Published July 27, 2020

Cats and travel are two things that generally do not go well together. You might say it’s because they enjoy sleeping so much. Cats love routine, and they typically despise changes. This makes traveling especially stressful for your feline friends. They’re often startled by new and unfamiliar surroundings.

That doesn’t mean travel has to be impossible. In fact, you can help your cat form a positive relationship with travel at a young age. That isn’t to say there aren’t safe short-term fixes in sedatives. But if you want your furbaby to have the best overall experience, you’ll have to work for it.

How do I create a good relationship with travel for my cat?

The solution is quite simple, but it will take up a lot of your time. Like human beings, animals tend to associate objects and places with memories. An example would be creating memories, playing in the park with your best friends. Every time you pass the park afterward, you’ll feel happy recalling those good memories. In psychology, they call this “episodic memory.”

It is the same with cats. If you create positive, lasting memories with them, they will not forget those. You have to create a positive vibe associated with travel. These include your pet’s carrier, the car, and driving around in general. Cats often feel anxiety when you put them inside the car because it’s likely the only memories they associate with that are trips to the vet.

To begin training your cats to love travel, let’s start with the carrier. You’ll want to make their carrier as inviting as possible. You could do this by feeding your cat in it and letting them hang out there as much as possible. Do not lock them inside it, though, as this could be counterproductive to your goals. It would be best to keep the carrier open at all times and leave some toys they can play with there. Doing all these will likely enforce the idea that the carrier is a safe space for your cat.

Once your cat is accustomed to their carrier, you’ll want to start carrying them inside it. You can do this by letting them inside their carrier and walking around the house. Start with short distances, eventually circling your entire home. Remember to reward your cat for their willingness after every “trip.”

As soon as you feel like your cat is comfortable with this routine, you can move on to the car. This next step might be more stressful for your cat, but you’ll have to be patient. Start by taking them in their carrier to the car and hanging out there for a few minutes. You can follow this by doing the same thing, but this time, you start the car engine. Once you’ve done this routine a few times, you can take quick drives up the road and come right back. And after they’re comfortable with that, you can take them around the entire neighborhood before moving on to the city. Never forget to reward your cat’s good behavior when you return home.

But what if I don’t have the time for that? Are cat sedatives a safe option?

There are sedatives specifically for cats. Veterinarians usually give these to them before an operation. In some of these sedatives, you can find active ingredients that actually treat anxiety in humans.

The following are well-known sedatives for cats:

  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Serotonin Antagonist and Reuptake Inhibitors (SARIs) 
  • Clonidine 
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Gabapentin

Before giving anything to your cats, you’ll want to consult with their usual veterinarian first. Doing otherwise could cause serious risks to your fur pal’s health. Do not feed human sleeping pills to your cats. Human sleeping pills are made, especially for the human body, so even a small dose could be harmful to your cat.

A cat sedative for travel.
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Are there alternatives to sedatives?

There are known alternatives to the sedatives mentioned above. Aside from these “synthetic” fixes, there are natural remedies and herbs that you can use for travel.

Calming collars

Animals give off and receive pheromones, sort of like chemical communication. Calming collars mimic specific pheromones to stimulate anti-stress and calming effects on your pets. They have shown no significant side-effects, but their efficacy may vary between pets.

According to Hudson Veterinary Hospital, the following are natural herbs that can help calm your cat.

  1. Valerian
  2. Catnip
  3. Chamomile
  4. Batch rescue remedy
  5. Hops

To find more about their effects and how to use them, visit their page.

On the day of travel

Prepare all the pet supplies you need.

In your cat’s carrier, you’re going to want to lay down some padding in case your cat needs to go. Don’t leave any food or water in the carrier, as they will spill during your travel. If the carrier allows it, you can also include a substantially sized dish with a kitty litter.

Make sure to pack all your cat’s food, kitty litter, and some water. Water across states may have different tastes. This could upset your cat’s stomach, or they won’t drink it entirely.

Bring leashes and collars with your cat’s identification.

You’ll want to bring leashes to restrain your furbaby when you bring them out of their carrier to get some fresh air. In the very undesirable case that your cat runs loose, you will want to make sure people can identify them. On the identification tag, it’s suggested that you put the address of the place you’ll be staying in and your contact number.

Use seatbelts.

Veterinarians advise you to secure your pet’s carrier with seatbelts as it might thrash around while driving.

During rest stops, give your pal some water and treats.

As I mentioned earlier, you can restrain them with a leash and stretch their legs for a bit. It would be best if you let your furbaby drink some water and have a quick bite. Don’t feed them too much, as this could cause an upset stomach.

Never leave your pet in the car.

Heat strokes are a killer, especially for animals. Cats and dogs alike cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as humans. Please do not ever leave your animals in the car if you love them.

Ensure your accommodation.

You might run into problems with your trip if they do not admit pets. Make extra sure that the hotels or other establishments in which you may be staying.

Have fun!

Make some awesome memories, take a lot of pictures. Doing these would only reinforce positive feelings from your cat towards traveling.

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Author Terrence Tan Ting

About The Author

 is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.