Fair warning, over the counter cat sedatives aren’t guaranteed to work and some could even be dangerous to use. We always advise pet owners to visit a veterinarian if there’s a genuine need for sedation as the most effective sedatives are always ones prescribed by professionals.
Over the counter sedatives aren’t really sedatives anyway but they can help cats to feel calm and relax. They’re a good option if you don’t need a veterinary strength sedative and many owners buy them in advance of travel plans to help reduce an animal’s anxiety or distress on long journeys.
They work wonders for some pets but not for others. You may need to try out a few options before settling on one that works for your pet.
If your cat is a nervous passenger, there are things that you can do to help calm your cat down in the car without the need for sedation.
Over the Counter Cat Sedatives Available to Buy
Benadryl is an anti-histamine medicine made for humans but it can also cause drowsiness in cats. We wouldn’t usually recommend giving adult medicine to an animal but, whilst it isn’t approved by the FDA for veterinary use, it is generally considered safe for cats in small doses.
Benadryl is the brand name but the active ingredient is diphenhydramine. Benadryl isn’t suitable for animals with liver or kidney disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, glaucoma or hyperthyroidism.
The recommendation from some owners is to dose by weight: 1mg per pound in weight up to three times daily. Of course, there can be side effects and it is possible for a cat to overdose, so be careful. Side effects can include dry mouth, vomiting, appetite loss and diarrhoea. Owners should also be aware that hyperactivity can be one side-effect: the last you want if you’re taking your pet with you on the road.
Feliway is a synthetic pheromone and a much safer way to sedate a cat. It mimics how cats scent their environments to feel safe and comes as either a diffuser or spray.
Diffusers are best used in the home especially if you’ve recently moved or if you’re introducing a new cat or kitten into the household.
For travel, the spray is ideal as it can be put onto any bedding or favourite toys, inside a carrier or throughout the interior of a vehicle. You can take it with you, and top-up every few hours. Feliway is a miracle worker for some cats and you can read a raft of positive reviews on Amazon but, like Benadryl, it isn’t effective for all cats. Some owners say that even after multiple uses there’s little to no difference in a cat’s behaviour. It’s hard to say whether it will work on your cat but as it lacks any nasty side-effects, it’s probably worth a shot.
Comfort Zone is a similar product and is also widely available.
Rescue Remedy could help your cat, too. You might already be familiar with its wide range of human herbal remedies. The pet version is alcohol free and contains glycerol which is a sweetness enjoyed by most animals.
You can drop it into their food or water. Rescue Remedy helps with sudden anxiety, sudden stress or trauma. It’s useful when you know that a situation or appointment is approaching that the cat is likely to become upset by.
Our cat LOVES catnip.
She’ll roll onto her belly, legs splayed, paws in the air cuddling whatever toy she’s picked that contains her favourite drug. She tends to be pretty zen afterwards. So, it’s an ideal time to bring out her carrier. Valerian toys do a similar thing. Some cats are genetically predisposed to the effects of catnip and others won’t be bothered by it at all. As with Feliway and the Rescue Remedy options, it’s safe to use and therefore, worth a shot.
You can buy a tonne of catnip and catnip toys on Amazon as well as local pet store.
Sedatives can be tempting if your cat is prone to anxiety or stress on journeys. Unfortunately, over the counter cat sedatives often have mixed results. What works brilliantly for one cat won’t work at all for another.
This may even be true of littermates sharing the same household. Finding out is trial and error. We’d urge caution using Benadryl until you’ve done further research. If you’re not happy using it – don’t. Veterinarians can prescribe stronger sedatives if they think it’s necessary. Whilst we probably all try to avoid the vet’s office (when necessary) their expertise is worth paying for. They can also advise on other methods that might work.
Feliway, Rescue Remedy and Catnip are all over the counter cat sedatives worth trying.