It happens to all cat people at one time or another. And it's not pleasant for our kitty or us. Car sickness, also known as general motion sickness, is relatively common in the feline world, and we've got a few easy tips to remedy it - or avoid it altogether.
What causes motion sickness in cats?
Veterinarians say car sickness often happens when a cat is stressed or anxious. All cats have different emotional triggers, so the reasons will vary. One of the most common is when a cat is put into a carrier, loaded into a vehicle, and doesn't know where he's going. Or worse, he fears the destination is an unwelcome trip to the v-e-t.
Is it car sickness or something else?
If your cat routinely throws up when you travel, even to a friend's house down the street, it might be motion sickness. Typical symptoms include loud meowing, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. But these symptoms can also point to neurological conditions, so see your veterinarian before dismissing your cat's distress as car sickness.
There are assorted prescription and over-the-counter medications for car sickness. Drug therapy won't knock your cat out but can help with nausea and vomiting.
Sometimes working to prevent issues before they start can be the best solution. Here are a few to try:
1. Always confine your cat to a carrier while on the road. Never let him out of the carrier until you reach your destination. Since he'll spend some time in that carrier, make it comfortable and inviting with his blanket or one of your old shirts. Perhaps do test runs a few days before your trip. For example, you could sprinkle cat nip inside and let your cat get used to going in and out of it without having the latch click shut behind him. And don't forget to give him a treat after each successful interaction with the carrier.
2. Try not to travel with your cat only when you are going to the vet. A short trip from time to time to a non-threatening person's house would help desensitize your feline's fears.
3. PETMD suggests cracking a window or two "to help reduce air pressure inside the vehicle and allow for better ventilation."
4. Don't feed or water your kitty for two or three hours before the trip.
5. Some cat parents insist that toys help, but having zero distractions might work better if you have an older or disabled cat. What you do will depend on your cat's health and personality.
While felines can't die from motion sickness, all that fretting and throwing up can leave them dehydrated. So to keep his stomach from objecting, be sure your cat gets fluids a few hours before bringing out the cat carrier and provide minimal hydration for an hour or so once your trip has ended.
Cats and Motion Sickness
VCA Animal Hospitals
Motion Sickness in Cats