Motion sickness is a common problem in pet cats. While our canine companions tend to “shrug off” motion sickness, kittens are not. Kittens, for the most part, are less inclined to take regular car trips than dogs; so they don’t have the same opportunity to learn the positive association with car travel.
Quick Overview: Motion Sickness in Cats
other names: Gastrointestinal discomfort associated with exercise
common symptoms: (in a moving vehicle) Excessive drooling, crying/vocalizing, vomiting, urinating and/or defecating
diagnosis: Often based on repeated similar behaviors in moving vehicles not seen at other times. Sometimes, laboratory tests, x-rays, or ultrasonography may be considered to rule out another gastrointestinal disorder.
diagnosed as a cat: frequently
need to continue taking medication: Yes (in a moving vehicle)
available vaccines: No
Treatment programs: In some cases, time and training, some antihistamines can help calm and relieve nausea, and some prescription medications may be more effective in providing calm and reducing nausea. Some sedatives may help.
home remedies: Supplements such as ginger and over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, dimenhydrinate, and meclizine. It is very important that you never use the “D” form of any antihistamine on your pets.
What causes motion sickness?
Cases of motion sickness in cats are often related to the associated anxiety they feel. Since most kittens will only go to the vet, they tend to associate these trips with the stress of their appointments. As a vicious cycle, the increased stress your cat may experience can increase their motion sickness as soon as they enter the carrier.
What Are the Signs My Kitten Has Motion Sickness?
Cats can show a variety of signs of motion sickness, not just physical vomiting.
- vocalize – Stressed cats often meow or howl excessively if they are feeling unwell.
- disturbed – If your kitten is motion sick, they may be pacing or circling and turning around in their cage
- Slobber – Typical symptoms of nausea, drooling are physiological responses to pain, fear, anxiety and stress.
- lethargy – Some cats are quiet and hide when they are stressed or sick. If your cat is unusually sluggish or quiet in the car or after a trip, it could be travel nausea.
- Vomit – A common reaction to nausea is actually vomiting. If your pet has eaten before the trip, they may vomit during or immediately after the trip. Ideally, your cat should travel on an empty stomach.
- diarrhea – The stress of travel and feeling sick can wreak havoc on a cat’s gut. Cats don’t usually do this on purpose (although we might feel it’s an act of revenge for their imprisonment). Dirty their carrier can actually be a lot of stress for your kitty, which can further aggravate their situation.
- urination – Spraying urine or urinating in the crate is another sign that your pets are stressed if you are taking a road trip with them.
How to prevent cats from motion sickness?
Traveling is stressful for most kittens, and luckily, there are a number of products that can help reduce your cat’s stress levels. Synthetic pheromones and natural calming herbal products are available, which you can apply to your blankets, suitcase or car before a trip.
Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that helps calm stressed out kittens. These medications tend to work best if taken a few days before any stressful event, including travel.
Kittens with a full stomach are more likely to vomit if they feel sick. Once your kitty has access to fresh drinking water, it won’t do them any harm to skip a meal before they go on a car trip. Your kitten may still vomit, however, if they haven’t eaten recently, this is less likely to happen.
You can try desensitization to lower your pet’s stress levels while traveling. Make sure your cat is comfortable in their cage before starting car training. Initially, you should increase the amount of time your cat spends in the car rather than traveling anywhere.
Give your pet some treats or their favorite toys until they calm down. After this, you can start taking your pet on short car trips, gradually increasing the time in the car until they are more relaxed in the car and less fearful. Be prepared, this can take a long time.
guide their carrier forward
If your pet has a true motion-induced illness, place their carrier facing forward so they can only look straight ahead. This helps reduce the risk of vomiting.
open the window
Opening the windows can help circulate some fresh air in the car, which may help soothe a sick kitty. This should only be done if your cat is safe in the suitcase and cannot escape through the windows of a moving vehicle.
There are many calming natural remedies available or promoted online. These include valerian, skullcap, and bach flower (rescue medicine), all of which are safe for cats but should only be used on the advice of a veterinarian.
Alpha-casozepine, a casein (milk) derived nutrient, may treat anxiety in pet cats, while L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea tree, may also be mildly calming for stressed pets effect.
You should always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any sedation products, especially if they are taking any medications for other health problems.
Anti-nausea medications can prevent cats from vomiting under stress. These medications will only help with the signs of motion sickness, but will not help with any underlying anxiety.
Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) is an over-the-counter medicine that can help fight nausea. Cerenia (maropitant) is a prescription medicine that prevents vomiting in kittens with motion sickness. Before giving any medication to your pet, you should discuss dosage and frequency with your veterinarian.
Prescription medications should only be used on pets who are under extreme stress. Depending on the medication, these medications may need to be taken several weeks prior to travel to ensure efficacy.
Acepromazine, a product that usually does a good job of reducing anxiety in cats, is a prescription drug that may make your kitten a little sleepy. Your veterinarian can guide you on how to best use the products prescribed for your pet.
Every drug has its side effects. Always consult a DVM before administering any medication to your pet. This is especially important if your pet is taking any medications.
Motion sickness is quite common in pet cats. Underlying stress is a major cause of motion sickness. If your pet shows any signs of motion sickness, including drooling or crying, you can try some behavioral desensitization to get your cat used to traveling. Talk to your veterinarian to help relieve stress in kittens.
frequently asked questions
How do I know if my cat is motion sick?
Cats have many signs of motion sickness, including drooling, excessive vocalization, and an upset stomach.
My cat ran away as soon as I took it out of the cage. what can I do?
If your cat associates their harness with a stressful car trip, they may immediately hide when they see you grab it. This already raises their (and your) stress levels. You should begin behavioral desensitization with your kitten’s carrier. Place it in the living area and let your kitty explore until they feel comfortable.
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