Personal, Smart Travel

How To Travel With An Anxious Cat

How Ironic: A travel blogger with a cat who gets motion sickness

I’ll admit, this feels like a weird thing to blog about. I’m a travel blogger, not a pet guru. However, on our recent cross country move to California I found myself Googling, “How to travel with an anxious cat,” and “What to do if my cat gets carsick.” I found little to no results. So after experiencing it myself, I figured I’d blog about it and help someone else out in the future!

First of all, we took a trip to the veterinarian (which I recommend you do too) to get some professional advice. The additional advice I provide below is purely based on what worked for me and my cat.

About my cat

Lola is a 10 lb female tabby, approximately 14 years old. She has several anxious tendencies including social anxiety and car sickness. On a typical 30 minute car ride, she will vomit in her carrying case. We have tried to carry her wrapped in a towel like a little kittyrito instead of having her in the carrying case, but she does everything in her power to wiggle free.

For our upcoming 19 hour car ride to California, we knew we would need the help of some drugs to make the journey easier on our little girl.

How to travel with a cat in the car

Advice from the veterinarian

On our visit to the veterinarian, Lola was anxious. She hissed at every dog we passed in the waiting room, totally uncalled for, but understandable. The vet offered a few pieces of sound advice before ultimately prescribing Lola a small dose of Acepromazine. Here are his tips:

First, buy some loose catnip. A pinch of catnip in Lola’s carrying case will help calm her down for the ride home from the vet. It won’t work for the long trip, but it will help short term. 

Second, freeze a bowl of water for the journey. This will keep the water from splashing around in the car during your venture. Be sure to also put a bowl of food and a litter box in the back, just in case.

Note: Lola didn’t eat, drink or use the bathroom on either day of our 19 hour driving trip, but I felt more comfortable having it available to her. The catnip didn’t make a noticeable difference.

About Acepromazine

Once again, I must restate that I am not a veterinarian. Please consult a vet before using Acepromazine. This blog post is only to be used as an example of my experience with Acepromazine.

Acepromazine works as a sedative and helps relieve motion sickness. It did not put Lola to sleep, but it made her very drowsy. I also noticed a lack of coordination, foggy, glossed over eyes, and some drooling.

The vet gave us two pills cut into quarters. One quarter was all that was needed for 4-6 hours. I gave her another quarter as the dose wore off…making her eat it was the challenging part. She became suspicious of all food after the first few doses. More about that in the next paragraph.

Feeding Lola a dose of Acepromazine

Cats are stubborn. Of course, the morning that Lola was supposed to eat a quarter of Acepromazine in her Fancy Feast wet food she decided she would rather take a nap. I followed her around the house, placing the plate of drugged food in front of her until she ate enough for us to get on the road. In retrospect, I should’ve put her dry food away overnight so she would be excited for her wet food the next morning. Oh well.

The next day, we woke up in a hotel room and Lola didn’t trust any food. Knowing she wouldn’t touch a can of wet food, I improvised. I crushed up a quarter of Acepromazine, grabbed her favorite cat treats, put a small dab of Vasaline on the treat, and rolled it into a crushed pill. Lola has never minded Vasaline in the past, I would put a dab on her nose to help her with her hairball digestion in the past. SUCCESS! My cat treat trick worked like a charm. Lola was drowsy enough to hit the road on our second day.

The next time Lola needed a dose, I rubbed a little crushed up pill onto a piece of turkey lunch meat — one of her favorites. That also worked like a charm.

Lola in the car

Here’s where things got humorous. Despite Lola being drowsy, she was just as curious as ever. She walked around every inch of my car (except for the area by my feet near the pedals — strictly off limits). I will never forget the people passing on the highway smiling and pointing as Lola rode shotgun with her head out the window.

For the most part, Lola was lying in the back seat sleeping. But unfortunately everytime I slowed down, sneezed, turned up the radio, or answered a phone call, Lola woke up and cried. I would say every 15 min to an hour she was awake and crying, despite the medication.

I seldom stopped at rest areas or for breaks because I was too worried about leaving her in the car. When I did stop, I cracked open the windows. I’ll never forget the moment when I got back to the car after using the restroom to a swarm of people around my vehicle. I panicked, only to see Lola’s little mouth pushed to the crack in the window, meowing at the top of her lungs. The bystanders were Snapchatting her saying, “She’s sooooo cute!” Oh, yeah? Try driving with her for 19 hours.

Driving cross country with an anxious cat is not easy. If at all possible, have two people in the car to make it a little easier on yourself. I also recommend breaking the trip up into 6 hour driving days. Two 8.5 hour days was far too much time in the car for her and for me.

Also, remember to book pet friendly hotels to catch up on your rest. We brought some kitty pheromone spray which did wonders on making the room feel comfortable for Lola! Keep in mind that pet friendly hotels usually have an additional charge per night for cats.

Thanks for reading,


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