Medicine to Calm Cats for Travel

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Cats rarely make good travel companions.

Getting them to a veterinary appointment can be tough enough let alone having to box them up into a carrier for a long car trip. Anything that you can do to make the journey more comfortable and less stressful for them will, inevitably, make the trip easier for you, too, and one way is by using medicine to calm cats for travel.

You can sedate a cat.

It isn’t recommended by all veterinarians but it’s a popular practice with many pet owners.  Benadryl is an over-the-counter human medicine that’s sold around the world in pharmacies and grocery stores.  You don’t need to speak to a vet before you give it to the cat but it might be prudent to ask for dosage advice before you do.  Not only will this give you peace of mind but it allows the veterinarian to raise any concerns and give advice before the travel date.

Don’t dose your cat with Benadryl or any other medication if you’re traveling with your cat by plane.

Many airlines will refuse carriage to a sedated pet as altitude can cause breathing difficulties.  Talk to your vet if you believe your cat needs medicinal support during air travel.  Equally, if you’re looking to give your cat a high-duty sedative such as Benzodiazepine, then you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Benadryl as a Medicine to Calm Cats for Travel

Benadryl is one of the more common methods of sedating a cat for travel.

You may already be familiar with the name as it’s commonly used to treat allergies in humans.  Although not approved for veterinary use by the FDA, it’s generally considered safe enough for cats in small doses.

In addition to being used as a sedative, it’s also used as an anti-histamine to treat allergies, bites and stings in felines.

There are other brands of anti-histamine available. Some that appear to be very similar to Benadryl but you must ALWAYS make sure that there is only ONE active ingredient. In Benadryl, this is clearly marked as DIPHENHYDRAMINE

If you decide to use another brand then BE SURE that diphenhydramine is the ONLY active ingredient as additional ones can cause health problems in your cat.

Benadryl is a popular choice for sedating cats because drowsiness is known to be a side-effect, and, as you can imagine, a sleepy cat makes travelling on long car trips easier both for pet and owner.  It’s also why airlines don’t like to carry sedated cats in the cabin or hold.

Honestly, if you can get away without sedating your cat — even for a car journey — then that’s probably ideal.  As in humans, it’s difficult to say exactly what effect Benadryl will have on your pet (even though countless owners use it without problem).

It is worth pointing out however that the side-effects for your cat might not actually include drowsiness.  Some cats may experience hyperactivity — the exact opposite of what you want. Every cat is different.  If you believe Benadryl could be a good fit for your cat, then we’d recommend you give your cat a trial dose (a smaller one, perhaps) ahead of your trip.  This will at least give you an idea of what to expect and whether or not Benadryl is the right product for your animal. Additional side effects can include a dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhoea and a loss of appetite.

Benadryl isn’t suitable for animals with liver or kidney disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, glaucoma or hyperthyroidism. If you have any concerns about the suitability of it for your cat, then you should speak to your veterinarian.

It’s vital that you understand the correct dose.

It is possible to overdose a cat with Benadryl. If you’ve given them the correct dosage to your feline, then don’t give them any more even if it doesn’t appear to be having any effect. Dosage is dependant on the animal’s age, size and weight. Speak to your vet if you’re in any doubt.  

The general recommendation is 1mg per pound in weight, given up to three times daily.

Benadryl comes in a number of forms.  Liquid Benadryl is easiest to measure out into the correct dose but some cats find it bitter tasting and it might be harder to get them to swallow it. If you use a syringe to administer it, then remember to do it to the side of the tongue rather than straight down the throat as you could cause the cat to aspirate.

Benadryl as a tablet is probably the easiest to administer. You may have to give a half-tablet though. It’s usually easier to hide a pill in the food.


Alternatives to Medicine to Calm Cats for Travel


Synthetic pheromones work by replicating the scent that a cat releases each time they rub their head against people and objects.  Bunting helps establish territory and its familiar smell will create a calming response in the cat. Feliway is a popular brand of pheromone that you can buy on Amazon or in stores.

You can buy it as a plug-in to use in your house or you can use the Feliway spray for traveling.

There’s also Bach’s Rescue Remedy which an owner can rub into his or her hands and then stroke into a cat’s fur. It contains valerian: a plant extract that’s often used to reduce stress and encourage sleep in humans, too.

You can read about other ways of helping reduce your cat’s anxiety and stress during travel in our post: why do cats hate car rides?  

If you’re looking for the best cat carrier for difficult cats, then we have help there, too, including a list of hard carriers on Amazon to buy. You might also find it helpful to look at alternative carriers for the car including a cat car barrier. 

Using medicine to calm cats for travel won’t be everyone’s preferred method of reducing a pet’s stress BUT sometimes it’s the only option especially if your cat has a particularly nervous disposition and is a danger to themselves or to others.  

Speaking to your veterinarian will mean that you’re fully armed with all the information on easing any travel anxiety and all the options to help manage it.  

