If your cat or dog gets car sick, you’re probably familiar with
the symptoms: First there will be vocal cues — cats will meow or yowl, and dogs will
whine — and then you’ll spot that your pet is drooling a
lot. You may notice that your cat or dog is pacing somewhat
frantically, or perhaps conversely, they will seem quite
lethargic. The next expression
of the problem can be vomit. What causes car sickness in dogs
and cats? And how can you avoid it?
Very often with both cats and dogs, car sickness is caused by
anxiety. Your pet is not sure
what to make of the unfamiliar motion of the car, and they also
may associate the vehicle with a trip to the vet, which generally won’t
be a pleasant association. Many vets believe that carsickness
is more common in dogs than cats — and dogs also seem more
likely to outgrow the problem as they age. If the problem is
persistent then vets may prescribe Cerenia motion sickness pills for cats
or dogs to prevent vomiting.
Here are five great ways to make your pet’s next trip in a car
more comfortable, plus a bonus tip just for dogs.
1. Start With Short Trips: If you suspect
your pet may have trouble with car trips, keep your initial
trips brief. Take ten minute jaunts, and if you’ve got the
dog with you, make the destination someplace they’ll love,
like the park. On longer trips, make lots of stops, so that
your pet realizes the car ride won’t go on forever.
2. Skip a Meal: Before a trip, skip a
meal — or even two — so that your pet doesn’t eat
in the 12 hours preceding the journey in the car. A full
belly does not combine well with motion sickness.
3. Bring a Crate or
Carrier: It can be reassuring for cats to be
within their carrier, and for dogs to be within their crate.
Consider putting in a shirt or towel in the carrier that
smells like home. If you can’t bring along the crate for your
dog, try bringing along a familiar dog bed or blanket that
will be comforting to lay on.
4. Bring Treats: Whether it’s a dog bone or a cat treat, or even a new play toy, bring along something
special as a treat for your cat or dog to make the trip more
fun. This can help ease feelings of anxiety and apprehension.
5. Keep the Car Calm: Remembering that the
trip may be stressful for your pet, keep the car a calm
place. Speak to your cat or dog in soothing tones and avoid
yelling and loud music.
6. Have Your Dog Face Forward: Car sickness
can be eased by looking forward — but your dog won’t
know that, and might naturally tend to stare out the window
at their side. Special seat belts are available to help
anchor your dog into a forward-facing position.
How to Effectively Manage Motion Sickness in Cats
Whatever the underlying cause may be, the primary symptom of
motion sickness in cats is vomiting. Other symptoms might
occur, but vomiting is one of the tell-tale signs of motion
sickness. Nearly all symptoms of motion sickness immediately
end as soon as the vehicle stops moving.
While other animals, especially dogs, can be conditioned to
remain calm when traveling in a vehicle, cats are usually more
difficult to train. This is particularly true for cats that
don’t travel in vehicles too often (and when they do, it’s
usually to the veterinarian). This is why one of the primary
drivers behind motion sickness in cats is fear; your cat
associates travel with stress and anxiety.
If you’re wondering how to prevent your cat from experiencing
motion sickness, or what some of the popular treatment methods
are, our guide posted below covers it all. We also cover
why Cerenia for cats
with motion sickness is one of the better treatment
Specific Symptoms Your Cat Might Experience From Motion
While vomiting during travel is the primary signal that your
cat might be experiencing motion sickness, other possible
- Abnormal and unrestrained calling, meowing, etc.
- Inability to sit still as well as constantly moving around.
- Noticeable increase in the use of its tongue (e.g. licking
- Irregular levels of drool and saliva coming from its mouth.
How to Protect Your Cat From Motion Sickness
Motion sickness in cats stems from the actual movement(s) of
the vehicle, or from the cat’s anxiety/stress surrounding
travel (or a combination of the two). While cats of all breeds
can be affected by motion sickness, it usually occurs in cats
that don’t frequently travel (or very young kitties with a
general lack of experience in vehicles).
Some cats simply won’t be able to adjust to traveling in a
vehicle, which makes it difficult to prevent motion sickness.
However, many cats are able to become used to the effects of
traveling, and eventually no longer experience the associated
symptoms of (car sickness).
The very best way to prevent motion sickness is to get your cat
used to traveling in the car (or traveling in general). Most
owners make use of a pet carrier, which is essentially a small
crate meant for traveling. However, it’s important to slowly
work up to traveling with your cat in the carrier.
If you’re able to get your cat used to traveling in a
carrier, while moving in a car, you can probably avoid future
bouts of motion sickness. Use the tips below to help prepare
your cat for traveling in vehicles:
- Start by simply putting your cat in the carrier for a few
minutes, and then extending into longer sessions.
- Once your cat is comfortable with this, start walking with
- After your cat has gotten used to the carrier, and being
moved while inside it, place the carrier in the car.
- Once you feel that your cat is comfortable with the carrier
while in the car, turn the engine on, and then judge your cat’s
- Eventually, move up to driving the vehicle with your cat
inside the carrier.
The reasoning behind slowly transitioning your cat from each
environment to the other is to make sure that it's properly
acclimatized. Once your cat seems comfortable with one part of
the process, move on to the next, until you’re able to travel
in your car without your cat getting motion sickness.
This process might take some time (and might not work with all
cats), but it’s certainly worth a try (especially if your cat
suffers from extreme anxiety related to traveling in vehicles).
With that being said, if your cat is just unable to adjust to
traveling in vehicles, it might be best to look into
medication-based treatment options (covered below).
Prescription Medications for Motion Sickness
There are generally two categories of prescription medications
that veterinarians prescribe cats who suffer from motion
sickness: anti-anxiety and anti-nausea. While both types work
to limit the severity of symptoms, one is based on
neurological/psychological causes (i.e. anti-anxiety) whereas
the other is for the more physical symptoms (e.g. vomiting).
Treatments for Nausea
There are several different brands of anti-nausea medications
that might be prescribed to your pet, with one of the more
common ones being meclizine. This medication is an
antihistamine that’s used only for treating physical symptoms
(e.g. vomiting, nausea).
Cerenia (i.e. maropitant)
As we’ve already mentioned (in the introduction to this blog),
one of the best anti-nausea treatments on the market is
Cerenia. This medication is approved by the FDA for use in both
dogs and cats, and works amazingly well in limiting symptoms
related to motion sickness. Not only is the medication very
effective, but it’s also very safe as well.
Treatments for Anxiety
Numerous anti-anxiety treatments are prescribed each year (for
cats with motion sickness). These include gabapentin-based
brands, Xanax, and similar medications. While these types of
treatments can calm even the most anxious feline, it’s
important to carefully follow their dosing instructions
(otherwise your cat could experience adverse reactions).
If your cat suffers from motion sickness when traveling (either
due to anxiety or physical reasons), there are many different
ways to manage and treat their symptoms. Anti-anxiety
prescription medications, holistic-based approaches, or
anti-nausea medications are all valid (and can be very
effective at treating your cat’s symptoms).
Whether you choose to go with traditional medications or opt
for exposure therapy methods (for anxiety-based motion
sickness), referring back to this guide as a resource during
the course of your cat’s treatment will ensure that it remains
More on Traveling With Pets
Take Your Dog For a
5 Steps to a Safe Ride
With Your Dog
How to Train
Your Dog to "Load" Into Your Car
This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.