Traveling with a Cat

by Celeste
(Bryn Mawr, PA)


My cat Sammy gets extremely nervous when traveling in the car. It is hard to even get him in his crate. He pants excessively. What can I do to get him into his crate more easily and to calm him down when travelling in the car? Thank you.

Hi, Celeste,

Benadryl works nicely and safely to sedate cats for travel as does Dramamine. However, not having examined your kitty, I couldn't say you should give it or give you the dosage. You should talk to your vet who could also prescribe actual tranquilizers if needed.

There are many natural tools that might help as well. One of my personal favorites is Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic solution that can simply be rubbed into your cat's ears, a few drops placed in his water or on his tongue, or even a few drops on the pads of his feet. Some of my clients swear by this! Again, you should discuss this with your veterinarian before trying it.

Spraying your cat's carrier with Feliway spray can also make it feel more safe and reassuring. Feliway mimics your cat's natural facial phermonones, which he uses to mark something as safe and familiar, and can help him believe that the carrier is a safer place to be.

Also, the easiest way to get a cat into a carrier is to have two people, one to hold the carrier upright on its end and the other to lower the cat into the carrier, hind feet first. A top-loading carrier can work equally well.

Good luck. Many cats have this problem and can be helped.

Thank you for writing,
Dr. Neely

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Sep 07, 2008
travelling with a cat
by: Anonymous

Dr. Neely's advice is probably the best way to deal with your cat's problem; but there are measures you can take, especially with a new kitten to reduce the stress and fear that many cats experience in this situation.
[The following process can sometimes help older cats to feel less anxious; but does not always work for them and requires time and patience.]

Many cats suffer stress & anxiety at being 'forcefully' crated & transported. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that very often the only times most cats experience the carrier (& the car) is to go to the vets, or to be moved to the cattery. It almost always involves being taken away from where they feel secure, & being exposed to circumstances they find frightening or stressful. Thus the carrier & car have negative associations, and many cats 'panic' as soon as they see or hear the carrier! By gradually introducing your cat to these things, in a non-stressful way, anxiety can be reduced.

First, introduce your kitten (cat) to the carrier well before you have to use it. Place some bedding, or your 'dirty' clothes in it, leave the door open (or remove it if possible), & allow your cat to discover it as a secure and comfortable place. Do not force the cat to go in; but encourage - use food or treats if necessary. Make sure the carrier is in a place where the cat feels comfortable.
Once your cat had become used to the carrier (& hopefully sleeps in it), you can try shutting the door briefly, at first just for a minute or two, open it immediately of your cat is unhappy. Give treats while the door is shut. Take it slowly, trying to achieve too much too quickly can wreck any progress. Keep repeating this.
Once your cat accepts the door being shut you can gradually increase the time the cat is confined, Give treats and attention during, & when you open it.
Once the cat is comfortable with confinement, you can move or lift the carrier, gently, a short distance; gradually increase the distance you carry the carrier, making sure your cat is not upset. Give treats
The next stage is to put the carrier in the car. Leave it there for a few minutes, then take it back out and open the door; repeat this several times. Next, do the same and start the engine; but don't go anywhere. Repeat this several times, increasing the duration.
Once your cat is comfortable with this, move the car a short distance, then around the block...
Do not expect immediate results, the process can take weeks or months, go at your cats pace, don't rush. Stop if your cat is unhappy.

Leave the carrier around as a sleeping place.
Practice getting (or putting) your cat in the carrier. Be patient & careful not to upset the cat, or you may destroy the positive association that has been formed with the carrier, as a secure and non-threatening place.
By acclimatising your cat with this type of routine you can take much of the stress out of being crated.

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