommends performing a trial run about a week before the trip. While a sedated cat should be calm, it should also be alert – not unconscious or groggy.

After administering the sedative, you should watch the cat for 12 hours to see how long it takes for the sedative to start working, how it affects Fluffy, and how long its effects last. If she panics or seems disoriented, you need to go to the vet and choose another sedative.

Do cats get carsick?

Cats can get carsick just like people. A carsick cat may display any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive crying
  • Restlessness and pacing

According to Dr. Ernest Ward, who writes for the VCA Hospitals website, carsick cats can be desensitized over time.

That involves acclimating them to their carrier and taking them on short car rides to places other than the vet. He also recommends not feeding the cat for 12 hours before the start of the trip.

Fluffy will be hungry, but her nausea will be less severe, and she won’t need as many potty breaks. Ask your vet if they recommend anti-nausea medication. It won’t reduce your cat’s anxiety, but it will keep her from throwing up.