Despite cats having an innate sense of balance, they can still experience motion sickness while traveling in cars (or other types of vehicles). The biological mechanism behind this is related to the part of the inner ear that connects directly to the brain. Your cat might also experience motion sickness simply from having a fear of the vehicle.
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 options available.
Specific Symptoms Your Cat Might Experience From Motion Sickness
While vomiting during travel is the primary signal that your cat might be experiencing motion sickness, other possible symptoms include:
- 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 its lips/mouth).
- 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 the carrier.
- 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 reaction.
- 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 symptom-free.