1 thought on “Medicine to Calm Cats for Travel”

  1. Hi
    I have forgotten some of the things to help out my cats when I have sold my home just this year on Aug 26, 2021.
    I had my.cqt carrier in the wood shed for years, which it was in the house for years.
    Anyway when I was time for me to cat my cats into my car, I shouldn’t find her at all.
    So I took my orders cat to my brother where I moved, then I went back for my youngest cat, her name is Heidi, she is 5 years old now, and she is very small for her age, and Siamese both of my cats are Siamese and she’s a very smart cat and very frigid e ever since I had her she was frigid e
    When I went back I seen her, I had the cat carrier when but I did some very wrong things when.i got her that day, I forgot to put her blanket in there, her toys, even.treat , and she ever like going into the car and a cage when I first got her , she would meow all the way if I took her to the vets and meow all the way back, she she is smaller, and I even talked putting a collar around her , but she always went nuts.

    Back to my story, we I played with her a little bit, to try to get her into the cat carrier, well it did not happen at all
    Heidi lost it, I couldn’t get her into the cat carrier, so I tried to claim her down, but then I said to myself freak the the cat carrier I will just get her into the car and roll up the windows, and she was very scared , she was fighting me in every way, she went crazy, because my car keys fell out of my pockets, and that did it, so I was trying to put my windows up, and here she is on the floor on the drive side fighting me and and scratching me up what to get a night once again and try to calm her down lost it again and then she jumped right in the car window and then then she took off then I went back there around 11:30 she was there again she was trying to get in the house but she couldn’t understand that I sold the place and I couldn’t go in there because I’m going to go in into the house I would have been charged cuz it wasn’t my place anymore I was laying down in my shed and the old shed the new owners knew I was there trying to get her does laying in the shed she came in she was you know when come very close to me for me to grab her again I had some treats with her with me she came in for a second had a couple trees you could tell she was hungry the way she was eating them treats and then I’ll try to get her to lay down with me it didn’t work cuz you was knew I was up to something but didn’t know what or she did unless you went in the backyard and started yelling because she wanted me to put her in the house and I couldn’t open the house and then I try to get it back into the shed take me to get a relax and then something scared her is very fidgety cat and then she took off and I haven’t seen her the rest of the night and I fell asleep in the shed she can come back and then it was cold and I went and walked around for a little bit couldn’t find her went and slept in my car I did not want to leave my cat there at all then I start getting his talking to some rescue people I was going into three times a day looking for a yellow for her name, her name out then come I knew she was so I knew she was scared then after 6 days later after but getting some cat traps and the rescue people lending me so cat traps I finally got her after the six days.
    I bring the old litter box there, I can tell you this, no one seen her, on the 5 days one of my old next door neighbor and called me and told me that he seen the cat, I was so happy when.i even heard that because that might that she was still.going there, it was do I knew she was going there and probably go and yelling for me to let her in and I couldn’t let her in because I wasn’t even there if you’re so funny I’m so glad that the coyotes never got her either for I knew she was down there.
    On the 5 day after my neighbor told me that he seen her, I told him that I was on my way there to put another cat trap, my mom invited me for supper that day, but I had a feeling that I was going to get her that night or the next night so I went and set up the other cat trap, then I went to my mom’s place to have supper, which I was not eating much, or sleeping because this sll of what I was thinking about was getting my little peanut back,that is her nick name.
    So after supper I went back to where we used to live, I checked the first trap nothing, then I checked the second trap and there she was, I was so happy, and then I thank the big guy above. I don’t take her out of that trap until we got back here, I wasn’t going to take that chance again of her getting away.
    It took about 45 minutes and she was very pissed off, because she was is the cat trap, and the yelling and the meowing coming from.her, when I.finally got the trap door open, she was gone nuts which I don’t blame her my sister in law helped me to get the door open, then as soon as it was open they took off up stairs

    Heidi was was still freaking out, I pick her up into my arms, hugging her and talking to her as soon I put her into my arm she stopped, and the 3 of us me and Heidi and my other cats name is smokey , we fell asleep in a circle holding each other.
    My cats are just like my children , I
    It’s alot better now but Heidi always hide from people , that is way she was named Heidi because she can hide.

    But there is 5 people living in this place , I moved into the basement, because I couldn’t find a place to live at all
    So I brother and his new wife told me that we can live here until, I find a place I have called over 1,500 places for a apt over the last 4 months.
    I live in Halifax n.s , I almost lived into tent with some other people
    But I came here and there is too much noise here for, Heidi is coming around , but iam planning on going downtown my home town, and I am bringing my cats with me, my brother said what do u want to do traumatize your cats more my bring them with me and a car for 2 and 1/2 hours I’m not going to leaving my cats here
    I just might go for a couple days until I decide if iam going to move down there first.
    I want to buy I piece of land down there, and build some cabins and rent them out.

    My cats are both microchip, I seen a tag GPS trackers for cats online a week ago, but there is a problem it for a collar, I can’t put a collar on Heidi at all she goes crazy.

    So is there a GPS tracker that is a microchip
    That is what I want to know

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